Bhutanese Couple From Bhur Starts Bonsai Business Using Local Tree Species
"Bonsai making is an art and it is quite addictive.”
By Nirmala Pokhrel | Kuensel
On a Saturday afternoon in Bhur, Gelephu, Birkha Bahadur Gurung and his wife started working in a small shed, full of potted flowers, adjacent to their house.
The couple has a small peepal sapling, its roots growing over an oddly-shaped stone.
Birkha gently bends the plant, while his wife coils a copper wire on the branches. Soon, the plant looks like it has been blown by a strong wind.
It becomes a windswept bonsai, an artificially dwarfed ornamental tree. The couple also has several pots of bonsai growing in their Bhutan Green Nursery farm in Bhur.
What piqued Birkha’s interest in bonsai
Having been a school teacher for the past 17 years, the idea of making bonsai struck Birkha a decade ago when a friend recommended him to read an article about bonsai. He first laid his hands on this art form in 2015.
Since then the couple has made around 400 bonsais. They use the local species of trees and branches such as peepal, fig and bougainvillea, among others.
Birkha said that bonsai making is still fairly new in the country. Moreover, bonsai making requires a lot of creativity in shaping and designing the plant.
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“It is also not a one man’s task,” he said. “One person can’t make it, you need a helper.”
Along with creativity, knowing the character and details of the plant is what helps make a better bonsai.
“A lot of trial and error process is involved,” the couple said. “It is also the composition of soil that makes the difference.”
He said gardening and flowering is his passion. “While my wife takes care of the nursery over the weekdays, we work on bonsai during the weekend. Bonsai making is an art and it is quite addictive.”
A visit by His Majesty The King spurred the couple to work harder on their bonsai craft
What inspired the couple to work further was after His Majesty The King visited their nursery in February 2017.
The latest bonsai they have been working on is roots over rocks. It is a type of bonsai where the roots of the plant are left to grow over a differently shaped rock, making it look like a tree growing on top of a rock.
The couple says that they rely on Youtube for picking up the techniques of making a bonsai. “Without specific tools and training, it is quite difficult but we’re moving on,” Kabita Gurung said.
Potential for a bonsai market in Bhutan
The market for bonsai in the country is still immature, the couple said. Their bonsai and other flowers have been on display in the last two Royal Flower exhibitions in Thimphu and Punakha. That has helped the couple let people know about their art.
They have sold about 15 bonsais so far. The most expensive bonsai they have sold is for Nu 13,000, one of the oldest in their stock.
The price of the bonsai actually depends on its age. They also claim that only bonsais that are more than three years old are sold to ensure its chances of survival.
Currently, there are at least 300 bonsais, of which more than 100 are matured in their nursery.