20 bonkei and saikei, japanese garden landscape art 5

For most garden enthusiasts, creating a landscape is a soothing activity. That is what is promoted by the art of bonkei and saikei from Japan. Though both of the forms are different, the activity is dealing with mini landscape garden ideas, creating art from various materials. 


1. Bonkei

Bonkei in English translates to “tray landscape” which created by putting miniatures of the natural landscape in a box or flat tray. The miniatures are aesthetically formed by using sand, papier-mâché or quick-dry cement. It depicts a mini-scale of natural views like mountains, rivers, hills, and cliffs. The structure is painted as close as possible to nature. 

Different from saikei, bonkei does not incorporate living material like plants or moss. Traditionally, a bonkei can be displayed at a proper height and on a proper background – the same manner a bonsai should be displayed. Depending on the theme, a bonkei may also include mini figurines like people, cars, and other objects. 

Green bonsai in the middle of the pond combined with a simple wooden bridge that looks beautiful
Green and red bonsai in the middle of the garden coupled with white gravel decoration and certain shape green grass onto it.
Unique shaped bonsai plants are placed in the middle of the pool as a complement to your garden decor
Bonsai that looks very special combined with other green plants that look beautiful
Bonsai plants in the middle of the garden combined with white pebbles and unique stone paths

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Quite big green bonsai plants with round multi level shape combined with small green plants beside it to make it look charming
Bonsai plants with pink flowers, put in pots and placed on a wooden table that looks beautiful
A beautifully shaped green bonsai plants placed in the simple pots
Bonsai plants are combined with small pots and placed on a terraced wooden table in the garden

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Bonsai plants in the garden are combined with chairs made of wood placed on the gravel for the nature touch.

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2. Saikei

The difference between the mini landscape garden ideas of bonkei and saikei is on the object put on the tray. Saikei contains living plants, so it needs more maintenance than bonkei. Historically, saikei is made to preserve the art of bonsai that has been slowly dying. Since the maintenance is cheaper than a bonsai, saikei is an affordable option to propagate the Japanese traditional landscape art. 

The mini landscape garden ideas of saikei are to display a miniature of living plants, soil, hills, rocks, sand, or shoreline. When the plants are growing out of the tray, it can be pruned or placed outside of the tray—continuing its life as a grounded tree or bonsai. 

Saikei 2
Saikei designed in mini artificial ponds and home-based houses that are placed on the edge
Saikei 4
Bonsai plants are placed on a rock and have a beautiful shape
Saikei 12
Bonsai plants are placed on a rock that resembles an island coupled with small home decoration
Saikei 14
Bonsai tree that do not have leaves placed next to a pond and a hill
Saikei 20
Bonsai plants that are on a rock cliff combined with small boulders
Saikei 22
Bonsai that has elongated leaves cover the lake that looks extraordinary
Saikei 26
Bonsai plants on high artificial cliffs that have a cool impression
Saikei 40 (1)
The design of green bonsai made to resemble a fresh forest
Saikei 44
Bonsai combined with small artificial house and simple wooden fence
Saikei 53
Decorate this bonsai with small bricks and wooden seats placed in artificial planting

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3. Conclusion

The Japanese art of bonsai and saikei is one of great mini landscape garden ideas for garden enthusiasts. With fewer rules and more affordable maintenance, it sure can be an option of therapeutic activity.

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