New Bonsai Exhibit Opening at Indianapolis Zoo highlights ancient art form

Joey Amato | August 28, 2020

Bonsai is the ancient study of transforming trees into living artworks. This fall, visitors can appreciate their intricate beauty up close with the Indianapolis Zoo’s new botanical exhibit, Bonsai.  

Opening Sept. 8 and continuing through Nov. 30, more than two dozen unique creations from the Indianapolis Bonsai Club will be on display in the Hilbert Conservatory at White River Gardens. This limited-time exhibit will feature 15 different tree species and several award-winning bonsai plants, including a Brazilian rain tree, Ficus and black olive. 

Prized for their delicate details and forms that sometimes seem to defy gravity, bonsai are not a specific type of tree. Instead, the term refers to the practice of pruning a tree with precision to create a healthy, miniature version of a plant that still appears natural yet highlights the careful interventions of its creator. The trees are planted in shallow trays and any plant species with woody stems and smaller leaves can be used, even fruiting and flowering trees.  

What began around the sixth century as a Japanese art form is now a popular plant pastime worldwide. With proper care and patient attention, these dwarf trees can live decades and even centuries — often outlasting their larger counterparts.  

The gorgeously formed greenery on display at White River Gardens will also be a wonderful source of inspiration for local gardeners interested in bringing the beauty of bonsai into their own homes.  

Admission to White River Gardens, including the new Bonsai exhibit, is free for Zoo members and included with regular Zoo admission. Masks are required inside the Hilbert Conservatory. Guests can visit to reserve timed-entry tickets and review the Zoo’s safety guidelines in advance of their visit.