Everyone understands what bonsai is, right? At least to a degree?
In the simplest terms, it would mean keeping a tree or shrub in a pot. It also usually means keeping it miniaturized by pruning, pinching, and root pruning. It also usually means making the tree or shrub look more like a mature tree than a shrub or a seedling/sapling/juvenile tree, with proportions, taper, ramification (fine branching), and other attention to detail.
Bonsai is an extremely rewarding, engrossing, soothing, sometimes frustrating form of art like ntoo other. No other form of art is continually evolving to the same degree. I suppose some art installations left to degrade in the rain would be evolving, but that's not the same. General gardening comes close, but generally you're not manipulating the plants at hand to become exactly what you envision, not to the same degree.
The world of bonsai is full of experts who know much more than I do about some very technical and specific tasks that all come together in the finished product. As wonderfully experienced and knowledgeable as these aficionados are, they have a different perspective than I do. But they're close.
I figure what I disagree or stray from the most is some of the traditionalism. I tend to want to experiment in some ways that might irritate some purists. As a tree collector, I really enjoy working with species rarely or never seen in bonsai shows. I know there are others who do this, but they're on the fringes and probably not easily welcomed by the usual bonsai culture until something catches on.
Now, I totally respect what they're doing, and when I see what they do, I become jealous, and realize I probably can't become as good as them at specific things. Maybe I'm a bit reckless. I just normally have an urge to experiment, see how things go without the confines of all the rules. I know certain rules must be followed, but I realize the people that really make a big difference in the world are the ones that followed the ABSOLUTE rules, and drifted away from the rules that weren't set in stone.
A lot of bonsai people would tell you just to keep a few trees and treat them as well as you can. I probably should do this and wholeheartedly agree,but every time I discover a new tree specie or see one in a way others don't, I can't help but think that I'm gonna have something very unusual. I'm working on some trees that are perhaps completely unique, or trying to become that way. Of course, having so many tiny trees means I can't devote as much aggregation to any of them to make them as great as possible. It's a trade-off.
My ultimate goal is to have a plethora of trees that conjure up the image of a mature tree with great proportions, etc., but without the confines of a particular pot. Most of my creations may end up in the ground, in more of an arboretum setting, but we'll see. I expect it will be something between true bonsai and a normal arboretum, where the goal is usually to plant a tree and let it be its natural self with as little human manipulation as possible. I expect my trees will be kept much smaller than naturally-growing trees, but larger than bonsai, which rarely exceed 3 or 4 feet tall. I also want to give the impression that the trees GREW naturally, so any pruning, wiring, etc. needs to remain very discreet.
One benefit to true bonsai is that they're completely portable. I have a dilemma in that I wouldn't be able to easily transport trees that are let's say over 6' tall.
I can't say I have a big emphasis on the pots at this time. Most likely, this hasn't become a focus yet because most of what I have is still in training, and it'll be years before they're ready to unveil. Small pots are not really conducive to my ultimate goal, at least not until they get to the point where they seem ready to put on a show. Trees will grow faster and in some cases more healthfully in larger pots, especially breathable pots, or in the ground. But you can't show them off as well.
I have a number of true bonsai now. They may remain that way, or I may go ahead and let them loose to become bigger than originally intended in the scope of bonsai. We'll see.
Either way you decide to go, it's a heck of a lot of fun. It's also a hobby that allows you to become so focused that you don't think much at all about everyday stresses. You can be outside more often, and will tend to do that even when the weather normally rejects you. You can also bring trees indoors to work on them while sitting at the dinner table, though the clippings and soil will probably irritate someone you live with.
I urge you to learn more about bonsai and even more about trees in general. If you care to have a discussion, I'm always open to that. Attend at least one bonsai show in person. You'll really be amazed.