In land of small trees, it's all a cut above

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In land of small trees, it's all a cut above

In Korea, horticulture is not as obsessive a hobby as it often is in Britain or Japan. But at the Bonsai Museum in southern Seoul, visitors can appreciate and learn about the Japanese gardening art, in all its variety and beauty.

The museum sits in Seocho district, southern Seoul, and features 80 species of bonsai and other rare plants, displaying more 12,000 examples. Conifers can be found, and flowers such as royal azalea and camellia, and fruit trees such as the pomegranate and maple trees.

Over a sprawling 3,960 square meters, the Korea Bonsai Institute runs the museum, a research center and a bonsai shop. In the institute are Korean hornbeams that are over 500 years old, big cone pines, small fruit trees and bonsai crafted from Japanese apricot trees.

"Bonsai are crafted in a way to reflect the true grace of nature," says Kim Jae-in, founder and director of the museum. Mr. Kim studied horticulture in collge and tended a bonsai plants for his military service.

The Korea Bonsai Institute was founded in 1975, and the museum opened its doors in 1988. Visitors can not only admire the exotic and distinctive bonsai and other plants that are housed in the museum, but also learn about them through walking tours and explanations. The institute also provides helps customers maintain their plants after buying them there. The staff gives advice on how to trim the branches and leaves, treatment for blight and insects and other necessities in raising a bonsai.

Both the Korea Forest Service and Seoul Agricultural Technology Center have sent employees there to be trained in bonsai craftsmanship and on the plant education. In the past, bonsai from this institute have been exported to far off locales, such as Saudi Arabia. This year, the Cyber Bonsai University, operated by the Institute, went online.

The institute is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (from March to October until 7 p.m.) and entrance is always free. On Sunday, the museum opens at 12 p.m. For more information, visit or call (02)577-0001-3.

by Choi Jie-ho

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