With these five Bonsai (Forever) stamps, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the beauty of bonsai. The word “bonsai” (China for “plant in a pot”) refers to the art of cultivating plants, usually trees, in trays, pots, or other containers. Favorite bonsai plants include evergreens, maples, and azaleas, but many other trees and shrubs are also suitable.
One of the common styles of bonsai is shown on each of these five stamps. The first stamp depicts a Sierra juniper in a semi-cascade style, in which the tip projects over the pot rim but does not extend below the base. Second is a trident maple in informal upright style, in which the trunk bends slightly to the left or right. The third is a black pine in formal upright style, with the trunk straight and tapering evenly, with symmetrical branches from the base to the apex. Fourth is an azalea plant in multiple-trunk style, with several trunks emerging from one root system. The fifth and final stamp shows a banyan in cascade style, in which the trunk evokes a stream flowing down a mountainside, with the tip extending below the pot’s base.
The plants depicted are roughly 15 to 20 inches tall.
The bonsai collection at the National Arboretum began in 1976 when the Nippon Bonsai Association in Tokyo, Japan, presented the people of the United States with 53 plants as part of the U.S. bicentennial commemoration.
A bonsai master begins with seeds, cuttings, a naturally stunted tree, or a very young tree. Over time, they prune the roots and branches, use wire to shape and train them, and sometimes scrape or peel bark to achieve desired effects. Finally, the plant is watered and repotted when necessary and can live a hundred years or more.
Art director and stamps designer Ethel Kessler worked with artist John D. Dawson on the Bonsai stamps.
Forever stamps will always be equal to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.