Photo: Unsplash

Bonsai, a potted art refined over centuries, is steeped in mindfulness and tranquility. This delicate and disciplined art involves the careful cultivation of miniature trees in pots. Although it may seem like an easy hobby, bonsai cultivation requires an immense amount of patience, nurturing, and botanical knowledge.

The joy of bonsai is multifaceted; it’s not only about cultivating a plant but sculpting it into a form that exudes serenity. Unfortunately, it isn’t suited to everyone due to the substantial commitment and botanical skills required.

Introducing LEGO Bonsai Trees

For those who are passionate about creativity but lack the green thumb, LEGO, known for igniting the flame of imagination, has released an alternative: the LEGO Bonsai Tree. This ingenious invention forms part of their Botanical Collection, aimed at nurturing creativity and reducing stress in adults.

The LEGO Bonsai Tree offers the pleasure of crafting your bonsai without worrying about the tree’s health. With 878 pieces, including green leaves and pink blossoms, you can style your tree to suit your mood or the season. The best part? These trees will never wither or die, providing lasting beauty.

LEGO Bonsai Tree (10281) and Flower Bouquet (10280)
  • Ease of Assembly: The LEGO Bonsai Tree doesn’t pose a significant challenge in terms of complexity. It’s a fairly straightforward build, although it does feature some of LEGO’s more unique bricks to achieve a realistic tree-like structure. For instance, it uses a thread-like piece to create a winding vine effect and curved, tube-like elements for the branches. However, constructing the leaves can be tedious, due to the numerous small bricks involved, which can slow down the pace.
  • Instruction Clarity: What I found rather challenging was the instruction manual. This might seem like a minor complaint, but reading the instructions in a dimly lit setting can be tough. Many of the pieces are brown, dark brown, or black, and the details can blend with these colors. There were instances when I had to use my phone’s flashlight to differentiate between bricks.
  • Completion Time: Compared to other LEGO sets I’ve assembled, the LEGO Bonsai Tree is relatively quick to complete. It’s a smaller set, so once you navigate through the small bricks, you’re nearly finished. With interruptions from my two-year-old, I spent roughly four hours on this build. Without distractions, I estimate it would take two to three hours. As a casual LEGO enthusiast, I’ve worked on intricate sets like Star Wars AT-ATs and Star Destroyers that took me over a week. However, the Bonsai Tree can be completed in a couple of relaxed evenings.

The best part about this set is its versatility. It’s aesthetically pleasing, offers the option to alter the leaves to match your mood, and is compact enough to fit in any preferred spot. While going through the set reviews, I noticed one builder had mixed green leaves and pink blossoms, introducing a third variant. The botanical collection is something I wish LEGO would expand on, as the tree can be placed anywhere. I currently have it displayed on a side table amidst my game controller collection.

How to Build LEGO Bonsai

The LEGO Bonsai Tree comes with well-organized instructions. Each bag is labeled with a number, which corresponds to a particular section of the assembly. This makes the building process smoother. The LEGO set includes six bags:

  1. The first bag contains pieces for the pot and the base of the trunk.
  2. The second bag has pieces for the trunk of the bonsai tree.
  3. The third bag includes parts that mimic soil and small stones inside the pot.
  4. The fourth bag contains pieces for the green leaves of the tree.
  5. The fifth bag includes parts for pink flower buds and blossoms.
  6. The final bag has pieces for a wooden-like base.

For a start, we will open bags number 1, 2, 4, and 6 to assemble a green-leaf version of the bonsai tree. Bag 3, which simulates soil and stones in the pot, can be set aside until we’re ready to display the tree. The contents of bag 5, the pink flowers, will be saved for a seasonal makeover next year.

Key components for the pot are highlighted. Protrusions on the sides of these pieces serve to secure the smooth arc of the pot. The base design is also well-crafted, using wheels as feet for stability, with a rubber material making the arrangement even more reliable.

The trunk is then secured onto the base. Instead of relying on LEGO’s classic studs, a specially designed buckle is used. This feature not only makes the tree more stable, but also allows for the trunk to be positioned at an angle, often seen in bonsai trees. Next up is the trunk section, achieved by stacking curved LEGO pieces to form a beautiful, twisted trunk shape.

Four segments of quarter-round tubular pieces are used to form three branches on the trunk. The highest point of the trunk, indicated by a small frog piece, serves as a hint to the upcoming pink flower buds. A pair of coiled tubes are then used to create root-like details, giving the tree a sense of “life” and countering the inherent stiffness of LEGO.

Lastly, leaf units are added, completing the green-leaf version of the bonsai tree. Apart from the piece above the coffee-colored frog (perhaps for rain shelter?), the leaves are grouped into three sets to match the three branches. Each set comprises three identical units. Despite this repetition, the overall design doesn’t feel monotonous, unless one takes a close look. The instructions propose a design, but LEGO likely welcomes players to explore variations on their own.

The wood-like base, though a secondary character, receives much praise from many players. Despite its monotone brown color, its glossy reflection and striped design reveal a natural wood texture.

Here is the official LEGO Bonsai Tree Building Instructions [PDF]

Tips for Building Your LEGO Bonsai

LEGO Bonsai Tree Kit not only recreates the organic shapes of real bonsai but also fosters an exciting building experience. Like the art of bonsai, building a LEGO Bonsai Tree requires patience and attention to detail. Here are some tips to enhance your building experience:

  1. Start from the base: Ensure the base of your tree trunk is properly secured to the pot. A solid foundation will prevent issues as your tree grows in complexity.
  2. Be creative with elements: The LEGO Bonsai Tree Kit allows for customizable arrangements. Don’t shy away from expressing your creative flair as you design your tree.
  3. Enjoy the process: Most importantly, enjoy the tranquility that comes from crafting your tree. It’s not a race to the finish line but rather a journey of creativity and tranquility.

LEGO Bonsai Tree Display

Once your LEGO Bonsai Tree is complete, it forms a beautiful display piece. Whether you prefer the vibrant pink cherry blossoms or the classic green leaves, the tree can be easily displayed in its rectangular pot on its wood-effect LEGO stand.

Photo: Marius Herrmann

Marius Herrmann made this cherry blossom tree . He won the first place in the LEGO Bonsai Building Contest hosted by Brickset. Nico Vas, the official designer of the 10281 Bonsai Tree set, praised it. He said the bonsai is not only unbelievably beautiful, but every structure is also delicately and cleverly designed. This ranges from the careful shaping of the trunk to the use of minifigure skirts in the cherry blossoms.

By providing an exciting twist on the bonsai art form, LEGO’s Bonsai Tree Kit offers everyone the chance to experience the pleasure of creating their personal bonsai tree. It’s an opportunity to get lost in the meditative process of creation, and enjoy the beauty and serenity that a bonsai tree embodies. Whether you’re a LEGO enthusiast, a bonsai lover, or just someone looking for a relaxing and creative experience, the LEGO Bonsai Tree promises a journey of discovery and creativity. Happy building!

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