Bricks, Bonds & Bonsai - A story of a boy and his LEGO Bonsai set
Updated: Aug 10
Like many kids that grew up in the 1980s, LEGO were my activity of choice. There was no better way to create and imagine and escape than sitting down and playing LEGO. Unlike many adults of the 2020s, Bonsai is my current activity of choice. There is not a better place to create and imagine and escape than taking a stroll through my garden. So, you can imagine, how my mind was blown when I found out that LEGO had created a bonsai tree edition. I could hardly believe it and I knew I had to buy one.
Regular readers and followers of the PeaceLoveBonsai blog may know, but if you're new around here, I have 3 kiddos, all boys. My third born, Max, saw the LEGO box come in the mail and said he wanted to help. I grew up the youngest of 3 siblings myself, so I know how it feels to be the third born. I had two older sisters. I was dressed up in ballerina tutus, forced to play the dog when they played house and it was always a struggle to been seen, let alone heard. LEGO was my great escape. My sisters didn't care about plastic bricks and I could create a world in which they didn't exist. Win/Win!
Max has two older brothers. Brothers that are athletic and smart. Trendy and cool. They have no reason to hear what their little brother has to say or care all that much about what he's up to. No reason to let him win at board games, or triumph in just about anything. To a kid that sees the world a bit differently, Max struggles to be seen, let alone heard. On this Sunday morning, he and I, two 3rd-borns that see the world a little different, enjoyed a LEGO jam session I won't soon forget.
This set is part of the LEGO Botanical Collection. It was created by designer Nicolaas Vas, who according to LEGO, created the first LEGO bonsai tree as part of the LEGO Ninjago series. It has 848 pieces and says it's for ages 18 and up, which seems a bit aggressive to me. My youngest, who is 9, struggled at times, but I can't imagine you need to be voting age to finish this project.
There's plenty to like about this LEGO set. For starters, it comes with two varieties, a juniper and flowering cherry. It also provides flexibility in how you build and style the trees, which plays well into the bonsai culture. Additionally, you can buy (or find) LEGO bricks and elements to continue building new and different trees, which is very cool. Max liked the stand it sits on and the pretty pink frogs, which I didn't realize were frogs until he pointed them out to me.
The set took me about 2 hours to build, but that includes allowing Max to put many of the pieces together. The frogs and flowers of the cherry tree were especially time consuming, taking me almost 30 minutes.
While I like this set, there are a few areas of improvements, including the inclusion of vines, which are not regularly found on junipers and/or flowering cherries. Instead of vines, they could have included more branches, which would allow even more creative license in your designs.
The size is small, measuring 7in x 7.5in, a true shohin*! And while the flowering cherry was more difficult to finish, I like it better than the juniper. I think the balance of the tree feels more life-like. Although both varieties are nice.
Shohin - A Japanese term meaning "small thing". In bonsai culture, it indicates a small tree, usually measuring less than 8 inches.
Obviously, this set will attract bonsai enthusiasts, and if you practice bonsai, this is a great set for you. Additionally, I think this set is great for those who would love to practice the art of bonsai but cannot due to time, money or space. These LEGO Bonsai sets would make a great alternative and excellent gift. With the ability to add elements, you could spend a good deal of time creating your own designs, which is what bonsai is all about!
But for me, a 3rd-born father of three boys connecting with his 3rd-born son, this build was a priceless morning made of connections and memories. While his brothers were off playing Xbox and chatting on iPhones, Max shared his thoughts. He talked about trees and LEGO and funny shirts, about making coffee and the different shades of pink. And I listened to it all. No brothers bothering, no sibling harassment. No games to win or lose, just LEGO. And it was glorious.
So, what do you think? Have you purchased this set? If so, have you added any elements to your design? Did your kids enjoy it like Max did? Be sure to share your thoughts below. And subscribe to the blog for all my upcoming updates and posts. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!