Bonsai, the traditional art form of growing miniature trees in pots, produces exquisitely beautiful plants that many people would love to use to decorate their homes; unfortunately, traditional bonsai are not suitable for indoors. However, Richard W. Bender proposes a different approach to bonsai that is – and is productive and fruitful besides.

Bountiful Bonsai: Create Instant Indoor Container Gardens with Edible Fruits, Herbs, and Flowers collects the author’s extensive bonsai and container gardening wisdom and experience to teach you that you can decorate in a bonsai style and also harvest delicious fruits and herbs, from fruiting trees you can treat as houseplants.

“The number of potentially useful and edible varieties of tropical plants that can be trained as bonsai is large, making possible a distinctive display of green plants unlike those in most homes. Furthermore, serving a guest produce from a beautiful houseplant can add a unique dimension to your hospitality, and makes for a very rewarding experience.”

The first section of the book explains why bonsai trees are unsuitable as houseplants (resulting in frustration and, frequently, a dead plant), but how fruit trees can be successfully trained to stay small. Bender’s trees do not follow the strictest traditional rules of the art, but they are very attractive, as well as useful; Bender enjoys his trees ‘in the style of’, rather than being constricted by rules that are unnecessary for his purposes. He shows how he starts fruiting bonsai from normal nursery stock, with illustrative photos and interesting stories about some of his trees’ origins – you feel like you are having a conversation with the author, who is eager to help you enjoy the fun as much as he does.

The bulk of the book is an alphabetical list of the trees and plants Bender has trained into beautiful bonsai plants, including their growing habits, usefulness, ease of training, care, and aesthetics. Bender has grown bonsai from coffee plants and eucalyptus; lavender and tea tree; hibiscus and geranium. He has harvested lemons, olives, citron, figs, and pomegranates. Lemon verbena and basil, key lime or mint, carob and kumquat; the possibilities are endless, each bounteous and beautiful in its own right. Many entries include Bender’s experiences with that type of plant, and he offers his hard-won wisdom so you can be successful as well.

Finally, the author gives some ideas for using your bountiful harvest, sharing the fruits of your labors through both sight and taste. If you are looking for a primer on bonsai, this isn’t it; those wishing to learn more about the traditional forms will need to look elsewhere, as Bender assumes some familiarity with the art, as well as with basic gardening techniques such as pruning and pinching, to shape your tree as you wish. But he urges you to find a tree’s ‘inner bonsai’ as you are shaping it, and to have fun with it in the process. Bender has introduced a unique and exciting way to fulfill your design and gardening desires at the same time, in a fun, friendly book that is a delight to read.