If you’ve ever been to the Alaska State Fair, then you’ve probably seen the exhibit a time or two. The Cook Inlet Bonsai Study Group has been displaying their bonsai trees at the fair for more than 20 years.

Paul Marmora, a long time member of the group, has an extensive collection of his own. Some of them, he’s been training for years. “It takes a lot of patience more than anything else. You have to have a vision,” says Marmora.

Marmora says there are plenty of theories as to where the art of bonsai originated. The most likely, he says, is that Buddhist monks in China began the tradition around 2,000 B.C. The monks wanted to bring a piece of the outdoors inside their temples. From there the tradition spread across Europe and to other Asian countries.

Bonsai — which translates as “tree in a tray” in Japanese — is the practice of transforming a regular tree, or a piece of it, into a miniature one. The goal is to have the tree look like a small, but mature version of the full sized species.

Marmora says that it can sometimes take years before a tree looks the way he wants it to. It takes regular pruning, and sometimes a little trial and error.

“People come up to me at the fair and say I had a bonsai and it died. Well, I’ve had thousands that have died. You’ll learn. You’re better off making one though, than buying one,” he said.

You can see the bonsai display for yourself at the Alaska State Fair, inside the agricultural building next to the bee display.

The Cook Inlet Bonsai Study Group meets on the second Sunday of each month at Dimond Greenhouse from October-May.

For more information contact Paul Marmora at 907-360-3728 or pmarmora@aol.com.

KTVA’s Rachael Penton can be reached by email, or on Facebook or Twitter.