The Bother of Bonsai

Back in the 90s (perhaps when I had more time?), I was really into bonsai.  I still have a few plants left over from those days–the ones hardiest enough to survive the various house sitters–but for the most part I’ve learned that my lifestyle is not particularly suited to bonsai.

It’s not the I don’t admire the discipline of bonsai, and the patience it takes to train the plants into little works of art perfectly mimicking dwarfed trees found in nature (you’ll see that mine don’t resemble anything like that in just a moment!).

It’s just that I couldn’t get over the heartbreak of coming home from various vacations and trips and finding my plants dead.  Bonsai have very exacting watering requirements.  And it’s hard enough to find someone to look after your regular houseplants properly, never mind finding someone to look after plants that have to be watered every 30 seconds (or so it seems to a non-plant person)!

So I think it might have been the time I came home to 33 dead plants that I decided either the bonsai had to go or I had to give up on vacations and visiting friends and relatives.  You can see what won out.

The hardiest of the bonsai somehow survive–and I’ve given up–at least in winter–any attempt at shaping or pruning.  Why bother?  They don’t grow anyway and if they did, why thwart them?

These 2 scraggly looking plants are Natal Plums.  They’re supposed to flower but I can’t recall the last time they did.  It’s most likely because they don’t take well to the abuse they receive at the various hands of house sitters and my husband when I leave them.  They don’t like to dry out, which they do when I leave them.  But they live, so I keep them.

These are two fun dwarf begonias, b. richardsiana. They are the same species, although you’d never know it.  Because of the huge swollen caudices, they too manage to make it through the abuse of my traveling.

These are two pieces from a florist Azalea (the kind you find in the grocery and box stores and garden centers for holidays and Mother’s Day) that wasn’t hardy in my zone so I bonsai’d it.  It winters on my sun porch, which in a Zone 7.  You can’t quite tell from the photo, but they both have lots of buds and will bloom in the early spring–April for me.

This is a Satsuki Azalea–again not hardy to winter outdoors so it winters on the sun porch.  It’s in need of a trimming, but I won’t do it until after it blooms so I won’t lose the flowers.  It will bloom a little later that the florist azalea, above, and is a lovely peach.

Finally this eugenia seems to survive because it’s in a relative large pot.  It summers outdoors and has great powder puff flowers in white, almost like a fringe tree (chionanthes).

I have always loved other bonsai, particularly serissa, but am tired of having my heart broken by finding them dead when I return from trips.  So I will content myself with what works–and my other houseplants of course!

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