Crisis or Opportunity?

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You probably remember this photo from a Wordless Wednesday a couple of weeks ago. A plant like this is sort of easy to manage when you are around to water. When you are going to be traveling for a week or more, it’s difficult to keep any bonsai watered–particularly one that’s glued into the pot and with no drainage at the bottom. That’s a recipe for disaster for almost any plant!

I am fairly adamant about not repotting anything this time of year and that goes for these disasters too. I think repotting in winter causes more harm than good.

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That being said, I will have to see if these 2 plants can survive my travel without repotting. The serissa is known for being much thirstier than the fig. I have already moved it once because it was drying too quickly.

And on a different note, there’s no question that this serissa is not a “bonsai.” At best, it might generously be called a pre-bonsai.

Again, I haven’t done a thing with it. No point in training it if it won’t survive my trip out of town. Been there, done that. Besides, I was kind of hoping to get a nice bloom from it before I chopped it back. We’ll see.

Next time you see these plants, they’ll look more like bonsai–if they survived my absence.

Wordless Wednesday

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You may remember my post from the Hartford Bonsai show about a month ago. At the time,  I said that I had very few bonsai anymore because they limited my ability to travel.

This is one exception.  This is Eugenia myrtifolia, or myrtle-leafed Eugenia. Occasionally in my part of the country,  we see Eugenia sold as a tropical topiary.  I guess in warmer places, it is a year-round topiary plant.

In my house, it has defied everyone’s attempt to kill it, even mine. It gets scale every winter.  Sometimes, I clean the scale off; other times I wait until spring when it goes outside.

My erratic watering means it loses a lot of leaves once it comes inside.  That’s fine.  There’s less for the scale to attack.

If it gets too dry, it loses all its leaves. There are times when I have been sure that it has died. But in the spring,  it leafs back out, and once August comes, it blooms.

I can’t tell you when it was last repotted. And you know that I don’t feed my plants.

It simply defies explanation–unlike the fiddle leaf fig you’ll see on Friday!

Bonsai Reconsidered

On Saturday our local horticulture society held a bonsai workshop.  Despite posting about giving up bonsai (back on March 2) I decided to go because I’d met the woman giving the workshop and she was quite knowledgeable and I thought it might be fun to refresh my skills.

It was a lot of fun and I’ll need to be careful not to get carried away or before I know it I’ll have a nice little bonsai collection again and as it is the ones I have in the making are not likely to survive my next winter trip.

As usual, I chose tropical plants to “bonsai.”  And I wound up with several attempts because my first choice wound up getting snapped in the shaping.

This serissa was my first choice. But the main branch (the very short one in the photo) got snapped during the shaping so I stopped my styling of it at that point until I see whether it heals.  That’s why I left that secondary long and untrimmed branch.  If the snapped branch doesn’t heal properly, the secondary branch will become my focal point.  And I stuck some of the trimmings in the pot to root as well.

This is a close-up of my attempt to heal the snap with cut paste (like a tree wound dressing) and wire.

This was the second plant I selected, but it’s too young to do much training on.  I just potted it up and will see how it progresses over the summer.

You’ll notice I’m not using traditional bonsai soil.  That’s to give these more of a fighting chance with the house sitters.

Finally, there was an overgrown lemon verbena just calling my name.  Here’s about 3/4s of the prunings I took off of it.

And here’s the plant as it begins its life as a bonsai in training.

Since I have no travel planned for the summer, these should be fine.  It’s my next vacation that I worry about–but I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Maybe I’ll have a better water-er by then.

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!