The Mundane Details

Posted by on May 13, 2015 | 2 Comments
The Mundane Details

It can be easy to get the impression that bonsai is all glamorous if you’re reading lots of magazines and trolling the internet for good bonsai blogs. There’s a lot of excitement in seeing the styling of good material, or even the long term progress on trees.

Perhaps it’s important to take a moment to think about the mundane parts of bonsai. It’s not every day that the typical bonsai enthusiast does a new styling of a wonderful collected yamadori. Nor is it every day that someone finishes a five year remodel of a tree. The things that do happen everyday are much more mundane, but in some ways they are even more important than the styling events.

Fertilizing and soil maintenance can feel like  a thankless task, but the trees' health is the most important aspect of the work, so this cannot be neglected.

Fertilizing and soil maintenance can feel like a thankless task, but the trees’ health is the most important aspect of the work, so this cannot be neglected.

Watering and understanding the signs of under- and over-watering is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn in bonsai.   While consistent watering habits will lead to good health in plants, inconsistent or incorrect habits will cause nothing but problems.

Watering and understanding the signs of under- and over-watering is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn in bonsai. While consistent watering habits will lead to good health in plants, inconsistent or incorrect habits will cause nothing but problems.

Removing wire is one of my least favorite tasks, yet the consequences of not removing it are worse.   While wiring always seems like a step forward, unwiring usually feels like at least a partial step backward.

Removing wire is one of my least favorite tasks, yet the consequences of not removing it are worse. While wiring always seems like a step forward, unwiring usually feels like at least a partial step backward.

Good spring growth on a blue atlas cedar.    It takes many years of good growth to make a show tree.  Each year a tree must push out good shoots if the bonsai artist is to have any shot at making a refined tree.

Good spring growth on a blue atlas cedar. It takes many years of good growth to make a show tree. Each year a tree must push out good shoots if the bonsai artist is to have any shot at making a refined tree. This is the reward that comes from all the work of watering and fertilizing.

Bonsai rests on the foundation of good horticulture. I tell people that if you can’t make your trees grow well, then you can’t make bonsai. When the tree grows you respond by removing the extraneous parts and keeping the usable ones. It’s the growth of the plant that is more important than any other aspect. When you’re heading toward a goal and hoping to accomplish it before a certain time – say an annual show or a larger event, it can be tempting to cut corners and try to force a tree to be what you want it to be. But, the result of this over reach is more often than not a step backward rather than a step forward.

2 Comments

  1. TdC
    May 14, 2015

    Thanks for the great roadmap. It’s a nice knowing that I’m on the right track that someday will lead to the road of beautiful bonsai.

  2. Ryan
    May 19, 2015

    Eric, as both a lover of photography and bonsai, I can say your blog is an awesome combination of the two arts! I just recently discovered it and have had a blast catching up on all the past posts. Keep up the great work!