The Maple Bonsai
For well over ten years now I’ve been fascinated with having a bonsai tree. I think I have to initially blame the movie “The Karate Kid” and Mr. Myagi. I’ve tried several different species, had them given as gifts, have tried harvesting saplings from the wild and all of them have suffered the same fate. In one way or another, they’ve all died.
Recently, in talking to a bonsai aficionado, I asked him if it was normal to lose so many trees. His response? “I can’t remember how many trees I’ve killed just to get the nice ones I have now.” This made me feel a bit better.
For several years I decided to give it up for a while but last year several small maple saplings volunteered up from a large pile of leaves and sticks pulled out of our house gutters by the landlord. The pile remained next to the dumpster all year and three weeks before our lease was up I made the decision to gently harvest them and get them into pots. They made the transition very well, survived the move to the new place, and as we went into winter the trees dropped their leaves and began their hibernation. I really didn’t expect them to make it since I ran out of time to build an adequate cold frame for them. I opted, instead, to place them in a dark porch closet for the entirety of the winter, maybe to bring them out on sunny days.
It seemed like a good idea except for that whole “remembering to bring them back out” part. They stayed in all winter and I think I only watered them once on a day with above freezing temperatures.
Much to my delight, I pulled them out several weeks ago to find tiny red buds adorning the tops of the trees! They had survived the winter! I was delighted. Being mindful of overnight frost, I brought them back out onto the porch to get the warming sun and fresh rain. Since then, the larger tree has now sprouted a new fresh set of smaller leaves than last year and is looking very healthy. The second one is slightly behind but still producing leaves.
Needless to say, I’m quite excited. How is that I was able to overwinter two first year maples by complete and utter neglect? Must be Coyote Magic! (Coyote Magic = Doing the absolute wrong thing, having it work out very well and learning something from it.)
Also, you can see Pooka (The Most Amazing Dog Ever) giving the trees a bit of attention as well. There will be more about Pooka in upcoming posts.
Now, the real challenge will be to get them through the hot and humid summer. I won’t be repotting them this year and instead am letting them strengthen and sit in the pots they have. A year from now, if they make it, I will transport them over to a bonsai pot and we’ll see how it goes. I have a feeling, now that they’re awake, they won’t do so well if I just put them in the porch closet again for three months.