Thirteen years ago I spied a tiny maple seedling in my garden. Its location, under a ‘Bloodgood’ maple, was convincing evidence of its progeny. I dug it out carefully and planted it in a simple pot to encourage it to grow and establish a healthy root system. After two years in that pot, I transplanted it into a bonsai pot I had purchased in Japan and hoped I could create something of value. It made the move from Chapel Hill to Charlotte in good shape and has been on my back patio on slightly elevated support in a protected area.
Please allow me to share a last look for the year as the leaves have turned a striking red, just before they begin to fade for the winter.
It has been root pruned about every three years and replanted in new soil (sandy loam) which I dug and screened from the flood plain next to the stream in the woods. The moss is all native to our woods. I wired a few of the branches to help them grow in the direction I intended. It is hand watered almost daily. I realize that bonsai purists may raise an eyebrow at my using local soil, but neither the maple nor a twenty-five year old ginkgo that I featured in an earlier post have been thus degraded.
I have had a long interest in bonsai since I was introduced to it while in the Navy stationed in California in the early 60’s. Being transferred regularly every few years made it impossible to really get serious about it. During a tour of duty in Tokyo, I was fortunate to be able to study under Saikei master Toshio Kawamoto. Saikei is a form of bonsai (the “sai” character in Japanese is the same in both words) that uses the same techniques but creates “forests” instead of individual trees. I learned enough to have the confidence to root prune and wire branches but am clearly an amateur and have focused on other areas of gardening.
Each year the local Bonsai Society of Charlotte exhibits wonderful bonsai treasures at the annual Home and Garden Show in February. I look forward each year to seeing their displays. I am tempted each year to do more than just enjoy their show. Alas, I haven’t given in to the temptation, but have to be satisfied with my two meager “creations.”
As the years move on, I have started to think about what might happen to these two living “creations” of mine. In Japan bonsai are often considered family treasures and are passed down from generation to generation. Treasures mine are certainly not, but perhaps I can convince one of my grandchildren to take an interest.