Sunday morning musings

I love big bonsai.  I’ve loved big bonsai since I first got really into the art, and became aware that bonsai could range up to four feet tall.  I’ve collected and trained my share of big bonsai.  And whenever Cathy is explaining to someone that very odd thing I do, she invariably says I grow “giant” bonsai.

So with that introduction there’s an obvious question to be asked: Can there be big happiness in small packages?  The answer is yes (wouldn’t be much of a blog post if the answer was no, right?).

Over the past 25+ years I’ve collected somewhere on the order of 1,500 trees.  For the most part these were trees sporting trunks of 2″ basal diameter and up.  Yet there’s so much more to bonsai.  Through the years I’ve done a good bit of propagation, and I really enjoy it.  Whether it’s from seed or cuttings or layers, making new plants gives me a real sense of accomplishment.  You might call it big happiness in a small package.

greenislandficus10-8-16-1Here’s a prime example of a really insignificant piece of material, a Green island ficus, Ficus microcarpa.  I just made this “small package” about eight weeks ago from a much larger bonsai owned by one of our local club members.  His tree has produced countless clones for club members over the years.  I took a small shoot he trimmed off his tree, dusted it with rooting powder and stuck it in a pot filled with sand.  It faithfully produced roots in just over a week, at which time I potted it in a gallon nursery container.  I fed and watered it, then waited for it to start growing.  It’s quadrupled in mass since then, and a couple weeks ago I carefully pulled it from its nursery container and put it into this nice Chuck Iker round.  My plan is to bring it indoors this winter, then next spring grow it bigger still (making more small ones along the way).  In time I should have a nice indoor bonsai, as the tree “grows into” the pot.  But I’ll tell you, this small ficus brings me a huge amount of pleasure – big happiness, as it were.

chineseelm7-18-15-6Here’s another small package I wrote about in a blog some time ago, a Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia.  This is another bonsai that started out life as a cutting.  In this case, rather than grow the tree on in a larger nursery container or the ground, I potted it straight into a bonsai pot and began its training.  Six years later, the tree had developed into a miniaturized Chinese elm with a relatively small trunk.  But it developed tons of character along the way.  Small package, big happiness.  I sent it off to a new home this year, where I know it’s brought a lot of joy.

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Here’s an example of big happiness in a really small package.  I grew this tiny Water-elm, Planera aquatica, from a cutting I made last year.  The cutting wasn’t the normal straight whip most commonly used for propagating by this technique, so it had a ready-made branch structure.  Today I put it in this very small hand-made pot.  It stands a mere 5.5″ above the soil surface.  Does it look like a real tree in nature?  You be the judge, but to my old eyes the answer is most definitely.

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Oh, just so you can get an idea of the relative size of this “big happiness”….

Bonsai is one of the most unique pastimes there is.  When you consider the variety of species, styles and range of expression in the art; the flowers and fruit of certain species; the vision and diligent care of the artist; the quiet character of the miniature tree through the seasons; from the tiniest shohins to the grandest imperial size bonsai, it’s hard to find a more pleasing pursuit.