I was very happy to see my little Elm grow, especially since my main bonsai “goal” was to keep the thing alive-no more, no less. However, I read in one of the MANY bonsai guides that I had bought that you have to trim the tree so that the roots can support the foliage. I was sure though, that if I trimmed too much “off the top” so to speak, that I would do irreparable damage. So I trimmed a few shoots…very few. I was always conflicted. It felt weird trimming the new shoots that looked so ready to grow abundantly. Yet, at the same time, it seemed a bit harsh to cut the established branches, especially since it was obvious that they WERE surviving. I was unable to look at my tree as a gardener and do what was the best for the tree. I only cut off what made me feel safe–kind of like when you go to get a new ‘do, but chicken out and get just a trim. And then you feel frustrated afterwards. This was how I felt about pruning my tree…wanting to give it a new ‘do, but only brave enough to play it safe. And, this method worked…for the time being. I kept my little Elm alive, I reached my bonsai “goal” and eventually learned that, at times, just enough can be too little.
“Did you know…?” became the dreaded question chez moi. I was obsessively reading about bonsai trees, their care, their history, etc. and then sharing all that knowledge with my family. I think they tolerated me at first because I was so excited.
Then they just look at me oddly, or nodded, smiling and bewildered.
But, I give them credit because they followed me patiently through the local garden shops’ bonsai sections. They received mini-lessons on the vices and virtues of indoor and outdoor bonsai. They learned why I preferred outdoor bonsai (trees are supposed to be outside) to indoor bonsai (hydrometers?!). They learned that it was very important that my Chinese Elm was acclimated to the Paris area.
I am not sure they cared, but they learned. I was happy for the small victory. I have been a teacher for 25 years (grades 1-12). I LIKE when people learn something, even if it’s only a small thing like the foliage of a tree and its rootball should be approximately the same size to ensure proper growth. I mean, who knew?
Learning and accumulating these small facts in books, magazines, websites, and YouTube videos (OMG–the videos!), made my world grow bit by bit…
My first tree was a Chinese Elm, about 14 years old. The vendor at the Jardin Yili picked it out for me out of hundreds of similar looking trees–really similar! I had no idea what made a “good” tree–I just felt I would know it when I saw it. The vendor showed me the tree, I acted impressed, and, of course, looked around for others. After thirty minutes or so, I was back at her side, realizing that the tree she had picked out was exactly what I wanted. We paid for the tree (80 euros), chatted awhile and then I bore my treasure home. It was a small tree but it came to symbolize big–good and bad–things in my life.
photo from Passion Nature 78