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.
As the weather grew warmer, I had to water my tree almost every day. It became a small ritual for me. Come in the front door, put my work stuff away, deal with the kids’ school needs, change my clothes and then….check on my tree! I got my watering can and watered carefully, silently urging my tree to survive, grow even! I loved watching the water soak up into the soil, and the glistening of the leaves. I felt important and necessary. I felt the same way with taking care of my children, but this was a little different. My daughters would let me know very quickly if they needed something. Neglect would not be tolerated. However, my tree was a silent child. It would not tell me its needs or make any noise about it. It would just wait for me to take action, or it would silently die. I began looking for signs of growth–I didn’t really even know what trouble signs to look for. I rather hoped things would operate under the law of “you’ll know trouble when you see it.” The littlest things made me happy: a new bud, dark green leaves, a little moss on the soil, a shoot aiming for the sun…I was enamoured with these little visual tidbits, and couldn’t yet see the bigger picture…
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