Tip of the Week     #9

Welcome to our next installment of  “Tips Of The Week”.

This feature is for the benefit of visitors to this site, I would be happy to hear from you if there is something you would like to see covered here in future weeks. Please direct your E-mail to Paul@bonsaiofbrooklyn.com

If your topic is chosen, please let me know if I should include your first name, last name, city, E-mail address or no acknowledgement.

Interested in past articles? There's a list at the bottom of the page.

Recently I received an E-mail from Kathryn Smith of Sacramento, California. Her name and city are used with her permission. In the E-mail she discusses repotting a bonsai, and makes reference to her belief that trees are delicate. That got me thinking about an experience that I had in the 80's. I thought it might be helpful to share with you. Following are relevant excerpts from my answer to her.

".........As far as the tree being delicate, it only is so in the areas that nature normally provides for. It is VERY dependent on water, sunlight, proper temperatures for the current time of year, etc. As for the roots, The best illustration I can give follows.   I go into a wooded area of Staten Island about 15 miles from my nursery a few times a year to collect moss for my bonsai. About 15 years ago, a week or 2 after a pretty severe storm, I came upon a 25-30 foot pine tree that had been blown over horizontal by the high winds. The root ball was about 3-4 feet thick, 8-10 feet around, and 7-8 feet above ground level at the highest point. The trunk, which was about 18-20 inches thick was about 3 feet off the ground due to the branches that dug into the ground and were now supporting it. Later that year, I noticed that kids that went into the woods to party had begun to use the vertical part of the underside of the root ball as a gathering place. There were beer bottles on the ground, and evidence that there had been campfires lit at the point where the root ball & ground converged. today, 15 years later, the pine is alive, well, & growing in full vigor. There were enough roots in the ground to support it until the branches that had been driven into the soil took root. Trees are absolutely amazing. Given ANY chance to survive, they will. It's only when we deprive them of the things mentioned at the beginning of this letter that the problems begin."

About 35 years ago, In a discussion with Frank Okamura, the former world renowned curator of bonsai at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I asked how he knew if a bonsai would survive transplanting. He said that If you believed it would survive, it would, and if you believed it wouldn't, It wouldn't. I attributed his response to the type of folksy, old-world philosophy that he was famous for. Over the years, I came to realize what he alluded to. After repotting numerous bonsai, we get a sense of what a tree can & cannot survive. SOMEWHERE INSIDE, we know if we've given it a chance to live. When a tree has a chance, and the proper environment, It WILL survive. They ARE that strong. If you stick to this hobby long enough, You'll understand what Frank Okumura meant.

Interested in past articles? Click for your choice below.

#1-Things to do in the spring

#2-Forest Plantings

#3-Planning a trimming schedule

#4-Trimming Japanese Maples (And other trees with opposing Buds)

#5-Trimming Chinese Elms (And other trees with alternating Buds)

#6-Trimming Conifers (Such as Pine, Juniper and Cypress)

#7-Improving Your Bonsai Skills

#8-Things to Remember During the Winter Months

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