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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Learning From a Mistake

     A week ago Friday I repotted two trees on something of an emergency basis. The first repotting (described in my last post) was made necessary by the storm that came thru and blew a willow-leaf fig to the ground. The second was made necessary by a mistake.

The tie-in wire (yellow arrows) was also visible on the other side.
The tree is my 'Snow Rose' serissa, about which I've written before (here and also here.) When I put it into a scoop pot in May 2011, I tried something different: I used the same length of wire both to secure the bottom screen over the drainage hole, and to hold the tree itself in the pot. Don't try to visualize it all; what matters here is that the part of the wire used for tie-in was situated on the outside of the pot. Toward the rear, but still easily visible to a viewer. (See the picture to the right.)

When I readied the tree for the Fort Wayne club's Spring Show, I decided to take the wire off. I thought it would be unsightly, and I expected that, after a year in that pot, the serissa's roots would have a good grip on the inside. Bad assumption.

The upper part of that pot makes a dandy built-in handle. I sometimes held the pot there to give the roots a quick dunking: the small soil mass was quick to dry out. Shortly after the Spring Show I did that, and the whole root ball came free of the pot!

I put it back carefully. But of course within a few days I forgot to hold the tree in the pot when dunking it, and it came out again; this time it lost a bit of the soil. To make a long story short, after a couple of weeks enough soil had been lost that there was a visible gap between the root ball and the inner walls of the pot. That of course made the soil mass even more susceptible to drying; and when the current heat wave struck, that just made things worse! I was watering this tree sometimes thrice a day: all it would take would be one missed watering and I would probably lose it. Last Friday I decided I couldn't wait any longer.

I had already decided to move this tree into a different pot: after I wired and positioned the major branches for the first time, a year ago, the scoop pot no longer fit it well. For the time being, at least, I moved the 'Snow Rose' into the pot that used to hold my small veld fig (Ficus burtt-davyi.) I don't think this pot is the best match for this tree, but it was the best one I had on hand.

This pot will be its home for the next year or two, while I find a better one for it.

You can be sure the tree is securely wired in! You can see a bit of the plastic-tube cladding on the tie-in wire, just to the left of the tree's base.

I removed all the flowers that were on this tree when I repotted it, so its energy and resources would be directed into rebuilding the root system. But I took a picture of some of the blossoms first. Hope you enjoy them!

Like pure-white double roses -- pea-sized!

:-)  :-)  :-)


  1. I like the new pot better! The scoop is too rugged, the serissa is delicate looking.

    1. Thanks, Mary. You're right; I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't noticed that before. My eye got sharpened a little today!

      I'm still not sure this tree doesn't need an oval eventually, but I've got some time to decide. And the fluted corners (not sure what else to call them) harmonize with the tree's movement, and I like that.

  2. Steve, The old saying is very true. The man that never made a mistake never made anything. Well done

    1. Thanks, Mike. You're right. John Naka said the same thing another way: "Mistakes and dead trees are part of the tuition for learning bonsai." (Not sure I got that verbatim, but you get the gist.)