It hasn’t rained for nearly two days and I was looking forward to escaping the confines of my office and getting some fresh air. Anita called me to come outside and see something, and she was being very mysterious. I found her standing near my bonsai, pointing to the one on the end of the shelf.
I wondered what had caught her attention, for as far as I could tell, they were all there on the shelf, looking a bit scruffy to be fair for I haven’t been keeping them tidy due to the weather. None of them were missing or damaged, although I thought some of them were looking a bit like naughty children, revelling in my lack of attention.
That’s when I noticed what Anita was pointing to, a very small mushroom was happily growing in the pot alongside my bonsai tree. This tree was a gift from the birds some six years ago. I found it trying to grow between the cracks of the path, liked the shape and colour of the leaves and decided to keep it. I transferred it into a pot, but never did find out what it was called. So, after all this time, how did a mushroom manage to grow in the same pot?
Further along the shelf I noticed that my English cherry had changed into its autumn colour, a glorious red. I grew this tree from a cherry stone about seven years ago. It has never flowered, but I hope it will one day.
My eyes returned to the tiny mushroom, and I was reminded of our last unexpected visitor.
I had no idea this could happen, but have seen others since, so quite ordinary really…
I was so busy with the book tour last week that I completely forgot about writing my weekly journal.
The tour has been keeping me busy, but my head is bursting with so many new ideas. It would seem the more you do in this business, the more you want to do, even though there is never enough time.
I have been expecting a new story to appear and dominate my every waking thought, now I have finally launched David Mallory and his complicated life out into the world, but so far, there has been nothing. That’s probably just as well, considering there can’t possibly be any room in my head right now.
Although it’s a wonder my brain is working at all, seeing as I am literally reeling from the amazing response from everyone for Silent PayBack. So many people have praised it and congratulated me, I swear my head is several sizes bigger than it was two weeks ago!
I need to find some time for my bonsai and the garden, seeing as how I’ve been too busy to do much lately. It has rained an awful lot, so that’s my excuse. The temperature is dropping, and it won’t be long before most of my little trees start to lose their leaves. A signal for me to make sure they are ready for their winter sleep. This is where I get the chance to have a good look at the bare bones of them, so much easier to spot signs of trouble once the leaves have fallen.
The grass will need to be cut one last time this year, but unless the weather improves dramatically, I won’t be able to, as it’s waterlogged out there.
It is almost time to rig up the bird feeders too, for the insects and berries won’t last long if it gets any colder. We seem to have more feathered friends out there than ever!
P.S: I have been learning how to create a video on my iPad from scraps of material taken on a mobile phone.
Merlin was having a kitten moment and this was the result…
As someone who loves bonsai, my favourite treat is to visit Heron’s Bonsai in Surrey. It is an amazing place with beautiful bonsai in every conceivable shape, size and price. From small starter trees for just a few pounds to large mature specimens, some of them hundreds of years old and costing a small fortune.
I could walk around Herons for hours, and usually do, for Peter Chan, the owner, has his own personal collection there. Peter has won many ‘gold’s’ at Chelsea and teaches the art of bonsai. This is how I met him. He was the guest speaker at our local bonsai club in London, and by the time he had finished pruning and training an ordinary garden centre shrub into an impressive bonsai, I was well and truly hooked.
My own collection is pretty eclectic. I have some wonderful specimens; some have been presents from my family, and some I have grown from seed. Others I have trained, as Peter showed me, from bushes I have found in my travels.
Going to Heron’s is potentially a very dangerous thing for me to do, for there will always be something I cannot live without.
These days, I am governed by the space I have available, so I tell myself I will just ‘window shop’.
Doesn’t always work, of course.
Six years ago, on such a visit, I had been content to settle for some potting compost and was about to leave, when on the floor near the checkout, I saw a rather shabby looking plant with straggly branches and wilting leaves. It was about six inches tall and unrecognisable and didn’t look as though it would live to see tomorrow.
As I picked it up, Peter looked over at me, eyebrows raised. I must have had a question written all over my face too, for he just smiled and said I could have it. He must have thought the poor thing was beyond hope.
As I have always been a champion of dying houseplants, I took it home and began to cherish it. Turned out it was an azalea, and for several months there was no sign of improvement. A few new leaves and some that fell off. Not very encouraging.
Then three weeks before Christmas, something strange started to happen. White buds appeared. In no time at all, the pathetic little branches were covered in beautiful, double white flowers. Unusual for an azalea, I discovered, they usually had single flowers and they never bloom at Christmas time.
All the next year I tended it with care, mindful of the display that might come again. I repotted it, carefully fertilised and watered it, but nothing I did seemed to make any difference. It just didn’t grow. I had heard of slow- growing, but this was ridiculous!
But another Christmas loomed and more white buds appeared.
I was puzzled. How could such a spindly specimen bloom so abundantly in the middle of winter?
So, in my bonsai collection, among all the healthy, vigorously growing trees, in pride of place is the white azalea. Eight years have passed and it hasn’t grown much, but it blooms in December without fail . The leaves look healthier though, so it isn’t dying any more.
It’s just my little magic tree…
Most people think bonsai are just small trees in pots, but they can be any size. There seems to be so many different names, too which makes it all very confusing.
|Japanese classification||Required hands to move bonsai||Approximate size|
|Imperial||Eight-handed bonsai||60 to 80 inches|
|Hachi-uye||Six-handed bonsai||40 to 60 inches|
|Dai or Omono||Four-handed bonsai||30 to 48 inches|
|Chiu or Chumono||Two-handed bonsai||16 to 36 inches|
|Katade-mochi||One-handed bonsai||10 to 18 inches|
|Komono||One-handed bonsai||6 to 10 inches|
|Mame||One-handed bonsai||5 to 8 inches|
|Shito or Keshitsubo||Fingertip bonsai||Under 2 inches|
Traditionally, the size of bonsai was measured by the number of hands needed to carry the tree.
For some reason, I have never considered having a large bonsai. Probably because they are not too easy to handle or for the amount of space they would need. Wherever we have lived, and there have been a few moves, I must always steal space for my bonsai. I start with one, but soon acquire more, either from seed or gifts from the birds. Sadly, most of our moves have meant giving away my collection, and I have lost some good ones this way. But it never takes me long to start again!
Repotting even medium sized bonsai can be backbreaking, especially if you have several to cope with. When Anita brought home a 4-foot Christmas tree last year that had been abandoned in the Christmas rush, turning it into a bonsai never occurred to me. I was just so pleased that they hadn’t chopped off its roots and it has sat in its pot at the bottom of my garden ever since.
I was glad to adopt this tree, probably because of my despair at how many trees are killed every year in the name of Christmas. This one had been spared and that made it very precious to me. I have been meaning to plant it somewhere special, but finding the time do this and a suitable place in our jungle of a garden has not been easy. So, why has my mind, some 8 months later, come up with the idea that it could be my first large bonsai?
How the idea even found room in my head in the first place was amazing, for I haven’t been able to think of anything except my WIP for months.
My problem with ideas like these, is they tend to keep growing (a bit like the Christmas tree) So, just in case I haven’t enough to think about, I know I have a new project.
I spent a long time studying it yesterday and it wasn’t long before I realised this could well be an impossible task. There were such a lot of big branches and I don’t have a clue as to which ones to keep and which to prune.
I have a feeling that this project might take a lot longer than I thought…
For one reason or another this year, I haven’t been taking as much care as I would like with my collection of bonsai. Not entirely my fault either, as the weather has been all over the place, what with the heat waves and then torrential rain. Handy, in a way, because they love rainwater.
Some of them need repotting, and I only managed to get to a few which has been nagging me ever since. Repotting is important, especially for the smaller ones as they use up most of the goodness in their soil. This is usually done in the spring, before they start to grow again after the winter hibernation.
Finding the right soil mix has become difficult too, as my usual supplier has run out and shows no sign of restocking. The right soil is important, as free draining is essential. Waterlogged roots will eventually kill the tree.
My great niece found me sniffing the soil of one of my bonsai the other day and wanted to know what I was doing. She probably thought I had lost my marbles, as it must have looked a bit strange. I explained that a healthy bonsai with a good root system and the right soil, would have a very pleasant and distinctive smell, and is a good way of checking you are taking care of it properly.
We have more hot weather to come they say, so I will find out if any of my trees need emergency repotting. If any of them wilt in the heat it will mean their roots have little or no protection from the elements. I don’t want to disturb the roots, not this close to autumn, so will have to replace what soil I can, leaving the roots undisturbed.
There have been no new signs of life from the rescued Oakey Dokey yet, but the few leaves he has are still green and healthy. He is probably busy beneath the soil, creating new roots.