Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Karate Kid IV
This spring Bruce and I went to the Garden show in Boston. There were bonsai vendors amidst the floral art and beautiful themed displays.
When I said, "Lets look," he was as captivated by the tiny junipers as I was. We picked one out with the care we give to a Christmas tree, or maybe even to picking out a pet, and made plans to pick it up later after we finished with the garden show.
That's when we learned we might have, in fact, bought a "pet," or a reasonable facsimile.
"Listen to this," I said reading from the instructions we were given with the bonsai. "It says they provide boarding for trees. Who would board a tree?"
As it turns out, many. They require individualized attention; each has its own watering and temperature needs and many board their plants when vacationing.
It also turns out that juniper, the tree we'd chosen because it was among the least expensive, should live outside from late April until just before the frost. Like a junkyard dog, I thought. I wanted a "pet" that would sleep at the foot of my bed.
So the next day we drove north to another bonsai place and picked up a tropical plant that will live in our bay window year round.
I picture bonsai care as rather spiritual, ala Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, something done serenely in peaceful surroundings.
Only in the movies.
"That one needs to be clipped," says Bruce who bought some old pruning sheers at the bonsai center that he's already spruced up with WD-40.
"Not yet. Let it get settled," I say. "I don't want to nip off its growth right away."
"You're supposed to nip it off," he insists. "Otherwise they get too big."
"I want to see its shape first I say. Then I'll decide where to snip."
A day later he points out the new growth again. And the next.
Oh, damn, so I'll snip already. Serenely, breathing slowly.
Mr. Gadget has also gone and bought a probe that he sticks into the soil of each plant to monitor the moisture level. The juniper should never dry out, yet it doesn't like "wet feet" either. It seems a fussy line to walk. The tropical plant likes a good soaking after which it should become dry.
Bruce gives me daily reports of which plant needed watering. He handles it while I work, but on weekends we have little non-serene discussions about the virtue of monitoring moisture levels with a cold metallic probe versus a human finger in the soil.
"Why would you use your finger when the probe is accurate?" he asks.
"My finger certainly knows when the soil is moist," I say.
It reminds me of the baby days, discussing who needed a bottle instead of crying himself to sleep. The kids survived. I trust the bonsais will too.
...a bonsai truly represents the fusion of nature and human wisdom; it is an art that at once pursues the spirits of both nature and beauty. ~Amy Liang