Category Archives: Bonsai

Spring Has Sprung

One of my Favorite Times

wp-1458852483425.jpgThis time of year, as the leaf bids begin to pop on the trees and the early flowers are blooming is very enjoyable to me.  After the slightly negative tone of my last post, I wanted to focus on the positive and share a bit of what brings me joy and piece.

There’s a certain feeling that comes with the signs of new growth, longer days, and warmer air.  It’s nourishing to my soul and reassuring that life continues.  There’s the buzz in the air of the early pollinators beginning to go about their business.

wp-1458852499788.jpgI take solace in an early morning walk around the garden with a cup of coffee.  The warmth of the cup is a perfect balance to the cool but not cold air.  As I browse through my meager bonsai collection and garden beds, I look for the changes from one day to the next.  Things start to move quickly and I don’t want to miss any of it.

The Comfort of Routine

wp-1458852464306.jpgDuring the morning tour, I mentally take note of the chores that need to be done.  Most days I will need to water after I finish my coffee.  Sometimes my attention is caught by a pest taking up resident and I will need to come back around and spray during the evening.

The bonsai also require that I keep up with fertilizer and make sure that I’m rotating out the organic packets on schedule for optimal health.  I will also need to inspect the wiring on a regular basis to make sure that it’s doing its job and not beginning to cut into the bark of the tree as the branches swell from growth.

wp-1458852491814.jpgI’ve been told that this routine looks a bit ridiculous to the casual observer.  Mrs C’s friends have gotten a kick out of it.  That doesn’t bother me in the least.  The simple mechanical nature of it is almost meditative for me.  You see, plants are very easy going if you treat them right.  There’s not a whole lot of stress here.  It’s the diametric opposite of what I do for my day job.

Growing for the Future

One of the other key aspects that I enjoy about the bonsai hobby is being able to think generationally.  Some of the great masterpieces in Japan have been cultivated for decades and even centuries.  These trees are often cared for by multiple descendants of the same family.

wp-1458852458659.jpgEach year for the past few years, I have been starting seedlings with the intent to cultivate them as bonsai over their entire life.  It’s very humbling to know that this may even exceed my own lifespan.  With some species that I grow, I may never see them as mature bonsai.

Tying it Together

As I got close to finishing this post, it occurred to me that this type of cultivation is very similar to the work we do with personal finance.  We’re not always growing it for right now.  Sometimes, we’re not even growing it for us but for the next generation.

Today, I am focusing on appreciating life.  Despite the clouds of yellow death pollen.



Bonsai Class – Pine Workshop

A Little Background

I’m pretty sure that I’ve already mentioned my major hobbies on the site.  Growing things, in particular bonsai, is one of my core activities.  There are a couple of reasons why I’m drawn to this.

First, it is the antithesis of what I do for a living.  The organic natural processes help me balance out a life that revolves around technology.  Second, it gets me outside for little bits of time each day.  This is especially important since I started working from home a few years ago.  Finally, it requires discipline and patience.  This is counter to how my brain typically works, so in a way it’s a type of mental exercise to help me perform better in other areas.

Why I Needed This

The workshop had a very reasonable price of $55 which I had available in my discretionary fund (my wife and I each have personal checking accounts separate from the main account where we funnel a set amount of money each month for fun).  It also involved about six hours away from the house which was harder to do without feeling guilty due to the amount of time that work has been requiring the past couple of months.

Eventually, my mental health needs won and I reserved my spot.  Being able to unplug for a good portion of the day and focus on learning something that didn’t involve computers was a huge relief.  I was long past due for a little time for myself to re-establish balance.

The Class Itself

This class was centered around Fall maintenance work on Japanese Black Pine bonsai.  The discussion did reach other topics such seasonal work for Spring and Summer as well as fertilization, but mostly we focused on the Fall work.JBP_Ishii_2015

The first thing we did was to take a look at our trees and work on removing any old needles from the previous year’s growth.  These are fairly easy to identify by the position on the branch and the fact that the color is starting to fade and may be yellowing.

After the old needles are clear, we can take a look at the new growth that developed during the summer and prune any excess shoots down to a pair.  Ideally, we want a pair of shoots of equal strength that are sitting side by side instead of top to bottom.

Finally, we can get in and perform any wiring necessary to develop that shape of the tree.  There was an afternoon session on wiring, but I had other obligations for the evening and needed to get home.  I had already participated in the wiring class a couple of years ago and feel like I have that under control.

What I Took Home

Well, I didn’t take home another tree!  It was tempting, but it’s really not a good time for me to make the kind of investment that it would take to get the kind of tree that I want next.  Most of my trees are what I consider project trees.  It will be several years before any of them are show worthy.  Eventually, I’d like to add a bigger specimen that is mostly refined and just need minor adjustment and maintenance.  That can be a costly endeavor, so for now it’s on the ‘one of these days’ list.


I also came home with a greatly reduced stress level.  I wasn’t worried about email or work the entire time I was out.  It also prepared me for a laid back night out with the family to the local minor league hockey game!  Fun times.