Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bonsai from Seed - The Very Beginning

My new obsession with Bonsai is arguably the craziest impulse I’ve had in a while, considering it will be a project spanning years, decades. For someone who adopted an older cat in her teens because she wasn’t sure where she’d be in 10 years, that is a very long time to dedicate to a new hobby. And the truth is, I’m not going to guarantee it will go anywhere. I have a tendency to pick up new hobbies and then drop them. But… that’s all beside the point.
The point is Bonsai.
I’m not a flower person. When I think about what to plant on my balcony, flowers didn’t come up once. When I’m in my grandparent’s garden, I keep looking around, thinking, yeah… they are pretty, most of them, but really it feels… messy. A few pretty blossoms poking irregularly out of green leaves, usually some already in a state of decay. I know this sounds like a strange complaint, especially because I am not a particularly orderly person, but looking at garden flowers gives me little pleasure. There are notable exceptions, though. One are potted orchids and the other are blossoms. I’m obsessed with blossoming trees.
Trees in general, really. But I only have a small apartment. I have looked at Bonsai before, sometimes turned off by the kitsch, often placed next to or around them, but always fascinated. And somehow this fascination turned into a deep desire to learn about them. So I turned to the internet. To blogs, to videos, and the more I learned, the more I loved.
I am also a person who likes to start things from the ground up, though. When I go on Khan Academy to improve my math, I don’t start at my actual level, I start at the beginning. At elemental math, where they ask you to identify odd and even numbers or to add three and five. And so, while I am tempted to buy a Bonsai that already has a few years under its belt – especially to learn about them more, what really interested me first was to try grow some from seeds.

Bonsai Set Far East
 I bought a package along with a little case for growing seedlings, earth, three adorable, tiny Bonsai pots and a book. And the seedlings, of course. The Japanese Maple (and the Japanese Cherry I bought extra) had to go into the fridge for at least a week to stratify in the fridge - basically to trick the seeds into thinking it's winter, so they start to grow when they are out of the fridge and it's spring.
But, the white mulberry and the wisteria just had to soak over night before I could put them in the soft seedling earth.

This where things get nerdy!
While the Wisteria was supposed to be out in the light, the mulberry was to be kept in the dark, so I used a carton, also storing the bonsai pots there. Everything else went into the pretty seedling case that came along with the purchase.

And this is where it really sad. I left them about a week. Checking every second day or so. I have to admit I didn't check as frequently as I should because the fertilizer that came with it smelled, well, like shit, literally. And maybe it was my fault, because I sort of just sprinkled the fertilizer pellets on top (figuring that's how they reach everything every time I watered).
But after a week, almost every pot was covered in a thin layer of mold. Mostly the fertilizer really. I didn't have the heart to take a picture. (Also ew!).

So, after an hour of feeling disheartened, I scraped the mold away, and with a strainer over the sink tried to get all the seeds out of the earth to repot them. That was easy with the big wisteria ones, but most of the mulberries got flushed. Sadface!

But! I still had the Japanese Maple in the fridge! I also had a bunch of apples that were sort of rotting at the bottom of my fridge (they didn't taste good to begin with and at this point you couldn't eat them), so I decided to harvest some seeds from there:

So I planted 7 wisteria seeds (one was mush), I think maybe 20 mulberry, the red acorn and a third of the apple (the rest went into the fridge, with the Japanese cherry for another week or two). This time, I tried a different kind of earth and I didn't use the fertilizer pellets yet. I also mist them with colloidal silver mixed in water to try and stave off any rot and air them out more frequently. 

This is has definitely become a bit of an obsession. I'm already browsing Bonsai seed sites every day, thinking about what next to try and I still have the rest of the apple and the Japanese cherry in the fridge. I could plant the cherry this weekend, but the apple should stay there a few more weeks, according to Wikihow.

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