My latest, desperate attempt to have a bonsai

I was fascinated by bonsai from the moment I laid eyes on them.

My dream house is probably somewhere high among the trees, but living in Japan has crashed those dreams down to the reality of a small apartment. I can’t really surround myself with a forest since I don’t have a proper outdoor garden area. Trees are basically a luxury I can view at parks nearby but not have one just outside my window.

Thus, bonsai seemed like the perfect compromise. I can still have trees…but small trees.

I bought a couple of sakura bonsai in the spring, when they were nicely blooming, from a gardening center that had a nice selection to choose from. They were quite expensive, but the dream of having cherry blossoms on our little balcony so appealed to me that I bought them anyway. Then I got to watch in growing consternation as they all died on me. This is especially devastating to me now as I learned it can take decades to grow bonsai.

Another bonsai I had did well up until I repotted it. I took the bonsai with me to a gardening center, hoping I couldn’t mess up another bonsai if I had the help of a professional, and asked them how I repotted it. I was of the impression mine had outgrown its little ceramic pot and that it was, thus, unhappy.

The gardening expert breezily told me to just pick any pot I wanted – “Bonsai are just like any other plant so the pot makes little difference”, he said – and had me buy some bonsai potting soil. My little bonsai died a slow death over the next few months, and I think the repotting is to blame for that.

Now we have my latest little bonsai – a maple tree. I am praying like crazy I can keep this thing alive. I bought it from a better gardening store that actually seems to look after their bonsai, and I am researching bonsai like crazy.

I think any bonsai enthusiast who sees my little bonsai in the photo above will go crazy that I’m not pruning it at all. My research has told me a “forest” configuration, like my maple trees, must be pruned into a triangular shape.

I’ve completely ignored that advice. My main, earnest, focus right now is to just keep the poor thing alive. I think if I can do that for a couple of years, then I’ll care about whether it looks like a proper bonsai.

I scoured Youtube for advice on bonasi and stumbled across an absolute gem from the United Kingdom. I love watching his videos. I think he would completely scoff at my bonsai, which is why I’m glad these videos are one-sided.