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Vol#18 Embracing Withered Trees: Uncovering Wisdom in Bonsai Care

Withered bonsai tree

Have you ever allowed a bonsai wither? 

Bonsai, if cultivated skillfully, can live for several decades. Some can even surpass 100 years. Yet, there are factors that can cause them to wither. Factors such as lifespan, diseases, nutrient deficiency, dehydration, heat, and cold. 

You may have heard stories about people who tried bonsai but ended up letting their trees wither and giving up. Interestingly, dehydration is the most common issue faced by beginners. What's even more surprising is that rain often contributes to this problem. 

For example, there are times when the leaves unintentionally act as umbrellas and shield the pot's soil from receiving enough rainwater. Additionally, there are instances when a significant gap occurs between rainfall and the next watering. 

In the case of deciduous trees, any abnormalities tend to manifest very quickly. Thus, if you notice changes in the leaves, you may be able to address the issue. But, for pine and cypress trees, it is often too late to intervene once they appear in the leaves. 

Before we move ahead, please allow me to change the topic a bit... 

In Buddhism, there is a religious denomination that teaches that "death is the final gift to the living." Of course, "death" itself is a sad event. However, instead of ending in sorrow, people related to the deceased can use the experiences and lessons learned from it as an aspiration for their future. This is the idea of honoring the dead. I resonate with this perspective and believe that it applies not only to humans but also to bonsai. 

Now returning to bonsai, 

There are valuable lessons we can learn even from a withered tree. To get knowledge, it is crucial to observe and comprehend the changes that occurred in the tree during the two weeks period before its withering. 

For example, if you had performed repotting or wiring before the three withered, there is a possibility that the method used was the cause. If there is a sudden overall change, it could be due to dehydration. If the changes occur gradually in specific parts, it might show the presence of pests or diseases. Instead of giving up when a bonsai withers, thinking it's the end, I encourage you to reflect on why it happened and explore ways to prevent it. It would bring me joy if you approached bonsai with a mindset focused on the long-term and took time to reflect on these aspects. 

Until next time

ReBonsai Yusuke Ogawa


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