I went to a Bonsai for Beginners class a week ago. It was in the greenhouse at the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art). The IMA is one of my very favorite places, and the greenhouse is one of my very favorite parts of the campus. Plus, it's January. I need to be in a greenhouse in January.
This is what a bonsai can look like after 20 years.
This is what mine looked like before I started. It's a Barbados Cherry. The instructor had us use tropical plants since they grow more quickly.
Mine had clearly been in its pot for a very long time.
Here's what it looked like once I was finished. Since this time, it's been dropping leaves like crazy. I sat it down after watering it one day last week, and there was the gentle tink, tink, tink sound of leaves falling. It reminded me of the scene in which Charlie Brown thinks he's killed the Christmas tree when its needles all fall off.
I'm hoping it's just very stressed from having most of its roots whacked off and being transplanted, and that it will pull out of it. Time will tell.
I didn't learn nearly as much as I had hoped in the class, but that's probably the nature of having a hands-on experience when the instructor hasn't figured out how to clone himself. I've requested a book from the library on bonsai. I can do anything with the correct library book.
I don't think I'll become a bonsai enthusiast. I am making a gross generalization, but it seems to me that bonsai is about inflicting my will upon the plant. I had hoped it was much more about releasing the inner beauty of the plant.* Of course, this impression might have something to do with the fact that the person I was sitting next to in the class was a bonsai enthusiast and his plant looked like something out of a horticulture S & M publication when he was finished. Maybe the library book will teach me about beauty and respecting the inner form of the plant and so forth.
Whatever happens, I got to hang out in a greenhouse in January, learn a little bit about a new field, and spend the days between making my reservation and the actual class** randomly shouting, "BONSAI!!!!" in my best Karate Kid fashion.
It's a win.
*Wow. That sounds rather hippie, even to me.
**Okay, FINE. Add, "and several days following" to that sentence.