WINTER VACATION WATERING
By Gerald Johnson (Oakdale, Minnesota)

               (Editor note:   True Indoor Bonsai is especially valued in the northern states where traditional outdoor bonsai activity comes to a complete standstill during winter.  Some say that depending upon your specific situation and the amount of supplemental lighting,  that pruning and repotting can be done all year around.  But in the northern states, major training is done in the best growing season which is often late spring or early summer when night temperatures exceed 55F.  Some of our customers may have just one or two bonsai and we often hear they die during a vacation when a person they depended upon to care for the plants didn't.  I know Gerald has a lot of plants and asked he to share his planning and the extent of his overall indoor growing hobby. 

                Gerry's initial article is posted at:  www.fukubonsai.com/3c4.html)

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                  We recently returned from Green Valley, AZ, where we spent the month of January.  The weather there was beautiful, but back home, the weather in Minnesota was worse than it has been for years, with snow, extremely cold temperatures, and plenty of wind.  It is nice to be away in the winter, but having the plants taken care of is something of a problem.  We have many different types of plants that have dissimilar needs for watering.  Some plants need water once a week, some twice, and others, once a month.  Dormant plants are particularly tricky.  They need water when they need water.  One almost has to sense this. 

                  My wife, Jan, takes care of the plants in the sunroom, on the main floor, and on the upper level.  She has our three daughters take turns watering these plants twice a week.  Jan puts colored ribbons on the plants that do not need watering, including artificial ones that are so realistic that, without the warning ribbons, they would definitely be watered too.  She usually leaves a note pointing out the plants that need extra care and have to be watered twice a week.  Occasionally, there have been miscommunications and the plants have been watered two days in a row, but this has not seriously affected any of them, probably because the pots have such good drainage.  Last year, one of our daughters claimed that one of the plants committed suicide by leaping off the shelf.  We are skeptical about this scenario.  Over time, the girls are becoming more accustomed to the plants watering needs and are learning with "on the job training."

 

 

               I take care of the large plant room in the basement and the cold room outside.  I hire my neighbor to take care of these areas.  The basement room is really stuffed with plants, so is quite a challenge.  Most of the plants that need to be watered twice a week are on three tiers along one wall.  I mark the others that also need this attention with a piece of tape.  I provide my neighbor a calendar, marked with a three day schedule, so that some get watered every three days and all get watered on the sixth day.  My neighbor also takes care of the cold room plants and the tillandsias, which need to soak for a half hour.  He puts these in the sink, checks the cold room plants, fills the bird feeders, and does the partial watering while the air plants are soaking.  This works out well, as he spends about a half an hour each time he comes over.  This year, he also managed to terrify the cleaning lady when he came through the kitchen, since she had no idea he was in the house.  I do not recommend this. 

                 With the wide variety of plants: cactus, succulents, tropicals, house plants, tender outdoor plants, trees and evergreens, it is difficult to teach someone their different needs, but by making the watering directions as clear as possible, we do not lose many plants.  All in all, it is wonderful to come home and see that most plants have survived and that few have attempted suicide. 

 

FINAL COMMENTS BY DAVID

                 Mahalo Gerry for sharing your situation and success!  As Gerry's interest in bonsai reawakens, he's got a lot to work with!  I'm encouraging him to get more involved and consider doing more rock plantings as they would be appreciated by the groups where he donates plants.  And along the way, Gerry will be able to get into some more interesting activity too! 

                 As more graduate from the Beginner Study Group,  I encourage rock plantings!  It makes sense.  The other route is to primarily to grow and train older larger bonsai and unless you continually purchase larger older trees the primary activity is watching the plans grow and there's not all that much to do on a day to day basis.  "Assembly" is putting together two components to get a nicer fuller result and rock planting is the most fun. 

                Right now, the members of the Fast-Track Study Group are individually exploring all forms of rock plantings including sculpturing softer Hawaiian lava rocks,  gluing together and "creating" rock assemblies, and even sculpturing "man-made rocks" using various hypertufa concepts.  Jay and Ryan are taking on the challenge of creating the most difficult 360 complex landscapes.  Gerry is hinting that he's thinking about it so we all look forward to progress reports.

                Bonsai should be a nice hobby to enjoy and we're building a nice Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community.  Everyone is invited to become a member of the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation ($12 per year dues) and to join our study group!  Please email if there are questions! 

                 Regards,  ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com)

 

Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014