What I learned from the Death of my Bonsai

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

One of my colleagues and friends owns a Bonsai shop. You know what Bonsais are – those little trees, planted in decorative basins. Some of them are only for your garden, but some of them – so it is said – can be happy inside your flat.

Last September Melanie (that’s her name) gave to me one bonsai as birthday present. She told me how to water it, where to put it. I chose a place for it, and it was the first thing in the morning for me to look at it. I must add that my experience with plants up to that time consisted in dealing with cut flowers. I liked to arrange them in a vase, carefully cut them, and I usually managed to have them quite a long time. So I thought I would be able to care for my Bonsai.

Well, after some weeks, my Bonsai was not feeling very well anymore. It changed its leaves to a first yellowish and then brownish color. I told Melanie about the state the poor plant was in and she mentioned the possibility of it having not enough light. So I put it on my window sill.

September had changed into October at that time, and it had become cold outside. So the heating was on, and the heating was – you might know it already – under the window sill. Poor Bonsai now got light, but also the heat rising from below. It clearly did not like that, and it showed by throwing away slowly but continuously more or less all of its leaves.

Of course I tried to find out what I could do – more water? Less water? Removing the dried branches? Nothing helped, and in the middle of November my Bonsai had decided to die  (I had the impression it really wanted to go, somehow). I was left with the feeling of having killed it and I felt rather bad for quite a time.

What did I learn?

  • There is a difference between looking at plants and enjoying them in their surroundings and having them in your own flat.
  • There is a difference between the handling of cut flowers and bonsais. Having a “green thumb” for the first doesn’t mean you’ve got one for the latter.
  • If I wanted some green plants in my flat I should try hydroponics first before experimenting with something so difficult like Bonsais.

This post is a contribution to the August Group Writing Project “What I learned from the Plant World” organised by Robert Hruzek over at http://www.middlezonemusings.com.

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About Ulla Hennig

I live and work in Berlin. Taking photos is one of my hobbies, and writing is one of my hobbies, too. So I decided not only to show some of my pictures here but also present some of the thought which came wth the pictures.

12 responses to “What I learned from the Death of my Bonsai”

  1. Joanna Young says :

    Ulla, it sounds like you had a very strong willed Bonsai! It wasn’t going to stay around unless it was on its own terms. I’ve never tried one either… I like house plants that can cope with my haphazard levels of care and attention 🙂

  2. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says :

    My mom grew bonsais; they’re pretty incredible plants but VERY difficult to maintain.

    Carnivorous plants (plants that go chomp!) are even more testy. But wow, they’re lots of fun too.

    Condolences on the loss of your bonsai.

  3. Luke Gedeon says :

    Tabetha and I have always had a tough time keeping plants alive too. I think I have a brown thumb. 🙂

    The good news is that with all your experience, your next bonsai should do quite well.

  4. Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations says :

    Oh my goodness Ulla! That’s like starting out deciding to run by jumping right in and running a marathon on your very first day!

    Please, please do not be hard on yourself for this. Cut flowers are not houseplants. That is apples and oranges, which means you can’t compare the two, they are different subjects.

    If you want to learn how to grow a houseplant, you could start out with something much easier. I would give you advice but…you need to know what is easy for where you live, so advice from a local greenhouse/garden store will help. You are not hopeless! I promise!

  5. Robert Hruzek says :

    Ulla, don’t feel like the Lone Stranger here; I think most of us have managed to encourage the demise of a houseplant or two at some time or other. I tried growing a bonsai Ming tree once. I didn’t kill it, but it decided it no longer wanted to be a bonsai any more and started to grow BIG! I didn’t know you have to keep ’em trained… Ah well, live and learn!

    Thanks, and I hope this doesn’t spoil your desire for more at a later time. It just takes practice, I think.

  6. Paul C says :

    I have always wanted to grow a bonsai but you make such a wonderful point: appreciate them in their native habitat!

  7. Ulla Hennig says :

    Thank you so much for your kind comments! I really think that having no experiences with houseplants and then trying to deal appropriately with a bonsai was trying to run a marathon without any running experience. I really love flowers and plants, and love to visit well-kept gardens and parks. I will limit my plant experiences to taking photos of them…

  8. Nancy Kourmoulis says :

    Limiting my plant experiences to taking photos would be best for me as well. Love their beauty, but I seem to only watch them die when I bring them home.

  9. Karen Swim says :

    Ulla, don’t feel bad! I do very well with plants too but I’m convinced that it is a case of them taking pity on me for being so haphazard but alas I too killed a bonsai. In my defense I had help. My husband and I wanted to cut the thing to resemble the pretty shapes (we may have watched Karate Kid a few too many times) and we kind of chopped it too much. I’ve learned don’t go near plants with scissors unless you know what you’re doing!

  10. Meryl K Evans says :

    Ulla, I had no idea bonsais were difficult to maintain. Like everyone else said, don’t feel bad. You did your best. I have never seen a bonsai like the one in your pictures — all of the ones I’ve seen have the little bitty leaves.

  11. bonsai amy says :

    Check out this new bonsai guide I recently got. It’s really useful for any type of bonsai lover.
    It has illustrations of other bonsai trees from all over as well. It contains knowledge for beginners and experts alike.
    I posted the link where I got it from in my name enjoy!
    Very nice blog you have here
    Your followers will love this link

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