I have a number of horticulture-related projects, but this one is probably my most ambitious. I always had an interest in bonsai for a number of reasons:
I'm someone who rarely plans for the future. I find it difficult to even imagine the future, beyond being drafted into the Climate Wars. I opt out of pension schemes, don't have any ISAs, index fund investments, or generally bet on the future. I live in the present, always.
There are certain actions that slowly add up over time however. I believe in setting good habits and routines in the present, and enjoying the journey rather than focusing on a future outcome. Bonsai is a great example of this, and a challenge I would like to take on.
Bonsai plants that have been properly taken care of can be quite an expensive item, but I don't think they're worth the effort I would put into them (at best, they would only be worth it at scale). I want to exercise pursuing a meticulous craft over a long period of time, learning about an area I'm interested in, and being the kind of person who would own bonsai plants I suppose.
Knowing about my interest in bonsai, Veronica's mum got me a pretty extensive starter kit for my birthday (2022). I told myself that I'd give it a go once I had seen some success with my tomatoes, but the reality was that I was just procrastinating out of intimidation. A year and a month later (2023), I decided to finally start. The long journey commences!
My Red Maple and Wisteria seeds haven't sprouted yet, but I was left with all this extra soil! So I decided that I ought to plant the other species too. The remaining seeds I have are for Black Pine, Cherry Blossom, and Japanese Cedar. This is what they look like respectively:
I only had three Cherry Blossom seeds, and unlike the Red Maple, I decided to only plant one seed in that pot. Besides that, I've largely only used half of the seeds I have of each species so far, and I'm thinking that even that is unnecessary, but let's see!
As I was soaking them for 48 hours, they kind of got mixed up a bit, and I had a bit of a challenge separating the Black Pine from the Cherry Blossom, but I think I got there in the end. To better keep track of everything, as I was really starting to forget which is which, I put in some little wooden sticks:
The soil had dried quite a bit, so I made it wetter, maybe even a little too wet, as it was soaking the cotton on the bottom and created some condensation on the plastic. I also used tap water, which I didn't do for the first two, as it's pretty hard / rich in calcium. For my tomato plant, the effects of this were soon obvious as calcium residue was visible on the top of the soil and edges of the soil where it meets the pot. I didn't want to have the same for these plants, but it should hopefully all be OK.
If you'd like to learn some more about each species, here are their sections in my little book:
So now we have 5 different pots stratifying -- let's see which sprout first!
My bonsai seeds have soaked for 48 hours and I'm ready to move on to the next step! The reveal: I picked Wisteria and Red Maple. They ticked all the right boxes for me as my first try.
The Wisteria seeds are the small ones and the Red Maple are the two big ones. I used half of the seeds that I had of each species.
I assembled the "Auto Irrigation Growing Pot" and tried to ignore the conflicting instructions. I think you're not meant to fill the reservoir with any water at all until after the Stratification step (which I'll explain in a sec), and it's ambiguous how deep the seeds should go beyond "same depth as the size" (the size of what, the seeds?), so I just used my best judgement.
It turns out that I actually have a lot of soil. I didn't even use up a full peat disc so far. I have three more pots, so I'm considering getting some more seedlings started in the meantime and increase the chances of success...
At any rate, I sowed the current seeds and sprinkled a tiny bit of water into the soil to keep it moist, as it had dried out a bit in the meantime. I don't think the instructions should have the soil bit as step 1 if you're then going to soak the seeds for 48 hours after that, it should really be the second step.
And now that they're sown, I put them in the fridge. In the fridge, the one on the left is the Red Maple (this is more of a note to myself -- I should label them really; there are little wooden sticks for that in the kit). Putting them in the fridge is the first part of the Stratification step, which is meant to simulate winter conditions, then spring, so that they can germinate as they would in nature.
I'll be checking on them every few days and keeping the soil damp. Hopefully in two or three weeks they will start sprouting and I can remove them from the fridge. I set some calendar events. So now we wait!
I finally decided to start on my bonsai project. To read more about what this is all about, check out the project page. I haven't written anything about the tomato project, or any of the other (failed) horticulture projects, but I will eventually, since documenting failures is important too! This is the first log of what is probably going to be rather perennial chronicles.
The kit that I'm using to get a start with bonsai is really quite neat. It comes with 5 different species of seeds: Japanese Wisteria, Cherry Blossom, Japanese Cedar, Red Maple Tree, and Black Pine Tree.
This is a great set of tools in such a small package and I'm quite excited! The instruction booklet goes into a decent amount of detail, though I already know a bunch from YouTube and other places as I had a general interest in bonsai before deciding to try myself.
It came with two peat pucks that you put in some water and watch as they slowly grow while they absorb the water.
I decided to do both of them, as I wanted to try multiple species at the same time, and they grow to about 3x their original size! It's actually quite a lot of soil.
I then decided on two species that I wanted to grow. The next step was to put some of the seeds in warm water for 48 hours, such that they can soften, which makes it easier for the seedling to break through the shell. The two that I picked had seeds that looked very distinct from each other!
If you would like to know what species I picked, check back in 48 hours when I document the sowing process! I'll give you a hint: I didn't pick the mainstream choice (Black Pine).