Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bonsai in a Box: Week 2



Some cool bonsai from seed images:

Bonsai in a Box: Week 2
bonsai from seed

Image by John C Abell
This is a bonsai seedling from "Bonsai in a Box," one of those point-of-sale gifts you find at most chain bookstores. Nancy gave it to me as a gag on my last birthday because I’ve tried to cultivate three bonsai plants — all mature — in my life, and all three have died. Possibly from neglect. I admit nothing.

This summer I’ve been lucky with my deck planting. I don’t have anything fancy, and my success hasn’t been universal (the second crop of scallions have died; I surrender, and the second crop of bib lettuce is too close to call) but I have about 20 viable tomato plants from seed, some parsley and some basil. Yes, I love pasta & tomato sauce.

Bolstered by my new agri-savvy, and determined to make amends for all those fallen bonsai, I unboxed the bonsai and commenced to give it the Green Acres treatment. I should have started taking pictures earlier, and "week 2" is deceptive. The first week or so the seeds had to soak and be refrigerated.

I know very little about growing one of these, and every peek I have taken as literature online is despressing. Typical:

"You may have been the lucky recipient of one of the many ‘Bonsai Kits’ available, go on try it!, follow the instructions, watch those precious little seeds germinate, poke their heads above the soil, and die. On closer inspection you will probably find the seedling has rotted at about soil level, this is called ‘Damping off’ and is a fungal attack. You can overcome this by adding a fungicide to the first watering and then as directed by the instructions. Bonsai ‘kits’ put people off the hobby, convincing them that bonsai are difficult to keep, as such they should be avoided."

We’ll see.

Seed heads … or flower buds?
bonsai from seed

Image by wallygrom (back home!)
Phytolacca dioica! Thank you, Leo …

Phytolacca dioica, commonly known as ombú, is a massive evergreen herb native to the Pampa of South America. The tree has an umbrella-like canopy that spreads to a girth of 12 to 15 meters (40 to 50 feet) and can attain a height of 12 to 18 meters (40 to 60 feet). The ombú grows fast but being herbaceous its wood is soft, and spongy enough to be cut with a knife. Because of this, it is also used in the art of bonsai, as it is easily manipulated to create the desired effect. Since the sap is poisonous, the ombú is not grazed by cattle and is immune to locusts and other pests. For similar reasons, the leaves are sometimes used as a laxative or purgant. It is a symbol of Uruguay and Argentina, and of Gaucho culture, as its canopy is quite distinguishable from afar and provides comfort and shelter from sun and rain. The fireproof trunk also stores water for the large fires. The leaves may have a low flashpoint, though, as dramatised in In Search of the Castaways.

The tree is categorized in the same genus as the North American pokeweed. The species is also cultivated in Southern California as a shade tree.

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