Bonsai and Botany – A Calm Mind in a Tumultuous Time

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This has been an extremely stressful week financially and emotionally. The wife and I will be leaving the country in a few days for a missions trip in El Salvador. While there we will be participating in a free medical clinic, feeding the homeless, and offering supplies to school aged children among other things. But the trip has been financially draining this year. The wife is concerned about next month’s bills, and how we are going to make it. The obvious answer is to not go on the trip; however, this is something we are both deeply passionate about. So, the stress level is on the rise!
Today, I will be writing about one of the ways I like to de-stress.

Many people don’t know this about me because I am a techy nerd, but I really enjoy seeing the outdoors. I’m not an outdoorsy kind of person, but I do deeply enjoy the sights, and could hang out in nature all day listening to the birds sing and the clouds go by… with my cell phone close by of course.

Because of this, I have taken an amateurish love for both the art of Bonsai and Botany.

Bonsai – A love, and a Heartache

Bonsai, unlike most people think, is not a small evergreen tree like on the Karate Kid, but it is the art of making any tree miniature living in a potted lifestyle. There’s a little more to it than that.
I started off as a complete beginner by finding a few trees at our local Walmart. Their species varied, but they were all labled simply as Bonsai – Indoor plant. I brought home three species. As a habitual study by nature, I automatically began setting out to find out what these plants actually were. After a month of the trees sitting on my desk, I stumbled upon a site called Reddit with a Bonsai group.
I learned quickly that I was not as smart as I thought.

The bonsai needed to be outdoors. Tip #1: There’s no such thing as an indoor tree. They struggle, and will not thrive as they should. If they are of the temperate variety, they will die within three years due to fatigue.

My first bonsai species were the Fukien Tea, Juniper, and Ficus. The Ficus and Tea are both tropical species. They require extensive care to keep the humidy up. Winter makes that care even more extensive. They are not allowed to drop below 60 degrees F. I brought them inside under a plant lamp to survive the winter.

Fukien Tea


Juniper – The Surviver (It’s a lot bigger now)

Cue heartbreak.

After surviving the whole winter, I brought them both outside in the spring. I got sick, and was unable to care for them the way I should. One tree got frost bite over night, and the surviving tree was stolen off my porch.

You may say they were just plants, but until you have experienced the work that goes into keeping the trees healthy, you won’t understand why I was upset. I had maintained them for an entire year as my primary hobby, until a moment of weakness and an unkind person set me back to square one.

To date now, I have 2 maple trees, my original juniper, an elm, a replacement Fukien Tea and an azalea. The tea is my only tropical. The others can be left out all winter long making care a bit more easy on me. I do miss the ficus as it had some interesting habits, but I couldn’t stomach another struggle to end in tragedy.

Botany – But Not Really

Okay, maybe my new interest in botany doesn’t go deep into the roots of the science. I don’t study the habits and anatomy of plants. I just own a lot.

I have a very dear friend who understands that I enjoy plants, and occasionally surprises me with interesting varieties. I have cacti, mosses, flowers, bushes, and vines all over my yard and house. My front porch looks like Poison Ivy set up her evil layer.

This is a [Insert Holiday Name Here] Catcus

This one is a rainbow moss.

I loved these, but only the leafy one survived 🙁 Dumb succulents.











My family members do not share my love for plants. Especially my oldest daughter. Simply put, not all my plants can survive cold weather, and her room is the only one that has a lot of sunlight. See her issue? When winter comes, her room gets very decorated. But alas, I pay the rent, and she does not.

I’m not the best with succulents except my cacti. I always rot their roots. I understand that they can’t be watered but once every few weeks, but I haven’t found the right soil mixture for them that won’t cause them to mold.

My largest plant at the moment started as a 3 leaf high store cactus that came from my friend. It has grown so fast under my care that I’ve had to prune it twice. I replant the pruned leaves. What started as a straight stalk, short cactus now is three separate plants (in one pot) two of which are tall, and branched off to fill out nicely.

The first stalk is all barky. It wasn’t healthy when I got it. The next large stalk was just a leaf at the beginning of this year. There’s a baby on the other side.

Nature is Beautiful

There is something calming about being around my plants knowing that God and I worked together to develop them to what they are today. I know it’s the same thing as my children, but the plants don’t talk back.

Every day, I’m amazed by how they’ve grown overnight. I’ve attributed childlike emotions to them. If it’s too hot, or they’re too dry, I call them sad or unwell. However, after a little care, I see them begin to stand upright, and look strong. Maybe I’m too much of a romantic, but it’s who I am.

Laying in the grass watching the wind blow through the trees while trying to find shapes in the clouds is a good use for the day. It’s just a moment of silence to reflect. Selah


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16 Responses

  1. Katie says:

    I love these trees and I would love to learn how to grow one! SO beautiful and perfectly miniature.

  2. Katherine says:

    I hope things work out with El Salvador! I love having plants around but I lack the time and discipline to care for them. I’m sorry about your bonsai trees but it looks like you are totally capable of finding replacements!

  3. Shell says:

    I’ve always wanted to grow these trees!! May your trip be blessed and safe ….

  4. Jiya B says:

    I have two balconies full of plants. And I am gratuate in Botany. Trust me theroy never works well in practical. 🙂

  5. Tom says:

    I have been growing bonsai for 35 years and have many scattered about. So often I have heard this approach to Bonsai but can’t stress enough bonsai is really no more than the art of pruning. the real success lies in knowing everything you can about the species of tree you are growing. I have trees that I’ve had for 35 years so they must be happy, we live, survive and grow old together.

    • Joseph says:

      35 years. I’m sorry for butchering the art with my mallsai 🙁

      I’m only two years in. I have a few trees in the ground to thicken up.

  6. Indeed nature is beautiful and even therapeutic! I aspire to have a mini garden.Here in India we have a tradition of worshiping a plant(Basil) within our households, and trust me that certainly is therapeutic and healing even if I don’t look at it from the religious point of view

  7. jhilmil says:

    Nature is indeed beautiful and it takes lot of time and feelings to shower the love to plants to make them healthy!

  8. katriza says:

    These are such cute plants but never had any of my own! I wouldn’t know how to keep one alive! Definitely a good read!

  9. Jon says:

    This is so cool! During my last semester of graduate studies, to sort-out the stress of it all, I started growing a variety of citrus plants in coffee cups (and handing many to friends and family). It was a great way to accomplish small achievements throughout the week.

    Such a wonderful post.

  10. Kanani says:

    I have never had a green thumb but I did have a bonsai plant and it thrived so well with little maintenance!

  11. Jenni Petrey says:

    I have always loved Bonsai, it is something that I have always wanted to get into. It’s just finding the time.

  12. Bailey says:

    I know nothing about plants and yet I found your post very peaceful and beautiful. Perhaps, I dare suggest even inspired to do a little more caring of plants myself. I’m sorry your plant was stolen. That was very rude, and disappointing. I hope you can find some new bonsai to love.

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