The New Hundred Acre Wood

Dear Liza,

I am sad to say that my bonsai forest, the Hundred Acre Wood, has died. The smoke from forest fires last summer threw off the trees’ seasonal cycle, and they didn’t survive the winter.

Hundred Acre Wood, before the fire
Hundred Acre Wood and unfortunate peasants, in the snow

So this weekend I replanted it with three new trees we got at Portland Nursery.

Cypress, cotoneaster, and larch

Replanting is always an exciting thing! It has the promise of new life and new beginnings. In doing a bonsai, it is creating a miniature world that I can visit right out on the balcony. I can imagine I am in a spinney in Wales or just up in Forest Park.

The New Hundred Acre Wood

Even in regular times, I spend a lot of time in my imagination. But this past year’s restrictions have given me even more reasons to walk around the backwoods of my mind, and it’s nice to have new trees, even tiny ones, to walk under.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to the Nursery

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I had a busy day on Friday, heading back to the Portland Nursery for more spring things. In just three short weeks, the place has gone from winter to spring! Bedding plants are out, with signs that say “Protect from frost”, because we can have frost as late as April. All sorts of plants are on display, enjoying the sunshine.

And it wasn’t just for my garden plot! Bridgett has become obsessed with houseplants. Her latest Art-O-Rama zine is all about them, and she is letting her own green thumb blossom. To see this zine and all her others, you can go to b.spicer.art@gmail.com. She got a potted coffee plant and twenty pounds of potting soil. We spent quite a bit of time looking at pots and indoor plants.

From Bridgett Spicer’s latest Art-O-Rama zine

We also got the last seeds and plants we will need for the allotment. Nasturtiums and marigolds will make the garden pretty and keep the bad bugs away and the bees happy. A “Thumbelina” English lavender will smell nice and stay small. Tomatoes and basil will be yummy, come July.

And, with my birthday coming up, I got presents! This process was emotional, choosing three trees to plant in my Hundred Acre Wood bonsai forest. The fires last summer put so much smoke in the air that the Wood lost its leaves and went into dormancy, only to ‘wake up’ mid-December, putting on new leaves that didn’t survive the winter. I have had this tiny forest since my first summer in Portland, and am sad that it has died away. But spring is all about renewal.

So Bridgett and I picked out a small bunchy cypress, and a wonky, leaning cotoneaster and an upright latch to re-forest my forest. This was my project for Saturday, gardening that is a little easier on the back.

Spring was always my Momma’s favorite time of year. New beginnings, helping the earth wake up and come to life after the cold winter is healing for all of us. I think I will get out Francis Hodgeson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” for my reading this week.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Working on the Bonsai

Dear Liza,

Just about one year ago, I planted some birch and maple seedlings into a shallow pot and named it The Hundred Acre Wood. I have always been fascinated with bonsais and wanted to create my own tiny forest.

The Hundred Acre Wood, May 2019

Of course, there is more to bonsai than just sticking seeds in pots. Their beauty is in their perfect proportions and their aged, rugged beauty. Most fine bonsais, like those displayed at the Japanese Garden here in Portland, are hundreds of years old, taking generations of gardeners to create and maintain.

One of the bonsai at the Japanese Garden

The gentleman showing the bonsais told a story about a man who had taken on the care of an ancient bonsai and then died suddenly. The Guardians of Heaven asked him if he had arranged for the care of his bonsai and when he said “No,” he was sent back to get that in order before he would be allowed to pass away. A bonsai is a serious commitment.

The Hundred Acre Wood, September, 2019

My Hundred Acre Wood lives on my balcony, getting just an hour of direct sun a day, and it seems to be doing well. Since it is a year old now, I have started to try and develop the gnarled, twisted trunks that I admire so much.

Hundred Acre Wood, being trained to lean

Using a soft yarn to be gentle on their fragile trunks, I have given most of them them a lean, all in one direction, to look like they have all been subject to the same winds. I have tried three different techniques to hold them at about a 45 degree angle: yarn tied to a rock; yarn tied to the pot’s support; and a stick, wedged against the side of the pot. It’s like a science experiment that will play out over many years.

My bonsai is a good companion, especially in quiet, slow times like the current shutdown. I can lavish attention on it or just give it the required water, and it is fine. I can wander its tiny acreage and escape myself for a while.

I look forward to watching it grow and develop over many years.

Love,

Grandma Judy