The Bonsai in Fall

Dear Liza,

My newest planting of The Hundred Acre Wood is starting to feel the effects of Autumn.


In the spring when they were new, the trees were pretty spindly, but they plumped up nicely in summer. The freaky cotoneaster got even freakier! But I’ll wait until winter to trim her.


Two of the trees, the tall larch and the cotoneaster, lose their leaves, so are doing the most changing. The larch, especially, is looking unwell, but that’s seasonal. The chubby evergreen juniper is just happy and green.


I love seeing all this change happening on my own balcony!


Grandma Judy

Hundred Acre Wood Progress

Dear Liza,

We got some rain this weekend, so we had a mostly indoor time, and not much to tell about. I thought I’d share the progress of my new-baby bonsai, The Hundred Acre Wood.

The Hundred Acre Wood in March

This is what it looked like back in early March, when Auntie Bridgett and I found these tiny plants at the Portland Nursery. Left to right, they are a bushy little cypress, a tall larch, and a wonky cotoneaster. In their new home, they looked a little frail.

…. and now! Looking good!

But a month and a half in, with nice shade and plenty of water, they are thriving. The cypress is bushier, the larch has sent out fabulous fern-like leaves, and the cotoneaster has gotten even wonkier. This winter, once it’s in dormancy, I will prune it so it has even more lean over the edge of the pot.

I love having the time to focus on these long term projects that don’t HAVE to be done ‘right now’, but need consistent care to progress. They are good for my brain.

Grandma Judy

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.


Grandma Judy

Surprise Spring

Dear Liza,

About a month ago I told you about my bonsai pot, which I call The Hundred Acre Wood, getting all its leaves droopy because of the smoke from the forest fires nearby. They hadn’t changed color for fall, their leaves had simply wilted.

Wilting leaves!

The Hundred Acre Wood is only a few years old, which is very young for a bonsai. The ones you see in the Japanese Garden are a hundred years old or more, being taken care of by skilled, devoted gardeners. Mine is just a baby!

I was even more worried when all the leaves shriveled. Was my tiny forest dead? How were other trees reacting? I decided to put it back out on the patio once the air quality was back to normal, and wait for spring.

Well, I didn’t have to wait that long! My confused birches are sprouting new leaves as though it was spring already. Not all of them, but two of the five, and now I don’t know what to think.

Spring? Already?

Did the smokey darkness put them into an early hibernation, and have they now moved past their imagined winter into next spring already? Has anyone else heard of this smoke induced dormancy?

As always, with bonsai, we will practice patience. We will wait and see.


Grandma Judy