A New Baby for the Hundred Acre Wood

Dear Liza,

I have told you about my bonsai forest, The Hundred Acre Wood. I’ve been nurturing it along for a few years now.

This past winter was extra cold and long, and the cotoneaster didn’t survive. In this picture taken back in March, you can see that the larch is sprouting a bit and the bunchy juniper is fine, but the cotoneaster is not waking up.

I have been on the lookout for a tiny Japanese maple to put in. I love the delicate umbrella shape and the tiny skinny leaves.

And it just so happened that on a walk the other day, sharp-eyed Auntie Bridgett saw this tiny tree growing under exactly the sort of tree I was looking for, not a foot from the sidewalk! Being careful to not disturb the soil or the tree and to be gentle with his thread-like roots, I peeled away some moss and dug the little guy out, carrying him home in my loving hand.

I chose the right sized tools for the job…

Removed the dead cotoneaster and loosened up the soil…

And ever-so-gently placed him in his new home. I laid the moss from his home bed around him to make his new spot feel like home.

Here is the new Hundred Acre Wood, with its newest addition, Mr. Naito.

I named the baby Japanese Maple after Bill Naito, who was a Portland businessman and leader of the Japanese community here in Portland back in the 1970s. Our Naito Parkway which runs along the West Bank of the Willamette River in downtown is named after him, as well.

I will keep him watered and let you know of his progress.


Grandma Judy

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