Bonsai loss: Cause unknownAs a very long-term DIY'er, I have always thought it supremely annoying to see projects fail, whether they are stalled, delayed fall apart, or go backwards faster than I can build or repair them. Broken walls, cracked mortar. loose bricks, fading paint, rusting metal. Ordinary stuff to be expected. In real life it is annoying to say the least.
A failed hobby is the same, it irritates to discover a new idea doesn't work, a high-potential creation cracks in the kiln, or an exciting new technique results in an object of unbelievable uselessness. A pragmatic approach has to be taken at times with 'works of the mind, and even more so with works of the hands'. Sometimes failure is funny. Sometimes not.
As a gardener, it bothers me to see persistent weeds, poor plant specimens, soil turning rock hard, bone dry, and unproductive except for stones of all descriptions.
New vegetables being ransacked by animal invaders is irritating at best. It happens. Animals do animal stuff. We get it.
Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short (T.T.T & E.T.S.) used to run about in the garden at times, the paths are dog-tag-you're-it-catch-me-now race tracks,after all, isn't it? ...... Okay, they're good pups, they easily learned how not to play pup-tag on newly-transplanted tomato plants or delicate, picture-perfect, new flower-beds.
Bad weather--we have lots of that too, and we cross our fingers and hope. It rained nicely this afternoon, got soaked, sun's out now. Fine.
None of the above, however, has been as confusing and disheartening as seeing bonsai, years of work --disappear in front of our eyes, some dying quickly, some struggling valiantly, dropping needles and leaves--and others gone totally dead within 3 or 4 days. Bonsai is a wonderful hobby that takes time, dedication and eventually, learned skills. Failure taxes the mind when the cost is paid in living things. Trees. Miniature, beautiful trees.
An "event" of some kind caused major needle drop, drying, and in some cases, seemingly instant death for many trees --and widely--in our geographical location. Conifer trees were primarily affected; White Spruce, Black Spruce, Juniper, and some Cedars. Few deciduous trees were affected. Needle drop in some instances was almost immediate; in other cases the needles browned and gradually dropped off. Some trees showed only partial damage almost immediately .
|Some bonsai showed only partial damage immediately|
Trees adjacent to one another were often not affected. Very strange, to say the least. Inexplicable patterns of damage.
After the initial needle drop, a few trees spouted orphan, small clumps of green needles out at the tips of the branches. A sign of hope. Some of the natural trees in our wood lot grew quite a few new bunches of needles. The trees look strange with green needles growing out at the very tips.Some of the tip growth was accelerated at an unbelievable rate.
Not so with the bonsai. The majority of the new green needle tips showed up quickly, but wilted and dried up even faster. The trees gave up the ghost. We waited.
|Strangely, -adjacent trees-- even in the same pot-- were not affected|
We avoided facing the issue, disturbing them or 'donating' them to the compost pile for a few weeks, probably more out of wishful thinking rather than logic. Some of the "less affected" trees almost looked like they would survive, but no. Lush green turned to dull green. Dull green turned to faded, pale gray- green or brown. Like the natural trees, on some trees the needles turned bone dry and dropped off,-- in some cases only three or four days.
|Natural White Spruce : Now deceased More than 60 years old verified by trunk ring count|
A couple of days ago we bit the bullet and faced reality, tore them out of their pots and wheeled them away. It was not, so say the least, a happy day at Whitewood Forge.
Down for the Count ?In total, more than 60 individual trees were removed, including a couple of venerable specimens that were an estimated 70-80 years old--perhaps older, --beautiful, natural bonsai that were collected 20 years ago and carefully nurtured.
Among the notable casualties was Grumpy, a long-term special pseudo-trunk grafting project, the subject of one of my previous posts. It took 5 years alone for the trunks to unify. So what-- Grumpy's needles turned brown and fell off right along with the others. I sadly removed his failed prosthesis for a future grafting project.
The futureA number of our cherished trees are still valiantly struggling and also may or may not survive. We are hopeful and persistent and damned stubborn too, --like they are, those tough little spirits from the forest.
|Completely Natural White Spruce estimated 80 years old : Severely stressed. Under watch|
Total losses? The ultimate toll is unknown do date. With over 60 scrapped at this date, an estimated 85 trees or more, fully one-half of our collection--may eventually succumb. Individual trees, members of group plantings, mini-forests. --We'll see.
So, what happened?The fact is, the cause of this unfortunate event is unknown.
Conifers in northern Canada do not suffer from severe cold. Minus 40F (-40C) is routine.
Hot, dry summers are routine. Using 'unusual weather' as a 'cause', the 'generally accepted explanation is illogical and sublime.
White, Red and Jackpines seem to be unscathed. In the natural population of White Spruce, black spruce, cedar and others, some individual trees were unaffected while adjacent trees died within a few days. Why?
Other possibilities include recent and timely solar flares, discharged air contaminants from industry, or the most unthinkable, elective destruction by spraying. The hole in the ozone layer shifted over our geological location. What? The pattern of damage can not be explained.
Interestingly, the tree species typically planted by forestry companies do not appear to have been affected. Why? Readers at Incoming Bytes are encouraged to think for themselves.
Bottom Line: So what?
Fortunately, we still have a number of trees, and we shall continue to develop new healthy ones. That's how Mother Nature works. Meantime, Grumpy will get a replacement graft, perhaps even one of a different species-- and shall thrive. Our collection will do the same.
|Grumpy the White Spruce peacefully snoozing in happier days; just prior to Repotting|
Our dedication to and our love of the hobby of bonsai is not diminished; in fact it has grown ever more important. We intend to persist, to learn, to get smarter, and continue doing what we enjoy. Alternative strategies may be involved; for example, we will likely diversify our collection to prevent such massive losses involving one species.
Meantime, R.I.P. Grumpy. You were a White Spruce bonsai with heart.
Is that incoming I hear?