Making time to work on your bonsai

I read a lot of online blogs and articles on bonsai and every article I read has at least one good idea you can take away from it. This led me to wonder what I could write about that I truly knew a lot about as the last thing you want is someone grabbing at straw just to get a full length article written. On the other hand you do not want to write about something you have read and have not practically applied. I thought long and hard about what my topic should be. I finally decided to write about how bonsai fits into my schedule. This is something I have a lot of experience with being employed full time and working twelve to eighteen hour shifts daily depending on the season and amount of work that needs to be done. For those of you that didn’t know I’m a sound engineer and general manager at an events company.

I started with bonsai as a teenager and fell deeply in love with the art form. At first it was all about gaining experience and growing my collection. I dug up every tree I could find and planted it into a pot. Needless to say most of the trees I started with died within months of being potted. I’ve always had this need to learn about the art form. In my earlier years of bonsai’ing yes that’s a word… I spend hours working on my trees. I could sit and look at my trees and visualize what needed to happen with each tree. Back then I had a collection of fifteen trees. As the years pasted my priorities changed, my collection kept on growing and the time I had to spend with my trees decreased.

All my life the one constant has always been my love of bonsai. There are many aspects to bonsai and for a long time the one part that fuelled my love for bonsai was creating new bonsai trees and as we all know, if creating new and exciting bonsai designs is what you like then a growing collecting is inevitable. At a certain period of my bonsai career I bought a new tree almost every other week. I would go into nurseries and walk straight toward the scrubs and trees and start looking for potential bonsai trees. I would tell myself that I will only leave with one tree but by the end of the day I would go home with four or five trees. This was a way of keeping myself busy but I soon realized that my collection was becoming way to big for me to manage on a day to day basis. So how big is big? Let’s just say if you water all the trees in my collection you will need about two to three hours daily and it takes about 200 litres of water. Fertilizer my trees takes even longer.

In the last year I have managed not to buy any new trees. I have been sorting my trees and giving away trees that I felt will need a lot of time to become a fully formed bonsai. I have also been selling off some of my better looking trees to open up the space I have for trees that I want to work on. Having too many trees leads to some of them being neglected. By making my collection smaller I have been able to spend more time with the trees. I’ve been able to look at trees in my collection with new ideas.  

Besides me actively managing the size of my collection I have realized the importance of planning my daily schedule. I know most of us plan what our day will look like, what we will be wearing, setting up meetings, going to the gym and at the end of a long day we see where we can find time to look after our bonsai trees. I know that this is a huge assumption but that seems to be the consensus as this is what I’m hearing when I speak to other bonsai enthusiasts. There it simply not enough time within our daily lives. I know I was guilty of not making time for bonsai. If that is not how we should be caring for your trees, what is the correct way? Personally it is a very difficult question as I have been growing bonsai as a hobby and planning to set aside time to work on trees starts blurring the lines between work and hobby. Anyway that’s just how I feel. After some trial and error I have come up with a routine that works. I want to share that with you, hopefully it makes planning your routine easier.

Here is a routine that I am using and it seems like the trees are responding well to the schedule but also it does not take up too much of my time thus avoiding the boxed in scenario that makes it feel like a full time job.

Daily Routine:

· Water my trees at 06:00

· Check up on trees at 17:30 after work

· Work on trees that needs urgent attention 19:00 -20:30

Weekly Routine:

· Repot trees

· Remove weeds from pots

· Fertilize trees

· Remove wire from trees

· Trim trees

· Redesign trees

Monthly Routine:

· Clean my bonsai enclosure

· Check my bonsai benches

· Clean my draining pipes

· Wash benches

· Treat my trees with pesticides

· Remove old leaves

· Mix potting soil

· Clean old pots

I tried a lot of different ways of making time for me to work on my trees and this routine has worked the best for me. I was able to see the difference in my trees. They were much healthier and the foliage of the trees were visibly greener. Setting up a schedule takes a few minutes and after that you well on your way. Getting use to the schedule is the hardest part. It takes a few days (thirty days) for our brains to wire new neuropathic pathways so keep at it for at least two months and you will start doing like it’s been part of your schedule for years.

Just a remember bonsai is something that needs to be enjoyed. It does take up a lot of time and some of the work you do especially maintenance work can be very mundane. The progress of bonsai can only happen if you endure the regular “mundane” maintenance work. My advice would be to set  up a routine  and stick to it as much as you can don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two. Just stick to your routine more often then not.

I leave you with this quote:

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

George Bernard Shaw

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them in the section provided below.




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