last weekend was the sakura matsuri festival at the brooklyn botanic garden. it’s an all-purpose celebration of japanese culture that coincides with the blossoming cherry trees. it was super crowded and kinda intense, and in my opinion it’s not the best time to experience the cherry blossoms (i visited last year during peak bloom NOT during the festival, and it was way better). there was lots of stuff for little kids, though, and they seemed to really enjoy it. this website shows which trees are currently in bloom—a lot still are. i highly recommend checking it out this week before they disappear.
but anyways, i wanted to check it out this year because julian velasco, the curator of the bonsai museum at the brooklyn botanic garden, was giving a couple public talks. i didn’t know what to expect, but he covered a lot of ground and it was very interesting!
here’s a picture of julian in action. he’s obviously very passionate about bonsai trees—he’s even pretending to be one! honestly the whole thing was pretty inspiring. i would have liked to learn a bit about what it means to be a “bonsai curator,” and what his days are like. i’m guessing it’s lots of pruning and watering, and maybe a bit of talking/singing to the plants. i’d like to be a bonsai curator one day, but i don’t know/care enough about plant biology to keep 400 trees alive. there were a couple very useful bits on indoor bonsai care that i wrote down:
-fertilizing your tree is very important, but there’s some disagreement over how often you should do it, and in what strength. julian said that you should just follow the directions on the bottle (i use regular miracle-gro) and dose ‘em at full strength once a week from the spring through the fall. i have read elsewhere that you should only do it half-strength, but julian was very convicing. during the winter, fertilizing once a month at half-strength is okay.
-about watering—in the past, i’ve just watered mrs. yakitori while she sat in the tray. the water would collect there i’d just leave it to evaporate. BUT one of the important effects of watering is that it flushes out gases and other gross stuff from the soil, and you don’t want that dirt-water sitting in the tray. so now i put the pot in the sink and let her sit there for a few minutes before putting her back in the tray on the windowsill.
-julian talked for a while about the importance of actively pruning new growth. i had previously thought of pruning as a matter of aesthetics, but it’s much more than that! by carefully cutting back new growth (he said you can leave two baby-leaves and cut the rest), the growth will be more dense. also, it’s a method (other than wiring your tree) to direct new growth. there have been times that mrs. yakitori has been sorta sickly, and pruning healthy growth felt wrong. like, she only has so many nice green leaves, why cut them off? it seems counterintuitive, but he described it in a way that made a lot of sense. unfortunately i don’t remember enough of the specifics to usefully recount it here.
i obviously left out tons of stuff julian touched on—the history and philosophy of bonsai, indoor vs. outdoor, bonsai tools, lots of biology stuff—but this post is getting a bit long. if you’ve never been to the bonsai museum at the brooklyn botanic garden you gotta check it out! it’s small but really, really beautiful. a couple of the trees are 300+ years old! i left feeling pretty inspired, but then i got home and mrs. yakitori looked so sad by comparison. oh well. all in all it was a very informative visit. i’ll end this post with a few snaps from last weekend.
look at this guy, a veritable forest!
this is called “root over rock” style.
i didn’t take this photo, but it gives a better idea of what the bonsai museum looks like.