In our previous article “Establishing a Mindful Bonsai Practice,” we defined six key practices that can be incorporated into daily bonsai tasks to develop your own Mindful Bonsai Practice. The goal of this regular practice is to help you realize the benefits of mindfulness - a reduction in stress and anxiety, and improved sleep and attention. A commitment to mindfulness will also benefit your trees by improving their health, optimizing their growth, and increasing their beauty. The true beauty of a mindful bonsai practice is that it enables you to more fully appreciate your bonsai trees, and the natural world around you.
Remember: creating a bonsai requires interaction and connection between a person and a tree.
“A plant needs roots in order to grow. With [people] it is the other way around: only when they grow do they have roots and feel at home in the world.” ― Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition
This article is focused on watering and maintaining soil moisture. Watering can feel like a chore, until you feel more connected to your tree and realize that water is crucial to the health of a bonsai. It’s a delicate balancing act between too much or too little water for any given tree. Under-watering is the leading cause of death in bonsai; signs include slow growth, wilting or die-back. Over-watering is the second leading cause of bonsai death; fungal root infections sometimes with tip burn symptoms is a sign that you’re drowning your tree. A good rule of thumb is to water when the soil is slightly to mostly dry, and don’t water again until the soil feels at least slightly dry again. Deciduous species typically like more water than conifers like pines and junipers.
Follow these six steps to establish habits that will enable you to practice watering mindfully:
Pay Attention – Look at the color of the surface of the soil. Examine the foliage of your tree, or the color of the twigs and buds.
Find Joy in Simple Acts – Think about the benefits your interaction with your bonsai provides. Feeling the cool moisture when you stick your finger in the soil can be refreshing.
Accept Yourself – If you can only water in the morning, accept this limitation without guilt. You can use shade, sphagnum moss, or other techniques to keep trees moist in hot conditions.
Focus on your Breath – Take the time to smell your tree, many conifers can be quite aromatic. Take three breaths while emptying your mind and focusing on your present self.
Sitting Meditation – Position yourself or a tree to make it easy to comfortably contemplate your tree. Realize that taking time to just relax is going to benefit both you and your bonsai.
Walking Meditation – Allow the acts of turning on a hose, carrying a hose, carrying a watering can or walking through a gentle rain to consume your entire thought process. Count each step and focus on how you enjoy what you are doing.
If you’d like more details on watering bonsai trees, check out our informative post “How much water is too much for me and for my bonsai trees?” Stay tuned for our next article in this series, “How to Mindfully Fertilize Bonsai Trees.”