RIP Potentilla. A harsh lesson.

Bonsai is, to some extent, about making mistakes. Sometimes we make really stupid ones.

This Potentilla fruticosa ‘Pink Beauty’ developed very quickly from nursery stock to being practically show ready in about 2 years. It was my favourite tree, and had lots of fine detail for being only 10 cm tall. You can see the progression of its development here.

The tree reached its prime in the early summer of 2010. This was the first tree I had created that I felt proud to exhibit, even though it still needed its planting angle corrected and a much finer pot.

Well, an important Canadian bonsai exhibition was appraoching in the summer of 2010, and I was very unhappy with the planting angle of the tree. It needed to be tilted about 10 degrees to the right. In August, about one month before the show, I removed the tree from the pot and corrected the angle. No roots were cut and the soil was hardly disturbed. I was not concerned about doing such an operation on my best tree mid-summer because it was non-invasive and potentilla are tough as hell. I would have felt comfortable doing the same with any healthy tree, let alone a potentilla.

Big mistake.

A few days later I noticed signs of weakness. Then I was certain the main branch was dying. I thought to myself “this sucks, but I should be able to restyle it”. I still hadn’t accepted the gravity of my error.

Within two weeks the tree was dead. My best tree, killed because of my impatience and zeal. Sure they may be tough in the spring. When I collect them, I literally rip them out of the ground like turnips and get 100% survival. But apparently the lesson here is DO NOT mess with potentilla roots at any time except the early spring.

The tree at its peak around May 2010

Less than two weeks after adjusting the planting angle, it was clear that something was terribly wrong.

Now the poor thing sits 'permanently defoliated' near my repotting bench 🙁 At least its at the correct angle now!

One Response

  1. Pingback: Step forward for Potentilla fruticosa #3 | Lakeshore Bonsai: Bonsai in Toronto, Canada

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