Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Great Vinegar Disaster

When I shared my post about my braided tree on Facebook recently, a friend criticised me for being too hard on myself. That was never my intention. I know that everybody makes mistakes, including the experts from whom I've learned so much. Rather I felt that by sharing my failures as well as my successes, other people might learn something from them.

I certainly never meant to imply that the tree I was discussing was a total failure, just that it could have been better and that, with the benefit of experience, I still hope to create the tree I feel that one should have been.

But the truth is that I've made some horrible mistakes over the years and some have proved fatal to the trees I was working on. Perhaps my most embarrassing mistake was one I made about seven years ago, a little while after I became a member of my club.

It involved moss, which some people go to great pains to plant in their bonsai pots. Growing moss is a very effective way to create the illusion of a tree growing in a grassy field or garden. I've rarely bothered to plant it but have been blessed to have it grow naturally in some of my pots.

Unfortunately as a beginner I was rather perturbed when an expert warned me that when moss is allowed to grow up the trunks of trees over an extended period, it can damage the bark. I've since discovered that it is quite easy to prevent this - take a soft toothbrush and gently brush away any moss that is growing on the trunk while allowing the moss on the soil to grow undisturbed.

But seven years ago I didn't know that and I panicked, eventually coming to the conclusion that I should get rid of the moss entirely. I'd read in an online forum that spraying moss with vinegar will kill it, so I proceeded to do just that. What I didn't realise was that the acidity in the vinegar is also harmful to many species of trees.

Most mistakes aren't fatal. This one was.

I was fortunate that I only killed three very ordinary trees that day. The damage could have been a lot worse.

I've since discovered that if I really don't want moss growing in a particular pot, it's quite easy to lift it along with a thin layer of soil and move it somewhere else. And if I really want to get rid of it, there's bound to be someone at my club who will be quite happy to take it.

The tree in today's photo is one of those I killed in the great vinegar disaster. For some reason I've kept it on a shelf in my garage for all these years as a reminder of what can go wrong. Perhaps now that I've shared its story with the world, I'll finally be able to let it go.

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