Another lesson from the bonsai

I lost another bonsai the other day. At least, I think I lost it. It was a small Colorado blue spruce.

I lost another bonsai the other day.  At least, I think I lost it. It was a small Colorado blue spruce. The loss was through my own carelessness, but it was one of my favourites and the loss hurts.

Colorado blue spruce trees don’t show they’re dead until the next growing year, when they die instead of coming out of dormancy. In the meantime, they behave as though they’re getting ready for the winter, sleeping like everything else.

The carelessness was in the watering. There are two main ways of killing trees. One is by failing to keep them moist enough to grow. The second is giving them more water than they want. Bonsai professionals say, “Bonsai don’t like wet feet.” They’re right. Spruce like it damp enough to grow, but not so damp it encourages fungus that attacks roots, turning them black and gooey. There are few acceptable cures for it.

You see, spruce trees grow in symbiotic relationship with an entirely different kind of fungus that does not attack roots. Without that fungus, bonsai find it difficult. They need the nutrients available from the soil, which the fungus “trades” for the privilege of being allowed to attach themselves to tree roots. Pine trees are even more that way.  But, when you kill one fungus, you kill them all.

People are that way, too. We live in a sort of symbiotic society, mutual, and depending on each other. We need other people with whom to “trade.” Our trade goods are things like love, acceptance, respect, and a whole lot of other things.

There are two things necessary for full bonsai growth — and they are not easy to manage. One is to provide enough water and food to encourage growth in the right way. The other is to create limits on that food and water, as well as other things that encourage growth.

In order to be successful with bonsai, I have to study and learn from any source I can find, including people, and use what I learn to make decisions on my own. If I fail to make decisions, or make the wrong ones, the tree will not live — like the little Colorado blue spruce.

Does that sound familiar?

A lot of people find themselves making difficult decisions. The complicating factor is that there is never just one voice that knows the “right” answer for the choices to be made.

There has been a lot of talk about change in everything you see or read — the world is in one of its “big change” phases. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and it’s important that we make the best decisions possible in every situation to be successful in our lives.

It’s difficult, this “being human” thing.

Fred Elford is a retired international organization development consultant, living in Invermere, where he spends his time with bonsai trees. He can be reached at fredelford@

Just Posted

Radium water restored after boil-water advisory

Pioneer tours through the plant to learn how the water quality was affected and what was fixed

Short term rentals divides opinion in Radium

Wildlife survey also on the agenda at last Council meeting

Clickety clack originals

James Rose fundraising for upcoming race through writing original one-page stories at farmers’ market

RCMP Report

Some of the more notable files from Columbia Valley RCMP week of August 12-18th

For the love of reading

Join the End of summer read-a-thon at Invermere library Wednesday, August 28th

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

Rosemount cooked diced chicken linked to listeria case in B.C.

The symptoms of listeria include vomiting, nausea, fever, muscle aches

B.C. seniors allowed more choice to stay in assisted living

Province doesn’t need to wait for a complaint to investigate care, Adrian Dix says

Retired B.C. fisherman wins record $60M Lotto Max jackpot

Joseph Katalinic won the biggest Lotto Max prize ever awarded

New ‘Matrix’ film set with Keanu Reeves and Lana Wachowski

Fourth installment to feature Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity

Most Read