DIY pine cone bonsai
Pattison of Geneva
During the colder months, the desire to leave the warm comfort of the interior becomes less inviting. For gardeners, this can be a pretty slow time, where you find yourself cleaning up more leaves rather than growing exciting new plants. One way to combat this seasonal lull is to bring your garden indoors. This doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you find yourself tripping over containers full of zinnias and forcing the potted magnolia to bloom inside. There is another less stressful and less expensive option: a homemade bonsai.
Bonsai trees are native to Japan and are grown in containers, with an average height of 6 to 8 inches and rarely exceed 10 inches. They are grown to mimic the natural shape and appearance of regular trees, bringing peace and quiet contemplation of nature to the grower’s mind as they cultivate it over time. Bonsai trees are grown like any other tree, from a seed or spring, cutting and growing one from seed to fruiting is considered an art form.
A simple and inexpensive way to try growing your own bonsai is to use a pinecone that you may have picked up on your travels. This could be a really enjoyable project for all ages, and hopefully you’ll have a beautifully interesting new houseplant by the end of the trip. To start, find a pinecone that is mostly still closed. A splayed or found pine cone that has already fallen to the ground means you missed your chance and the seeds have probably fallen.
Pick a pine cone from a tree that hasn’t opened yet and make sure it’s on the wider side. The larger the cone, the better the seed quality. Make sure your pine cones are fungus and pest free. Once you have your desired pine cones, set them aside on a fireplace or windowsill to dry and crack them open slightly. You may notice the seeds begin to fall off as they dry, this is normal. If you prefer to plant the pine seeds without using the pine cone itself in the design, now is the time to set the seeds aside for that. When planting using the pinecone as a design anchor, do not submerge the entire pinecone in the ground. The seeds still remaining in the cone must come out of the woody structure, planting the entire cone under the ground will smother them. Tap your cone several times to loosen the remaining seeds from their protective structure and plant the bottom or horizontal side of the cone loosely into your prepared soil. Water sparingly over the following weeks and when watering your seeds, water around the cone, do not water directly on the pinecone as this may encourage it to rot or develop mould. If all goes according to plan, between 1 and 4 weeks, you should have a newly started bonsai.
If you have chosen to plant the seeds separately from the cone, here are some tips to help you succeed. Keep your harvested seeds dry in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them. When you feel ready to plant them, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours to prepare them for germination. This will also help separate viable seeds from non-viable seeds, good seeds will sink and poor quality seeds will float. When you’ve separated the good from the bad, wrap them in a damp paper towel or foam in a zip-top bag and put them in the fridge. Keep them in the fridge for a week or two. When that’s done, take your seeds out of the fridge and sprinkle them on a prepared potting soil, covering them lightly with a layer of potting soil. If you want to incorporate the “design look” of the pinecone into your separately planted seeds, place any open, healthy pinecone in your pot without disturbing your seeds. As mentioned above, water sparingly and avoid getting water directly on the pine cone, to avoid mold or fungus.
When successful, these trees make beautiful ornamental pieces, they are a living work of art that you have made yourself. If you’re planning now for next year or have the perfect pine cone at home, this project would make a delightful gift to give to others and is sure to fill a home with peace and quiet over Christmas time.