Spring is in the Air, Along with Other Stuff

By Ernie Witham   |   April 5, 2018

I’m not sure how my bonsai trees talked me into it, but recently I spent $12.49 on something called Fish & Poop. Manufactured in Fresno, the city famous for its tasty raisins, Fish & Poop is listed as “a blend of fish-based nutrients and guano which forms a synergistic matrix that develops a cohesive partnership for vigorous plant growth.” 

Wow! Plus, the bottle I bought was a concentrate, so I now have enough Fish & Poop to form “synergistic matrixes (matrixi?)” for months.

Fertilizing bonsai is important, as professional bonsai soil consists of a cohesive partnership of, well, rocks, all carefully manufactured by devastating volcanic eruption. Akadama, the most prized soil, is imported from Japan and quite expensive. But my trees have a real yen for it (sorry). However, lava rocks don’t have nutrients, so I had to invigorate my growth with fertilizer.

“Besides applying to the soil, spray your fertilizer right on the foliage,” one of my bonsai instructors suggested. “They’ll love it.”

Sounded like a great idea, so I purchased a cheap spray bottle, raced home, mixed up a batch, and started spraying. Tip for fellow and future bonsai owners: Wait until after you “Shake well before using” to take the cap off the bottle or wear an old pair of shoes. And, tip 2: Try to avoid spraying Fish & Poop into an east-to-west wind while facing west to east. 

“If that’s some kind of new after shave you are using to impress me,” Pat said, “I’m not a fan. But it does look like the flies like it.”

Not really sure if my trees loved it or not because shortly after I sprayed, it began to rain. For three days. My Fish & Poop is now on its way to my neighbor’s yard, and they will get all the love for which I paid $12.49.

“Maybe you should stand in the rain for a few minutes,” Pat suggested. “Or hours. And please, take your shoes with you.”

Well, all artists have their setbacks, but I’d have to wait to reapply Fish & Poop because I had another important project. I had to find a slab. 

“Did someone die?” I was asked when I mentioned needing a slab. 

“No, it’s for my mountain.”


I hear that expression a lot just before people leave me standing by myself.

See, bonsai expert Mel Ikeda created a bonsai mountain scape at last May’s Bonsai Club of Santa Barbara’s show and sale, and I won it in a silent auction. Mel attached the mountain scape to a plywood base with the instruction to remove it and place it into a shallow bonsai dish or onto a bonsai slab at a later date, which was now. The only dish big enough that I could find cost more than my car. And trying to find a slab online did not go so well either.

“This is Amazon Chat. How can I help you? I see, who died?”

So, I contacted one of our long-time members, Susanne, who used to make her own slabs, and she said she might have one that would work. Pat and I trekked to her mountain home and were amazed by all of Susanne’s gorgeous trees, pots, and rocks that she had collected all over California.

“Been fertilizing?” she asked.

“I told you to toss the shoes,” Pat said.

Susanne had some Papa Bear-sized slabs that were too big, some Baby Bear-sized ones that were too small, but then we found…

“Wow, look at this mama. Perfect!”

Several days later, with the help of Mel, I was able to place my mountain scape onto the slab and actually get it home from the workshop in one piece. It is now bonding with the family.

And just in time because we leave in soon for Japan, home of a million (or so) Japanese gardens loaded with bonsai. I might even get to see the volcano where my akadama came from.

“You need new shoes before we go,” Pat said.

“I thought about that, but you know, I’ll bet no one in security makes me take them off and put them on their conveyor.”

“Great idea! Excuse me, I’m going to go see if I change my seat assignment now.”


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