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Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2006 3:14 am
Location: Indiana

On Developing a Green Thumb...

I've been challenged by a book I read recently.

There was a chapter on the subject of having a Green Thumb and the author said one of his professors in college told the class there's no such thing as a green thumb. She said there is only knowledge and ignorance.

Her point is well taken. I had no idea bonsai would provide me with the kind of education in Nature I've gotten so far. Soil composition, Root structure, Bark Health, Pruning, Leaf Pruning etc. There's a lot to know. And in Bonsai, what you don't know won't kill you, but it'll sure kill your plants.

I don't want to sound like I've arrived here, I mean, I killed a grocery store Bonsai this year. (It was a crapulant thing anyway, I tell myself it committed suicide.)

But, the part of the education I'm happiest about so far; the reason the knowing has become so important, is that it's helping me develop empathy. The kind that can sidle up next to a plant and ask "Is this plant happy?"

It sounds a bit odd to think that way maybe, but I've heard some old, old gardeners say this sort of thing on the Science Channel, in books and elsewhere. And this is where I hope to get. That sense of trying to get into the tree's head. Or heart. Pick an organ.

In his masterful study of the Psychology of Evil, "People of the Lie", M. Scott Peck writes that one of the defining characteristics of Evil is its inability to feel empathy for others. I've pondered this long and hard, and my experience bears it out.

My Ex-wife comes to mind... But moreso, Bonsai.

In them—I hope anyway, I'm learning how to better care for others. My trees and more than just my trees. I think that's the sort of Green Thumb I want to try to develop.

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Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Amherst, MA USDA Zone 5a

Wonderful and thoughtful posts! Allow me to be the first to give you a warm welcome to the Helpful Gardener Forum. ;)

The thing about feeling more empathy for others, even plants, is something I've been growing into as well. I don't want to sound like a hippie, but the more you dig your hands into the soil, the more you come to understand the interconnections between bugs, plants, animals, species of plants you cultivate- and by extension how we fit into the world and interact with others.

I'm instilling regard for bugs into my toddler, teaching her not to fear bugs, but to understand their place in the world. I started with ladybugs and encouraged her to let them crawl on her hand- without fear. But I also taught her to have a healthy regard for bees, too. ;)

We visited an aviary a few months ago where a parrot landed on her head (and to her credit she wasn't afraid). I want that regard for bugs, birds, plants and others to be my gift to her.

A few years ago I attended an exhibit by the San Francisco Bonsai Society ([url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/03/gallery.html]bonsai photos[/url] here and [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/03/gallery2.html]here[/url], including one of a 150 year old Juniper), and what struck me was the general helpfulness of the Bonsai Society members who were very gracious about answering questions.

Another turning point for understanding connections between ourselves and the world around us was in reading the articles by Scott Reil on [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/design/2003/nativeplants.html]Native Plants[/url]. It's a good read, and I encourage everyone to take a peek.

Another article, this one about [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/japanese/2003/design.html]Japanese Garden Design[/url], focused on how this style of gardening was a reflection of the world at large, a mini of the maxi. It all goes back to Scott's treatise on native plants, and even bonsai (finding the maxi in the mini).

Welcome to our forum! We keep things mellow and friendly around here. I hope you enjoy our community. :)

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Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2006 3:14 am
Location: Indiana

Wow, thanks.

What a gracious welcome. Thank you so very much.

Your first paragraph is one of the conclusions of the book I made reference to. It's called "Second Nature" by Michael Pollen. In it, he presents Gardening as the answer to Man and Nature not just co-existing, but actually benefitting from one another. And even though it wasn't an "environmetalist" book, it certainly had a truly great environmetal conclusion. It's honestly the first hopeful environmental book I have ever read. And very funny for a bonus.

Teaching your daughter to understand bugs without fear is wonderful to read. My all time favorite is the Orchid Praying Mantis. Stunning! But it also reminded me of the opposite end of understanding nature. One where it gets overly sentimentalized. (Not that you're doing this, of course.) But I watched the documentary "Grizzly Man" recently and saw the life of Timothy Treadwell, who spent thirteen years among grizzly bears. He sentamentalized them to the point of giving them names like "Mr. Chocolate." In the end, a grizzly killed him. Without trying to sound negative, I really question his respect for nature.

I'm also thankful to have had a dad that taught me to see it. I truly appreciate that you called it "gift" and couldn't agree with you more.

Thank you again for such a warm welcome. I look forward to reading posts and sharing the bonsai experience with the other gardeners here.


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