Tiny trees are housebroken

SANDUSKY The ancient art of Bonsai has taken root close to home. The Sandusky Bonsai
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



The ancient art of Bonsai has taken root close to home.

The Sandusky Bonsai Club is pruning and preparing for its upcoming annual show.

"We're the only club in town that's growing," said Paul Decker, club president.

The club will host its annual Bonsai show from 1 to 4 p.m. June 8 at the Sandusky Cultural Center.

On Tuesday evening, the group gathered at Osborn Park to prepare their living sculptures for the show that will feature around 80 trees.

The club, which has been in Sandusky since the mid-1970s, continues to add branches to its growing tree of members.

"It's an addiction," said Paul Wargo of Milan.

Fifteen years ago, Wargoreceived his first Bonsai tree as a birthday gift from his wife, Gina.

The Wargos now care for dozens of Bonsai trees and have been members of the Sandusky Bonsai Club for nearly 10 years.

"You go on vacation and you have to get tree-sitters," Gina Wargo said with a smile.

Leo Pelka of Catawba Island has been working with Bonsai trees since 1986 and has raised hundreds of them.

"Leo is the expert. He goes around to everybody and answers questions," said Raj Nainee of Huron.

At Tuesday's workshop, Pelka helped Nainee wire a small tropical tree Nainee brought back from a recent trip to California.

The Bonsai shapes are made by wrapping metal wires of varying thickness around the tree's branches. The branches will then grow into the shape held by the wires.

"My wife was a master gardener," Pelka said. He said he would often accompany her to the annual home and garden show, where he was always intrigued by the table of little Bonsai trees.

His wife told him to buy one and give Bonsai a try.

"So I did purchase one -- and I killed it," Pelka said.

The next year, he bought another Bonsai and he's been at it ever since.

The art of Bonsai has its roots in China, where the first Bonsai trees were cultivated thousands of years ago. The craft was then adopted in Japan where it became a refined art form of royalty and nobility. Throughout the ages, Bonsai spread throughout many countries and socioeconomic classes.

Decker's advice for an aspiring Bonsai artist is simple: "Buy a small tree and see how long you can keep it alive."

The small, young trees are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $5-$25.

The older and more carefully crafted trees go up in price.

"You can spend $5,000 for a tree if you dare do it, but you better know what you're doing," Paul Wargo said.

The trees require careful watering, regular pruning anddedicated care.

Pelka said that once the branches of a young tree have been wired into place, it will not need to be rewired for up to a year.

"So now what do you do? You buy another plant," he said.