I am in awe of even a single bonsai plant. I have seen very few collections. Never have I seen such a collection as Frank Celani has nor one so neatly integrated into the landscape.
How did he learn this difficult art? “I’m Italian,” he says. “It comes naturally.” He learned by reading and trial and error. “There is hardly a plant I haven’t tried as a bonsai.
“I was a strange kid,” he says with a smile. “While others were playing cowboys, I was down in the woods turning over rocks.” He belonged to the Bonsai Society for a while. “But I tend to do things differently,” he says.
A retired contractor and realtor, he built all three of the patios behind his house with the bonsai plants in mind. Some of these miniature trees are over 30 years old and several have been in the same pots for 27 years. Two of them, a Concord grapevine that once covered a trellis and a bougainvillea had grown to good size when he cut them back, roots and tops, and made them into bonsais. The bougainvillea is solid color when it is covered with flowers and the grape vine still bears some grapes that the birds enjoy.
Frank grows other things as well. The front garden is very small but a bright green with a bottle brush tree, a small palm, and a dazzling patch of marigolds. It reminded me of the gardens in Ireland.
There is a row of bamboo along the back fence that froze down the last two winters, but he used the stalks he cut off to build one of the patios and the railing of a small bridge over his koi pond. In the small space at the side of the house is a colorful garden, almost all regular plants, but many in containers, that is a great surprise as one walks along the patios.
The bonsai plants take a great deal of care and commitment. All are watered by hand-held hose because each plant has unique needs. Frank has good help. Every morning his mother, a young 91, waters the front garden for about 10 minutes. He waters the back for an hour. In the dry times, he waters at night as well. But once the rains come that will ease up.
“I weed the bonsais with tweezers,” he says. He feeds them as needed. His wife also helps with the weeding. Their garden is awesome.