Tom MacWright


Chinese Elm, top-down

My gardening has changed since I last posted. I moved to the Mission, an apartment with lots of sun compared to my previous place which had almost none. It has lots of windows and points in the right direction. But the flipside from a gardening perspective is that I don’t have sheltered outdoor space. There’s a roof, but I’ve decided against keeping trees on it because the wind and sun are severe, and I’ll forget to check on out-of-sight plants.

A tree will be missing this time: the top half of the golden gate ficus. It thrived for a while, but suddenly called it quits, I suspect because of an infestation. It was a little shocking, because it looked like the strongest plant of the crew for quite a while. But c’est la vie.

Apple tree

My apple tree is alive! I was really worried about this one: it’s deciduous, so it loses leaves yearly, and this year it took a long time for new leaves to appear. But they have, and they’re looking great. Well, like last year, they’re only appearing out of one point, and will soon be wildly out of scale, but I’m happy just that it’s alive – having grown this tree from seed, I both have an attachment to it and a fear that as an ungrafted tree, it might have weak roots.


My California Live Oak is doing really well. Occasionally the leaves look burned and I’ve had some leaf drop, but it’s producing large new leaves and generally looking good. This tree is very thirsty, almost to the same level as the Ficus.


The remaining half of my ficus is soldiering on. This is the only tree I have wired, and wired in a pretty minor way: I just want to keep it following a sort of horizontal line.

Chinese Elm

My Chinese Elm is producing new small leaves. The leaves that it’s hanging on to have been looking a little yellow, possibly because of too much sun: I’m not totally sure how to diagnose that.



My succulents are okay. I might give one of these away, because I simply don’t find them as entertaining as trees.

I’ve learned to do less with trees, to focus on consistency and growth before any sort of styling. I’m also happy with the pots for all of these – I made the mistake of undersizing pots for quite a while, and love the move to medium terracotta pots, inspired by Bonsai Tonight. My goal for the rest of this year is to figure out correct fertilizer regimens for these trees. Also, photographing these trees is always an unanticipated challenge: this time around I took advantage of my apartment’s surplus of light and used my Capture One workflow to reprocess RAW files.