We presented our annual begin- ners course on the 25th of February. Twenty-one keen students attended the event and hopefully we have laid the foundations for future bonsai involvement and enjoyment. We used Myrtus communis, the common myrtle, as starter trees. The myrtle is an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region. The tree produces small white flowers in spring fol- lowed by a blue-black berry containing several seeds. The leaves are lanceolate, shiny, dark green and small. They respond extremely well to pruning, but do not like soggy root conditions and need frost protection.
The myrtle has a rich culinary, cultural, medicinal, and reli- gious history.The berries are used in many Mediterranean pork dishes. It can serve as a substitute for pepper and in Sardinia they make an aromat- ic liqueur from the crushed fruit called Mirto – (laughing happily?).
Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and eternal youth, hailed the myrtle as sacred. It is also custom to use myrtle in a wedding bouquet. Cuttings from Queen Victoria’s bouquet are still used in modern day royal weddings.