Concord woman hopes for the safe return of her beloved bonsai trees

  • Bonsai trees are seen at Kaari Ward-Bayly’s home in Concord on Wednesday. Five of the family’s 15 bonsai trees were stolen over the course of two days last week. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Bonsai trees at Kaari Ward-Bayly's home in Concord on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Kaari Ward-Bayly looks toward her remaining Bonsai trees at her home in Concord on Wednesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ photos / Monitor staff

  • A stolen sign is seen outside Kaari Ward-Bayly's home in Concord on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Kaari Ward-Bayly looks to her remaining Bonsai trees at her home in Concord on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • A bonsai tree is seen at Kaari Ward-Bayly’s Concord home Wednesday.

  • Bonsai trees at Kaari Ward-Bayly's home in Concord on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Bonsai trees at Kaari Ward-Bayly's home in Concord on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/16/2018 3:28:12 PM

Family heirlooms typically take the form of earrings or a watch, something small you can keep close by.

Kaari Ward-Bayly’s family keepsakes are closer to the earth. She and her late husband, Steven, tended bonsai trees for more than 30 years, trees she wants to someday pass on to her son and daughter.

The Ward-Bayly’s potted grove of juniper and Texas blackthorn, jasmine and ficus, bougainvillea and tree of a thousand stars have been a part of their lives for years. Their compact shapes, lush leaves, and age are a testament to Ward-Bayly’s patience and affection, evident in the way she describes a flower or traces the line of a trunk.

“You gotta go low to appreciate its shape,” she said Wednesday morning, crouching to highlight the trunk of a tree of a thousand stars.

Until last week, when five of their 15 trees went missing on two separate days, the bonsais flourished outside the Ward-Bayly’s Marshall Street home, as much a part of their garden as the pumpkins spilling onto the sidewalk or the privet bushes screening their windows.

Now the family keeps the trees on their porch during the day and hustles them inside at night.

Ward-Bayly’s request is simple: “We’d just like the trees back,” she said. “No questions asked.” She’s scattered that request across Concord via signs, asking people to call if they’ve seen them.

If people are uncomfortable returning them to Marshall Street, Ward-Bayly encourages them to drop them off at a florist, or a church. “Someplace safe,” she said.

What makes the trees unique isn’t their species – bonsais are just miniatures of the trees we see around us – but the style of care. Charlie Cole, general manager of Cole Gardens, called it “an artform.”

“Patience is key,” he said. “Nothing grows fast in the bonsai world. It’s all about the vision and future, not about what it looks like now.”

In addition to the watering and fertilizing and light sourcing that comes with caring for the plants, bonsai trees have to be clipped and shaped regularly to keep their petite form. It’s a complex ritual involving pruning and wires to train a tree into its shape; sometimes, the roots have to be cut and the tree’s leaves removed to maintain a smaller size, according to the Bonsai Empire website.

And then there’s the delicacy, Ward-Bayly said. At the height of a New England summer, her trees sometimes have to be watered twice a day to keep them from drying out. But they like the outdoors versus the forced air of inside, and Ward-Bayly used to leave them outside until the first frost.

It’s their neediness that makes the trees so special. Ward-Bayly said she wonders if the person who took her trees knows that.

“They’re easy to kill,” she said.

She said she worries the trees will die if not properly maintained, and wonders what kind of person takes a tree.

“It’s gotta be, like, a mean person,” she said.

But the trees are also rooted in Ward-Bayly’s relationship with her late husband. New Hampshire natives, Kaari and Steven Bayly met in Keene while Kaari was studying psychology at Keene State College. They both worked at a Bradlees department store; Ward-Bayly described it as a “meeting of the minds.”

“He was an archeologist by trade,” she said. “A real dry sense of humor and an all-around nice guy.” He died unexpectedly last March, she said.

The two started keeping bonsai trees when they were young, living in Florida and working at Walt Disney World. Steven drove a monorail, while Kaari took shifts at the Main Street Christmas shop and making peanut brittle at the confection shop.

Some trees made it from Florida to their Marshall Street home – one of the oldest trees stolen, a delicate boxwood, was around 32 to 34 years old, Ward-Bayly said. But she’s brief in saying why the trees tied her and Steven together.

“We just liked them,” she said. “We’re just lucky and tried to pay attention to them. I guess we have some sort of green thumb.”

And unlike the zinnias and dahlias, snapdragons, carrots, peace lilies, and African daisies that comprise the rest of Ward-Bayly’s garden, the bonsai trees can last throughout the seasons and the ages. Treated right, they can live to be more than 100 years old.

Ward-Bayly said she hopes her trees will make it to that age, too.

“I know they’re not like a family member or a pet,” she said. “But they’re important to us. There’s a history there.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)

Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Concord Monitor, recently named the best paper of its size in New England.


Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy