Susan Crane picked up her first bonsai tree many years ago, and her passion for the craft has only grown since. A graduate of Mansfield University with a degree in elementary education, she works for Geisinger Marworth in Waverly Twp. but also founded and owns 2 Cranes Plants. She runs the business from her home, selling bonsai, topiary, succulent and ivy wreaths and kokedama. Crane blends her educational background with her passion for bonsai, noting that “I have a classroom where I train young trees, with their individual needs in mind, so they develop into beautiful bonsai.” She and her husband Bob, whom she met when they attended Central Scranton High School, live in Scranton and will celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. They have two children, Sarah and Matthew, and a granddaughter, Grace.
Meet Susan Crane…
Talk about your work at Marworth.
I’ve been there 21 years, and I work in the outpatient office. I schedule appointments; I do the intake information, the pre-admission information; I get them scheduled, collect stats, take care of charges and stuff like that. It’s a varied position.
How did bonsai become such a big hobby of yours?
I’ve always loved plants. When I was in college, I always had plants. I think that’s where it started. I bought a little ficus tree, and it had all those little rocks glued into the pot. It was a very pretty pot, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I had never seen anything like that, and it was just fascinating to me. I didn’t have any clue how to take care of it. I found a nursery in Laflin. When I called, a woman answered, and I said I have this little bonsai tree. I told her all about it and how I didn’t know what to do with it. She said, “I happen to be the president of the NEPA Bonsai Society.” I almost fell out of my chair, I just couldn’t believe there was a bonsai society in Northeast PA. I decided to go to the next meeting because I was really interested, so that was the beginning. I’ve been in the club for 18 years now.
Can you talk about your involvement with the NEPA Bonsai Society?
I’m the vice president. It’s a new role for me. The club has just been a really exciting thing for me, and to have other people who are also that excited about it, it’s wonderful. They’re wonderful people. They’re really like my family. I just love them and feel very supported and encouraged there. I never feel intimidated, and bonsai can be very intimidating. I just love it.
Can you tell me more about bonsai?
It’s an ancient Asian art. “Bonsai” means “tree in a pot” or some kind of container. The goal of bonsai is not just to put a tree in a pot, but to make the tree look natural and old, like something you’d see in nature, but it’s miniaturized. There are all different techniques and styles and different pots and rules you have to know. You don’t necessarily have to follow them, but you have to know them. A lot of it is pruning techniques and thickening the trunk, because the thicker the trunk, the older the tree will look, and how to position the branches. A lot of trees when they’re older, the branches bend downward and kind of tell a story. Using wire is one technique to shape the branches. There are logistics to it, and there’s an art to it. The most important part of Bonsai is you have to know what kind of tree you have, and what does that tree need — whether it be light conditions, watering, temperature — you should have success.
What are some challenges of growing bonsai?
We’ve had such crazy weather, it’s really difficult. The nights can be cold; we can get too much rain. A lot of times, I’ll move some things that can’t take any more water and put them on my porch where they’re more protected. If they get too much rain, they can get root rot. It’s a balancing act when you have a lot of trees. You have to know what they want and what they can tolerate and care for them accordingly.
What setbacks have you faced with bonsai?
You lose trees. I had a beautiful rosemary, and I lost it this year, and I don’t know why. You’re nurturing these and taking care of them. You want them to grow and survive and look their best. It’s almost like a child. I think a challenge for me is wiring. What branches do I keep? What branches do I lose? People help me. That’s where the club comes in. They like to share information, and it’s very nurturing. If I didn’t have the club, I don’t think I’d be doing this, because I could never do it on my own.
What is most gratifying for you?
I’m always saying to my husband, “Look how beautiful it looks. I can’t believe how pretty they are.” He says, “They all look the same to me,” but if someone else sees how pretty it is and wants it, and I can tell them how to take care of it, it’s really gratifying. Sometimes at shows, people say things like, “You have the most beautiful table or booth” or “I don’t know which one to get. They’re all so nice,” and it’s just very gratifying that someone is interested in something I’m doing.
Is there a spiritual element to growing bonsai?
There is. People delve into all sorts of spiritual aspects, but for me it’s like a Zen. I know when I’m working on my trees, I don’t know what else is around me. I don’t know if that’s spiritual or not. I am totally focused on that, and it’s very relaxing. Some people are very into what the tree is saying to you. They’re living things, and just like we like the sun and the air, they do too; they are happy. If something isn’t happy, it tells you and shows you. It might drop all its leaves, or have bugs or insects.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of bonsai?
I was in the orchid club, but that’s another plant. I had a dog and just put my dog down. I used to spend a lot of time with her. We used to take long walks together. Bonsai is enough. (Laughs) It’s a lot and can be pretty crazy.
Have you had a time or moment in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I think my husband has been such a support to me and has let me do my own thing. He always let me do whatever I wanted to do and never gave me flack. His support and my kids’ support has been wonderful. It’s so gratifying to know that I can do something that other people are interested in, and I really like that I can help them. I’m doing what I really love to do.