Archive for May, 2014

This post to my blog is as close to real time as I have ever got; I am winding down from a loooooooooong weekend of participating in the annual Spring Bonsai Exhibit of the Bonsai Society of Portland at the Portland Japanese Garden Pavillion. It starts with the set-up, which begins Friday morning with tables, felt and backdrops placed in position. Friday afternoon we bring our trees up to the Pavillion for staging in the final display. Scott Elser coordinates and executes all the logistics of the show and has done so since I joined back in 2006. He generously donates the use of his display stands (many other club members do as well) to put together a very nice bonsai exhibit–one of the better bonsai shows held in the U.S. my not-so-humble opinion πŸ˜‰

The show opens to the public Saturday morning and the club has a critique Saturday evening; given by an invited guest…this year we were lucky to have 90 minutes with Ryan Neil. Last year we had Michael Hagedorn give our Saturday evening critique. I always look forward to this and count it as one of the better benefits of being a member of the Bonsai Society of Portland!!! I was able to take some photos of the exhibit to share with you and I did show a few trees and accents of my own πŸ˜‰ How about some images?


I’m sorry for the uneven lighting, my Nikon was in ‘auto’ mode as I had very little time to shoot before we Β tore the exhibit down…this is a birch in the club Tokonoma display presented by Dennis Vojtilla. Wonderful corky bark on this tree! It is huge! I helped Dennis load it up to take home today…definitely a two-person tree!

Next is a tree I brought in for the show, an Alligator juniper, Juniperus deppeana. You don’t often see this species used for bonsai and this one is 1600 miles north in latitude of where it’s native to. I find it does very well in the northwest climate:

Alligator juniper

A detail of the tree alone:

Alligator juniper

Directly across from this tree was this shohin display:

Shohin display

Chris's dwarf

An unusual ginkgo I contributed to this display I acquired from Anne Spencer, ‘Chris’s Dwarf’ in a pot purchased from Minoru Akiyama this February at the Green Club in Ueno Park in Tokyo, Japan. The smallest leaves you can barely see are about the size of a pinhead…they will increase in size over the summer. I put this tree in a purple pot for the contrast of this ginkgo’s golden fall color…we’ll see πŸ˜‰

And here was a real show-stopper–a larch forest entered by Lee Cheatle. How large is this forest?

Lee's forest

I waited for some unsuspecting guests to drift into the picture…just for scale πŸ˜‰

Lee's forest

I overheard Lee saying it’s just around 300 pounds…including the pot!

And in the corner to the left of this behemoth was stationed a Blue Atlas Cedar by yours truly…


I acquired this tree from Jim Gremel in the fall of 2012 at the PNBCA convention in Vancouver, WA. I traded a collected engelman spruce and a mountain hemlock for this tree. Potted in a Mike Hagedorn container. The accent to the left is a succulent I posted the flowers of in my last blog post, planted on lava rock; here’s a detail of that:

Graptopetalum rusbyii

My friend Pat Foldi won the people’s choice best shohin with a Frosythia from Anne Spencer. Also in a Hagedorn pot…do you see a pattern here?

Happy Pat!

O.K. now get out of the way so we can see the tree, Pat!


Ryan Neil made a special point to talk about this particular tree and that it is very unusual to see as a bonsai…

And very close by was a little gem I brought in–a tiny gardenia. Under Ryan’s radar for sure because you don’t see these in the U.S. often πŸ˜‰


I had more to share…a Common juniper you’ve seen before; CJ and an accent of native blackberry in a pot made by myself of a special clay from Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT. I used it because it fires bone white, which was the effect I was after; to represent a fallen tree at high elevation bleached by wind and sun:

CJ and accent

Bob Laws brought in a nice broom-style Zelkova

Bob's zelkova

Another tree from Bob was this lyrical sumac collected from his front yard in Vancouver WA

Bob's sumac

Right next door was a curious Lodgepole Β pine, Pinus contorta latifolia presented by Al Polito


Al also won people’s choice ‘Best Accent’ plant

best accent

Scott Elser brought in his engelman spruce in all its spring glory…

Engelman spruce

Jan Hettick made the stand for this out of blood wood…she told me it’s incredibly hard!

Jan's stand

A little clarification here–Scott’s design and Jan fabricated. A great result, I think! Kind of Arts and Crafts style with a softened geometry

And Jan doesn’t do just stands…here’s a nice lodgepole pine she shared with us

Jan's pine

And a couple of accents for you to savor πŸ˜‰

NW native fern

A Northwest native fern in a Mardella Brock pot


This one could have got an award! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post; I was not able to capture all the great trees and elements of our spring show…the best way to experience it is to attend in person…will I see you there next spring???


It pleases me to share this post with you because it brings closure to a very bad accident this Southwestern white pine endured while en route to the National Bonsai Show in Rochester, NY, in June of 2010. Somewhere between Portland, OR and Rochester, the truck the tree was being delivered in jumped over a curb and the pot for this tree was broken. I don’t know how long it was before the driver discovered it, but maybe it’s best we never know πŸ˜‰ I was in Bozeman, Montana at the time, out of range of phone service, so I didn’t know what had happened until I returned and the show was over. Look for the full story in ‘International Bonsai’ Β 2012 issue #4. The tree is featured on the cover of that issue, with thanks to Bill Valavanis. It’s amazing how so many fellow bonsaiists worked together to make this tree showable in such a short time…much gratitude from me to all those that helped out!

It took $45 worth of superglue to repair the pot, according to Bill…and that was four years ago! Our winter in Portland was pretty bad, although in context with the rest of the US, we had it easy. Two cold snaps pretty well did the old cracked pot in and I was glad to see the custom made pot from Ron Lang arrive when it did! That’s another story in itself…the pot you see in this post was his second attempt as the first pot cracked during the firing and he had to make another. Let’s put up some images before you lose interest…first is of the tree on the bench and getting ready for re-potting:


You can see the blue bungee cord holding the old, broken pot together…new pot from Ron Lang to the right…17″ tall by 14″ by 14″; wood fired with a nice texture…great job Ron!!

Ron Lang pot

The bottom of the pot with drainage screens in place and 16 gauge galvanized steel wire to secure the tree in the pot

the re-pot area

Here’s a shot of of the work area; the tree is too awkward to take into the garage or move anywhere, so the growing bench had to do! I really like using the old blue tarp on the ground to keep the soil from getting into the grass. Before I move on, I want you to see the curve on one side of the pot I had Ron do to accommodate the trunk of the tree and show it off better. You won’t find a pot like this anywhere else but in my yard.


I couldn’t wait to get started, so I began to remove the broken pot from the rootball of the tree while my assistant was on his way…


I was surprised at how well balanced it was, even as I was pulling the old pot apart; you can see some wood blocks that were used to repair the pot four years ago as well as plenty of duct tape πŸ˜‰


Feeder root alert! Always like to see these!

feeder root detail

If you look closely, you can see the mycorhizae (sp) hyphae lacing through the soil too…it all leads to a healthy root environment.


So, this is as far as I dared go before having some help…where could he be???


My helper this time was Bobby Cuttright, on loan from Michael Hagedorn’s garden to help with the dirty work πŸ˜‰

new home

And the tree in its new home; it was a simple matter of removing some of the soil from the perimeter of the rootball to slip the tree into the new pot; I wanted to keep as much of the rootball intact as I could, because most of the field soil came off when the tree was potted the first time in 2010.


And a shot from the front of the tree, prior to tying it in or adding any new soil. It’s important to get the tree positioned correctly, as that’s the way it will be for a long time…hoping not to have to re-pot this guy for another eight or ten years.

working in new soil

Bobby with much concentration working in the new soil with a long bamboo stick; my stick is in the foreground. Amazing how fast this goes with some help. Bobby has really come a long way under Michael’s apprentice program! A note about my soil mix; I used 1/4″ sifted pumice and 1/4″ sifted hard akadama in a 50/50 ratio.


More ‘chopsticking’ πŸ˜‰

Almost there...

Can you see that hammer in back of the pot? I used it to drive bamboo stakes into the rootball to tie the anchor wires to. It really works well to keep the tree stable in the pot while new roots are growing.

Ready for water!

All ready for water!


Let the watering commence!


Look at that technique! πŸ˜‰



who needs Yoga when there’s bonsai to be watered?


Checking to see how the new pot is draining…


A parting shot for you…look below my left hand to see the old pot ‘resting in pieces’ πŸ˜‰

I like to share with you one of my more unusual accents, a succulent I collected in Arizona 20 years ago…flowering now. The Latin name is Graptopetalum rusbyii…I love the flower color, it reminds me of pointsettia.


Close-up of the flower

close-up of graptopetalum

I hope you enjoyed the latest chapter in the story of my Southwestern white pine!