Category: Uncategorized

Alaska Yellow Cedar Update…

I covered the birth of this bonsai in a post from December, 2012…if you look on the sidebar of this blog, click on that date to get you up to speed. I potted the tree in March, 2013 and it came through all the previous work with no problems. The tree lives in Seattle, and I would check in to see it whenever I was up on bonsai business…it lost one branch on the right after a year, which I think was due to the adjustment to life in a pot. It has otherwise filled in nicely and I was asked to re-style it this winter. Just so you can see what I started with, here is the tree before work ever started:


That was in November, 2012. And here is the same tree February, 2016:


Now a view of the right side, or the tree’s left:


The back side:


And a view of the left side, or the tree’s left:


A detail of the shari:


In nearly four years it can be seen we went from a few long, droopy branches to some finer branching beginning to form some nice layers around the long, slanting trunk. We are on the lookout for a new pot for the tree, the next step in its bonsai journey. I hope this inspires you to start considering trying this species for bonsai…nothing says ‘Northwest’ quite like these trees do πŸ˜‰ Now how about a little touch of spring? It’s come early for us here in Portland, and this violet just couldn’t wait…


Season’s Greetings!

The holidays are upon us and I’ve been busy with a few new trees, two of them to show you today…so let this be my Christmas card to you, as I most likely will not do another post until the new year. The first tree up is a ponderosa pine I acquired two or three years ago that was potted in turface or oil dry and in a very nice glazed white pot that was totally inappropriate for the tree. First order of business was to change the soil to pumice, then let the tree gain strength with a good regimen of organic fertilizer. That also gave me time to study the tree and I recently styled it for the first time; here is the result:


The tree was tall and gangly–sorry for the lack of a before photo. I was able to reduce its height with a single guy wire anchored to the lower trunk with a wood screw. A detail of the foliage:


A little closer:


Now I’m on the lookout for a pot to put it in this spring…Next I have for you a rock planting I put together earlier this fall. I was given the rock as partial payment for work done for a client and two of the trees were cuttings I made several years back, using a technique of wiring the extension growth for a growing season before removing it to make the cutting. The result is a head start on giving the tree good movement in the lower trunk. Here is the result:


The height is 14″ from the base of the rock to the top of the upper tree; 17″ from the tree on the left to the tree on the right…you can see some color difference between the two bottom trees and the tree at the top. I think the top tree is kishu and the lower ones are itoigawa. The lower two are the ones I mentioned using the pre-wiring technique with the cuttings. it isn’t a large planting, but boy is it heavy! I can’t imagine how heavy some of Kimura’s rock plantings must be, as I recall noting their size when I visited his garden back in February of 2014. A detail of the tree on the left:


I did some light thinning prior to planting so you could see the trunk movement better, but I can see a little more work needs to be done yet; this tree received a complete wiring two years ago, so the trunk and branches are pretty much where I want them to be. And now, the second tree on the right:


I removed a very straight sacrifice branch on this tree prior to planting and will wire it when the tree has established more roots in its rocky new home…I intend to bring the upper portion of the tree to the left, to make it seem more as though it grew from seed in the rock. And the little guy at the top:


I going to wrap this up as my internet is very bad right now…wishing you the best for the holidays and a Happy New Year!


Sub Alpine Firs…

The very dry summer we had here in Portland would lead you to think it would make for a poor fall collecting season…but after a scouting trip in early August, the trees were definitely actively growing roots. Everything I brought home responded very well to receiving regular watering for a change, especially the sub alpine firs. Their needle color went from a stressed yellowish color to green very quickly and stiffened up as they became turgid with the much needed moisture. I gave them all some organic fertilizer I’d made late summer and even felt confident enough to style some of them. So here are a few I was able to photograph well–there are many too large to get good photos of and will post about these when the time is right. First up is a natural bunjin style tree I cleaned up, removing toothpick jins and junk from the trunk, but nothing else:


At 41″ tall, this tree imparts a feeling of an older tree in the forest, growing up to compete with others for sunlight, while displaying the downward branches typical of long winters of heavy snow load. It also has fairly mature bark which is hard to find with these firs; the smaller ones that are collectible are usually saplings with very smooth bark. This was collected in early August and is acclimating very well. Next is a little cascade style I collected during the same trip:


I found this growing upright and as such, had a long, slow curve for a trunk line. After puzzling over what to do with it, one day I got out some expanded metal lathe to cover the surface of the pot and tipped it to see how it might look as a cascade…I liked what I saw and was inspired to follow through with a light wiring to rough in the design. While I’m on the topic of cascade style, I found another tree in a semi-cascade orientation during the same trip:



This tree is quite old and has deeply fissured corky bark, as well as shari starting from the base of the trunk and continuing to the dead jin that was once the tree’s apex. It was growing in a pocket of rock on a ledge and I was able to get the entire root system home with me. It had one branch growing ram-rod straight and I couldn’t resist styling it to see what I could do with it…a detail of the work:


I’ve found fall to be the best time to work on these trees as their bark is very soft and sappy if bruised or broken; some kind of protection such as raffia is essential for bending larger branches. A shot of the tree’s apex:


The shari along the trunk:


These trees retain a lot of resin in their sapwood and heartwood and the shari on this one is very good–no rot is present yet and the bone white color is totally natural, I haven’t used a drop of lime sulphur on it. And a final detail of the base of the trunk, which is 3 1/2″ in diameter where it emerges from the soil:


And here’s a little something I found, a small forest that was a rodent’s cache or a cone whose seeds never dispersed and sprouted together. There are seven trunks and an Oregon boxwood to boot…a real treasure of a find:


I think a little pruning and a little wire will be all that’s needed to make this a stunner…oh, and a nice pot πŸ˜‰


A detail Β showing branches already set with downward angles and a nice, natural mochikomi surface surrounding the trees. This is something I always try to preserve when I collect a tree, I think it’s sad to see other collected trees with the surface soil and mosses ripped away unecsessarily. I know it’s not always possible to retain something like this, but I like to if and when I can as it can give a real sense of place where the trees have originated, a built-in accent planting, if you will. Next I’d like to show you a tree I found falling away from a vertical rock wall. I could see that if I didn’t collect it, fate was not going to be kind to this one…


Another tree I was able to get the entire root system of, I fertilized immediately and styled the same season as collected. I used every branch this tree had, here’s a shot of the work:


One last shot of the base of the trunk; this one another long, tall Sally measuring in at 42″:


I saved the best for last…I almost passed this one up as I saw it from a distance; it looked like a sapling from far away but something about where it was growing caused me to come in for a closer look, dangling from a vertical rock wall. I was thrilled to find a very old, contorted and twisted trunk that was rooted to the wall in two places:


I haven’t touched this one yet and it was so wide I couldn’t get it in on the background. A detail of the shari:


And closer:


This is a very old tree by the look of the bark and the shari on the trunk. A look around the back:


That’s all for today…I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for sub alpine fir bonsai πŸ˜‰




Two posts in the same week! I’m on a roll, somebody stop me πŸ˜‰ My internet is no better today, but I was so pleased with the way my photo session went yesterday, I can’t wait to share my work with you…just after finishing the larger common juniper, I decided to work on the Pacific yew.

I’ve posted about this tree on the blog before, regarding its first potting to a bonsai container. I did some pruning this summer and realized the tree is very strong, so had planned to style it this fall, after one year and seven months in a bonsai pot. Here is the tree after styling with a view of the new preferred front, which is rotated about 5 minutes clockwise from the original front:




And a shot of the original front:


Detail of live veins near apex:


Detail of apex and ten-jin:


Detail of upper right branch:



Detail of the apex:



There’s much more I’d like to share but my internet is making this painfully slow an unpredictable…please bear with me for more

Recent Work…

I’m long past due for a new post here, I’ve been busy putting things away for winter, building a sun-porch for my tropicals and dealing with an apprentice who took off, leaving me short handed when he discovered there is work involved with respect to bonsai. He is now at large somewhere in Portland, Oregon and will have illegal alien status December 6th. If any of you out there in blog-land know of his whereabouts, please report him to immigration authorities. On to the trees…

The first tree up is a common juniper, Juniperus communis, I collected in November of 2007 in Washington state; it was three-trees-in-one as it spent most of its existence sprawled out over rock and where a branch touched a pocket in the rock, it rooted and formed a separate tree. I’ve featured one of these trees on this blog before–some of you might know it as ‘CJ’. I held back on the mother tree for so long–8 years–because of how much work CJ had been for me. The mother tree is large, 29 1/2″ from the rim of the pot after styling, and I figured I better prepare myself for the work. The task took me three full days to complete and a nasty little rash on my hands (those needles are sharp!) but wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined it would be. And there is still a little yet to do as I didn’t want to stress the tree too much just before winter set in. The tree as it is today:


A detail of the drop branch on the right:


A detail of the mid-trunk shari:


Detail of the upper trunk, near the apex:


Detail of first branch:


And last, a detail of the bend in the trunk in the upper right side of the tree:


Here’s a shot of ‘CJ’, the daughter ground layer from the tree above…recognize it?


A detail of pad development:


I’ve got more to post but am having some issues now with my internet connection, so will publish this and pick up again when I have a better connection. Thanks for reading!



Yellowstone Part Two…

Back again, as promised to finish up my story and trip to Yellowstone National Park earlier this month. I’ll pick up right where I left off, at the Firehole river with the pair of Trumpeter Swans feeding…

Feeding pair of Trumpeter Swans

Feeding pair of Trumpeter Swans

A parting shot...

A parting shot…

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!

I really was there ;-)

I really was there πŸ˜‰

Last stop was Mammoth Hot Springs, which has changed considerably since I last visited; a lot of the terraces were no longer flowing and looked grey and dead. Fortunately I found this one just as it was getting dark...Ciao!

Last stop was Mammoth Hot Springs, which has changed considerably since I last visited; a lot of the terraces were no longer flowing and looked grey and dead. Fortunately I found this one just as it was getting dark…Ciao!

Shortly after The Artisans Cup (see previous post) I decided to take a small vacation to Yellowstone Park, as I had business to take care of in Bozeman, Montana, my hometown. The weather was perfect and it had been many years since I’d been to visit the park, always a favorite of mine while growing up.

On my way...

On my way…

Over the bridge...

Over the bridge…

I was on my way to Fairy Falls and the Imperial Valley, a place I’d never been to before…

Clear pool...

Clear pool…I was told by a fellow tourist who had been on a tour these pools that are clear are over 160* F…the bacteria that make them cloudy cannot survive in that kind of heat.

Beauty Pool!

Beauty Pool!





Even the steam is blue...

Even the steam is blue…

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls

Imperial geyser

Imperial geyser

Hello buffalo!

Hello buffalo!



Fairy Falls from across the Valley

Fairy Falls from across the Valley

Geyser in the middle of nowhere...

Geyser in the middle of nowhere…



The Imperial Valley

The Imperial Valley

Logs to walk on to keep from stepping in the marsh

Logs to walk on to keep from stepping in the marsh

What's this?

What’s this?

A Trumpeter Swan! The first time I've seen one!

A Trumpeter Swan! The first time I’ve seen one!

Not one, but two!

Not one, but two!

Get that fisherman out of there, please!



I have to wrap it up here and pick up some other time…comcast is really becoming a problem for me…know of a better internet service???




Taking a Stand…

We had a little rain in Portland this morning, which means I have some time to make a post to my blog…last Friday, bonsai stand maker Austin Heitzman stopped by to deliver a stand for my tree…

Stand for white pine

That’s Austin on the left and the new apprentice, Andres on the right…we were happy with the fit! For those of you coming to Portland for the Artisans Cup, you will get to inspect Austin’s work close-up in the exhibit…the stand he made for me, plus many other exhibitors in the Cup.

And now is the time for us to remove old needles from the Ponderosas and other pines, and also remove any wires that are biting into the branches…


The tree is a little big, so I got right up on the bench with it…






It was getting dark and we had a beautiful sunset that evening…

West Hills SunsetWest Hills Sunset

I hope you enjoyed this short post…now it’s back to the trees!

I’m Back!

Some of you have been pestering me about putting up another post on the blog…truth is, I’ve been crazy busy this summer and have some awesome news…I’m finally getting some help around here! His name is Andres Perez and he’s from Medellin, Colombia…that’s in South America πŸ˜‰ I flew to meet him in Bogota in July to be with him during his interview with the Consul at the US Embassy there…it was not what I had in mind for an embassy. Your interview is conducted via telephone (like they do in prisons) the Consul is behind 2″ of bulletproof glass and you are outside! Yes! Colombia is near the equator and the weather is pretty much the same all the time…Bogota sits at 8,000′ elevation, so it is a bit cool and it rains a lot. So, there is an awning to stand under, at least, to keep Colombian citizens from getting wet during their interview. I also noticed the the US flag that hung over the Embassy was very dirty…what does that say about our pride to the Colombian people, I wonder?

But, I digress…after nearly a year of waiting and hiring an immigration attorney, they granted Andres his Visa to come to the US on July 21. He will be making the 17 hour flight to Portland September 5, and arriving the following day, on the 6th. Just in time for the Artisans Cup! Hooray! And speaking of which, I have a dog in the fight! My Southwestern pine was accepted into the show among the 70 other trees. Quite an honor and another reason I’ve been off the radar, preparing the tree for the show and sprucing up the garden for visitors from around the world…yes, if you come here for the Artisans Cup, track me down and we’ll see what we can do to get you over to see some really oddball bonsai πŸ˜‰ And if that news wasn’t enough…I will be conducting tours for Michael Hagedorn’s Portland Bonsai Village throughout the duration of the show…here’s the link to the Village website:Β

Michael has put a lot of effort into the new website and I think it is outstanding!

And how about some photos?


Southwestern white pine

The rest of the photos are going up without text as my internet connection is bad because of the high winds today…enjoy!

001002003008010011010 015016021024029033036038041043045

I hope you enjoyed the show…and I hope you are able to travel to our Bonsai Village and tour the gardens (mine included) and meet my new apprentice Andres…Ciao!

BSOP Spring Show

The Bonsai Society of Portland held its annual Spring Show at the Portland Japanese Garden pavilion Memorial Day weekend, May 23rd and 24th. Record crowds were on hand both days to view the exhibit, which made getting photos a bit of a challenge…plus my camera insisted on adding flash for extra lighting πŸ˜‰ The club Tokonoma that greeted the visitor on entering held a willow by Lee Cheatle

Lee's willow

Please click on the image to enlarge it…until I figure out how to get them larger in the first place…To the left a cork-bark black pine from Scott Elser…

Cork-bark black pine

And the winner of Best Accent Award by Patty Myrick…

Best accent

The Best Deciduous Award was a tie this year; An Antarctic Beech from Dennis Vojtilla…

Best Deciduous

And my Black Huckleberry…

Best Deciduous

The winner of Best Conifer was Eileen Knox’s Scots Pine…

Best Conifer

Best Saikei was awarded to Scott Elser for his Beech Saikei…Best Saikei

And the Anne Spencer Shohin Award went to Deb Wilcox for her Coast Redwood…Best Shohin

Lyle Feilmeier brought a Dogwood in bloom…Dogwood

A Satsuki Azalea from the collection of Bob Laws…Satsuki azalea

I brought in an Alaska Yellow Cedar…Alaska Yellow Cedar

A large Birch from Dennis Vojtilla…


A large Ponderosa Pine from Lee Cheatle…


A Japanese Maple from Dennis Vojtilla…

Japanese Maple

A Lodgepole Pine from Scott Elser…

Lodgepole Pine

There were some nice Shohin displays…


I believe this larch belongs to Eileen Knox…stand by Jan Hettick

More Shohin…


I’m sorry I don’t know who each tree belongs to, but I do know our Shohin displays have trees from many members. More Shohin…


Sorry for the poor quality of this photo…Pat Foldi showed a nice Procumbens…

Pat's Procumbens

Al Polito brought in an unusual Vine Maple…

Vine Maple

Sorry for the underexposure…some areas of the pavilion were not lit as well as others…A nice Japanese Black Pine from Bob Laws…

Black Pine

A random shot to show the scale of Scott’s Saikei…Scott's Saikei

I had to get in on the action…

There's Your Huckleberry!

And the accent I brought in to go with it…Harebells and mushrooms and moss. 16 years this spring!16 yr old Harebells

We were lucky to have Matt Reel conduct our Saturday Night Critique…he studied for eight years with Shinji Suzuki in Nagano, Japan. He gave us some great insights on improving our bonsai and our displays. I hope you have enjoyed this overview of our Spring Show!