Mountains and Workshops

Here's a quick update about what i've been up to recently. If we're friends on Facebook you may have already seen some of these pics.

I got to spend a few days up in the mountains with my wife and dogs which is my favorite way to clear my mind and take a break from the day to day.  Who doesn't like looking at ancient trees growing in the granite?  I particularly liked this naturally dwarfed Juniper that Courtney and Thor are sitting next to.


This little Ponderosa is pretty funny 🙂  These trees grow often grow with a bulbous base because the trunks swell while pinched between the granite cracks.

But... I've never seen one grow into such a nice little round ball.  Would make an odd Bonsai.  


I love seeing a variety of native CA trees up in the mountains.  In this pic there's Ponderosa, Juniper and Manzanita which is a tree I hope to see more used for Bonsai in the future. Anyone have any success with Manzanita?  Smooth red bark, twist, curve, silver/grey deadwood, small green leaves and flowers.  They also show the struggles that mother nature throws at them.  But, most say that their really challenging to keep long term and i've never collected one.


Speaking of CA native trees, here's one of my recent projects that I worked on while sneaking away from working on our house remodeling.  This is a Coastal Red Wood I purchased from Zack Shimon late last year.  This is the pic before working on it.  This time I thinned the tree significantly, selected and wired the branches that were usable.


I also discovered that a large portion of the front had died off.  Because of this I removed the bark to expose the wood underneath and discovered there was some type of insect boring in many section of the dead wood, which created these holes in the trunk.  I don't have an after pic right now, but next time I re-work this redwood i'll post one.


The next project I worked on is one of my favorite Junipers, a twin trunked tree. Here it is after I worked on it last year. You can see a small root graft that we placed on it on the right hand side under the spiky jin.  In the future I'll cut the foliage off the graft to leave it's roots which will feed the main tree.


I put quite a bit of copper wire on this tree, which took me two full days of work .


For this tree I used wire from a new supplier i've never tried before.  It came from a Facebook friend of mine named Aaron Wiley.  I was very impressed with the softness and quality of his annealed copper wire.  If your interested, feel free to email him at  Please let him know I sent you and you'll get a 10% discount.

6 gauge 25 foot roll $28 each
8 gauge 25 foot roll $24 each
10 gauge 50 foot rolls $26 each
12 gauge 50 foot roll $18 each
14 gauge 50 foot roll $16 each
16 gauge 50 foot roll $14 each
18 gauge 50 foot roll $10 each
20 gauge 50 foot roll $8 each

Some annealed coils of Aaron's wire, good stuff!


I also added shari on the left hand trunk around the middle of the live vein.  The plan is to slowly widen the shari over time, giving the tree time to rest and get strong again before widening anymore.


In cases like this it's better to work on your trees little by little, instead of doing everything at once.  I followed the grain of the wood and created a long window of Shari.


Here's the result after styling the tree.  Please note the lovely hand model to the left by Mr. John Kirby who was nice enough to hold the tree stable while I took a picture.  I'm going to re-pot during late winter of 2016 and tilt the tree forward a bit.  I'll also be reducing the size of the box it's growing in and taking measurements for a new pot.


And here we are after loading up in the back of my Tacoma, ready to drive back to the Central Coast.  The spiked Jin features on both trunks are my favorite part of this double trunk and make me look forward to the trees future development.   Here's a few different angles to close this out. Thanks so much for stopping by, really appreciate you taking a look!

Hiking in the Desert

Just wanted to share a few pictures I took while hiking around the desert during a recent three day trip.  Personally I never tire and seem to always find myself awe struck when seeing really old junipers up close and in person.  Hope you enjoy!


The image below is probably the tree which I found most fascinating during my trip.  I really like the image with the twisted dark shadow.  Many of the other trees around this size were simply still little bushes or had very straight trunks.  So what caused this tree to grow the way it did and why is it different than the others?

Also, before you scroll down any further and just for kicks how tall would you guess this Bunjin style tree to be?  The last picture in this post will give a better perspective so you can tell if you were right:)

New Years Day With The President

We decided yesterday to take a last minute trip to Sequoia National Park to spend the day hiking among the Giant Sequoia's.  We stayed at a $50/night motel in Three Rivers, CA which is about a 30 min to an hour drive depending on road conditions.  It was my first experience driving with tire chains on icy and snow covered roads, but everything went smoothly and I drove really slow.  It was nice going on New Years day because there weren't many people up there and we enjoyed seeing and playing in the snow.



Once inside the park it's fairly easy to find the General Sherman Tree by simply following the signs.  You have to park about 10 minutes from the trail head and a free shuttle will drop you off and pick you up.  General Sherman is the largest tree by volume in the world.  It also does not have the thickest trunk and it not the tallest.  It's about 0.2 miles away from the trail head and there were several people there to see it.


We hiked maybe another 2 miles or so on an incredibly beautiful trail to see The President.  This trail had a few small frozen waterfalls, a fallen Sequioa which was carved so you could walk through it, lots of beautiful fir's and giant Sequioas all around.

Above-a tree that is still hanging on to life after being badly damaged by fire.

Courtney by an unnamed tree in the Giant Forest

Courtney... hugging a tree 🙂



The President was just featured in National Geographic and had a poster inside the magazine which captured the entire tree.  I liked this picture so much that I framed it and put it on my wall.  It also gave me the itch to go out and see it for myself.


The President is the third largest tree by volume and has more foliage than General Sherman.  It was hit by lightning at some point, which killed off the apex and Jin'ed the top.  Four new branches grew out near the top becoming massive and making up much of the new apex and crown.  This gives the tree a unique appearance.

Here's me looking up at the trees foliage


This is the view looking up, hard to see everything from down below.  How cool would it be to climb up there?! But also really scary...

Courtney and I got to meet the President with no one else in sight.  There's a sign in front of the tree, but no fence or other marking.  I really enjoyed that fact that we got to see the tree without lots of people around.   If you end up making this trek, I'd highly recommend bringing a lunch and having a picnic near the tree.

Anyways, it's time to get back to those little trees I have in pots.  I'm looking forward to a two day BIB workshop this weekend and then the BIB Exhibit later this month on the19th & 20th.  If you get a chance you should definitely come check it out, there will be some fantastic trees on display-

Wishing you a Very Happy New Year!!!



Iphone 5

I decided to take a quick hiking trip to get some fresh air and try out the camera on my new Iphone.  I really like the new panoramic feature on the phone's camera-but i'm not sure how to make them larger.  Here's a few pictures I took yesterday up in the mountains.  I'm very happy with the phone so far,   brace yourself for people everywhere taking panoramic pics with their new iphone!






Trip to the Sierras/Native Plants and Flowers

A few friends and I just got back from a four day trip up in the Sierras.  We had a great time camping, swimming and hiking.  I did not do any collecting, but I did do some scouting around for trees.  My cousin and I took some pics that i'm going to share.

Our Camp Site Below.


In the area we camped at the predominate types of trees around were Western or Sierra Juniper, White Pine and Ponderosa Pine.  It seems like the more time I spend up in these mountains the more I appreciate the beauty of these trees and the area where they live.  Seeing old trees growing between granite always amazes me and makes me ask questions like, where and how far down do the roots go into the granite? Why did this tree grow like this? How much water does this tree get each year? and what did this thing look like hundreds of years ago?


While I am a beginner when it comes to displaying Bonsai, I hope my skill and knowledge of display will always continue to grow.  It's a bit hard to explain exactly, but there's a certain quiet and peaceful feeling I get while walking around the Sierras.  The combination of the trees, plants, rock and water are absolutely beautiful.  I hope to someday capture some of these feelings on my benches at home and when showing my trees.  To capture this, I'd like to grow several of these native plants along side my collection which is mostly made up of Sierra Juniper at this time.

I have to think that the first Bonsai practitioners to display companion plants along side their Bonsai came across a group of plants native to their area similar to the way I did when I came across this group of natives above.  These plants were growing by the trees they collected in the mountains and they must have thought, “Hey, these would look great displayed by my Yamadori.”  Here are several more pics of plants and flowers growing near our Sierra Junipers.


Below and above I found two types of Penstemons.  I have a couple different types of Penstemons on my benches at home.  Love these flowers.


I believe the common name for the plant below is just Sierra Stone Crop.  I really like the variety of colors and the nice flowers.  I also love how much they contrast with the granite background.


Close up of the Sunset colored Flowers


Speaking of sunset, i'll throw in this picture we took while painting with light during sunset.


So do you have to display all native plants next to your native trees?  No, I don't think so, but its also not a bad thing.

Some type of Wild Rose.


Simple, but very pretty flower


These random boulders have always fascinated me.  Must have been put there by glaciers a long time ago.



Some type of Daisy's I believe.


I really like these tiny pink flowers below.  They seem to take over in sandy areas up in these mountains.  In certain areas, it was too hard to walk without crushing several so I avoided walking in these areas all together.  The first time I saw them from a distance I thought someone had spilled something pink all over the ground.   Anyone now what these are called?


Closer picture of them


And a very close up picture.


I'm not sure what this flower is but I like it.


Pic of Red Paint Brush closer to sunset.  The smaller blueish green colored plant on the right has really beautiful small white flowers sometimes.  Also some stone crop in the background.


Some miners lettuce and other grasses.


More playing with light during the night.


The next day it was time to go fishing for trout.


The pole did not work very well, so I decided to use the force to pull this little fish from the river.  Then I let it go.


Checking out some trees.  Hmmmm......:)




Bristlecone Pine Side Trip-Devils Postpile

If you have some extra time on your trip to the Bristlecone Pines, I might recommend checking out Devils Postpile another ancient wonder in Inyo National Forest.  Here's a few pictures I took on our trip, you should be able to click on any of the pictures to get a better view.


These hexagon shaped basalt columns are over 60 feet tall.  They were created about 80-100,000 years ago when lava uniformly cooled. Here's a much better explanation about this interesting formation:



This last picture is up at the top of Devil's Post Pile where glaciers polished the tops of these columns many years ago.  This top section looks like a bunch of hexagon tiles.  Here's a young tree growing in between the cracks of the tiles.

Bristlecone Pines Schulman Grove White Mountains

I've posted some pictures below of the two trips I've taken to see the Bristlecone Pines Schulman Grove in the Eastern Sierras.  This amazing spot, is a place I feel everyone ought to visit at some point, but for anyone interested in Bonsai it should be a requirement.  These magnificent trees have the characteristics of high mountain conifers that we love so much in Bonsai.  They are truly ancient and their character shows a lifetime struggle and fight to live.  These trees exhibit some of the most beautiful and intense deadwood features anywhere. The contorted and twisted deadwood is so impressive it reminds me that in the end Mother Nature is the worlds ultimate artist.

Hiking the trails at the Schulman Grove is one of my favorite ways to forget all worries and leave stress behind.  With all the gnarly ancients around it's easy to feel like your in a whole other world.  The air is crisp clean and thin, forcing you to slow down, breath deeply and take it all in.


Check out the color in that dead wood


Courtney exploring the ancient forest









Close up of deadwood 1


Close up of deadwood 2