For my next trick, I will saw this in half

Because of our moderate climate here on the Central Coast, we can get away with re-potting anytime between winter and early spring.  This year, I'm glad to get started early because I've never been so busy with tons of little projects that need repotting like this little coast live oak.  Future award winner in the year 2045;)


I've been collecting Junipers for about seven years now, and I'm always trying to learn more about how to work with them. Generally speaking I've always tried to error on the side of caution which is the reason for this super long and skinny box. It seems like the more roots you collect, the better chance the tree has of surviving after collection.  However, I think I was a bit too cautious with this one.

Because the tree has been growing strongly, I decided to re-pot and put it into a small box.  The first thing I did was to take the box apart. Using screws makes the box stronger and easier to take a part.  


If I could go back in time, I probably would have reduced the length of the root mass by about 25% at the time I boxed it up.  That way I could get it into a Bonsai pot more quickly.


Here's a closer pic of all the roots growing in pumice.


Once again staying on the side of caution, I cut off about 1/2 the roots and then bare rooted the front half.


Here it is after cutting off half and combing out the front of the root ball out.  I built a new box and used Clay King as the soil medium.


Now being in a smaller box it's much easier to move around now.  I tilted the tree a bit more forward which changed the profile of the foliage for now.  The next time I re-pot I'll bare root the back half and shorten more length off the sides. The tree still has a long way to go and I look forward to wiring and styling in the near future, stay tuned for more updates.  Thanks so much for reading and Happy Holidays!


BIB 2015 show

I wanted to share just a few quick pictures from this weekends annual BIB show.

Jonas and Boon organizing trees to bring to the show.


Daisaku and me trying to put bunny ears on each other.


Some Star Wars spray paint art I found near the show.


Behind the scenes BIB photography


It was a real treat hearing Boon and Daisaku critique the show.


Shohin Japanese Maple


Cascade style Black Pine


Exposed Root Style Japanese Quince


Elm on short root stand.


Shohin Shimpaku, Olive and Zelkova.


Large California Juniper


Suiseki and painting

Ask Me Anything with Daisaku Nomoto

It's not often that you get to ask a Kokufu award winning certified Bonsai professional anything you want.  However, this Saturday Daisaku Nomoto will be hosting an AMA thread on the forum.

Here's a link to the AMA Thread:

Here's an old school picture of Daisaku while he was still under the supervision of Mr. Kamiya while styling this white pine.  This is probably the first time he was ever in Bonsai Today and Kinbon.

And a more current action shot I took of Mr. Nomoto unloading trees at the BIB show.

Here's a great link to today's Bonsai Tonight post showing some of Daisaku's work.

About the AMA Threads:

On occasion the ask.bonsaitonight forum will host an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread where members can ask the OP (Original Poster) or Thread’s Host anything they would like. The purpose of this thread is to help generate interesting forum conversation with the opportunity to “pick the brain of the thread’s host.” The thread host is pre-selected by the site moderators. While the goal of these threads will be to learn and share Bonsai knowledge, not all questions must be Bonsai related. However, please remember to be respectful to all who participate and note the OP can answer questions however they’d like. You can start asking questions as soon as the thread's host creates the AMA thread. The OP will generally specify an approximate time that he or she will answer questions in the initial thread. Generally the OP will answer questions for approximately one hour. We hope these threads will generate fun and interesting topics, thanks for participating!

Rain Barrel Update and a Ponderosa

With the bad drought we've had in California, it was nice to see a little rain recently. So, I thought I should give a quick update on my rain barrels.  You can find the original post describing the project here-

Here's a picture of them from this morning-

After having these for almost two years, I'd still recommend this as a good project for most. The barrels have held up well so far, I haven't had any major issues with them and they are low maintenance.  I was worried about leaks along the connecting tubes, but they've   stayed sealed.  Its surprising  how little rain you need in order to completely fill the barrels.  But, thinking of how much surface area a roof covers it makes sense.  It seems like one night of rain generally fills them all the way.  It's been nice to have the extra water to mix with my RO water which I use for Bonsai and pre-Bonsai that are still in the ground.

In the future I will likely build a much larger storage system, however this might be a project for a home with a larger yard.   The only thing I would do differently if completing this project again would be to find barrels with a threaded removable top.  This would allow you to more easily clean them out, or repair the inside if needed.


I collected this Ponderosa Pine in early summer of 2013.  I like the trees movement, deadwood and bark.  Collecting it required moving a huge rock which was pressed against the base of the tree.  Might be difficult to see in this pic, but the bark didn't develop as nicely near the base where the rock was pressed against it.  For now i'll just be working on getting this tree really healthy and start throwing out new growth before doing anything else.


Speaking of this pine.....I also posted these pics and asked a few questions about this tree on a new forum that Jonas of recently created.  It's called and I think you should check it out!

Here's a quote from Jonas about why he created this new forum.

"I believe bonsai forums should be open and beautiful - places where visitors can read posts and view photographs without logging in.

I believe in sharing bonsai knowledge as widely as possible. I enjoy responding to questions by email but prefer making these discussions public so greater numbers of people can benefit from them.

I believe the bonsai community has a lot to offer. I've learned a tremendous amount from readers' comments over the years and want to give readers more opportunities for extending their camaraderie and sharing their talents, their opinions and their humor.

Now it's your turn - I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say smile"

Yours in Bonsai,
Jonas Dupuich

A Few Notes on Pumice

Before I go collecting, one task at hand is making sure I have enough clean pumice for my newly collected trees. From my experience 100% pumice has produced very good results, growing strong and healthy new roots by providing just the right amount of water and air to the tree's root system.  In addition to using 100% pumice for collected material, I also use pumice as one of my main soil ingredients for all trees and as a drainage layer at the bottom of every pot. As you can probably imagine this is why I use lots of pumice and buy it in bulk to cut down on costs.

Sifted and washed pumice


So far I have purchased pumice from two locations in California .  If you know of any other locations, I'd love to hear where in the comments section below. For reference 1 yard is about the amount that would fill the bed of my Toyota Tacoma. The two locations I know of where you can purchase pumice are:

Air Vol Block-

$105/yard, $7/bucket or $4.99/50 pound bag


1 Suburban Rd.

San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

American Soil and Stone-


Call this number first: 510-292-3000

Then pick it up here:

689 Bancroft

Berkeley, CA

When buying directly from the locations above, the pumice will be very dusty and dirty with many fine sized particles that stick to the larger pieces.

Pumice in it's raw state, purchased from Air Vol Block


The containers and boxes we put our trees in are relatively small and confined environments.  Which is why I believe we should be providing the trees root system with the best possible growing medium.    Here’s a picture of the reason I sift and rinse all the fines out of the pumice. While this might be an extreme case the fines can clog drainage holes, block air/ water from roots and make it difficult for new roots to make use of the entire pot.

A lot of pumice dust after getting wet and drying


It sure would be nice if someone offered clean pumice in different sizes for a reasonable price. Sifting and rinsing large amounts can be a challenging and time consuming task. I especially dislike the amount of dust that’s produced and make every attempt not to breathe it in. I’ve changed the way I rinse and sift pumice a few times now and I’m sure I’ll do it again to make the process more efficient. Most recently I’ve been doing the rinsing over my lawn and using Anderson flats to hold and dry everything. Anderson flats are great because they are inexpensive and work well for newly collected material. I use a staple gun to add screen mesh to the bottoms. If interested, I purchase mine here:


The way I currently do it is by rinsing.


Sifting to appropriate sizes.


Then rinsing again until the run off water is clear.


And finally leaving it in a sunny area to dry.  Using bone dry soil is always a smart idea because it helps to get rid of air pockets inside our Bonsai containers.


Bonus points if you can tell me the name of the plant in my header at the top of the site and where it grows?

Below is a little spring orchid I have growing under one of my benches-a native CA orchid.  Thank you very much for reading!





Shohin 1st Wiring

I wired this little guy yesterday at a workshop with Boon.  I believe I collected it about two years ago up in the Sierra.  I remember first seeing a little clump of juniper foliage from about twenty-five feet away.  From that distance I could tell it had a chunky little trunk and made sure to take a closer look.  While scouting around for trees in the mountains you see several trees of a similar height, but the majority of them are much younger with skinnier trunks.


I just worked on wiring the future branches into place.  We also kept three of the larger branches for now to maintain the trees strength and to minimize the risk of weakening the tree.  The paper towels were added to help visualize the future image.  The tree is still in the original box I planted it in.  I used pure washed and sifted pumice, however this winter I cleaned the surface soil and replaced about half an inch with my standard mix.  This helps remove caked up organic fertilizer and increases drainage.  Boon calls this process Soiji.

A Couple Air Layers

During my first year in Bonsai I bought a dwarf variety Japanese maple for several hundred dollars from a local landscape nursery. After reading a couple Bonsai Today articles on Air Layering I thought to myself, "well... how difficult could this really be?"  When I brought the tree home, I cut all the branches back really hard and used my knife to ring bark a couple inches in width right above the graft.  I used rooting hormone on the top section of ring barked area and a plastic bag to hold the mix of Turface, bark and crushed granite in place. Over the next several months the trees health slowly declined until it eventually died. Of course this was very upsetting to me at the time, but it also helped engrain some very valuable lessons into my brain so I could learn from my mistakes.  Currently I still believe that successful air layer is a very valuable skill for Bonsai enthusiasts to become proficient in.  When done successfully it gives us the best chance for creating beautiful future nebari.

Pictured below are the results from two air layers that I removed last week.  I have a long way to go in order to consider myself as confident as I’d like when Air Layering.  For now I plan to practice a lot and experiment with different methods.  Here are a couple different things I tried last year.

 This was done by girdling completely around the branch and applying rooting hormone to the area just above where the bark, cambium, and phloem was removed in winter 2013.  I cut up long fiber New Zealand sphagnum moss and pre-moistened it before applying around the layer.  By pre-moistening the moss, the rooting hormone is not washed away during the first watering and allowed to remain in contact with the branch for longer.


I left the layer on for one year and removed it last week.  I allowed the moss to dry between waterings, but never to the point of being bone dry.  One of the advantages to using a clear plastic bag is that it becomes easy to tell when the layer has produced a sufficient amount of roots.


Here are the results after combing out the roots and untangling them from the moss.  This is as far as I took things for the initial potting.  I left some moss still embedded in the roots so I did not tear away too many roots when combing them out.   


This is my double trunk flowering plum all potted up for now.  I plan to grow this tree out for several years and trunk chop in the future to produce more taper and movement. 


Above is the result from using a colander filled with akadama, pumice and lava on my Lemon tree.  While the leaves and fruit are likely too big for Bonsai, I'm considering growing out the trunk and then grafting a dwarf citrus to create the branching many years from now.  I applied this air layer by using a standard ring bark, rooting hormone and pre moistened soil in Feb 2013. 


 Using the colander required slightly more frequent watering’s but produced good results.  Using this container, the roots were naturally air pruned which likely produced more roots and roots that were less tangled from circling around the inside of a container.


These roots were easier than the plumb to comb out because the roots of lemon trees are thicker, stronger and they were not as tangled. 


I used my root cutter to remove the bottom section of the branch right up to where the first roots came out from the trunk.   


I washed the remaining soil out with a hose and removed roots growing above where the first section of the roots protrudes from the trunk.  I potted the tree up and will continue to work on the roots during each future repotting.   




Shohin Sierra

Here is my little Shohin Sierra that I brought to the BIB workshop today.  I collected this in fall of 2011.  We removed some old needles, thinned it out a bit and moved a branch out of the way-not too much work yet.  A couple different options for the front, I am leaning towards option A.



Rainy Days, Yosemite, Sequoias & Dramm

I'm going to be updating the gallery section with pictures of trees in nature as I take them.  One of the pics from my last collecting trip:


Finally getting some solid rain here in Nipomo - I haven't had to water in a few days. During a break in the rain, I worked on cleaning up my backyard and took a quick pic of some of my trees enjoying the weather.


My wife and I took a quick trip up to Yosemite in the beginning of Oct.  As a California native, I've wanted to spend time in Yosemite for a long while, however this was my first trip there.  We did some really nice hiking and saw some beautiful sights.

We were told that because there was almost no snow the winter before, the water flow was pretty minimal and not as impressive.  However, I was still very excited to see the waterfalls!

The area below reminds me of a trail out of some JR Tolkens book.


About an hour drive away from the valley of Yosemite we were able to hike around the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.  It's pretty awesome to think that California is home to the oldest, tallest, and largest trees on the planet.  I can now kind of check off seeing the oldest and largest by volume, but I still need to see the tallest.  I say kind of because the largest by volume was not actually in this grove and not many know which Bristle cone Pine is actually the oldest.

Below-Courtney next to the underside of a downed Sequoia root spread.


Speaking of these humongous trees, I'd recommend picking up the latest issue of National Geographic.  Which has an awesome 4 page fold out picture and article on the world second largest tree.  You can check out a cool short video on You Tube Below:

Newest Nat Geo Video on Sequoias

Just for fun and to see if anyone actually reads this blog, I'm going to give away a Dramm 1000 hole Water Breaker Nozzle.  I used it once and it worked really well. It has a very gentle spray, which puts out a lot of water in a short amount of time.  The reason I don't really need it is because I use an RO system and don't have a huge collection.  I'd rather save a little more water and stick with my Masakuni watering wand which works really nicely too.  What do you use to water and how do you like it?

Here's some great discussion on watering nozzle's for Bonsai:


So if you want this Dramm nozzle, just comment below letting my know your name and address along with the answers to the quiz below.  If you don't want the nozzle and still want to do the quiz just let me know.  You could email me your address also if you feel more comfortable.


1. What were the given names of the two largest Sequoias in the world?

2. What's the name of a Bristlecone pine Grove in California?

3.  What's the given name of the Largest Sierra Juniper in the world?




Getting Married and our Honeymoon

Sorry not much Bonsai in this post. The past couple months have been really busy!  I wanted to share a few pic's to show you what i've been up to lately.  Two really exciting things happened in June and July- I got married and then took a trip to Thailand for our honeymoon.

Below-my Groomsmen and I jumping for Joy!!!

My bride Courtney before the wedding getting ready.  She is truly an incredible woman, I am very lucky!!!  Our small wedding in our hometown of Nipomo, CA took place on June 30th.  Everything turned out really great and the wedding was a lot of fun.


My mom made these tasty cupcakes for everyone at the wedding. I told her she should go into the Cupcake business after she retires from being a teacher.


I was really happy with our photographer who seems to like playing with light and trees.  I really like this purple plum, a species that I would like to air layer and work with in the future.

Overall we had a fantastic day! After the wedding we spent our first night married in Summerland, CA and flew toThailand the next day.

Sunset while eating dinner in Thailand.


We really enjoyed seeing all the beautiful islands. Here's us posing next to one of the most famous.  It's called James Bond island because it was in the movie James Bond-Man with the Golden Gun.

Here we are next to a giant laying Buddha, it's gold platted and the huge feet are all mother of pearl.


One of my favorite things about Thailand was the fruit. It's very inexpensive and tastes so good!  Lots of cool tropical fruit i've never tried, but even fruit i'm familiar with like Bananas, mangoes and watermelon seem to taste much better in Thailand.



Playful Tiger Cub:)


While the weather was a bit overcast, it didn't make it any less incredible to see the beautiful Phi Phi islands.   Here's a couple pictures of the cove where they filmed a scene from the movie The Beach.

I broke my last point and click camera on my last collecting trip, so we got a new shock/water proof one and I used it to take this picture.  Swimming around the cove was one of my favorite moments of the trip, glad I got this pic to remember it.