Rant about Bonsai and Goals

This blog is helping to document my Bonsai Journey.  I feel that with any journey you first need to decide where you are going and because of this I have decided to list some of my goals relating to Bonsai.  I don't hear about goals being discussed too often in regards to Bonsai, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be discussed or that they don't apply.

How Do Goals Help Us?

  1. Give us Direction
  2. Force us to focus on what’s important
  3. Hold us accountable
  4. Push our limits

I have listed my long term goals below in order of importance.  I also have more short and medium term goals which revolve around practicing more, graduating Boon's intensives and spending more time collecting.  I think short and medium term goals should be updated and altered on a as needed basis, but for the most part your long term goals should stay the same once you know what you really want.

My Long Term Goals

  1. Have a collection considered among the best in the world
  2. Become a confident Bonsai expert
  3. Do my part to improve Bonsai in the U.S.
  4. Run a successful small bonsai business
  5. Place at least a few times and win the Portland Cup at least once(New)

I'm beyond ecstatic to see Bonsai develop in the U.S. over the next several decades.  I know we will see some of the most amazing trees being developed here in our own backyard and the level of skill and knowledge will be increasing dramatically.   if you haven't already, I hope you set some goals and push yourself to achieve them so we can continue to raise the bar in the U.S.

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:  http://www.nps.gov/depo/naturescience/geology.htm



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.

Shohin CA Juniper

Here's a Shohin California Juniper I collected from the spot in the previous post.  I feel it has some good character for such a small tree.  I put several holes in the nursery can to try and get more air into the soil.


Here's a close up of some of the deadwood.

I've seen a couple different methods of dealing with the native soil on collected conifers and I'm not sure exactly what works best.  I didn't bare root this tree at all, instead I combed the edges of the root ball out so the tips of the roots would stick out into the pumice.   One thing I am certain of is that Junipers should never be completely bare rooted especially just after being collected.  During the next re potting I will remove a section of the native soil and replace it.  With a few of my more recently collected trees, I bare rooted about 30% of the native soil, replacing it with pumice.  So far they looks good, but only time and more experimenting will tell me what works best.


Here's another close up of the dead wood.



Here's the tree like I first found it right before being collected.  I always enjoy seeing pictures of collected trees before they were collected, hope you do to!



Secret Spot

This spring one of my buddies and I went on a camping/collecting trip. We drove into this spot on a Friday Night.   We must have driven for an hour on bumpy dirt roads in nothing but moon light, I'm lucky because my friend was blessed with the gift of an internal GPS and found it without much issue.  We arrived in the general area around 1a.m, set up camp, ran around looking at trees with flashlights for another 30min then went to sleep.  The next morning we ate breakfast, drank some dark coffee and hiked around the rest of the day.  These pictures were taken with my phone, i'll have to bring my regular camera next time.

Above is one of my favorites, I love the twist on this one.



Skeleton with beautiful movement



The picture looks like some sort of big creature to me.



Nice little accent plant growing right near junipers, interesting rocks as well.  I would like to find out what the name of this plant/flower is and display one near the junipers I collected here.




One of the smaller trees we found interesting while hiking around.  Only one vein and tuft of foliage still alive on this one.




Wiring Practice

If you want to see really good before and after pictures you need to check out my blogroll and links to the right of this page.

Here is a western juniper I got at the Bay Island Bonsai show in their auction.  Most of my current collection of junipers are not established enough to work on, so I wanted to pick up a few trees that I could practice technique with.   This is my first Western Juniper which was collected in Idaho, having observed it for a while now it seems to be a more hardy species compared to Sierra Juniper.  The angle the tree is in the pot makes a straight almost 90 degree line, which is very unattractive. Here's the tree when I first got it home from the BIB show.


This is the first time I styled this tree at a BIB workshop.  This was some really good wiring practice for me.  I did not do any cleaning up of the deadwood or life lines, mainly this styling was to adjust the branches to the right locations and show off the best deadwood features.  I also made the lowest branch on the left hand side into a jin and brought a higher branch down to fill in the area. The angle of the tree was adjusted to get rid of the long 90 degree section of the trunk.


Utah Juniper -Juniperus Osteosperma

Below are some pictures I've taken of Utah Junipers in California and Nevada.  In California Bonsai circles we definitely don't see Utah Junipers as frequently in Bonsai as we see California or Sierra Junipers.







Checking out a smaller Utah.


Here's me by another smaller Utah Juniper to the left and some wild horse poop to my right:)  Hiking around this area Courtney and I saw some wild horses.  It was a really cool sight and the first time I'd ever seen wild horses.  Later we came across some professional photographers, who were taking pictures of the wild horses.


Double Trunk

Here's a tree my collecting partner and I almost passed up.  The picture above is the view/angle of the tree I saw at first glance, not too impressive.  The two trunks are kind of funky, but after taking a closer look I really liked the deadwood features on this tree and decided I wanted to try and collect it.


The tree was growing in a large crack filled with duff and dirt.  These granite pockets sometimes contain many smaller fibrous roots which are vital to a newly collected conifer's survival.


Here's a shot of the division between dirt covered root ball and granite.

Here's the tree all cleaned up and in a box full of pumice that I made.  Looking back, I probably could have made this box a bit tighter.  I drilled ton's of holes in the sides of the box to help get air/oxygen to the pumice and roots.

Collected junipers come in all different shapes and sizes, one thing I love about them is their unique character.  Some might not love this tree because of its odd shape and structure, but I think it’s pretty cool and I'm excited to see it develop over the next few years.

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