Ok, here’s the semi-cascade ficus from the last post. And cloning, because cloning is cool. 

I suppose you are all waiting on this tree: And it’s ultimate disposition too? 

Ok, but you’re gonna learn a bit about metallurgy, cloning, and whatever else my twisted imagination may come up with. Ready? Here’s a look at the trunk:  Notice the bulbous quality. I’ll get to that a bit later. Cloning and all. 

First step is a bit of clean-up.   This is a ficus salicaria (a willow-leaf ficus, often called nerifolia or salicifolia). It’s a prolifically budding ficus that needs serious pruning in the growing season. 

A little off the top:  

Some defoliation.   

I believe this is the front. Mainly because this is definitely the back.   

Now, if you remember the premise of this post (which I described in the last post), I was challenged to create a semi-cascade out of a willow leaf ficus. This was a challenge set out by none other than Heart Throb Seth Nelson (biggest troll in the bonsai world, excepting Ryan Neil that is). Friend request him on Facebook and say “Hi!”, he loves new friends. Seth (or, as we call him, Mr. Melon) is the youngest and hottest curator of a public bonsai collection in the U.S. (The James J. Smith collection at Heathcote Gardens in Ft. Pierce FL. Which is what makes him the hottest btw, Ft. Pierce is one of the most sun blasted, melt your testicles to your leg hot and, blazing places in Florida. When it was a military base, Ft. Pierce was where they sent those soldiers who couldn’t peel potatoes). And he’s never seen a semi-cascade salicaria before. I think the sun has befuddled him. 

The challenge with this tree is the branch that will be the cascade is growing up.   

And at quite the angle too. Let’s see if I can bend it.   

I’m thinking I might need two wraps of the wire to get it to bend. Here’s something funny to contemplate: I’ve heard that if you use too big of a wire on a branch, that you’re apt to break said branch. And I’ve also heard the opposite too, too small a wire will cause you to force the branch too much, thereby cracking it. Additionally, it’s usually recommended that you use just one wire, that is the correct size, to bend a branch. 

This is my practice: mostly I will use two smaller wires to execute a big bend in a big branch. The reason is, the more contact you have on the outside of your bend, the less likely that bend will crack. Simple physics. On smaller branches you’ll often see me use bigger wire than indicated. For the same reason. Call me a rebel, call me what you will, it works.  

 This wire happens to be about twenty years old (it might be older than Seth). Here’s some metallurgy for you: this is aluminum, the older it gets (with exposure to the heat/cold cycle) the stiffer it gets (much like an old man’s joints but not much like his, well, you know). If you are using copper, this problem is even worse. Copper must be heated to make it soft and usable for bonsai. It too gets stiffer with age but, even worse, the more you bang it, move it, drop it etc, the more hard spots you’ll get. So be gentle, don’t go tossing your wire on your bench. 

So, contrary to what I usually do, let’s see if this old wire is stiff enough to hold the bends.  Hmmmmmnn.    Interesting.   Yessss!   Amazing.  

That works, now I’ll do a little potting.  I need to see the tree in the pot to continue with the correct angles. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done.  

   It’s a little like putting a size ten ass into a size six pair of jeans. Need some plastic surgery.  

 There we go. It’s this operation that leads me to ask the question: why does this tree have such a big ass, uh, I mean, base?

It’s because of cloning. Or, as they say, tissue culture propagation and micropropagation. 

There are several techniques that are used by micropropagators (there’s a joke there. I’ll let you figure it out). 

One method is a familiar one, but just done on a much smaller (but bigger) scale. The technician uses meristematic tissue, or the cells that occur at the growing tips, dormant buds, and at the roots, which is how standard propagation is accomplished. I say it’s smaller because they use minute amounts of material to produce a plant. I say bigger because, using only that minute amount, they can produce many more plants per tissue specimen. That’s one reason it’s economical. 

The second method is organogenesis, which is a way to produce specific parts of plants (hence the “organ” part). It’s used in research (how do these things grow etc.) but also in the biopharmaceutical industry in creating medical drugs (yes, I’m sure they can grow what is colloquially known as “Bud”. Now stop giggling). 

The third method is the creation of artificial seeds, called non-zygotic (or somatic) embryogenesis. This method is cool because not only does it mean you can get seed from a plant that doesn’t really produce viable seed (like a banana) but you can create hybrids that may not happen naturally, like an orange/lime or, even crazier, how about a pumpkin shaped watermelon?  

With our ficus salicaria I can only guess as to the method used (the first I’d say), but I do know it was produced by micropropagation. I actually have about 15 trees grown this way.  

     And they all exhibit that bulbous base, which is great for bonsai. 

I’m hoping you read that voluminous lesson above. If not, then poo on you. Time to wire.  


Some establishing shots. Notice I twisted the thicker part of the top back and down. 

From the top:  

A detail shot:  

The before:  

And the after:  

It really surprized me how much I was able to bend that branch. It’s a relatively young branch, not even a year, so that must be why. 

For the next post I will work on  a clients tree, a big tiger bark ficus. Wait ’till you see it. 

And to Seth, he who challenged me, and made me write about tissue culture, I say, print this post, fold it up until it’s all corners, and shove it up your rear.  

Posted in branch placement, rare finds, tips and tricks, wiring | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Following through on two ficus bonsai I teased you with….

Two trees on my bench, which to work first….. 


The left hand one is the tree I teased at the end of the Clump style willow leaf fig from a sawn off root ball post. The right hand one was a tree I teased about on Facebook. I was challenged by Seth Nelson (Mr. Melon, as he’s taken to call himself. I call him Spanky, it’s Bohemian for “he who whacks off his trunk”) because he has never seen a semi-cascade willow leaf ficus. 

Let’s go left to right.   Look at that base! I can’t wait to see what’s underneath the soil, the anticipation is terrible, I hope it lasts. You can’t really see much with all those leaves though.   I know, the solution to every problem, let’s get naked!   Awesome! Very interesting trunk, right? Difficult even. Before you begin any branch selection you should find the base of the tree and decide what your front is. We are looking for the widest face with the best rootage (radially emerging from the trunk) and the best trunk line. But the base is usually the dominant indicator of the front view.  

There’s a good question: why must a bonsai have a front? The answer is easy. You can only look at one side at a time. Seriously though, even though a bonsai should look natural from all sides, the aim of bonsai and the art used in accomplishing this involves the best view of the trunk, the base, the movement, the first few branches. The best front should do this. There’s always those who think they are being revolutionary by claiming their tree is a 360 degree tree. I’m sorry, but they usually look like bushes or lollipops. Or both at the same time. 

Here’s a good front for this one.  Well now, that’s a nice development. It turns our tree from a sumo style (short and fat) into a more upright style. 

I told you it was interesting. Since we’ve found the front it’s time to remove some branches.  

 You’ll notice the dieback. Even though it’s a ficus, it will have dieback on smaller branches because it’s a ficus microcarpa (a retusa or tiger bark). That’s just what they do.  I’ll be removing most of these bigger branches because they are just about unbendable.  

 I have plently to work with. This tree probably started out as a larger s-curve that was dramatically reduced and allowed to grow out again. Something I might do but I got the plant from D&L Nursery in Ocala. One of my go-to places for quality trees. Their website is dlnursery.com.  Dave (the “D” in the operation) has a tree at Epcot this year, a serissa, believe it or not.  I just learned today that this is his second favorite serissa at his nursery. 

Getting back to our ficus, I’ve chopped off those branches which offended my eye.   They shall be cast off, as all offal should. Hence the name “offal”…..get it cast off…..offal? It might be because offal is awful, as opposed to awefull, which means full of awe. Although we all are full of offal, maybe this all comes down to some guy who had a good recipe for asshole soup that filled him with awe. Geez, etymology is hard, harder than entomology, which is like bee stings and beetle carapaces. 

Sorry, got distracted. Back to the tree.  Trimmed on top: 

Trimmed on bottom, installed in pot.  

Now for some fun. Power tools!  

This chunk has to go:  It’s in the front and it’s contributing to some obverse taper. 

The tool is a German made mini-angle grinder that is distributed in the U.S. by King Arthur Tools. The wheel I’m using is the thinnest carving wheel on the market (made by an Australian company called Arbortech).  

   The shape and configuration of the cutting teeth are very much like chainsaw’s chain.   And it is- 

 Arbortech is about safety. This part of the wheel….. ….is designed to keep the tool (and you) from taking too much of a bite at a time. This makes it safe by decreasing kickback (that chattering and bouncing you may have seen on some carving videos or experienced for yourself) and giving you more control (and therefore a neater carving line) and confidence when you have this electric tool rotating at 15000-20000 rpm’s. 

The combo of the mini-grinder and the carving wheel is fantastic.  

 And messy! 

You’ll notice that on the bottom of the carved portion I brought the cut to a point.   I’ve talked about this before, by shaping the cut like this, it facilitates the healing process and speeds the callus formation. This technique was discovered by the master bonsai growers in Taiwan. 

So where are we now? I think I’m ready to wire.  

Man, that was fast. Hardly satisfying at all.   

On to the next tree, I had fun with this one.  Wait ’til you see the end product.  My challenge was to make this into a semi-cascade. A little background on the tree. You’ll notice the, almost, caudex like growth on the base.  

 This tree was propagated by a process of growing called plant tissue culture or micropropagation. This type of propagation allows the propagator to create exact copies (yes, it is cloning, and yes, cool) and produce disease free plants and…….you know what? I’m going to keep you in suspense and keep this whole technique and the tree for the next post.

I’m such a stinker, I know.  But I think it deserves its own post and not just a brief write up on the second half of a post.  In apology, here’s a quick styling of a tree I grew from a pencil thin cutting. I believe it’s been ten years growing.      I hope that helps. 

Don’t worry, I’ll write up the next post soon. Until then, your homework is to study tissue culture and see if I get anything wrong. It’s highly probable I might, and then there are those who believe that everything I write is wrong…….

See ya’ real soon!

Posted in branch placement, carving, rare finds, sculpture, wiring | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

How to make high quality organic fertilizer for your bonsai. 

This post begins here: 

 This is the closest highway overpass to my nursery. I won’t say where it is because it’s my secret honey hole. 

This isn’t just any highway overpass. 

Look here! 

 I do apologize for the blurry pics, I took them during a drive-by. You see, my usual visitation time is about midnight. Pictures don’t come out well in the dark and I don’t want to draw attention to myself with a camera flash or a light. I’m here for this: that, my bonsai friends, is the highest quality guano in the avian world. It can be used fresh (unlike chicken poop, which must be composted for a year) or dried. I prefer to dry and pelletize it. If you were to buy it commercially it is three to four times the cost of any other guano. 

Chicken guano has an NPK of 1.6/.5/1 generally (rounded). Duck is not much better. Pig? Don’t even bother. Cow manure only has 2/0/0. 

So the stuff I have been collecting (4.9/2.25/1) is literally liquid gold. From poop. From whence does this miracle organic fertilizer come from? Why, the humble pigeon, of course.  


Not to get too graphic, I basically collect the guano, dry it, break it up, add dry gelatin (whatever flavor you prefer, lemon is my favorite). I add water until it’s the consistency of playdough and roll it out. Let dry, and crumble. It’s usually a good idea to wear gloves when performing this. Here’s the end product: 

 It has a lovely, lemon scented poop quality to it. 

Now, this isn’t something I just made up. Most people think of pigeons as being a wild bird but they are actually one of the oldest domesticated species. For thousands of years man has kept pigeons for fertilizer, carrying message and food. Those in charge actually classify wild pigeons as feral, meaning they escaped captivity. This feral designation leads me to a slight digression: pigeon hunting. 

Oh, yes indeed. There is no “season” for pigeon hunting.  Which means that, if you get hungry, bag a few birds and have a feast. Here is a Link to a Wired article extolling the advantages of the pigeon for food idea. And this Link has about twenty recipes for pigeon. The Egyptian grilled pigeon is tasty. Exotic. 

After reading through the second link you’ll notice that the word pigeon and dove are interchangeable. And it’s simple why, a dove is a pigeon that has been bred for its whiteness. Like I said, they are a domestic animal. Which brings us to Mike Tyson. He keeps pigeons. In fact, he sells a brand of pigeon fertilizer he calls, of course, “Knockout” brand. 


So, instead of cursing the “flying rats” and hoping they don’t poop on your car….  

 ….have some respect for our feathered friends that western civilization has forgotten and set free to fend for itself in the harsh cities of the world. Imagine if dogs were treated this way. 



Ok…..the day I published this just happened to be the First of April. In the United States this is a holiday we call April Fools Day, the day we play tricks and stage elaborate hoaxes on one another. And, although everything I wrote about concerning pigeon shit is 100% true (except the “Knockout” brand sold by Mike Tyson, though if he does try to sell it, I have the name copyrighted and he’s gonna have to pay me….) I am not making my own fertilizer out of pigeon shit, I am not climbing under highway overpasses, and, therefore, I am not at risk for all the diseases that pigeons could possibly carry. 

After all the hubbub and flak I got, I wonder if, having just changed the bird to a chicken, people would have even brought up the pathogens present in manure fertilizers (of any animal for that matter).  

And I would not hunt a city pigeon, there’s too much lead and such that they absorb from all the autos that pollute the city’s ecosystem. I would eat a farm raised one though. 

So, to you all……APRIL FOOLS!

Posted in Horticulture and growing, rare finds, tips and tricks | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Clump style willow-leaf fig from a sawn off root ball

I’m in the weeds…..

 Literally. Let me finish up here and I’ll show you the tree.

 What is that?   A balloon. A yellow balloon. That reminds me of a poem I wrote as a lad: 

A balloon, a balloon,  

Yellow in hue, 

It floats through the noon, 

The bright yellow noon.


Forget the balloon, 

It’s gone now, it’s flew

Remember it’s color. 

It was yellow, not blue.


Hey, I didn’t say it was a good poem.

Anyway, here’s the tree.  Let me explain it’s history. It is an alumn of the BSF exhibit at the Epcot Flower and Garden show. At that time, it was a lot taller than it is now.

After the show, it was cut back hard, and soon after that, I came into possession of it.  I decided to let it grow out. Here is lesson one: sometimes, cutting a tree back hard and letting it grow out without training just doesn’t work.

I know that many bonsai teachers will tell you, almost by rote, that your tree needs to be chopped back and regrown. And it’s probably true in most cases. In this case, it was. But I should have been watching it and guiding its growth, not just letting it grow out.

Why, with this tree, should I have been more vigilant?  Well, for one, it’s in a bonsai pot. That means bonsai soil. Which means more ramified growth, generally. Secondly, it’s a willow leaf ficus, which means that when you chop it, you don’t get just one new shoot at the top but 20, 30, maybe more. You really need to manage the growth. Which is is where I failed the test.

Sometimes, you’ll have nature manage the growth for you. In the summer, a salicaria almost always gets a fungus (here in Florida) that causes defoliation and dieback of the excess, weaker growth. It’s caused by the combination of the thick growth habit, afternoon thunderstorms, warm evenings and the natural occurrance of the “fungus among us”. You can do three things: 1) thin it out in July 2) apply a fungicide prophylacticaly, or 3) just let it happen. A salicaria can and does bounce back from the fungus easily.

I must have hit this clump accidentally with one of my preventative fungicidal sprays, it never thinned itself out naturally.  

To bastardize a Willie Nelson song “….it was the time of the scissor….” 

I need to get it out of the pot first, I’m sure I’m going to alter the front and I need to fix the roots.


The roots need some work: Delving back in time before the tree was purchased from the original grower (that would be Jim Smith), this clump was a part of (probably) a large, single trunked specimen.  

The way we deal with the roots on big ficus in growing pots (sometimes they are all roots with little soil left) is to break out the saw.  

Then we cut the root ball to fit. How much? Enough to go into a bonsai pot (at this point, the trees trunk should be developed to the size you want. Don’t put a stick in a pot, that needs to grow, into a bonsai pot).  

Then, after potting your specimen, instead of throwing away the bottom half of your rootball, stick it back into the old, 15 gallon nursery can.  

For those who are metrically predisposed, 15 gallons would be…. 

Then you wait for it to grow.  It could take a while for new shoots to appear, it could happen in a week. Let it be. This is one of those times when you want nature to do your pruning for you.

The original advice the discoverer of this technique gave was to withhold water. I find that it doesn’t matter because, you know, rain.

The originator I keep referring to is Jim Van Landingham who, at the time, was working at Durostone Nursery (that would be Jim Smith’s). Jim V noticed that the stumps they were throwing on the burn pile were sprouting. Being a child of the depression (don’t waste anything) and a pretty clever guy, Jim V said,


Or something like that, and the clump-style salicaria sawn-off root ball technique was born.  Thankee sir!

So it’s entirely possible that this clump could have been the bottom of one of those world class trees on display at the Jim Smith Collection at Heathcote Gardens down in Ft. Pierce, Fl.

Entirely possible. Probable? Nah.

And that’s why the roots are as tangled as they are.


Time to turn up the music and get to work.

This song seems should rouse the spirit:

Gets the blood going, right? To work!  

That’s an oddly configured root.  

Getting there.   

Yeah, I think that’s as good as it gets.   

In the pot.   

And a little fertilizer.   No, that’s not too much. It won’t burn, the analysis is 5-2-1.2 with 4% iron. I use a fertilizer called Milorganite. It is organically derived. Of course I don’t leave it piled on top like that, I chopstick it in. (There have been people of late who have been putting their organic fertilizers into teabags and placing them on the top of the soil. Besides controlling the growth with lower nitrogen levels, the main point of organic fertilizers is to build the soil up with all the beneficial micro-organisms, like mychorizae, that are essential for healthy, growth. If you don’t put that fertilizer in the soil, there’s no place for those organisms to live, especially in our mostly inorganic soil mixes. Food for thought…).

 Now….. for the haircut. 

Looks like me after about six months after my bi-annual shearing.    


Some minor thinning out….  

I dress the chop sites.   I’ll probably carve out the stumps at a later date. I haven’t decided if I want that look yet but, knowing myself, I’ll probably do it. 

  Now for some wire. 

I once had a “discussion” with one of those perpetual intermediates about the possibility of styling a tree to make it look young. Like a sapling.  

 She insisted that all bonsai needed to look old (I could’ve been catty and said, “oh, like you” but I didn’t.). She was truly offended.  I did manage to quiet her when I said that, in a forest planting,  there are, if you want it to look natural, trees that should look young. 

The same could be said for clumps.  After some wire.  

I trimmed most of the growing tips, except for the leader.   I’ll let that one grow as tall as I can to thicken it. 

And that, as they say, is that.  





Dammit, that trunk on the left is bugging me terribly. 

It’s got to go! 


This isn’t even a good cutting.    I left a stub so I can get two or more shoots, and therefore, more trunks to work with later. And those straight, skinny twigs are bugging me too. I must (I must!) add just a little more wire and……. 

 ahhhhh….so much better. It just needs a few more years of growth. 

And in case anyone was counting (and I know there are many who are) there are 7 trunks in this clump now. Are you happy, you trunk counter-ers. 

I guess I should explain the unfortunate obsession some bonsai people have with counting the trees in a forest or clump planting. 

Odd numbers are preferable, except the number 9 (which, in Japanese, sounds like the word for suffering). 

I’ve heard many reasons for this predilection for odd numbers (I’ve actually heard some say that “even” numbers are considered unlucky. It’s actually the reverse in Asian cultures). The real reason is simple. The human brain has a preference for (visually that is) odd numbers. It’s more aesthetically pleasing. They use this in landscape design, graphic design etc. 

No one really knows why, but the theories abound. It probably has to do with the mind’s need to fixate on objects and separate them; and an odd number of things let’s you do this easier than an even number, which your eye (mind) tends to see as a whole unit. 

I once had a forest with one hundred and six trees on display. Some dude stood in front of them and counted them. It took him 45 minutes (he kept messing up and would have to start over. I eventually allowed him to mark each trunk with a piece of chalk). He really held up the line but, man, was he happy at the end. He did a jig and called me a ” gosh darned fraud” right in front of everyone, and God. 

That didn’t really happen to me, but I’m sure it has.  

I tell you, it’s a mania. An obsession. An illness. Please, stop counting trees my friends, if not for yourself, but for the children of the world. They are our future. 

Speaking of future, here’s another salicaria that I teased the social media crowd with last week. I called it a boring tree:  

I defoliated it, cut off a root, and repotted it.  Adjusted the front a little.  Trimmed it. And put all kinds of wire on it.   It’s still kinda boring but it’ll do. A solid, upright deciduous tree style. 

Now, that little microcarpa to the left. That’s an exciting tree right there…..

Posted in progression, redesign, roots, wiring | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A unique willow leaf ficus bonsai 

On the way back from my Louisiana bonsai tour last year (great times, can’t wait to get back) I made a stop in Mobile Alabama and had a visit with Joe Day (he had actually offered to buy me lunch. And I’m not one to turn down a free lunch).  He’s pretty well known for his seed grown trident maples and his natural rock slabs. 

I took a tour of his garden…  

An old trident.  

A forest on one of his slabs.    

Something you don’t see often, a cascade podocarpus.   

And an old (old) boxwood.   The last tree is in a live oak style (and extremely natural and well done). Joe has taken a study of live oaks in the South and hopefully he’ll publish his observations on their growth habits and branch patterns. 

After pulling my jaw off the ground, (my poor photography does not do these trees justice, I have many more photos that are even worse than these) Joe took me to his friend’s house who also practices bonsai, Fred. 

Fred prefers tropical bonsai. 

Here is a schefflera he’s been building.   

A close up of the roots, that is a rock they’re growing on.  

And a ficus salicaria that he’s added deadwood to the center.   

This next one I really wanted but I felt I couldn’t afford what it was worth and I didn’t want to insult him by low balling him.   What an amazing nebari! He had many trees of this quality and it was astounding, considering how cold it gets in Mobile. A greenhouse makes a difference I guess. I noticed this year that those trees in my greenhouse, as opposed to those outside, were still growing through the winter.  

I did get one tree from Fred, one I thought I could afford. And a challenging one at that.  


It’s a ficus salicaria (nerifolia, salicifolia, a willow leaf ficus). It looks like a root cutting to me.  


Let’s see what I can do. I’m thinking maybe an angle change.  




Let me start at the roots.  


My handy dandy homemade root hook.   Let’s get to work!

What a tangled root system.   

 This aerial root is promising. I’m hoping I can move it.  


 A little more chopping, straightening and untangling.  

I’m ready for a pot now.   Uh oh. I’m gonna need a wider pot. 

 That’ll do. While I prep the pot, I’ll put up some nudes for you to admire. 


 Ok, enough of that. The pot is ready. 

  Put the tree in the pot and tie it down…. ooops, there’s nothing to tie too. 


I need a chopstick, methinks.  

   The chopstick will serve two purposes, one, I’ll have something to tie to and two, I can pin that big root in place. 




Backfill with some soil.     Cool. Now, the easy part and the hard part. Chopping and choosing where to chop. Here’s the, not so blank, slate we shall begin with.  

 The tree is at a good stage of development. It’s been allowed to grow and thicken the leader and branching, now it’s time choose some branches and to induce some taper.  

     That wasn’t so hard. A little harsh but only a few cuts. 

Some wire.   It’s got a few years yet, it needs some filling in.  Like this.  But it’s a good start.     It’s got potential. I’m excited. 

Fred (last name Morales) has had some medical difficulties of late and is trying to sell some of his trees. I personally vouch for their quality. Look on the Facebook auction pages for his listings. 

Thanks you, Fred, my friend, for the opportunity to own this tree and work on it. 

Stay well. 

Posted in branch placement, rare finds, redesign, roots | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

First yaupon holly work of the year

Wow, look how sweet these flowers are….

And when they drop it’s like halcyon afternoons…,,

….and fairy gardens, and gnomes and smurfs and stuff like that. 

Good thing, I mean, too bad I’m cutting all the flowers off. 

You know, it’s funny, but most people don’t think that yaupon holly get flowers….or, come to think of it, most people don’t think trees get flowers either. Weird, how do you get acorns or seeds and more trees. It’s a modern disconnect with how nature works. You see it with chicken and beef at the grocery stores, people don’t want to know how a living animal is made into those hot wings you’re chomping on at Hooters, watching the……uh, game (of course, who wants to think about that stuff while enjoying the…..food at Hooters?)

Anyway, I digress. Again. 

Here’s today’s tree, an ilex vomitoria “schillings”. 

This link right here is the last time I updated the progress (I think. It was the second post in the series, not sure if there was a third, but you’ll have to click through to see the first post). I’m not going to go over all the hints, tricks, techniques and rigmarole I spouted, uh, wrote about in the two previous post, sorry. There’s a lot of stuff to learn in those two posts. One of those things is how good the photos are now compared to then. Jeez louise, it’s embarrassing. 

I love the naturalness and taper of the trunk. 

 And that first branch….. 

 There have been people who wanted me to remove it. That’s a mistake that those on an intermediate level make all the time. They want to bring things back to a basic state, sometimes even just to a trunk line. Don’t get me wrong, there are times to do that, but not here, and not with this incredibly mature branch. 

My work today, besides removing all those flowers, begins with removing some wire. 


And do some of that basic trimming I cover in the two previous posts. 


Ok, all done…. 

 ….just one more adjustment. When I put it into this pot I messed up and had the front wrong by a few degrees. It really should have been like this.   

The roots are looking  good.   If you recall from the previous posts, it’s been a battle with the brick like quality of the root ball on this ilex. 

Let’s talk about the pot.  


It is a pot that I acquired when I purchased a tree from a friend. The tree was in it. It has two chops on the bottom.   Which is exciting, right?  But from what I have learned from my pot reference go to guy (Ryan Bell, of the blog japanesebonsaipots.net) this is a contemporary chinese pot that was sold mostly in the U.S. South by a big bonsai nursery.  It’s a relatively inexpensive pot but it’s not a good pot for freezing temps; the pot looks like a slip cast build and it probably wasn’t fired at a high enough temp. If it were to freeze it would most likely crack. 

 Of course, I don’t care from whence it came (“From Whence It Came” sounds like a good adult film title, or a bad 1950’s sci-fi movie) or that it won’t survive in the frozen North (as I write this, it is now Spring and my sister in Massachusetts is “enjoying” a Springtime snowstorm) you see, I live in Florida.  I love the wabi sabi nature of those drips, it’s that one in a thousand pot that’s just a little bit different than its kiln mates.  

The pot is ready.   

The roots are ready.   

And, as the song goes, “….together at last….”  


Oh! Let me show you this if I haven’t shown you before.   I use this as a soil scoop. It’s a pencil/pen holder from the office supply section of a big box store. The mesh allows all the un-sifted dust from your mix to fall through (I don’t care from whom your potting mix comes from, there is always dust). And it’s magnetic, so you can stick it somewhere you can find it when not in use (like on your beer fridge).  

A few lengths of wire.  

And I even left some flowers, awwww.. And that’s that. 

It took about three years to get to this point, I think I’m ready to show it. It looks like a tree.   The 2015 BSF convention is coming up soon, look for it there. This year’s show will feature David DeGroot and Guy Guidry as the headliners. The convention link is here at Bonsai-Bsf.com for the full program details. It’s the premiere convention in the Southeast, forget about that Brussels Rendevous thing. Just kidding Mr. Martin, I’m available for next year……

With that, it’s time for lunch, and I have to feed my boys. If you have boys,  you know that one could lose fingers in that process. I swear they eat more than I do. 

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The trees of the 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden show

I’m going to have to say that this year’s trees at Epcot are some of the best I’ve seen. And I don’t even have one in this year and yet my magnamity abounds and overflows. Even though one of my trees isn’t there, it’s still a great showing for the hardworking artists from the State of Florida. Seriously though, a big thank you to them all. It’s tough to lend your babies to a show that lasts not one day, or a weekend or a week but for three (that’s 3) months. 

How can any organization, or even Disney, handle keeping trees alive in the Florida sun for that long? They must grow and need water and fertilizer right? 

Well, firstly, the Disney horticulturalists take care of the watering, with some initial instructions from the BSF organizers. Then, once a week, a member of the maintenance team goes into the park and inspects, trims, pulls weeds and takes care of any special exhibitor requests (….can you put some of my homemade fertilizer brownies around my tree, make sure they aren’t touching the pot…but they must be 2.33 inches apart and 1.62 centimeters from the trunk….Okay, no one’s ever said that.. yet). I am on this highly exclusive and elite team and that’s how I was able to get such good pics….speaking of which, let’s get to them, too many words.  

          The above tree belongs to my friend Rick. A bougie basking in the Florida sun. 

Unfortunately, due to some construction occurring in the Japanese Pavilion, the amount of trees that the Bonsai Societies of Florida were able to show was reduced; the usual number is 21and there are only fifteen this year. 

                          Trees in the morning mist

Beginning with the trees in what is called the zen garden we have an amazing black pine. 

This tree was grown in zone 9. Most online bonsai guides say this is impossible. There you go. 

The next tree is a bucida spinosa (a dwarf black olive). 

This is an amazing specimen in that it has a substantial trunk, has movement  and, the most surprising thing, it was an air layer. It took two years to put roots out. 

Next we have an old and well developed neea buxifolia. 

Most neeas are collected from the mountains of Puerto Rico and this one is estimated to have been 50 years old when collected. 

Next tree is a serissa japonica (the name has been changed recently from serissa foetida to serissa japonica) and it is the best serissa I’ve ever seen. 

Not to mention that it’s still alive (most people kill serissa, it’s a tough tree to grow. The owner is a master at it though). 

Next tree is a juniperus chinensis (shimpaku juniper) 

I didn’t get a good pic (sorry Randy!) but it’s an great tree. It was recently restyled by a great new talent in Florida, David Cutchin. He came by the nursery during my convalescence to help me out and I thank him. 

Moving on to what is called The Meadow (located on the walkway up to the Japanese quick service restaraunt) we have the worst pictures of the post but still some great trees. 

I apologize to Mike for the terrible picture of his jaboticaba. The tree really deserves a better documentation. 

There is some debate as to the proper botanical name (some say myrciaria cauliflora and some say plinia cauliflora…..I think the latter is the accepted one in the scientific community but the former is the accepted one in the bonsai community. And we all know how hard it is to change the status quo here….). There’s also a difference in the spelling of the common name: jaboticaba and jabuticaba. The name is from Brazilian Portuguese and I’ve heard it pronounced the correct way…..I don’t think either of those spellings are correct. 

Anywho, no matter the name, the tree is a good bonsai. 

The next tree is a celtis laevigata (sugarberry or southern hackberry). 

It’s an American native tree that is underused in my opinion. Again, it’s a bad picture. 

Next we have a juniperus chinensis “parsonii” (parsons juniper) 

It’s a really well done juniper as this variety is hard to keep in scale growth. It’s a juniper that’s well adapted to Florida’s climate and is widely planted in the landscape. 

Now we move to the right side of the Tori gate and a massive conocarpus erectus (buttonwood) 

This is an old tree and has been a bonsai for a long time, Masterfully done. 

Then a Japanese black pine (pinus thunbergiana) by friend Rob. 

An, almost, formal upright. Very well done and, if I know Rob, he grew every one of those branches. 

Then we have a nice ulmus chinensis (chinese elm)   

Good, right? None better. 

Next is an awesome bald cypress from the BSF President and Mrs President 

What a fantastic trunk. 

How about we visit the tree in the koi pond? 

Commonly called horseflesh mahogany or wild tamarind the binomial name of this tree is lysiloma latislqua. It hasn’t woken up from winter yet but I will get pics when it does (you’ll have to watch my Facebook or Instagram feed to see them though). This is a big, impressive tree but, no matter how big the trees usually are, they always look small in the koi pond.  

Only two trees left, on the other side of the tori gate. 

An Australian pine (casuarina equestifolia) 

The deadwood on the front was all carved. 

And last but not least, a bougie from my bud Rick. 

It’s going to be the most showy tree here in just a few weeks, when it’s full of blossoms. It will outshine them all. 

And that’s all of them. 

The show lasts until May the 17th, make the trip, not only is it Disney (Disney!) but seeing  these trees are worth the price of admission alone. 

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