A shiny nickel to the first person (in the blog’s comment section) who identifies the reference in the title. 

Today’s subjects are a coupla’ live oaks, one collected, one a nursery grown tree.  

   Let’s see if I can get myself in trouble today. 

We call them live oaks (quercus virginiana) or, actually southern live oaks (but we here in the USA are suffering from The Offends of late so I’ll drop the “southern” part, you know, just to be more sensitive to the twang contingent in my readership). You see, even though they are deciduous trees, they don’t drop their leaves until very late winter/early spring and then it’s a one week span of time where the leaves drop, the flowers release massive amounts of pollen, and the new leaves emerge. It’s a very frantic time of the year for them. They complain and over-share their pain by changing the color of your automobile to yellow. It’s lovely. 

Let’s start with the collected tree. I’ve done sold it up north to Jim in Minnesota.

 The tree has made an appearance on the blog before (Read Me Here!) where I made all the excuses and justifications for it and carved the lightening strike into it. You’ll have to read the post. It’s quite charming.  

 I actually sold it to Jim a couple of months ago. I wasn’t really wanting to sell it, but economic realities kinda forced my hand. It’ll have a good home up in the frozen tundra of the Minnesota biome. Jim better, um…..won’t let it die. 

And besides, he sent a package.  

Looks like it might be Italian.  

 I’d better be careful opening it up. Maybe it’s a lamp!  

 It’s packed well at least. 

 Aha! It’s a pot! 

 Full of biodegradable peanuts. Mmmmmm, tasty! 

 a Sarah Raynor pot to be exact. For the oak.  

 Beautiful. I’m going to embarrass her and say that she is the pre-eminent American bonsai potter that all other bonsai potters look up to. When she goes to a show and sells her wares, she always sells out. No matter how many pots she brings.  

 It could be said that she is the pot dealer to all the bonsai rockstars in the world……

Ok everyone, I must interrupt this post, after that lame joke (sorry Sarah) to mention that it has been about a month and a half since I began writing this post. It’s been hard to finish. My intent was to finish writing before my latest surgery (which happened on January 27, thank you to all the well wishers out there), but obviously that didn’t happen. Then I had intended to finish it while in the hospital. Even though I was there for ten days (twice as long as the worst case scenario…..I had some complications) I just couldn’t get myself up enough to write. 

The surgery was more successful than I had had hopes for, but, a few days into the recovery, the wound site deteriorated (three times cutting in the same spot, with all the scar tissue, does not make for good conditions for healing. Not to mention some violent vomiting tearing me up) Imagine a foot long vertical slice with my belly button at the mid point. The tissues deteriorated and I developed a hernia and…….anyway, don’t cry for me Argentina, uh, I mean, Bonsai World. I’ll heal…again, until it’s time for my next surgery. Then, hopefully, that one will pay for all. 

If you’ve done the math, I’ve been home for two weeks now. You’re wondering why the hell I haven’t pushed this post out and written the four more I have photos for just sitting on my iPhone, waiting. 

I’m not sure why I can’t get them written. I’m trying hard right now just writing this. It’s not all bad, besides the health thing, I’ve had good news that should help; I will be having a tree in the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival again this year. I’m also honored to be presenting a program in the Festival Center again, like last year, but it’ll be on World Bonsai Day this time. I’m leading two workshops and giving a demo (alongside Bjorn Bjorholm) at this year’s Bonsai Societies of Florida annual convention. I’m scheduled to revisit the Ohio area in June for a Bonsai Tour. 

But I’m having a hard time. 

To paraphrase an old poem, it’s not mine to wonder why, but to do, or to die. 

And another bit of doggerel, repurposed…..once more unto the breach…..

Sometimes just the doing gives meaning, maybe that’s the answer. 

Ok. Back to our two oak trees. 

I think it’s been two years since I collected it.  

 Some screens and tie downs for the pot.  

 When I collect a tree, I’ll cut the roots back so that, if I want to put the tree into a bonsai pot right then, I can.  

 You read that correctly. I don’t try to get the most roots I can out of the ground. This is the reasoning: yanking a tree out of the ground is very stressful-cutting back the roots, chopping the top. One thing you have as an advantage is that the tree is at its strongest it will be for a while (if you can keep it alive, that is). If you only cut half the roots upon the original extraction, then cut the rest maybe a year or two later (when the tree should be recovering, really) there’s a distinct possibility that this second abuse, this second offense, this, to use the bonsai term, insult, could possibly kill the tree. And it does, quite often. 

Putting this oak into this pot just now required me to tease out most of the potting soil I use for collected trees (a pine bark based mix cut 1/2 with perlite or used bonsai soil. Very well draining).  And it fits like a glove. 

 On deciduous trees, we don’t fertilize in the spring until the new growth has hardened off, usually (for Florida) late April or so. This keeps the internodes short and the growth controlled. Ready to be shipped to Minnesota. 

Pushing forward, here’s the second tree, a nursery grown oak.  

 It was a tree that got abused in the landscape nursery I found it at. It was a bunjin at one point but, last year, at the beginning of my health problems, but it dried out and the top died.  

 Being an oak, and as oaky as it wants to be, means that it is stubborn enough to not die. Or maybe it was embarrassed being a bunjin oak and wanted to try life stylin’ in a different way.  

I’m thinking maybe a shorter tree.  

 Where’s my knob cutters.  

  Here we go.  

 Now for some wire.  

 First branch.  

 And the new leader, just a little bend… 


Did you see why it snapped? Right here: 

  That’s right where I bent it and where it snapped. Stupid. 

It’s a good thing this is an oak, right? A little re-bend the other way.  

 Some cut paste.  

 And Bob’s your uncle.  

  You’re wondering why I didn’t cut those two long branches back. Since I’m starting over, I have to get those branches thicker. I’ve gone from a near finished tree back to a growing stage with this tree. The first branch will be cut sooner than the new leader but I’m thinking probably two years before I begin really training the secondary branches above the first branch. It’s staying in Florida so that is at least a plus. 

This poor bastard will have to live in the frozen north from now on.  

 Sorry, you’ll be ok, Jim will take care of you up there. As for the other oak, here’s a quick look of what it will look like in a few years.  

 Just more cool. Hopefully. Maybe the canopy could go to the left a bit. Hey, it’s just a doodle you know. Don’t judge. 

19 thoughts

  1. Its wonderfull to read you again. Sad though about your health. Ill send you my best wishes and hooe you recover soon. Ugly kid Joe?



  2. 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be. May I suggest keeping the theme going with a Brazilian Rain Tree post titled “Me So Thorny.”

    Glad you’re recovering.


  3. I’m glad your back to the blog adam, I’m only into bonsai a year now and found your blog quite early on and it’s fantastic to read. I was wondering why you had disappeared and was hoping the operation had went well. Brilliant to hear it went better than you hoped and I wish you all the best and a speedy recovery from Northern Ireland.
    Now time to go play with my larch bonsai !!!


  4. Great to read and see your back. Love live Oak, as it is one of our true deciduous evergreens in NC that can truly be duplicated in a Bonsai POT. SR does rock in the pot department, maybe some day I will develop a specimen from a nursery or the forest worthy of the SR POT. My goal is to continue to grow in the art and maybe one day have a collection to be proud of. Thank you for your inspiration, your sharing of Knowledge, and your great attitude. Keep healing and you will be back 200%! Lok forward to many more great great! Blogs, Thanks Adam!


    1. Hey Carter,

      Are you speaking about Charleston, SC? If so, is there a bonsai group that you attend? I’m from Summerville and would love to attend!!!


  5. The title of the post is: To live is o.k, as o.k. as you want to be.
    Glad you make it through the long ordeal, but that was the last operation so everything is smooth sailing from now right? Hang tough and speedy recovery bro.


      1. Man, what’s a drag! You mentioned before you went in that was suppose to be the last one. a year and half already and still not done. Hopefully I can make it to BSF this year, at least you will get a hug and a kiss from me bro.


    1. Yes sir you can. They’re one of the trees you can chop level with the soil and you’ll get new shoots from all around the chop. It was for oaks that they invented the stump grinder. And dynamite


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