Some of my loyal  and longtime readers know that, for the last one year and eleven months (yes, I am counting)  I’ve been battling a unique health issue with my digestive system  (my colo-rectal surgeon says I am a unique case that her and her colleagues have never seen. My case study was even presented to a symposium of colo-rectal surgeons. I am an oddity and atypical.  Up until her saying that,  it’s only been the psychiatrists who’ve classified me in that way….) I still have several surgeries left in that battle but, in a kind of memorial, I’d like to share a casualty that happened way back in December 2014 because of my struggles. My favorite shohin ilex vomitoria “schillings”. 

The tree on display at the 2014 Bsf Convention

The tree had many of the qualities we seek in bonsai…

This was a photo Paul Pikel took

….a wide root base, quick taper , gnarly roots and twisted branches. It looked old. I also think it was the best pot/tree combo I’ve ever composed. 

Here it is today.Yeah, it’s dead. It’s sad just thinking about it. It just wasn’t watered for a few days while I was in the hospital. 

I’ve been holding on to it just like this since then. 

I think it’s time to move on. It might be more healthy for my head that way. 

At least I can reuse the soil. And the pot. 

But, I need to find a tree for the pot. 
It’s a hand thrown round but then altered into an oval. I’m not sure of the potter though. A Floridian, I think. It’s funny but it’s  usually the opposite procedure, finding a pot for a tree. 

Here are several candidates but, unfortunately, they all have good pots. 

A willow leaf ficus. 
Maybe I could use another ilex. This one is cool.But I like the combo here, a formal pot and an informal, even irreverent tree. ​ 

I think the ficus will fit…..

Let’s see…If I shoe-horn it in, it fits. 

Not sure I like it though. 

Okay then. Back into the old pot. 

I have two more trees. Another willow leaf. 

But I think it’s a little too small. It could use some root work. But not this pot. One more tree to try. A ficus microcarpa. And my kitten Salem. He’s supposed to be inside the house, he’s still too small to take care of himself, naughty kitten. 

It looks like it’ll fit. But first, some wiring and developmental pruning. 

There’s just one wire that needs to come off. 

I’m going to remove the damaged and old, interior leaves. 

I’m keeping the last leaf and the terminal buds intact. This will channel growth to the tips, to elongate and, therefore, thicken the branches. And then some wire. It looks a little weird and it seems counter intuitive to just leave the end growth intact, but we are using the trees own hormones to direct growth. 

Now for the new pot.

I normally wouldn’t do this at this time (it’s late October in Florida) but I’m not touching the roots at all. And it’s a ficus. 

I turned the pot around too. It looks good in there. A good choice. Now just let it grow. 

And give a thought to our fallen yaupon holly. Let’s remember him in his glory. I should have used this display at the convention. 

19 thoughts

  1. This makes me very sad, but the take-away for me is the following: you are doing great with your physical problems (maybe this was the sacrificial tree to support that journey?) and this has helped assuage my guilt over several ‘good’ trees I have lost. I guess if it can happen to YOU, it can surely happen to me. But I don’t like it anyway. So glad you are (hopefully) toward the end of this unpredictable health journey!.


    1. Great idea..Every time I have done a forest planting,I have had a “Ghost ” tree in there..I think it makes the composition more realistic.


  2. Sorry for the loss of your tree bro! Do u still have the tree? If so would you be willing to send it to me? Ive been working on creating “art” with the skeletons of passed bonsai and I think I can create something cool for you to still treasure your tree even after death. Let me know!
    Erick Schmidt


  3. Adam, love your blog!! Quick somewhat unrelated question for you. I did a massive trunk chop on a willow leaf this past weekend that had been bugging me for awhile being too tall and straight. I’m now a little worried I maybe shouldn’t have done it this late in the year and maybe it will die? Wondering what you think. I’m in Jensen Beach, Fl (about 20 minutes east of dragon tree bonsai in palm city) so the temperatures are still pretty warm here.
    PS sorry about your Ilex


  4. Saddened to read about your health and this farewell for your best composition is certainly apt albeit unwelcomed. I have been stalking your work for a while now, not progressing much on my part of bonsai efforts – often killing trees. Love your wit and sarcasm. Stay you and may you emerge from your challenges slightly more gnarly but beautiful.


  5. So sorry for the loss of this beautiful tree! I think you should try to preserve the skeleton with some sort of wood treatment and repot it as an indoor display (obviously never watering it again, lol).


  6. Beautiful work you do. I lost a magnificent Acer davidii because of the California drought – how sad and guilty was I for not taking better care. Sometimes things are not meant to be and your tree could be forever immortalized as other have suggested – not so sadly for my 10ft tree!
    As to your health, I wish you the best, I know from personal experience that kind of health problem is very dehabillitating and challenging – be well.


  7. KEEP that tree. Surgeries soon to be over and you will be markedly improved. I have strange small intestine problems. They have never seen my problem in an adult only premature babies.
    Weird but finished hopefully


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