Japanese Black Pine

I found an outstanding deal for a Japanese Black Pine earlier this summer. The base was well developed with barking, a good candidate for a shohin tree. Buds and shoots at the base was abundant and could be selected for future branching. I decandled strong top growth at this time and thinned the shoots at the base to direct more strength to what would become branches.

Summer 2016

The long sacrifice branch was cut this fall

Fall 2016

Temperatures have begun warming up and some of my elms have already begun swelling buds. For Southern California spring is almost here meaning a good time to repot my trees. Based off advice from others and what I’ve read I proceeded to repot this black pine. What I did was a half bare-root repot where only one side of the root ball is worked and replaced with new soil. Doing so allows the undisturbed side to maintain the vigor of the tree until roots in the new soil becomes established. In the following year or 2 you can than bare-root the other side of the root ball thus establishing the entire root mass in a more open “bonsai mix.” The foliage at this time is also a bit yellow. Because of the high amount of winter rains as well as the grass/moss that established on the surface this black pine has been receiving too much water. The color should reestablish to a dark green with better watering as well as feeding.



The tree was then potted in a mix of scoria, pumic, diatomaceous earth, and some zeolite.


The longest branch will take over as the new sacrifice and will remain for the next 3 years if not more. After the tree establishes itself I can begin successive stages of refinement and branch selection. I will need to read up on decandling practices as well as the decandling timing specific to my area. In time, this should be a pretty nice tree.

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Washington Hawthorne

Last year I picked up an unmarked tree from my local bonsai nursery. It was very cheap and potted in a 4 inch square. The root spread was interesting and it had a great display of fall colors, something not so common in Southern California. All things considered I decided it would be a fun tree to pick up.

Fall colors, nice smooth grey bark

The fall colors were equally spectacular this year. Depending on sun exposure you get anything from a deep red to a vibrant yellow and everything in between.

Nebari Shot

I decided to plant the bugger in the ground and let it grow freely the entire season

Spring 2016

The tree grew extremely well. I’d say even faster than my trident which was planted in the ground too. Roots established quickly and as soon as runners began the tree took off. After a full season it was at least 5 feet tall. (no shots before cutting unfortunately) The tree put on over a quarter inch of thickness and started developing fissures in the bark.


I dug out the tree, cut off all long shoots and did a major root pruning. Dug it out and put it in a box. I think this tree has really good potential as a shohin – kifu sized bonsai with a very elegant image. The foliage reduces well and ramification can be had easily. The fall color is a great treat too. The plan is to create primary branching from (hopefully) good back-budding and perhaps allowing the roots to escape in the ground for successive stages of thickening.


Let me know what you think. I still don’t have an image for this tree would appreciate any suggestions or virts. Thanks for taking a look and have a great day!

Clump Japanese Maple

About 2 years ago I acquired a “forest” planting of Japanese maples. The health was questionable but it looked like a nice planting at a reasonable price. At the time the planting was composed of 2 main groupings with 8 trunks. The tree was planted in a dense mucky soil and from information I found online I thought it would be best to immediately repot it…..only that it was past bud break. Being ignorant in repotting practices I bare-rooted and repotted the tree in April. For Southern California that’s about 2 months after the ideal repotting window. What health it had began to decline further and for the remainder of the growing season I had unsightly and weak foliage.

2015 Late Spring

Thankfully the tree did not kick the bucket. This is a photo early on after repotting but the tree was looking pretty grim by November. Being more knowledgeable the following year I repotted the tree during the appropriate window. Additionally I chose to separate the forest planting. With poor branching and not the most convincing arrangement it would never look really good. The planting was separated into 3 groups: the clump, main tree, and a small but well ramified tree. Here is the clump after a really solid growing season without any significant problems:


The tree was repotted last week and underwent a basic styling. Trunks were positioned with guy wires and the twigs wired out. All coarse growth and branching was pruned off. I am hoping for good ramification and branching this next season so that I can really begin getting this tree into shape.

2017 post styling

There are actually 5 trunks in the group instead of 4 when originally purchased. The 5th trunk appeared over the last year and I decided to keep it. The lateral buds should give me branching to play with and help it fit in with the other trunks. The base is fused together well and the nebari is developing well with currently hidden, but nice radial roots. I think over the next few years it will start looking pretty nice. I may allow some whips to grow so that I can approach graft them where needed and rework some of the apexes which have larger internodes. Let me know what you think!

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Root over rock elm

1-2 year old Chinese elm

My neighbor has 2 large chinese elm trees in their front yard. Some years more than others, seeds will fall into my yard and root themselves in various places. Last year I dug out one of these donor elm seedlings, approximately 1 year old, and planted in a small nursery can. The tree grew unrestricted for the entire year over doubling in size.

The tree was significantly pruned back (the previous shoots being at least 3 feet tall or so) and the roots were slightly pruned leaving most of the lateral roots. My initial plans were to let it thicken up and develop it as a broom style tree but I wanted to do something different. The tree was secured to the rock using raffia and seram wrap then planted in the ground. I’m hoping it lives and if so, the roots were secured tightly enough to the rock to prevent separation. Will post updates in spring and will check the roots next year if it lives!

Thanks for taking a look and subscribe for more projects to be posted in the coming weeks!

Why I Love Bonsai and My Trees!

My favorite bonsai nursery, ie the enabler

I started bonsai as a hobby 3 years ago. It wasn’t over an awe inspiring tree or most famously, with Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid but rather on an impulse. I was hitting the Southern California surf but instead of pulling out a new PR catch I found a large rock, reminiscent of mountain, stuck in the white water of the falling tide. I pulled it out and almost immediately I thought, “wow I bet a tree would look cool on this.” The following day I surfed the net looking how I could put a tree on a rock and I was introduced to bonsai. Right then and there, it clicked and I knew “bonsai” was something I wanted to do.

2014 Southern California Surf

Fast forward 3 years I still love it and pursue it with ever increasing interest. Despite my love for this art I cannot concisely describe why I enjoy it so much. At face value, bonsai could show an artfully crafted tree–perhaps something nostalgic of an ancient mountain juniper:

Or what we idealize a tree to be:


Beyond the appearance, especially since I don’t have any trees nearly as nice as the ones I’ve been posting 😀 , bonsai provides me with perspective. In many ways they resemble people. Like people, they take many years to cultivate. And over the course of time, they change. Struggles and hardship can become their defining characteristic or something that is overcome. Although a “perfect” tree is admirable in the meticulous care or growing conditions needed to develop it, the ones with “flaws” often show the most character and capture the most interest:

Richmond Park, courtesy of Bobby Lane
Japanese Maple, image taken by Sergio Cuan

And while the trees don’t give a damn about what we think, we impose our beliefs on them and in turn the many years of horticulture and artistry needed to craft them into bonsai. Ironically they end up becoming their own entity all together instead of a reflection of the people who worked on it. In some cases they even become a legacy, living past a human lifespan:

400 Year White Pine that survived Hiroshima: US National Arboretum

If anything bonsai has taught me–rather, forced me to accept that anything good in life takes time to get. I enjoy slowly developing my trees as much as I  e̶n̶j̶o̶  am developing my own life. On both ends, I hope for the best and will continue to do the best I can do.

Thanks for reading my post and what you’ve been waiting for, my own trees! I will slowly give my various projects designated threads and fill them under the “Tree” submenu so that you can easily find them and check on their progress. If you’ve enjoyed my posts please subscribe, leave me feedback, or share it to others.


















That’s it! These are most of my trees but I still have other projects in the works as well. Progressions and more projects to be posted in the future.

Bonsai in Taiwan: Trees + Art (Part 2)

My second bout of bonsai sightseeing in Taiwan was at Wan Jing Yi Yuan garden. Prior to visiting the garden I had seen my great aunt who as a hobby does calligraphy and painting. Below is some of her work:

Wisteria vines and caligraphy
Beautiful landscape

Her teacher apparently is a very talented and skilled having received recognition and awards for his work. Below is a reverse ink scroll of the Heart Sutra. You can find prints of these but this one is completely done by hand.



Having learned that I enjoy bonsai, my great aunt recalled some pictures her friend sent her in the past depicting bonsai in a garden. She found the pictures and later referred us to a garden to check out.


The garden we visited was located in Changhua. This city is one of the oldest, among the first Taiwanese settlements when Chinese migrants arrived in the 17th century. In addition to bonsai we were able to see an extensive art collection as well a historic “old town” featuring a Mazu Temple from the 1700s.


Wan Jing Yi Yuan was a private garden and collection formed by a wealthy contractor. After ammassing such an extensive and large collection and garden he was urged and agreed to make it public. Apparently his inspiration for the garden was to showcase and display Taiwanese trees after he saw a 100 year old camphor tree that was cut down still trying to grow and sprout buds. The garden not only included native trees but an extensive collection of antiques and art imported from China as well as bonsai. The garden was well maintained and aside from the mosquitoes was very enjoyable to walk through. Gnarly twisted junipers were the most common bonsai there, but there were also ficus, podocarpus, and bougainvillea. I believe the bonsai comprise of trees developed in Taiwan as well as some imported from Japan. Please enjoy the pictures

Several twisted juniper chinensis at the entrance
Fantastic looking deadwood




A major bonsai show in Taiwan was hosted at this garden in 2010


They also had a large section of the garden dedicated to podocarpus trees which are native to Taiwan. Unfortunately I can’t find these pictures but I do have some of large podocarpus bonsai:



Massive ficus microcarpa. You’ll only see a ficus grow this big in a humid tropical environment which Taiwan can provide.




Maybe that was too big. How about we scale it down:




Check out some more trees:







My favorite juniper out of the many displayed
Digging the twists



Another great tree



Green Island Ficus


There were many bougainvillea displayed but these were the among the better ones


A great looking pot, don’t have any information on it though


His extensive collection of antiques and art was housed in several wooden temples. Many of these items were bought from private collections and imported into Taiwan. To do so now would be much more difficult not to mention the manner of items imported would cost significantly more to purchase relative to when they were brought in a few decades ago. Here are just a few shots of what they had inside.This only a fraction of the collection they displayed:







An insanely huge cypress burl







Massive Jade
Fancy paperweight

Lastly here are a few shots of the Lukang Mazu Temple. At this time I ran out of memory on my SD card so there aren’t too many shots to show. Mazu is a highly respected revered goddess in much of Taiwan. We can trace its roots to the Chinese migrants coming from Fujian in the 17th century. Because seafaring was quite treacherous at that time early many would pray to and respect Mazu. That same adoration was carried over to Taiwan and its descendants hundreds of years later. The temple below was built in 1725, but was renovated in the 1920s during Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Many people visit the temple to pay their respects, pray, or to ask Mazu questions through a kind of ritual.



That’s it for now! I’ve hoped you enjoy the pictures and please feel free to leave comments and feedback. I’ll begin putting up my own trees and projects soon so please subscribe and watch the blog in the coming days.