In Chicago! Bontsai in the Midwest

From the Southern California suburbs I found myself in the Midwest. Farms and all, but still within close proximity to the city and the outdoors. I’ve began an internship at Argonne National Lab, a great opportunity not only for my professional career but for me to network and meet new people.


I aspire to pursue bonsai professionally and I think a big component of that is getting to know the community. For my brief time here I hope I am able to meet as many Midwest enthusiasts as I can! I will try to attend both the Prairie State Show and the Midwest Show in August. I’m always up for a bike ride or a trip to the Hidden Gardens too.

On Monday I was able to meet the crew at the Hidden Gardens.


It was good talking to Jeff as well as meeting Kevin and Jennifer. Their nursery, in contrast to what we have in SoCal, has a TON of yamadori. Old rocky mountain junipers, ponderosas, and spruce occupied most of the benches. This season they also brought in a bunch of deciduous trees with massive hornbeams.


There were many impressive trees with tons of character. Here is a fir with a massive base:


RMJ with an twisting shari and live vein:


One of Jennifer’s trees? Some kind of spruce but the gnarly deadwood and trunk line made it one of my favorites:



I should of taken a picture of the entire tree but here’s a massive RMJ with a really nice trunk:


The high quality character and abundant foliage came with a price. Although not photographed that massive trunk is supported by two skinny strips of live vein. Imagine a body builder who never did squats. The challenge is to relocate the root mass closer to the trunk line so that the tree can be repotted in a more stable and aesthetic position.

I was talking to Jeff about an old Kimura video where he removes the dead wood, splits the live vein connecting to the root mass, and does some crazy bending to relocate it to a more desirable position. I thought that would be the best and possibly only option for this tree and Jeff was thinking the same thing.

The current root mass would need to be placed somewhere between the milk carton and the nursery can. Perhaps next year he’ll undertake the daunting task himself or enlist the help of some pros. Kimura himself would be the best 😀 .

I snapped a picture of Todd Schlafer working on an RMJ too.


All in all I enjoyed my time at the Hidden Gardens and the hospitality of the whole crew there. Given that I live only a few miles away I definitely plan visit again!

I’d love to buy an RMJ to send back home to SoCal (apparently they grow fine there) but shipping plants into California is a bit of a problem 😦 .

Well that’s it for now folks. If anyone is in the area feel free to message me. I’m open to meeting most any bonsai enthusiasts.

A few shots of the local trails and the secret real glen waterfall. Location courtesy of bnutter “CasAH.”