Refining a black pine — Bonsai Tonight

This summer I recorded the process of refining a black pine for Bonsai: Journal of the American Bonsai Society. The resulting article appeared in Volume 50, Number 3. The work was a lot of fun. I took a few more photos than usual and wrote about decandling, cutback, needle pulling and wiring. Here’s a snapshot of…

via Refining a black pine — Bonsai Tonight


Decandling a red pine forest bonsai — Bonsai Tonight

Although I’ve only posted a handful of explicit bonsai experiments, I tend to think of all bonsai work as experimental. We know what happens when we cut – some amount of foliage is removed from the tree we’re working on. What we don’t know is how exactly the tree will respond. We may have a general idea…

via Decandling a red pine forest bonsai — Bonsai Tonight

Exposed root black pines at the Green Club — Bonsai Tonight

A number of the Japanese black pines I’ve grown from seed have been developed in the exposed root style. It’s a fun style to work with as roots offer possibilities that aren’t always available for specimens whose roots are firmly secured in the pot. My first exposure to the style was at the Green Club…

via Exposed root black pines at the Green Club — Bonsai Tonight

Itoigawa Trimming

Nebari Bonsai

This tree was tidied up for the Alabama club show in May, and left to grow until mid-August, when I trimmed it up again in preparation for the fall growth spurt.

Look at those strong runners. Left alone, they’ll keep running, and the interior growth will weaken. We want to push foliage back to the trunk, and always work to tighten up the design. Start with removing the running shoots, with scissors, like this.


Notice how all the bright green growing tips are still intact? That’s the goal. Direct the energy back to those growing tips by removing the strong runners.
Before removing just the runners:

After removing just the runners:

Here is what I removed; less than it appears:

Then, thin out heavy areas and downward-growing shoots. More salad:

Done for now:


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Autumn Displays for Taikan-ten

I have a thing for this JRP


This year we have about 7 displays in Taikan-ten, the Bonsai exhibition which focuses heavily on the art of display, held annually at the Kyoto Art Museum.  Although I am unable to attend this event, I was able to help put together some nice displays with the team a couple days before the start of the show.  As always, being in the same room as my teacher and the Tokonoma (display alcove) was a fun day full of learning and trying to understand or even shed a little light on the deeper meaning manifested within each display.  So what is the point of Bonsai display?  Yes, to show off how awesome our tree’s have become, of course.  However, when we think about formal displays that exhibit multiple components (scrolls, accents, etc) we need to firstly acknowledge the season.  Since Taikan-ten is held at the end of Fall in Japan, most…

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Bonsai grafting- scion technique

Capital Bonsai

The ability to cut a piece off of a plant and then reattach (graft) it back on to itself or another tree is nothing short of miraculous. Grafting is an invaluable technique in bonsai as it allows the artist to determine the location of each branch on the tree. It also allows the artist to replace the foliage as I talked about in an earlier post on approach grafting.

The success of a graft depends on two things, proper technique and proper aftercare. I’m always trying to understand both of these aspects better and had the opportunity to ask bonsai pro, Ryan Neil about his grafting technique.

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Approach-grafting black pine

Nebari Bonsai

This pine is one I’ve been working on for a few years now. For the decent trunk, movement, and good lower branches, the upper third needs a lot of work; particularly at the upper stovepipe-straight section of trunk. I tried a simple cleft graft in Feburary, but it didn’t take. Approach grafts are reliable and can be done at most any time. In June, I gave it a go:






In early January, I checked the progress, and it was positive. So I scraped the bark to expose the cambium, remove some of the crusty pitch, re-wrapped with Parafilm and secured it again with a wire. I’ll let it continue to knit this year and begin separating it in the fall.








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