Several have asked to see a photo recap of this chunky Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus. We (my students and I) started the process of turning this vigorous stump of a shrub into a bonsai in 2012.

The fella who collected this Burning Bush said that it was growing by the side of a pond where nutria (a large rodent that eats euonymous) would graze on them. This one still has the shari from those gnawing nutria.

Although this tree is still many years away from ‘show shape’, maybe 10 years, here’s its 3rd-year progress report…

(And while I have your attention…submissions to the Artisans Cup will begin April 1. Also that day, incidentally, is the final day (extended deadline) for the National Pot Competition, so you potters out there have another few hours to get your best efforts together. Good luck everyone! It’s an exciting year in bonsai.)


Our Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus, in 2012.


After the initial branch selection, a flex shaft tool was used to grind down the large cuts.


Euonymous have very fibrous roots.


And here we are after the initial work and potting finished.


After the first year’s growth, in 2013.


A showy plant in fall, for sure! The week before there were still lots of leaves, and then a wind storm came. And then I took this photo. Alas.


Pruning in the fall, 2014, I think-


And this is how it looked this winter, 2015. Still a long way to go. We’re growing out the right branch for some caliper—as it’s such a low branch it should be fatter. Probably will let it grow out another year or two. At some point in there we changed the pot, because we needed it for another tree, I think. The tree looks a bit bigger in this pot, but eventually we’ll need a blue or a green pot. We’ll do another update after a few more rotations around the sun…and maybe by then I’ll have a more finished tree to show, and a photo of it the week BEFORE a wind storm takes off half the leaves.


For lack of a better title…The ‘Boot’. Long time followers of this blog know that I often name trees so that it’s easier to identify them. Not in the sense that they are serious NAMES that are sometimes given very, very good bonsai in Japan. It’s easier (and more fun) to say, ‘Let’s bring the Boot into the studio today’ than ‘Let’s bring the fourth Vine Maple to the left into the studio today’.

So. The Boot. I collected this Vine Maple about a year and a half ago. Vine Maple is one of our more curious, long-lived understory trees here in the Pacific Northwest, USA. It looks a bit like Half-Moon Maple, but it’s far more vigorous. And we can collect it! Having old, yamadori deciduous nearby is lucky in the extreme. Given other ring counts in the area, this tree is about 90 years old.

I’d been looking forward to doing something with this one ever since collecting it. I had very little idea what that ‘something’ might be, until this winter I was toying around with these interior supports I’ve been using for a couple of years, and wondered if a cantilevered bonsai was possible. We see so many trees growing off nurse logs up here, and some of them feel a bit precarious…

Like some of the other tree projects going on here, I used the sculptural idea of the ‘found object’ rather heavily. None of the branches of this maple have ever had wire on them, the challenge was to use what we found to its best advantage, without manipulation.

Enjoy the photo essay!


Our Vine Maple, tilted at the angle and viewed from the front we thought was most interesting. It does have a big rotted hole on the other side, and that, given the age of this tree, was also a possible front. Gnarly little tree.


Some earlier work on the back. The left large branch is very straight, so we cut it off and carved it out…


…leaving this hole, which was designed to harmonize with the larger, natural hole.


Bobby beginning our soil removal.


Beginning to play around with the nylon support. (My grandfather, long since passed, wore this jacket when he was puttering around in his massive gladiolus beds. Since learning that I’ve worn it nearly nonstop in the bonsai garden).


Our best guess at how the tree should rest on the support.


Bobby securing the counterweight…


…and tying on the sphagnum, tucked around the roots. This is another interesting angle of viewing, and gives a better sense of the projection toward the viewer from our chosen front.


The root mass floats a bit above the table, which looks like the odd rotted wood formations covered in moss that one sees here in the Northwestern forests, with curious plants growing off them. This tree is still a bit of an ugly duckling, with some branches like the straight lower left one that I’ll shorten eventually, after the tree gets established. These are remarkably strong trees, however. The root strength is similar to Trident Maple. Small leaves are bursting out now, only a week after assembly. Somehow ‘assembly’ feels like a better word than ‘potting’, yes?

Portland Bonsai Village news…(a very short news blast…)

The Village is blossoming… We’re creating a new website set to launch in June 2015 under the guidance of top-notch designer Kathy Wu. Kathy has done web design, branding, and logo work for Nike, Bridgeport Brewing, Intel, Sony, and Jenny Craig. We’re very excited about her involvement in the Village!

For now, take a look at our updated pages of The Village. Much has been expanded…there are a couple more Villagers than last year…more details…and more programs we have our sights on.

Also, we’re looking into an Indiegogo campaign this spring to help us launch the Village, so please stay tuned for that ~

If you plan on being at Ryan Neil’s innovative bonsai extravaganza the Artisans Cup (September 25-27, 2015), definitely contact us for our special guided bus tours around the Village! Send an email to: Margie Kinoshita,  youngkinoshita@msn.com  

We’ve reserved some really wonderful mini-buses for the days of the Cup (they toot around using biodiesel, quite Portlandia). Seats are likely to fill up fast for this massive event, so get your name on the list!

That’s it for now, but I’ll update you on the Village as we go through the big bonsai year of 2015 ~

32-passenger Krystal Koach

The mini-bus for our Village Tours during the Artisans Cup-


The last time we talked about Matt Reel he’d just finished a staggering 7 year 9 month apprenticeship with Shinji Suzuki. When I opened my January 2015 issue of the Japanese bonsai magazine Kinbon, there was Matt, standing next to a very fine juniper that he’d worked on as an apprentice. If you figure Matt is about 6’million”, this is a very big juniper.

Recently Matt has become a Portland Bonsai Villager. He came to Portland willingly, which is better than the fight and tussle it would have been had he come unwillingly. We’re glad to have him, as he expands our professional network considerably.

Enjoy the photos of Matt’s work!

IMG_3565 - Version 2






No words of mine could add to this Portland bonsai event dreamt up by my colleague Ryan Neil. If you’ve not yet seen Ryan’s new website for the Artisans Cup, definitely do. There’s a cool short movie there, too:



Also, since I have your attention, please do get your trees photographed for the Cup soon! Details are on the website about what is needed to enter a tree. (Particularly those interested in entering deciduous trees, note that leafless photos are required. Winter is ending…and leaves will shortly end hopes of entering those trees, so dust off your cameras. See the Submission Form for details).

This is going to be a really inspirational, exciting, and one-of-a-kind bonsai event—and truly not one to miss. The Artisans Cup will be held in the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, USA, September 25-27, 2015.



This tree has developed quite a bit in the last few years. The exposed roots have grown in size, and the development of the branches made our re-tweaking a bit more complete.

Konnor is a client who tosses a few trees in a car and drives across several state lines to spend a few days in my studio. I always look forward to his visits.

Enjoy our re-tweaking…!

June 2006

This was the original front in 2006…

April 2006

…and here’s the other side, also in 2006, when Konnor was beginning to toy with it as a new front.


This is in January 2015, before we did anything.


After branch-shortening pruning and needle thinning.


Konnor sporting a ‘Telperion Farms’ sweatshirt…


This pine was grown in a tub of pumice surrounding the akadama/pumice rootball for a couple of years, to give the tree a bit of ‘umph’.


With the branches nearly set…only a few at the apex left to go.


This was our original ‘Ok, we’re done!’ and then, on second look, I saw the apex was too open and gangly…


…so I reset the branches up there in the apex. It’s subtle, but look back and forth between these last two photos and you should see a difference. I would have gotten a ‘65%!’ from Suzuki on that first one. Apexes should be dense and with a clean profile. If they lack that, the tree lacks solidity, just as if a key branch had not been attended to. I forgot to measure this tree, but you can see from the photos with the two of us, who are normal sized human beings, that the tree is somewhat smaller than a normal sized tree. Ah. Which isn’t much more than vague. In any event, we’ve been waiting to put this fella in a new pot for a long time, so that was fun, too. They don’t look quite as good in wooden tubs for some reason.

Photo Shoot in Germany-

Two years ago I fell out of the sky and landed in Germany. Actually that’s not quite accurate, I rolled in by train from Prague, after falling out of the sky in Vienna. Obviously I’ve forgotten some of the details. In any event, once there (in Germany) I did a photo shoot for the bonsai magazine, Bonsai Art. The shoot happened at Bonsai-Zentrum, a large, full-scale bonsai nursery run by Wolfgang and Ingo Klemend. The subject was a root-connected European Larch, collected by the Klemends in the Alps some years before.

The editor of Bonsai Art, Ivo Drüge, generously gave me the thumbs up to republish part of the article here. Those of you who speak German will be at an advantage with the captions. The words look just lovely visually, being the language of Goethe and Rilke and all, but I’ve spared you the body of the text. There were rather a lot of them. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Larch Bonsai Art Article 2 Untitled 2 Untitled 3 Untitled 4 Untitled 5 Untitled 6 Untitled 7 Untitled 8 Untitled 9 Untitled 10 Untitled 11 Untitled 12 Untitled 13 Untitled 14


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