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

Attention Bonsai Potters! Submit your work!

The revitalized National Bonsai Pot Competition is this spring. The visionary event is spearheaded by Ron Lang and Sharon Edwards-Russell, and promises to show us what wizardly potters have been doing in the realm of bonsai ceramics in the last decade.


Attn: Wrong Potter. The potters we want have a wheel, not a snitch.

The deadline is now looming, so those who don’t make pots, definitely heckle your potter friends to submit their best. Also consider coming to the reception and awards presentation at the National Arboretum, which will open the exhibition on Friday evening June 12, 2015.

The submissions cutoff date is March 21, so you have, as of this writing, only a wee bit of time to make the world’s most fantastic bonsai container, and, hopefully, get around to firing it before the guillotine drops.

Also, there are some monetary prizes to be handed out, somewhat discriminatorily. That’s where the judges come in. Sara Rayner, Deborah Bedwell, and myself will be deciding which pots win.

If you don’t know what the half dozen styles of pot categories are for the competition, then you definitely have some reading to do. For further information and to apply for the competition, please visit:


This is one of those trees I’ve had in my yard a long time, and never done a follow-up post about. For one thing, it’s so large it’s hard to photograph. For another, I just didn’t get around to it.

All of the trunks come from one base; it’s one tree. The snows are so heavy where it came from that the young branches were brought down, and those branches later grew upwards and are now the trunks that create the clump.

This was the tree that started all my madness around finding new solutions for the slab question. Ironically, it’s the last tree I’ve put on a slab. This hemlock sat on a plywood slab for years, with me just dreaming about it, while completing other slab experiments. So, it benefited from other tree’s mistakes. Or my mistakes with them, I should say. Finally in 2014 it went onto a stronger slab option than the nylon boards that I was using for smaller trees, using instead the countertop material Corian.

I should mention that Mountain Hemlock is not a tree for beyond the Pacific Northwest, USA, or even east of the Cascades. East of the mountains and down south are too hot and/or arid for these fellas and they get terribly grumpy, and then quietly perish. But…come and visit us and the trees will be here!

Here’s an earlier post which shows how we made the mound of soil and the sloping left wall: http://crataegus.com/2010/03/22/hemlock-group/

Enjoy the (relatively long) photo essay!


Mountain Hemlock in 2010 about two years after collection, with the strange cobbled together and sloped box I built for it.


The day we created the ‘mound’ that would end up staying on this plywood for a few years (while I scratched my head). 2010. This was the tree that started the adventure with putting trees on slabs of unusual materials (I’m not referring to the plywood…)


Now we’re fast forwarding a bit to 2013, the second time I’d wired the tree. I think the first time was in 2011. The high snows where it came from had already brought all the branches down to have great acute angles with the trunk, so this tree really only needed minor adjustments with placement.


Some parts of the tree needed a stepladder to work on…this is about the middle of the tree.


Detail of a branch showing the delicacy of the foliage. The needles come out in 3-D, making it a bit different from other hemlocks. I think if the Japanese had this species, they’d be much more enthusiastic about hemlock than the native one they have over there.


Again fast forwarding a bit, this is the summer of 2014, being brought into the studio by Bobby and Konnor.


…about to be shifted onto the Corian slab (right), our choice for this big tree for its strength.


Konnor marking the footprint of the soil mass…


…and cutting the slab with a jigsaw.


Our feet for this project.


After shifting the tree over onto the cut slab.


Side view (right) of the tree on its rock platform in the yard. We liked the 45 degree cut on the Corian, which we painted dark grey. We thought the bevel gives this tree a much greater ‘floating’ feeling, lessening its visual mass.


Another detail from the front. Lots of Polytrichum (the bright green star-shaped moss) and other kinds of moss and lichen, and a curious dark green, small-leaved Oregon Box (left side and rear) that was also collected in the mountains here.


Yet again fast-forwarding, this is January 2015, and we’ve once again brought the tree in for some wiring. Bobby in his stripes. As usual. You can see the continuity of his clothing from the earlier sessions with this tree.


We were lucky to have Matt Reel drop into the studio, and so we had a real Portland Bonsai Village day of it, with some visitors dropping in to see the garden, too.


Yes, occasionally I DO put down the camera and fiddle with trees. We wired this tree lightly. Matt and I discussed how over-wiring a hemlock would simply destroy its natural grace.

DSC_0809 - Version 2

And this is how the Mountain Hemlock looks today, in January, 2015, after minor wiring touchup. More and more I’m inspired by what I see in the local mountains, which do not have as severe an environment as the Rockies, but tend to feature moister, calmer forests. In the nearby Cascades and Coast ranges I’ve been very taken with the relationships of trunks, just visually, and also the communities of trees ecologically, and have sought out trees for bonsai that might communicate this. I tried to present this hemlock as simply as possible—without a pot or visible slab—to highlight those features.

2014 Photo Bloopers!

Once again here are the very worst and most questionable past year photos for your New Year merriment. As before, no names are mentioned to protect the innocent.

Downton Abbey fans will appreciate that, yes, Crataegus Bonsai also does a refresher from the last season: http://crataegus.com/2013/12/27/2013-photo-bloopers/

Happy New Year everyone!
























Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,076 other followers