The Fantastic History of Jim Gremel’s Big Cedar—

As my client and I had waited two years to get going with this signature tree created by the great Jim Gremel, last week’s work came with with no small amount of anticipation. Many of you may remember this Atlas Cedar from the very first U.S. National Exhibition in Rochester, NY in 2008, where Jim’s entry turned a lot of heads.

Any tree with a work history that includes the efforts of Boon Manakitivipart, Marco Invernizzi, Valentín ‘Bali’ Cruz, and James ‘Bonsai Bond’ Gremel is a product of our elite.

Enjoy the photo essay of this historic cedar-

Jim Gremel’s initial branch setting of the Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica. Usually we find Atlas Cedar’s blue varieties in the horticulture trade. This however is the normal form, with greener foliage. This tree was purchased at a club auction and then planted in the ground for more than a decade. Note the smooth trunk. This photo was likely from around 1990. Which gives us roughly 30 years of developmental progression in the following images:

Interesting to see the pot changes that follow.

At Boon’s show, 2004.

Again at Boon’s show, 2006.

At the 1st U.S. National Exhibition, 2008.

Yet again at Boon’s show, 2009.

In Jim’s garden, 2014. The needles appear to have a different shape at Jim’s place. They are skinnier and lacier—and a bit greener—which is consistent with a cloudier locale. At my client’s place there is more sun, bringing a different foliage feel.

Bali’s great work.


After trimming long extensions and before wiring, 2020. At this point the tree is in my client’s garden. Bluer foliage (though still greener than the ‘blue’ varieties) and stouter foliage ‘feel’ is apparent, due to more sun.

After wiring, 2020. We’re looking to continue the pot-swapping obsession, possibly with an antique, to bring a bit more out of this tree.

The cedar had changed in several respects simply by growth. The trunk has appreciably thickened, suggesting the need for a broader crown. Also the lower branches were left longer, also because of the chunkier feel of the trunk.

Jim Gremel, as many of you know, is one of our premier bonsai growers, along with being a potter, wire annealer, and teller of stratospheric tall tales. Jim’s condition for allowing this tree to leave his premises was that we complete his dream for it, which, not surprisingly given his creative vision, was to transform this cedar into a flowering bonsai. Jim will be delighted to learn that next year we’ll make good on our promise, using the alchemy of grafting, to start its new life as a dandelion.

My visit to Jim’s place in 2013 describes what I saw there: Jim Gremel’s Bonsai Garden

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  1. Ray says:

    Wow, incredible journey for this tree. Jim’s junipers are legendary. As is his annealed copper wire, pottery as well.
    Thanks Jim and Thank you Michael for this blog

  2. Nelson Sanabria says:

    His tall tales are quite entertaining too! Lol

    Awesome blog. Thx guys.

  3. hgreisler says:

    I’m glad we agree. Dandelions are so underrated!

    Sent from my iPad


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