Calling Jim Gremel—Your Cedar is Ready

For many, the name Jim Gremel is synonymous with supremely well-annealed copper wire. He’s also quite talkative, and has a way of pinioning you to a sales table with stories surpassed only by the Ancient Mariner. Evidently he’s so popular, with so many clients, that he doesn’t need any more and is highly elusive to reach by cell, email or pony express. A particularly desperate team of wire-needy enthusiasts is attempting a downstream approach by kayak. Will report if they succeed.

Aside from getting us frantically addicted to his copper wire, Jim is also one of our great growers in North America, and one of very few who long ago saw value in exploring Cedars. This Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’) cascade that he grew is part of a client collection that I’m privileged to maintain, and I just wired it for the first time. 

It’s a mature Cedar, dating back to the first years Jim was playing with them, and as such, displays some normal, age-related slowing down. Often at this age trees will start to show imbalances, sort of like a car that is past its 80% smoothly running life and starts to get jittery and needs trips to the mechanic more often. While this tree does have areas of weakness, after a reworking of this magnitude they stand a good chance of gaining vigor.

Many long shoots were cut off and some thinning was done in all areas except the weak branches. There is still some imbalance visible, but by next year we may be on top of that. It’s in an over-large training pot to increase the tree’s energy.

Once weak, it can be difficult if not impossible to recharge the energy of trailing cascade branch, at least in the ‘proper’ orientation, styled, and in a bonsai pot. In this case it seemed strong enough, not needing the emergency room technique of repotting in a box at a 45 degree raised angle, where the cascade is pointing up. That’s one way to get weak cascade branches strong again. Then after a few years of growth they’re repotted back at the normal inclination. Cascades are tricky; definitely don’t weaken them unnecessarily, such as by pruning out of synch with the top.

Enjoy the photos-

The Blue Atlas Cedar before work, and before it started pouring…

Post-initiation of work and pre-seepage into rain jacket interior. Wearing a baseball cap under rain jacket hood is essential to keep brim from flopping over eyes (I do try to offer helpful information on this blog).

Side view. Designing bonsai with a lot of depth back and forward brings a more satisfying frontal view (which sadly we can’t appreciate well in the photo below). This structure is all early development set in place long ago by Jim Gremel.

Front view. Pot is oversize to ramp up vigor. Several of the branches facing the front are a bit weak, the ones that look thinner and greener. The buds there looked promising though, and in a year or two they may be stronger. A bit of foliar fertilizer or just water sprayed on the weaker areas now and then may give them an edge.

For more on Atlas Cedar and Jim’s work, see The Fantastic History of Jim Gremel’s Big Cedar

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  1. That ball cap under the hood may be the best tip I have ever received on this blog !!!
    I kid, I kid !!! 🙂

  2. Dwayne Berrett says:

    Your bonsai expertise aside, Michael, you have great promise as a stand up comic! Always fun to read your narrative! I hope you’re still writing – you do have a gift! Best, Dwayne


    • crataegus says:

      ; ) Thank you! I write a couple hours every morning, so, even assuming epic fails necessitating rewrites, there should be a book now and then.

  3. Ray says:

    Incredible tree, many years of work there. Very nice styling, looking forward to the future of this tree.
    Jim has beautiful trees.

  4. Jonas Lont says:

    Hi Michael!
    Really nice work on this tree, I’m excited to see it back in its right pot once it has regained strength.

    Is this time if year the right to make corrective pruning and light maintenance styling on blue atlas cedars? I have one well established and plan to get more, but the correct timing of work eludes me somewhat.

    • crataegus says:

      Thanks— They seem responsive to styling in the dormant months but many work on them in the early summer, right after growth hardens off, too. Some reflush can happen then. I believe Jim Gremel preferred that time of year to work on them.

  5. john zimmerman says:

    new to your blog, thank you! i enjoy relaxed and casual comments because i tend to tense up a bit when it comes to bonsai. would you be kind enough to tell me the name and where to purchase the stand you are using in this photo?

    • crataegus says:

      Hi and welcome to the Far Side of bonsai… Yes, I think that is a PT Deluxe, made by Potted Tree Gadgetry, and I’ve seen it on Superfly bonsai and Etsy. Might be other places too. Cheers-

      • David Martin Leppo says:

        It looks like one of Roger Lehman’s. He has retired his retail store, but still makes stands, available from Superfly Bonsai.

  6. Michael Westervelt says:

    Nice work Michael, here’s hoping you’ve succeeded in luring the elusive Mr. Gremel out of seclusion!

  7. August Day says:

    Are you there Jim?

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