The Patient Magic of Michael Roberts: Part I
Michael Roberts is one of my bonsai heroes. He’s worked quietly in Southern California for decades, creating bonsai that you can’t make any other way other than to throw years at them.
This post and the next one share several of his long-term adventures with Cork Bark Elm and Cork Oak. I’m thrilled that he agreed to share the photo histories of these magnificent bonsai.
The young Cork Bark Elm that Michael Roberts started with.
Michael writes: “Originally purchased in 1996 from Kimura Bonsai Nursery [California], this tree was box grown from 2000–2006.”
The same Cork Bark Elm in 2009.
2012. A sweet bonsai already, but Michael isn’t done yet…
2016, displaying a fair bit of dignity.
And in 2022. Now 35” tall. 20 years from that young tree. A tree at this level could hold its head up in any show around the world.
Here’s another Michael Roberts tree progression, this time a Cork Oak. This is where your cork floors and wine corks come from. Not this tree specifically, but maybe a distant acorn cousin in Italy. This photo is from 2003.
Michael writes: “This tree was found in the spring of 1998, growing off the freeway on a frontage road. The tree looked as though it had been run over by some pumping equipment. It had a main leader 10 feet high and I estimated it at 8 or 10 years old. It was planted in a box from the start.”
2006, on a slab. About 25” tall.
2011, now 36” tall. Here Michael made a major decision—a front reversal. Much better base and rootage from this view. And the bark is coming along well. Not sure if Michael needed a new floor, but he’s got options now.
2013, canopy filling in.
2015, at the Artisan’s Cup.
This bonsai got around—here in the California Bonsai Society’s 2020 show.
And 2022. 41” tall, with a 12” trunk diameter. All this in less than 20 years, from a young collected plant.
Next week, two more of Michael’s trees ~