Nurse Log Imagination #2 ~

‘Nurse logs’ are a central feature of Pacific Northwest forest ecology. When an old Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir or Western Red Cedar is downed by a storm, young plants—some of them trees—germinate on top of them and the roots colonize the massive decomposing trunk. Later, straight rows of 500 year old trees are found in […]

Vine Maple Bunjin on Rock-

Vine Maple Bunjin on Rock-

I collected this tree about five years ago, and put it in a nursery pot to recover from the indignity. It was deep in the back of the bonsai yard, nearly forgotten (John, my apprentice, assures me it’s been watered at least every September), and every month or so I’ve thought, ‘Really have to do […]

Spring Frosts and New Growth–

Spring Frosts and New Growth–

In any area that freezes, spring is a delicate moment. If cold comes, we can lose years of work in a few hours. In our bonsai garden, we have an outdoor thermostat that triggers an alarm inside the house when it records a temperature below 32F (making apprentices jumpy and sleep-deprived at this time of […]

The Long Range Plan for Single-flush Plants ~

The Long Range Plan for Single-flush Plants ~

Decandling black pines…defoliating trident maples…such techniques stimulate multiple flush plants to ramify and make smaller needles and leaves. Because they spur such surprising regrowth, we look mournfully at our single flush plants as if they could do better.  White pines, Japanese maple, Beech, Spruce, Hemlock, Magnolia, Oak, etc. all fall into the single flush plant category. And […]

On Root Rot

On Root Rot

Roots are our main business. Naturally, we tend to be preoccupied with the green areas that we organize with scissors or wire…but really, top notch leaf, needle and shoot health is only possible with lots of healthy roots. Root rot is often the result of low soil media oxygen levels, as water saturated media can […]

Repotting Trick: The Plumb Bob

Repotting Trick: The Plumb Bob

A familiar dance at repotting time is excitedly getting a tree out of the pot, carefully working the roots, locking it all in with wire, adding media, and standing back only to realize the trunk is leaning 10 degrees off. You swat your forehead. Or, you are being careful, and have stood back, made adjustments, […]

When to Begin Fertilizing in Spring?

When to Begin Fertilizing in Spring?

It’s likely not a good impulse to want to lasso students to slow down their spring fertilizing, but I admit to the urge. And yet I get it: the trees are growing, so we reach for the fertilizer by instinct.  The problem with this is that by the end of summer everything, even old geriatric […]

An Oft-Forgotten Repotting Clue-

An Oft-Forgotten Repotting Clue-

Deciding to repot or not is often fraught with angst. Do we do it this year? Maybe next year? Considering the clues can help you decide. Maybe you know a tree with slow water penetration, that one might be ready for a repot. Try driving a chopstick into the soil on another one, near the […]

Shimpaku on Rocky Mountain: Revisit

Shimpaku on Rocky Mountain: Revisit

Here’s a tree we’ve not covered in a while, a grafted cascade juniper. The trunk is Rocky Mountain, and the foliage is a rather coarse shimpaku variety that I like as it marries well with a coarse, meaty trunkline. Often very fine Itoigawa and even ordinary shimpaku seem too fine for some purposes. It’s been […]

Bonsai Under Threat Of Snow

Bonsai Under Threat Of Snow

Well, usually snow is rather nice, but: Don’t underestimate it (that goes for any Sith lord, too) And, yes, we’re all special snowflakes, but snow builds up into something heavy and not so special Brush off large accumulations before it melts After it melts and refreezes, leave alone, or you can brush off twigs Too […]