May 11, 2022

Apprentice Talk & Bonsai Brainstorming with Julian Tsai & Andy Bello - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 04

           Hear ye, hear ye! Today marks the release of the fourth episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast hosted by myself and a fellow Columbus-based bonsai friend, Kevin Faris. In today's episode, I dug up the pilot test interview I did back in May of 2020 with Julian Tsai and Andy Bello. Julian is a former apprentice of Fujikawa Kouka-en bonsai nursery in Japan and Andy is a former apprentice-turned assistant curator at the US National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. We discussed our observations in bonsai around the world and spent the last half of the interview brainstorming styling ideas for reader-submitted trees. Hopefully seeing our thought process can be helpful in styling trees in your collection! We welcome submissions of additional trees for us to discuss in the future here

Find our episodes on YouTube!

Or, find us on your preferred podcast app through the link below.

May 4, 2022

Invasive Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica & related species) for Bonsai

            It's May which means that trees here in Ohio have been slowly waking up and spring is creeping northward! This also means we just passed the best time of year to root prune trees for repotting or for collecting wild trees to train as bonsai. Although collecting wild bonsai is an exciting method to gather prebonsai, many bonsai artists are unable to utilize this source of bonsai material due to a lack of access to public land where tree collection is permitted or some novices with such access may just be too intimidated by the prospects of killing trees during transplanting. One solution to both of these issues is to coordinate with local governments on removing unwanted, invasive species and attempt to utilize those species for bonsai. This three-part article series will cover a story of local collaboration in Ohio doing just that. I am happy to report that the Columbus Metro Parks now have a few less invasive Japanese Honeysuckle to worry about and the members of the Columbus Bonsai Society were allowed free access to digging wild bonsai material from our local forests. Additionally, this event allowed interested CBS members to learn about digging wild trees in a guided and hands-on fashion while also practicing guilt-free on material that is limitless (invasive trees) which would otherwise be destroyed during the city government's efforts to maintain native ecosystems.

            Today's portion of this 3-part series will focus on the invasive Japanese Honeysuckle and related Lonicera species which we collected at the CBS Honeysuckle Dig event last month. Below you will find specimen bonsai showing the potential of these species and observations from the woods as to which honeysuckle trees may make good bonsai. Future installments will cover the club dig event itself including essential information on the basics of what tools are needed and how to dig from the deciduous forests of Ohio. Finally, the last article in the series will cover other invasive species of the United States (with links to resources for other locations around the world), highlighting those which have known bonsai potential.

Sections

  1. Invasive Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica & related species.) for Bonsai (this time)
    1. Examples of Honeysuckle Bonsai
    2. Identifying Candidate Honeysuckle for Bonsai
    3. Observations & Comments on their Suitability as Bonsai
      1. Ability to Ramify
      2. Response to Trunk Chops
      3. Wood Durability/Deadwood
      4. Wiring Branches
      5. Shallow Root Systems
  2. Combining Yamadori Education with Invasive Plant Removal - A CBS Collaboration with the Columbus Metro Parks (next time)
  3. Invasive Trees & Shrubs with Known Bonsai Potential (next next time)
  4. Blog Announcements
  5. References

This honeysuckle was collected by the late Nick Lenz and has been styled and cared for by Nick's student, Andy Rutledge (Source). The face carved into the tree fits nicely with Nick Lenz's signature macabre and fantastical style; you can see more examples of this style in an earlier article I wrote on the subject.

April 22, 2022

Rob Hoffman Explains Basics of Wiring - Columbus Bonsai Society Full Lecture

            If you are a new bonsai artist and you wondered how Todd Schlafer pulled off his stunning Rocky Mountain Juniper transformation for the Columbus Bonsai Society last fall, you may have noticed the importance of wiring the branches to control their placement. Wiring is a fundamental skill in bonsai which I have touched on a handful of times in past articles which can really only be learned by hands-on practice. If you would like to start on the path of learning how to wire branches and turns to accelerate and improve the styling of your bonsai, enjoy Rob's wiring 101 lecture from the February CBS Meeting which I have just posted on the new CBS Youtube Channel. You may find it useful to watch this video with some sample branches in front of you to practice wiring. Or if you are working on wiring a tree, start wiring and then watch this lecture after you have been going a while. I make these suggestions because once you have some hands-on practice, a lot of what Rob is talking about will make more sense.

            Many thanks to Rob Hoffman of Yume-en Bonsai for everything he does for the Columbus Bonsai Society, including providing this lecture and allowing us to share it! Find Rob's nursery in Marysville, Ohio.

April 16, 2022

Reflections from Working with Dan Robinson - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 03

         Dear readers (and listeners)! Today marks the release of the third episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast hosted by myself and a fellow Columbus-based bonsai friend, Kevin Faris. This episode focuses on reflections Kevin and I had after working with Dan Robinson at his world famous Elandan Gardens. We specifically discussed more detail behind where you can look for inspiration for Dan's naturalistic styling ethos of ancient trees, as well as some technical tips to make gnarly trees in Dan's style.

Find our episodes on YouTube!

Or, find us on your preferred podcast app through the link below.


March 23, 2022

Introducing Your Hosts! Goals for Bonsai and for the Podcast - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 02

        Readers, today marks the release of the second episode of the @bonsaitimepodcast hosted by myself and a fellow Columbus-based bonsai friend, Kevin Faris. In this shorter episode, Kevin and I discussed our backgrounds and goals in bonsai as well as our goals for this podcast going forwards. We are only getting started so I hope you enjoy the ride!

Find our episodes on YouTube!


March 6, 2022

Making the "Glory to Ukraine, Peace to Ukraine! / Слава Україні, мир Україні!" Bonsai Display

         Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened to watch the invasion of Ukraine unfold in the last 11 days. Although exact numbers are hard to pin down in such a rapidly-evolving situation, early reports indicate that at least 10,000 soldiers on both sides and untold hundreds of civilians have already fallen in this war; meanwhile, over one million people have fled the country in this brief time (Miami HeraldAxios). Putin's self-interest cannot be placed above the rights of the Ukrainians to their lives, their democracy, and their freedoms. While the Ukrainian people are doing the most to maintain their freedom and stop Putin's aggression, many people around the world already understand the importance of this crisis and have taken to the streets in protest, opened their homes to refugees, traveled to Ukraine to volunteer, and donated to charities in support of the Ukrainian people. Although I am an ocean away from Ukraine, I hope these bonsai displays below will cause you to reflect on what you can do to help. For my part, I will be donating 10% of my bonsai seed sales to charities in Ukraine. At the links below you can also contribute directly to the National Bank of Ukraine in support of humanitarian aid or in support of their defense forces. 

Donate Directly

  1. National Bank of Ukraine Opens Fundraising Account for Humanitarian Assistance to Ukrainians Affected by Russia’s Aggression
  2. National Bank of Ukraine Opens Special Account to Raise Funds for Ukraine’s Armed Forces

Sections

March 2, 2022

A Conversation with Dan Robinson - Bonsai Time Podcast Episode 01

        Hello readers! Some years ago I started this blog with the intent to share my journey and pass on wisdom from one of the biggest public bonsai gardens in the US. I especially hoped to share more stories from my teacher, Dan Robinson, as I had not heard of him in my online-only experience with the bonsai community. Today, Dan remains focused on his mission of maintaining his garden and his trees without distractions from the online world (he really does still use a flip phone), but luckily Dan now has a multitude of technology-minded volunteers at the garden who are carrying on sharing his bonsai with the online audience such as through the @elandangardensbonsai Instagram page and other upcoming projects. That said, today marks the release of the first episode of the @bonsaitimepodcast hosted by myself and a fellow Columbus-based bonsai friend, Kevin Faris. With time, Kevin and I envision this podcast serving as a source of edutainment to assist bonsai-growers with a variety of topics and tell the stories of more bonsai artists and trees. The focus of the first episode however circles back to the original purpose of this blog. Dan recently hosted Kevin and me at his garden for a few days of work and collaboration styling trees. During that time, Dan was kind enough to sit down with us for a lengthy retrospective interview on his life in the bonsai. If you are familiar with Dan's evocative style and want to know more about the man behind a uniquely ancient & naturalistic style of bonsai, see the links below.

Find our episodes on YouTube!


February 11, 2022

What's in a Grow Tent? The Science and Tools Behind Keeping Indoor Bonsai Healthy

Source material: November 21, 2021

        While we're on the subject of my latest Youtube ventures such as the Todd Schlafer demonstration I posted on the Columbus Bonsai Society's new Youtube channel last week, I wanted to also take a moment to share another recording from a recent CBS Meeting. Last November while the final few deciduous leaves were falling in Ohio and the first nightly frosts were appearing, CBS held a meeting focused on preparing trees for winter. One of our seasoned members lectured on how to protect outdoor bonsai over winter and I volunteered to present on preparing an indoor space for your tropical bonsai over winter. Given my background in academia and in science, my lecture focused on the biology of tropical trees, the physical aspects of tropical environments compared to the conditions inside typical homes, and how we can improve those conditions to help our trees grow better. Although many parts of the northern hemisphere are already exiting winter, for many apartment-dwelling bonsai hobbyists or those who otherwise are only focused on indoor growing, this lecture will be relevant at any time of year. A tree growing indoors on a windowsill will simply never grow at its full potential unless we supplement things like light, humidity, airflow, and warmth. You can watch the full lecture below to learn more about how you can improve the health of your indoor bonsai and develop them faster. I'll include some additional details at the end of the article including the exact products I've used in the past just to give you an idea of the possibilities.

Sections

  1. Full Lecture - Time-Saving Tools for Growing Tropical Bonsai Indoors
  2. Supplies to Improve Indoor Growing
    1. My starter supplies:
    2. My current supplies with grow tent:
    3. Current setup with pictures:
  3. Blog Announcements
Apparently, I'M in a grow tent! But seriously, read on to see what type of lights I've been using. This picture is from when I first got my grow tent in the fall of 2020. I have definitely noticed it helped my tropical trees stay happier in winter.

February 4, 2022

Todd Schlafer Finds the Trunkline - Columbus Bonsai Society Full Demo

Source material: 10/17/2021

        Hello all! Just wanted to share quickly one of my recent online bonsai projects. Similar to what I did during my time with the Puget Sound Bonsai Association's DVD archive, as part of my role as the librarian for the Columbus Bonsai Society, I'm starting a CBS Youtube channel and uploading their meetings for all to see! Please enjoy the first video on their channel featuring a demonstration by Todd Schlafer of First Branch Bonsai. Based out of Denver, Todd is now one of the most in-demand traveling bonsai artists due in part to his training with Ryan Neil and extensive experience with collecting and styling native species from the Rocky Mountains.

        The before and after photos can be seen in the first 20 seconds of the video. I found myself amazed by the tree that Todd found inside that challenging raw stock. There's a good lesson in there on how to simplify a complicated piece of raw stock, but Todd also discussed many other topics at length during this demonstration such as fungicide use, how he got into bonsai, how he decided to become a bonsai professional, and next steps for this tree such as how to care for a tree styled in late fall as the growing season is ending.