October 31, 2023

Bonsai Stories and Other BS with Dennis Makashima! Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 18-20

           In the latest episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast, Kevin and Ryan welcome Dennis Makashima. Dennis has been a witness and active participant in bonsai history as he learned from many of the greats of California Bonsai and even inherited many of their trees. Although Dennis is a second-generation Japanese American, he found himself drawn into the same line of work as many Japanese were at that time - gardening and aesthetic tree pruning. This is what ultimately drew him into bonsai and eventually a bonsai apprenticeship in Japan. Ultimately Dennis' own contributions to the art stand proud as he taught aesthetic tree pruning at Merritt College and served as president for the Golden State Bonsai Federation. Dennis also went into great detail regarding how he worked to improve GBSF during his tenure for the clubs and local scene. We hope you enjoy his many BS stories as much as we did!

Dennis Makashima is a long-time pillar of the Bay Area and the greater California bonsai scene. We are grateful for his time and for sharing his experiences! You can learn more about Dennis' life story in his upcoming autobiographical book "Mr. Omoshiori: Journal of a Sansei Baby Boomer and Bonsai Sensei". The book will come out in early 2024 and is being published by the Zentoku Foundation.

PART 1 - The video version is available here*:

*Check out our new YouTube channel! ⁠⁠⁠

PART 1 - Podcast version available here:

September 11, 2023

The Humble Yew's First Styling - A Case Study for Trunk-line, Primary Branch, and Foliage Pad Development

             Hello all, many projects have been in the works in recent weeks since the CBS show concluded. Today I share a small project styling a nursery stock yew. I don't normally work with nursery stock these days as I prefer to dig from the wild and grow from seed and that gives me plenty of material for myself and my nursery already, but I decided to style this humble nursery stock yew to provide an example for my upcoming beginner-intermediate styling workshop. In this Saturday's workshop, we will be using the same material to practice basic elements of styling; these yews are young enough that their trunk lines are still malleable, but also old enough to have substantial primary branch options and even smaller secondary and tertiary branches which we can use to begin to form foliage pads. After a bit of creativity and technical know-how is applied, you can transform this humble material as I did below into a variety of styles. The tree below also shows some of the main topics we will be covering in the workshop. I am still developing my lesson plan, but the topics we will cover are listed below.

Lesson Plan for Beginner-Intermediate Yew Styling Workshop, 9/16/2023 1-4pm in Upper Arlington, OH

  1. Benefits of Growing Bonsai Outdoors & How to Keep Them Alive (15 min)
  2. Wiring 101 & Exercise for Beginners (15+ min)
  3. Yew Styling
    1. How to pick and develop the best trunkline for a variety of styles.
      1. How to apply raffia to avoid cracking when bending large branches/trunks.
      2. How to attempt to save a cracked branch if raffia was not applied.
    2. How to pick and develop primary branch lines.
    3. How to develop foliage pads including pruning to induce density and fine wiring of small branches.
Note: Loaner pruners, wire cutters, raffia, and recycled bonsai wires will be provided in the workshop fee in addition to the yew stock material. Students who have their own tools or wire to bring are encouraged to do so.
You can see that the initial trunk was too rigid for much bending, but when combined with a change in angle we could get this upright yew into a cascading style. Also with this chosen front, some distance of the trunk is made less noticeable as in the 3-D view the trunk goes away from the viewer at one point and then comes back at the bottom towards us. In the long run, I intend to have the apex continue growing towards the right to fill in the space above the cascade. Then the other two main branches will continue growing outwards and downwards so they are subordinate to the main top section.

Also if you look closely you will see there are two parts where I cracked the trunkline and applied grafting tape overtop. I used to apply cut paste to such wounds but had mixed success (best with liquid cut paste, solid cut paste failed most often). This year I began using grafting tape on these wounds and it has worked well so far.

July 25, 2023

Case Study - First Styling of a "Naturalistic Deciduous" Yardadori Privet

             The 51st Columbus Bonsai Society is fast approaching! Alongside preparing for my first time vending at our local show, and moving my house and bonsai nursery last weekend, I had time to squeeze in a quick styling of this yardadori privet for my donation to the CBS Raffle. There's still much to do so today I will briefly share the backstory of this tree, nuances I associate with naturalistic deciduous bonsai, and show you the before and after. The reason I am sharing this tree, in particular, is that it is an excellent case study of what we will be doing in my "naturalistic deciduous privet yamadori styling" workshop on Sunday afternoon, 3-5pm at the show. If you'd like to sign up for that workshop, you can do so here. I'll also be teaching a beginner indoor bonsai workshop on Saturday, 3-5pm; final spots are available at here. You can also see the other available workshops and more details on the show here. If you purchase any workshop later than Tuesday, 7/25/23, be sure to bring proof of purchase (your email receipt) to the show for workshop check-in.

Final view. Even I was surprised with how much I liked it afterward. Compare below to the humble starting material.

June 30, 2023

The Many Talents of Angelica Ramirez - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 15-17

            Angelica Ramirez is a bright new face in the bonsai scene. As Kevin and I learned in our interview, Angelica is a uniquely driven person with expertise in music, helicopter piloting, archery, painting, bonsai ceramics, and more recently she is set on learning bonsai to the highest degree possible. Angelica has been an apprentice at the Chicago Botanic Garden's bonsai collection and this year she is the new National Bonsai Apprentice at the US National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC. It was a pleasure documenting her story and we look forward to watching her bonsai skills and career grow!

            Angelica has a great website where she documents her many pursuits. You can find it at the link below. https://www.arbonsaiart.com/

            Also, Angelica maintains a database of active bonsai ceramicists around the world. You can use it to find local potters in your area at the link below, or contact her through her website/social media to get yourself added! https://www.arbonsaiart.com/discover-potters.html

The podcast version is available here:

The video version is available here:

Parts 2 and 3 will be uploaded and linked below on Friday, 7/7/23 and Friday, 7/14/23. Also, read on to see pictures of Angelica's work in bonsai!