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!

May 16, 2023

Aussie Natives and Bonsai as Art with Hugh Grant - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 14

In today's interview, we had the honor of hosting Hugh Grant from Australia who came on to share his story and thoughts on the evolution of bonsai in Australia and around the world. Hugh explained how his background as an art student led him to study at Bonsai Mirai and shapes how he thinks about modern bonsai displays. Hugh also taught Ryan and Kevin about the diversity of Australian ecosystems and the native trees and yamadori there which make for decent bonsai once you learn their quirks! Hope you enjoy and get as much out of this talk as we did.

See the interview in the Youtube video below, or find us on your favorite podcast app. Also, scroll below to find the show notes for this episode including pictures of Hugh's work with Australian native bonsai that we were discussing in the interview. Bonsai On!

April 6, 2023

Simplified Protocols for Yamadori Collection, Aftercare, and Initial Bonsai Training - A Honeysuckle Raft Case Study.

            In preparation for the 2nd Annual CBS / Columbus Recreation & Parks Department Invasive Honeysuckle Yamadori [Wild Bonsai] Dig event, I wanted to put to words a very simplified protocol for how to take a freshly dug yamadori from the forest and how to begin to train it as a bonsai tree. Obviously, the speed of development varies based on the species and health of the tree and some steps may even occur at seasonally different times especially if you are in a different climate than me here in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, Ohio, USA. Noting that these exceptions are bound to hit you at some point, let this be a starting point and take it for what it's worth. To exemplify that protocol, let's follow the development of my extra large honeysuckle raft yamadori which I rescued from culling in a local Columbus park at last year's first invasive removal collaboration. You can read about our previous experience hosting that event here, and you can see other examples of renowned honeysuckle bonsai here


  1. Event Description - 2nd Annual Columbus Bonsai Society / Columbus Recreation & Parks Invasive Yamadori [Wild Bonsai] Dig
  2. General Protocol for Temperate Deciduous Species Yamadori Collection
  3. General Protocol for Yamadori Aftercare
  4. General Protocol for Initial Bonsai Training - First Repot, Early Pruning, etc.
  5. Honeysuckle Raft Case Study
    1. Spring 2022 Digging
    2. Fall 2022 Pruning
    3. Spring 2023 Repotting + Pruning
  6. Announcements
    1. I officially applied with the state of Ohio to start a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See details here. The second workshop will be on Sunday, 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you would like to request an additional date.
    2. 4/15/23 - 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. This is a free event. Sign up here.
    3. 4/16/223 - Columbus Bonsai Society Meeting - I will be presenting on the ins and outs of digging Yardadori/Yamadori/Wild Bonsai. All are welcome. See event details at www.columbusbonsai.org.
    4. Seeds are available here.
My extra-large honeysuckle yamadori raft, now freshly repotted into its first training bonsai pot.

March 30, 2023

The Unsung Merits of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai - A Japanese Larch Example.

             Tanuki, also known as Phoenix Graft, gets a bad wrap in bonsai. Although this technique to make a young tree appear older by planting it alongside the deadwood of another tree is commonly considered "cheating" and looked down upon in some bonsai circles, it can produce beautiful and convincing bonsai. The accusation of cheating comes about as this process accelerates the appearance of age, however, even so, Tanuki is not instant bonsai. As I'll discuss next week in greater depth on the principles behind the successful execution of this technique, there is no substitute for the compelling quality of "age as bonsai" even in the case of phoenix grafted trees. So if we accept that tanuki still requires sound bonsai practice over a period of years and an artistic eye to make them well, what other merits are there to this style? One unsung merit is that tanuki hinges on respect for the deadwood. Bonsai artists are often enamored with beautiful pieces of deadwood which are often included within our living trees or within our bonsai displays as slab/"jita" or in our bonsai stands/formal displays. The act of selecting a piece of deadwood that is attractive enough to be worth preserving alongside a living tree for a phoenix graft is an extension of our innate deadwood appreciation. Additional beneficial qualities of tanuki/phoenix graft bonsai when using a dead tree which we used to work on is it can teach humility and remind us of the lessons we have learned in our bonsai journey. In my case, this Japanese Larch is one of the few trees I got from my teacher Dan Robinson which I brought with me to Ohio when I moved across the country. I worked on this tree for about 5 years before it passed away due to my own underestimation of Ohio winters. Even experienced bonsai artists lose trees - there's always more to learn. So out of respect for the tree, I resurrected it. Also out of humility, it will be a living reminder for me to prepare rigorous winter protection in Ohio even for cold-hardy trees. Read on to see the progression this tree has taken with me from raw stock to its most recent tanuki styling.


  1. The Unsung Merits of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai - A Japanese Larch Example. (this time)
    1. RIP Larch - Progression Over the Years (2018-2022)
    2. Rising from the Ashes - Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Time (2023)
  2. Essential Principles for Convincing Tanuki/Phoenix Graft Bonsai (next time)
  3. Announcements
    1. I officially applied with the state of Ohio to start a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See details here. The dates planned are 4/1/23 and 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you would like to request an additional date.
    2. 4/15/23 - 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. This is a free event. Sign up here.
    3. 4/16/223 - Columbus Bonsai Society Meeting - I will be presenting on the ins and outs of digging Yardadori/Yamadori/Wild Bonsai. All are welcome. See event details at www.columbusbonsai.org.
    4. Seeds are available here.
Tanuki Japanese larch, 1st year in training. 2023.

March 23, 2023

Insights into the Bonsai Art of Michael Hagedorn - Bonsai Time Podcast Ep 13

In the thirteenth episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast, the renowned Portland, OR-based ceramicist and bonsai artist Michael Hagedorn joined Kevin and Ryan to discuss his time as a Japanese bonsai apprentice, his apprenticeship program in the US, his floating shore pine display in the Pacific Bonsai Expo, his unique invisible slab style plantings, and more! Enjoy the interview!

See the interview with relevant pictures in the Youtube video below, or find us on your favorite podcast app and refer to this show notes page with useful pictures and links regarding what we were discussing in the interview. Bonsai On!

You can help keep the podcast going by supporting us. All donations go back into the podcast such as for our web hosting, recording gear expenses, etc. Even $1/month would be a great help!


March 8, 2023

Repotting Scenarios for a Shohin Privet and Intro to Bonsai Soil

Source Material: March 02, 2023

             Welcome back bonsai enthusiasts, today I share a short article focused on a recent repot which illustrates some larger questions we must ask for our trees to look their best. Where should I position my tree in the pot? To the center? To the left? To the right? How do I want the nebari/root flare to look given the options the tree provides? Read on for a closer look at the unique challenges and character of this tree, think through what you would have done if it was your tree, and feel free to share those ideas in the comments below.


  1. Reviewing Repotting Basics
  2. History of the Tree
  3. Nebari Decisions
  4. Planting Position - What Fits Best?
  5. Final Result
  6. Announcements

The final product of our repot. March 2023. The pot is from Ancient Art Bonsai by Mark Passerrello.

January 9, 2023

Bonsai From Seed: Essential Steps for Success - Full Lecture

 Source material: Nov 20, 2022

        Have you ever tried one of those bonsai-from-seed kits and nothing grew? Or maybe you had a few seeds grow but had no idea what the next steps were to transform your seedling into a bonsai! Growing a bonsai from scratch is an intoxicating idea for beginners, but it is also one of the hardest feats to accomplish. In this lecture, I explain the basics of seed collection, storage, and germination to help you optimize your success at waking seeds up. I also explained the steps necessary to shape seedlings over the years following germination which will help you build sizable trunks and tapering branches to create a convincing and stunning bonsai. You can also participate in the active learning questions from home by commenting below and listening in on the discussions and questions from the Columbus Bonsai Society (CBS) members who attended. I gave this lecture in November 2022 for the Columbus Bonsai Society. Join us at www.ColumbusBonsai.org

Find the full lecture here:

Read on for more resources on growing bonsai from seed....

January 5, 2023

First Year Reflections for the Bonsai Time Podcast - Ep 12

            In today's episode of the Bonsai Time Podcast, Ryan and Kevin reflect on their journey from 2022 including their learning curve in starting the podcast. They also covered what they are looking forward to for 2023 with the podcast, their bonsai gardens, and the local bonsai clubs they are involved in.

See the video interview on YouTube.

Or find the podcast in your podcast apps and on Anchor.fm.