February 11, 2024

4 Tips to Pick the Right Species for Your First/Next Bonsai

            How can you learn to keep a bonsai alive to enjoy for generations to come? There's no magic, really, but there are a few bonsai tricks to learn. Some basic skills serve you well when growing any type of plant, but the first thing you should think about is how to pick a plant that can tolerate the conditions you will provide it. I'll share 4 tips here to help you get started for those thinking about entering bonsai or thinking about trying to add new species to your collection, but if you're in Columbus, Ohio, check out my upcoming beginner workshop where you can get your bonsai journey off on a running start! 

In Vivo / Central Ohio Bonsai Announcements:

  1. My next beginner indoor bonsai workshop is on Saturday 2/24 at Nocterra Brewing. Full details can be found on Eventbrite! Briefly, we will cover all the basics of caring for indoor bonsai, and basic techniques for bonsai maintenance such as how to prune, wire, and repot to create the miniature tree look. All workshop participants will be gifted 1-year memberships to the Columbus Bonsai Society and the Central Ohio Cactus and Succulent Society - A $55 value! The total price for the workshop is $56 and also includes prebonsai trees and locally made pots for you to take home after our work and a drink from our gracious host.
  2. I now sell pots! I received a special shipment to sell on behalf of Blue Nose Trading. See the pieces of her work I have available here or schedule an appointment to visit my nursery in Columbus, OH via the contact form here. These are mainly for local pickup/delivery only.
  3. The Bonsai Time Podcast has moved! While I am still heavily involved in producing that podcast, the show notes for it now lives on its own websiteits own YouTube channel, and it now has its own TikTok account.
The pots were made by the same person who took pictures of a beginner class we taught together last year - Mark Passerrello of Ancient Art Bonsai. Mark was featured in Bonsai Time Podcast Episode 08.

February 5, 2024

Plants that Signal an Early Spring in Ohio - Living Alarm Bells

            While seasons come and go the exact when of their coming and going is always an unpredictable and complex question. Predicting these events is important for people who work in natural seasonal cycles with plants and animals such as farmers, hunters, gardeners, bonsai artists, bird watchers, and other sorts of nature enthusiasts. Many people don't know this but within us all there are internal biological clock proteins - this is where circadian rhythm comes from. So this may be one way that critters and plants can tell the progression of time. However, an event like triggering a migration or waking up from hibernation is critical to get at the right time. Migrating too late or waking up from hibernation too early could mean death by cold and lack of food. Migrating too early could mean missing the window with the rest of your species to mate or not maximizing your own energy reserves before migrating. All things in nature are a matter of risk, reward, and natural selection. As these are such critical events for the survival of an individual plant or critter, they use multiple cues to detect when to get moving. One cue can be their internal clock as we discussed. Another could be the temperature. Another could be the day length. This combination of cues is how plants and animals can time their seasonal events according to seasonal variation. Thus, while humans are trying to predict how winter in February 2024 will progress using historical data, the farmer's almanac, and a groundhog's shadow, the plants around us already have a good idea of what is the likely scenario regarding our winter. Once you look around enough to know which plants are the first responders to spring, then you also can get warning signs to get your gardening and bonsai preparations into high gear. In this post, I will share some example species which are plant alarm bells, especially in Ohio, but some ornamentals or invasives we have here also are available and could act similarly across the temperate world.

Blog/Central Ohio Bonsai Announcements:

  1. For people in Central Ohio, I will be teaching a beginner indoor bonsai workshop on Saturday 2/24 at Nocterra Brewing. Full details can be found on Eventbrite! Briefly, we will cover all the basics of caring for indoor bonsai, and basic techniques for bonsai maintenance such as how to prune, wire, and repot to create the miniature tree look. All workshop participants will be gifted 1-year memberships to the Columbus Bonsai Society and the Central Ohio Cactus and Succulent Society - A $55 value!  The total price for the workshop is $56 and also includes prebonsai trees and locally made pots for you to take home after our work and a drink from our gracious host.
  2. I now sell pots! I received a special shipment to sell on behalf of Blue Nose Trading. See the pieces of her work I have available here or schedule an appointment to visit my nursery in Columbus, OH via the contact form here. These are mainly for local pickup/delivery only.
  3. The Bonsai Time Podcast has moved! While I am still heavily involved in producing that podcast, the show notes for it now lives on its own websiteits own YouTube channel, and it now has its own TikTok account.
Silver maple flower buds. In fall-mid winter those ball-shaped buds are not visible. Now they are about to release their pollen in the next few weeks.

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.