June 18, 2024

A Visit to Bebop Bonsai & His 3 Tips for Alberta Spruce Bonsai

Source material: June 8, 2024

            Last weekend when I was vending at the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society's excellent show (more pictures to come from that in a later post), their club president kindly invited my Columbus Bonsai Society associate and I over to his place after the first day of the show to chat and see trees. Needless to say, we had such a good time talking that I almost didn't think to take pictures of his trees until it was getting dark and time to go. Here are those few shots at Bebop Bonsai located just south of Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Ian Evans is their club president and the curator of this cozy backyard garden. Ian also has a long history as a jazz drummer hence the name of his bonsai business, but more recently he has launched into bonsai through offering services in his area such as maintenance tasks, tree boarding, and assistance selling/moving trees. You can read more about Ian's bonsai work, see pictures, and find out more about his bonsai services on his website here. Read on for more pictures and 3 species-specific tips for Alberta spruce found in bold in the picture captions below of Ian's Alberta spruce bonsai.

In Vivo Bonsai / Columbus Bonsai Announcements

  1. My next workshop is Saturday 6/29, Kevin Faris and I will be teaching beginner-intermediate bonsai styling and care for junipers and yews. For the intermediate level, the junipers we have are unique, aged material (20 years old+), meanwhile for the beginner level we have some nursery stock yews which are flexible to a variety of styles. Sign up and see pictures and full details here and contact me with any questions! There are only 1 beginner and 1 intermediate spot left and observers are welcome.
  2. If your local bonsai or garden club is interested in having me talk to your group in 2025, please contact me and we can discuss options. There are now 3 talks on my YouTube channel and a few other subjects I've given but not recorded. Even for subjects I've done before, I always update them with new information as I learn more and develop as a teacher! We can also brainstorm for workshops or an entirely new lecture subject.
  3. The Columbus Bonsai Society's next meeting is 7/20-7/21, our 52nd Annual Show. This year it will be held at a new venue - Chadwick Arboretum at Ohio State University near downtown Columbus. More info will be coming this week and can be found here.

Ian's biggest Alberta spruce. This tree is probably 4' tall. I think he said it was a former landscaping tree. Luckily for me, Ian has a number of Alberta spruces he has styled due to their widespread and cheap availability especially around Christmas. I say luckily for me as I just acquired my first one. Ian's main advice on these is to (1.) let the wire bite in hard on the branch before removing it to make sure the branch stays, then with vigorous growth the following year these scars tend to heal well. Many people report that wiring this species is a pain as they go back to the way they were too easily. This seems like a good solution though!

Sugar maple forest and an Alberta spruce slab planting. Ian mentioned he has found the species to be tolerant of defoliation. My own sugar maple that the deer are currently snacking on in my backyard is leading me to the same conclusion!

Unknown Juniper in foreground.

Another Alberta spruce slab planting by Ian. Regarding Alberta Spruce bonsai, this example and others here are proof that (2.) once the foliage is thinned to allow light in, backbudding occurs abundantly allowing leggy exterior branches to be replaced by new compact interior growth. This process requires both light into the interior as well as healthy foliage to be left alone on the end of the branch you want backbudding on.

Pine, juniper, and spruce.

Alberta spruce forest and larch. Also, Ian mentioned the yew in the back right is one he is selling for another owner. A final tip for Alberta spruce bonsai is sound advice for most bonsai species - (3.) only perform one major operation per year, otherwise stress and death may follow! In this case, Evan worked on the roots to assemble the slab planting this year so it's best to wait to do major pruning and wiring until next year.

            That concludes the quick pictures I took of Ian's garden. I'm sure I missed a few trees but you'll have some surprises in store if you visit there yourself someday! Ian also had at least 2 trees in the club show that were not pictured here. I'm glad we had this chance to exchange ideas for better bonsai practice and to strengthen our local bonsai club ties going forward! Time will tell what comes of that.👀

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