New Projects for 2018

I’ve started quite a few new projects for the year, hopefully setting them on a path to become excellent bonsai in the future.

Perhaps when I take them further in development I’ll give them their own designated posts but for now check em out.


Ficus Microcapra “Tiger Bark” (2014–)

This tree was actually among one of the original bonsai I started with. It began as small cutting grown material from House of Bonsai in late 2014. I proceeded to repot it and let it grow freely for the year. Unfortunately the nebari on this tree was typical of the ikea two leg bulbous roots so in late 2015 I opted to ground layer  the tree and completely rebuild a new root system. This spring I’ll do further nebari work as well as give the first major cutback and preliminary styling.

2016 Ground layer in progress, protecting new roots with foil

The tree now:





Hackberry (celtis occidentalis)

The next project is a hackberry I purchased from Bob at Kimura Nursery. It was excellent material with lots of low branches to choose from, a decent nebari, and nice graceful taper. I cut back the main leader and will allow a low branch to run to give additional girth near the base.

as purchased
Leader cut, Note: use the putty type past for hackbery. Even in the winter after making the cut the tree still bled a lot compared to other deciduous varieties. The liquid paste will run off and the tree will lose a lot of sap

On this tree I chose to screw the base to a wooden board. Doing so forces the tree to grow roots laterally and prevents downward growth. This enables the surface roots to thicken more building a better nebari or root spread.

Roots cleaned. Ideally I should of thinned it more and secured desirable surface roots flat against the board, but given I had already removed 80% of the root system I wanted to play it safe.
Wired and screwed on. Next spring I can do much more thorough cleaning and lateral root selection.

The tree was potted in a wooden grow box I made. No photos of it but nothing special. Onto the next project.


Monterey Cypress:

I was fortunate to find a nice sized monterey cypress as regular nursery material. It had a decent sized trunk as well as good nebari or root flare. I went ahead and purchased it and set out to do a full styling from raw material. It was quite a challenging project for me but I’m very happy with the results. I reduced about 50% of the root mass and probably ended up removing about 70% of the foliage to achieve the final design. Unfortunately no pictures prior to repotting to a terra cotta trainer but here it is before styling.


I’ll have to remove large surface roots and tap roots in the future but will do so in the future when it is established with more feeder roots


In styling the tree it was important to me to create a convincing design but also to incorporate elements seen in the iconic monterey cypress peppering the California coast. The harsh coastal winds produce twisted contorted growth and flat foliage pads.

I chose to initiate the orientation of all branches upwards before flattening out at the tips to emulate their natural counterparts. Wiring all the branches in the same fashion also helps bring cohesion to the design


As “younger” nursery grown material it had multiple sub trunks. I opted to remove the thicker trunk that would be hard to introduce movement to while keeping leaving those that would lend towards clean graceful lines. Here is the finished tree:


As with any 3-D object, a tree no less, it is hard to portray depth in a photo. The back center trunk appears to be competing with the main left trunk and the foliage feels cluttered and messy. Unfortunately I do not have a good lighting set up so the highlights on the center trunk also give the illusion it’s on the same plane as the front left trunk.

While I can ascertain (that’s what they all say right) it looks better in person there are still several things you can take from a flat photo. It helps bring out lines and focal points you’d otherwise wouldn’t notice. Also excellent trees often look good in person (3-D) and in photo (2-D) due to a clear definition of lines and movement. Good or mediocre trees can look good in the 3-D aspect but fail in the 2-D lacking that same clarity.

To my defense as nursery material there is a lot of strong outward apical growth. To style the tree I end up removing most of that leaving the weaker interior foliage. I could remove another 20% of the foliage and do more fine wiring but it would stress a tree that already has had considerable work done to it. Admittedly my wiring still needs work but it improves with every project I do.

Typically I like to do a rough styling and then after the tree has recovered with lots of strong interior growth I do the fine foliage wiring. I’ll have to keep close watch on the aftercare on this tree to ensure I don’t lose any branches or trunks.

Here’s an outdoor shot that may have better depth

There’ll be more to come but that’s it for now. I also thought I’d take this chance to update you guys on my apprenticeship ventures.

I’m still probing Taiwan and have sent out letters but no bites yet. On the contrary I may have a possible opportunity to apprentice in Japan. No guarantee yet, but it’s something worth exploring to see if I can pursue. I may have to swap my studies in Mandarin to studies in Japanese if it works out.

I apologize for not getting out articles and translations on the Taiwanese bonsai book I showed 2 posts back but it’s been a bit more busy than I had hoped for. I’m still heading strong towards my goal though and I’ll keep you guys updated along the way. Thanks for taking a look and I’ll see you on the next post!



6 thoughts on “New Projects for 2018

  1. That Monterey cypress looks very fluffy! It almost looks like the lemon cypress, the bright yellow cultivar of Monterey cypress, but without the yellow.


    1. I believe Lemon Cypress is a cultivar of Monterey cypress! They do have a very refreshing lemon scent though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it is, but a weird cultivar. It is too fluffy for its own good. Monterey cypress happens to grow wild here.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Really liked how the nebari of that ficus turned out. If you happen to end up apprenticing in Japan instead, the good thing is that it’s a fair bit easier to learn as it doesn’t have all the tone differences as mandarin does. Plus the writing system is easier as they incorporate regular writing in with the symbol writing, so you’re not only looking at a bunch of symbols. 😛


    1. Yep haha. I had some mandarin fluency when I was younger but my accent and tonal pronunciation has fallen quite a ways 😅. I think of the 2 learning Japanese is easier.


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