Backyard Bonsai Tree Care Home Tour With John

Backyard Bonsai Guy

[WATCH VIDEO] and love bonsai. I have never heard of moving bonsai inside during winter. They are outdoor trees. They meant to be outside all the time. I guess I am a bit pure in traditional arts

simple trick produces healthy bonsai

Video Transcript

Backyard Bonsai Tree Care Home Tour With John – All right well i see i see this is the start of it your whole your whole back patio yeah yeah [Music] this video is brought to you by squarespace i’ve overdone it ah the look in your eyes my wife is an angel yes and therefore uh she allows okay well that’s so she hasn’t been nipped no she hasn’t been nifty she appreciates it hobby but uh and it’s interesting in bonsai there are many many more men than women really um and i asked a woman once why she thought that was and she she said with sort of tongue-in-cheek she said men like to be in control so i got a big kick out of that i’m gonna put a hat on yeah go right ahead i love how your little i think your little chipping sparrows are all just kind of flitting about your uh you know what they are yeah well i hear them i’m a bird person i started out as a wildlife artist really is that true that brought me to cornell oh wow i was at the lab of ornithology as a oh my goodness as the uh artist in residence that is just oh this is my turn i love birds we always have a little birds in the episode so but um then i got into other things went back to school for my masters yeah my artistic interests though have turned to the bonsai and this is art yes it is and and what so you you brought your art from wildlife art into the art of bonsai correct okay yes well and then how did you happen upon it like what was your first uh my son was in high school and he had a buddy who was also was interested in bonsai yeah and i didn’t know anything about bonsai the two boys went out into the woods and collected trees unbeknownst to me i they came back and i saw them in the basement i said guys what are you doing and they said we’re collecting trees we’re going to do bonsai i said well you didn’t have any tools how did you do it yeah well we just pulled him out of the ground i said boys you can’t do that it doesn’t work that way but a light bulb went on in my head and i thought i can go out in the woods i know how to collect i know plants i would and that started me mm-hmm and one of these trees where is it is where is it where is it it’s awful i did move things around here here here if i’m moving to tell me what to do saunder i’ll listen i’ll listen this was one of the very first trees i collected wow and i collected it because the tr the deer had uh chomp chomp chomp chomped it as they do um over the years which meant it was small and had a lot of leaves and all but it had movement and interest in the trunk and that’s one of the the the things that you really look for in bonsai right is the yeah is the trunk the structure of the absolutely uh again and people don’t always remember this or understand this but this is an aesthetic approach as well as horticultural so we’re combining three things we’re combining horticulture you got to keep it alive nature is where you get your inspiration and art is kind of where you’re going with the tree for the presentation i think even with like japanese gardening and also bonsai it’s like ta you said that taking inspiration from nature but not necessarily mimicking it to the exact exact the art comes from the human element in it correct now uh there is there are different ways of approaching it some people are very japanese-esque in their approach the trees have a rather specific look uh in japan in china where it originated right it originated as did the main gardening you know the main gardening of japanese gardening had taken its inspiration also from china i didn’t know that yes so that’s good i don’t know yeah not only bonsai but like japanese gardening that we think about the zen gardening it’s just been refined i don’t want to say perfected because it’s just a slightly different style okay okay and it is different from japan it’s penjing in in japan bonsai in in uh excuse me penjing in china china and bonsai it’s not bonsai yeah that’s a war cry to the emperor bonsai that is a war cry so what we’re talking about is bonsai yes which simply means tree tray tree in a tray tree in a pot and is that what classifies like why isn’t uh if i do a little mini ficus in a in a pot is that can that be bonsai or is it a house plant it’s it’s a house plant unless you are manipulating it right to a certain extent for the structure yes and for you know it can get a little gray though right definition can get gray depending but uh we work with these quite a bit and what what tree is this is it’s like a horn this is a yeah yeah it is american horned yes okay uh which is not one of the better species to work with it’s beautiful though i love it i’ve had it for many years yeah and so the leaves are beginning to reduce in size and uh initially it was uh pretty wild and it didn’t look very good but i liked it because i like nature and i l i’m familiar with the environment and i wanted an american tree there’s a korean horn beam that i’ve got here that have smaller leaves and are easier to work with i’m really attracted to the root structure here though it looks like it’s coming up out is that something that you had manipulated or that you worked with or i worked with what i what i collected what i had yes so collected trees often will have really interesting qualities that nature provided um if you go to a nursery and buy something oftentimes you don’t get that as much you get straighter trunks and less interest in some of the the rootage and and uh the movement of the tree well i love that you actually wild collected a relatively common tree here in the forest and um and i actually was going to ask you this because it’s not wild but we had a lot of deer brows this year and the gentleman who had lived on the land that we ended up purchasing had a lot of interesting conifers and acer palmatums which i know are popular bonsai tree i thought i saw one maybe over there yes and um and i was thinking of actually it was it was almost decapitated there’s some new growth and i was like maybe i could just take some cuttings of that absolutely and then turn it into a little miniature absolutely yeah um you can and they uh they take very well well that’s gorgeous large yeah and that is american large i’ve done a fair amount of collecting this one in particular uh but both but another american large and this is a little grouping yeah and and i see the wires on here yes so if you could talk about that and you talk about the grouping because i know the grouping and a little like almost like a little diorama yes a minute a world in miniature right and so it’s approaching a penjing type thing but um these were sticks when i when i dug them uh out of a fan uh which is similar to a bog and um placed them very specifically so that they had aesthetic placement and then wired the branches into position because they’re going to want to grow right up right very very vertical and as the purpose to see the stem structure to that yes bring them down also to create the illusion of age ah the whole idea here is that we’ve got we’ve got these really old trees well you don’t start with an old tree normally so you have to start with a young tree and create age and you can do it an older tree the branches are lower it’s literally the only we spend our life as humans trying to look young yet we want to age our trees and bonsai ain’t it ain’t it something eat something yup yup um you know the other thing about aging of trees though is i would imagine that you know again i i was like joking because i was i started to like i want to say they’re not in pots but like bonsai in the landscape because we have all these interesting quote unquote dwarf varieties of conifers and they were getting really congested their leaves they’re just dying off and everything and i was like let’s just have the branches that are going and then just clip in and they’re starting to look like this in the landscape it looks so beautiful and interesting okay the japanese do that a lot yeah they’ll do a landscape trees yeah those are in the ground but then they trim them as if they are bones yes and that is what i’m doing and it’s very exciting because it looks so interesting and i could see right through then to the landscape and you can see the beautiful structure of the trees and they’re probably 20 or 30 years old and what i noticed is the bark you know of the trunk probably didn’t look like this when it was young but now it’s starting to crack and mature and age and flake and it it looks that much more interesting right and it’s not something you can really fake right to get the bark uh on some of these trees right uh this is another another one that i collected and that’s but you know and it’s got some bark it’s got some bark character right yeah i before i move off of this one though i noticed you have little sorrels and little uh violas is that a little violet on the other side did that plant itself or did you plant that those are canaries yes those are my canaries okay your canary and i thought you could relate to this very nicely uh that probably seeded itself yeah but um i allow a few quote weeds to grow in some of my pots yeah and when they begin to wilt i know that uh oh i’ve pushed things a little too far so it really does kind of help me yeah also it’s kind of nice especially in a grouping like this especially because it looks like a little forest floor and there’s a little tony woodpecker oh my goodness yes the downies harry’s yeah they’ve been just going through suet like crazy i was gonna say the suet is like the most popular thing ever and also but we discovered that we have a black bear because it took down the he or she took down the uh the sweat feeding the feeders and all the rest of my bird feeders so i take i take my bird feeders out every night now so put them out every morning oh that’s extra work well you know yeah i take them in and i put them out every morning but as he’s saying extra work with all his like 100 fonzai here you haven’t seen them all you haven’t seen them all and but these are these are my my more show worthy and and here’s another one um and this one is like one of the prostrate kind of draping ones yeah that’s another structure like what are some yeah what are some of the structures that they achieve like to achieve and well this would be called a semi cascade a semi cascade yeah exactly yeah there are definitions that are very specific a full cascade has to have most of the tree below the rim of the pot would be a full cascade i see that with like a lot of flowering varieties yeah yes um then there’s formal formal tree which is very very vertical and very very stylized informal slanting you can have wind swept you can have root over rock oh i like the root over rock ones too those are pretty nice that is popular yeah but this is a very old tree that was collected i bought it from a friend who collects trees in south dakota and it was just um of course it didn’t look like this when i got it and then what i’ve been doing lately i i tend to do things a little differently than some of the bonsai artists i like to think out of the box a little bit more so oh that’s not even part of the tree i added that that is nice so i’m all the time looking for dead wood and things that i can can add now it’s got to be done carefully and done well and i can’t say that i always do yeah but that’s my goal now i i want to focus on this pot here because a lot of the trays or the planters are very very shallow yes and is that helped to keep the roots short as well i mean i’m imagining you have to prune the roots sometimes but oh a lot yeah okay so how often then would you be pretty depending on the age of the tree when we get things started and the tree’s fairly young uh we probably do it every two to three years once a tree is well along uh like this tree over here that’s been in a pot now for years and years and years five to seven years but a small pot does restrict the roots however when we trim we trim the thick parts of the roots because that’s just a conduit what we’re after are the hair roots hmm so you cut the thick parts and out from those thick roots that have been cut if everything goes well and it usually does especially if you know the timing of the cutting you get good hair roots so our goal is a pot full of hair roots or really small roots that are doing all the work that’s where they take up all the nutrients in the world exactly yeah right keeps it healthy yes yeah so um so the the fact that’s in a small pot really does also help to keep the plant from growing too fast right it has to grow but we don’t want it to grow quickly we don’t want long internodes distance between leaves we want little leaves and we want a lot of ramification those are our goals because an old tree has all those things right and then you would probably also want to trim the roots so it doesn’t i would imagine if it starts to circle the planter or something it could it could girdle and you know they not only girdle they’ll push the whole pot right up out of the tree out of the plot literally [Music] it is spring but you have lots of like new growth right everything’s really popping now yeah which is all done all that light green light the real pale green yes uh that is a balsam fur i’m not i’m not telling you anything no it’s great no i it’s awesome i’m getting to learn more of my conifers because we have so many interesting conifers in our landscape like you know a cultivar is like piscia punjan’s globosa which i’d imagine would all these would make like good bonsais because they’re they’re supposed to be restricted and growth in any way yeah you know what i mean so they can be a problem sometimes in though that they have branches just everywhere right right you’ve to you got to pick and choose yes i’m usually in my house plants i’m uh conservative when i when i prune because i don’t mind a little wild and wacky but i found when i was outside in the landscape with the conifers i was like i can’t believe i’m taking off so much it was like it was like having long hair and then just feeling like oh my god my hair is so short and it feels great and i’ll never go back again so i was like pruning happy outside so and i and i think that i it’s just because i realized how beautiful the tree could look when you give it a structure similar to a bonsai and it’s interesting people often will say i’ve had people say to me well you’re torturing these trees and my first comment then is do you do you have a lawn yes do you mow it so you cut all the grass multiple times a year do you have any hedges yes do you trim the hedges yeah and they get the point yes yeah the plant and these plants if you think about it from a biological standpoint they’re all designed to cope with being trimmed because animals trim them all the time insects deer you name it you are actually probably giving this uh american hornbeam some opportunity for growth compared to like all the deer that are out absolutely yeah absolutely so and then i noticed that some of them have these and i don’t know if it’s part of the tree or if it’s something that you stuck in but that’s part of the tree yeah so there’s like some dead elements of it but it kind of looks cool to me i could almost see a miniature crow landing on it exactly there’s a story and it’s a true story about a gentleman in germany walter paul who is a good good bonsai artist and he had an exhibit and there was a farmer that came and was observing the show and ended up standing in front of a tree and stood there and stood there and stood there and stood there and looking and walter told the story walter came over to this this elderly farmer and said why are you standing here so long you must really like the tree he said he said i don’t understand it he said how did you get a tree with lightning that hit the top of the tree like this it had it had dead wood at the top yeah made it look like lightning yeah and he he was taken in it looked like a tree that had been hit by light yeah so that’s another one of our goals you know a little bit of nature a little bit of nature we have a tree that looks just like that on our land which is and there’s a the crows sit on it all the time okay well i want to i want to go back to some of these i mean this is an incredible i’m not sure what kind of pine this is but um it’s one of my favorites it looks incredible that is a ponderosa pie a ponderosa pine okay and they get enormous and the out west the bark is amazing isn’t that amazing so this would be is this kind of a semi cascade or no it’s a plant this would be a slam okay slanted okay and um the the problem with this particular species is it’s very hard to reduce the size of the needles um in fact the needles were a few years ago even longer than this it’s a very vigorous kind of tree but this was also this was collected i bought this from my friend in south dakota um uh years ago and have been training it and so you started about 20 years ago so are most of these 20 years ish nor are they no you got some that are a little bit older no i didn’t do much buying at first i did mostly collecting of my own uh trying to learn and um and i was kind of slow at learning i’ll have to admit tried to do too much on my own right uh because there’s tons of places where you can learn and i didn’t take advantage of that for several years and once i did you too proud maybe no you may be right um i did the same with my art as a painter yeah i tried to do i figured hard work would do it and i would paint and paint and paint instead of reaching out to people that knew how to do it already and learn from them right and and and to understand their technique yep but it sounds like over the years you said like uh you you think a little bit outside the box and i think that’s how art evolves in a way right absolutely it’s not you’re not trying to recreate what somebody else has done you’re trying to get yourself in on it absolutely i love that approach it isn’t always found in bonsai circles often is well this is what the japanese do so i’m doing it well there are two two uh young bonsai artists in america that i’m fairly knowledgeable about who are trying to do things a little bit differently they’re doing things quote the american way they’re they’re bringing a little spin on it that’s a little different and i love it i i think it’s i think it’s healthy it’s very healthy let’s go to your acer over here i see this one like sticking way up is this something that you would let go or would you clip that off i’m just curious well that and that that’s a choice i have to make i have to decide what do i want to do about the top here right um and i i will probably take this off and have a rounded top if i want to have a pointed top um which is a younger tree i would um uh let let it let it grow and thicken so this will probably go but one of the things we do with these you know they’re uh their opposite uh leaved trees you know they’re they’re one on each side and when when your tree is pretty much to the point where it’s pretty much where you want it in silhouette and all you don’t let it get really leggy out here because it’ll send these shoots out we pinch those those off right and then it promotes the growth off to the side that and right and we’re always looking for growth inside and to the side so that the the tree is shaped well and then what kind of um cultivar is this do you know ahaha uh there are over 250 different all right you know about that this was a seedling interesting i asked the same question yeah of my i’ll tell you about my man in rochester yeah okay um but i bought it from him yeah and it was a stump i’m serious yeah there were no branches yeah it was a stump wow and i’ve grown it from that so i’ve had this about 15 16 years wow um and it still has a good long way to go it’s gorgeous though yeah and then does it does it redden up over the fall it does okay and then does it lose its leaves that’s another thing that people don’t seem to understand yeah they think well now you’ve got all these trees what do you do in the winter you bring them in the house these trees are they have to act and be treated just as if they’re in the wild right and i put that in quotes because they are in little skinny pots so they go they have to be dormant and they go into an unheated garage right because you’re not like mulching them or anything that you would typically do with a tree outside no you protect them from the winter right now yeah some people do do that okay um but there are all kinds of problems with that you don’t want to do it on the south side of the house because it gets too warm can get too warm you’ve got rodents that will nibble and and do things so i bring them in an unheated garage i try to keep the temperature below 42 fahrenheit above 26 fahrenheit and uh sometimes i get nervous yeah depending on the time have you lost any depending on like rarely lose a tree in the winter okay although i’m bragging a bit here i am i i but people lose quite a bit of material in the winter time because things happen yeah and it’s a difficult time and you still have to water you just don’t water as often for obvious reasons and i guess that’s one of the benefits of having something that is small is that you could actually still manage to carry it into the garage because when i think of like something like a turkey fig and they could get really large and you’re growing it and it’s in a massive pot and you have to have it on a roller or something of that nature these seem somewhat manageable to carry mine are but there is no size limit on these so is there there’s no size limit in the sense of like oh we want something that’s around two to three feet and if it gets too big it’s not no longer there are some bonsai that have uh that take three men to lift wow okay and it’s still a bone size okay because it’s restricted and it’s in some type of yep right and yeah and it’s trimmed and everything just like a regular bone side yeah okay but they tend to be smallish they tend to be well i i see something that’s flowering over here and i think that seems uh you know we should we should feature it because yeah just tell me what to do seriously that’s right i i feel like i want to make it as easy and i even made the pot you made the pot yeah oh wow that’s amazing yeah so you’re a ceramicist as well no no no no i’m not no no um and i want to show you a couple pots i i really enjoy the pots because the pot is an integral part right it’s part of the art it’s part of the art i’m like i’m a i’m a planter and saucer and trace knots i got to show you a pot that i’ve got here i made some friends with some bonsai ceramic arms yeah but this is an azalea it’s a little past uh it’s prime for flowering um and they’re very the azaleas are bushes as you know they’re not really trees but you can make them into little trees and and since they’re flowering um people just love them and they really like yeah and these and every single one of these you actually bring in during the winter months uh yes okay how and this last winter was pretty tough i felt like it was really long is there any is there any downside to keeping them in a little bit longer um well that’s a good question um no if they haven’t started to leaf out no if they start to leaf out and you know what a plant does when it’s in a too darker space you’ve got long internet internet the leaves maybe are not as deep green at all and we’re avoiding trying to avoid that yeah so um it we try to keep it as cool as we can now what about somebody who’s in um i guess any uh a climate zone like florida or whatever um are they working with different plants i mean there’s exactly because they wouldn’t maybe be growing like a little oak or a horn beam from here because it would need a cold period exactly you would need to be putting it into like and and refrigerator this is always one of the problems for bonsai artists wanting to buy a tree that they’re not necessarily familiar with right oh where does this grow and can i grow it where i live the larch that i showed you if you want to move to washington dc don’t take your large they won’t make it a couple years and they’re dead very good very good tips you know so to be to be honest with yourself and kind of where you are and what your climate zone is and to make certain that that if you if you can’t plant that plant outside in your environment then you probably can’t plant it as a bonsai oh that’s a good i’ve never thought of it that way yeah that’s a good way to think of it yeah i guess yeah and then also from from that perspective um is there any is there any bonsai that you could actually grow indoors strictly oh sure okay oh sure yeah absolutely and so you’re just recreating like if i think about house plants i think that they’re usually from the sub-tropical and tropical environments because they’re managing to be in like that 70 65 70 degree temperature i have very few tropicals yeah they don’t turn me on yeah uh which is okay because a lot of people like them yeah but let me show you my tropics okay you’re going to like it okay and it does i bring it in this in the winter for obvious reasons right this is ficus natalensis the new natal fig this is the one that i feel like is the most popular for growing indoors oh really yes okay yes i have one that has two stems that kind of have here in a little thing so it looks like a little dinghy with like two two eggs well i wanna tell you how this was created i did not create this okay but i met a man that did and i was i was floored what he did was he took small little saplings cuttings actually he wrapped them together tightly and got him to root and the tree fused fused they’re all fused wow that’s cool what’s cool about it is i’ve got a small little tree with a nice big fat trunk which is really hard to accomplish that is a very neat story did he like slice the sides of them nope no you just tightly put them together and they fuse so this was one or two maybe even three uh little saplings here’s here was one or two more and of course the rest of them went all up and you have to just kind of arrange it and with wiring and all well i’m also noticing these uh tags in here with numbers do you have that like with your information so you go on a spreadsheet and you’re like okay 48 this is the last time i pruned the roots this is what the species is this is where i got it from that’s it that’s amazing you’re so nerdy i love it well yeah man with a spreadsheet well i do it i do it hard copy yeah you know but uh what’s the analog version we just did a workshop up in rochester uh yeah i’m a part of the club up there yeah so we did a workshop on spreadsheets for your bonsai it’s so important to know what you’ve done you forget yeah especially when you start to collect a lot let’s be honest josh if i only had four or five trees it would not be an issue so so yeah the they’re all numbered yeah and uh i thought they were prices for a minute there yeah one could hope he would never sell that for 48. well i paid uh i paid around 200 for that and that was that was five or six years ago yeah that’s crazy um they can be extremely expensive yes depending yeah it’s an expensive hobby but it keeps you young and healthy and and excited i could tell that you are so excited i am passionate about it i i truly am uh and there’s so much to learn yeah it’s mind-boggling and i’ve learned so much about plants uh i never knew plants needed oxygen the roots needed oxygen i knew they gave off oxygen right they don’t need oxygen do they yeah you know that was something i learned i learned about mycorrhizae yeah uh all these things and it’s fabulous actually that’s an interesting and interesting subject because um i see some of your potting medium here you have some of this uh rocky kind of turf stuff look at you have i think you have a curly dock in here curly yeah so cute yeah he’s gonna get crazy well he i don’t let him get big no that’s just my canary yeah that’s another ponderosa yes so anyway so you potty there’s your soil that’s interesting so this is going to be very airy and it’s super lightweight it’s probably puffed it’s probably like hot the pump there’s pumice lava a little bit of there’s not much akadama in this one are you familiar with akadama no i’m not familiar with okay it’s a clay-like soil that’s collected in japan okay and it’s um it holds water really well it doesn’t break down quickly and we often mix it in with with our soils okay but since we need oxygen for the plants and they’re in a pot often years you put them in you can’t put them in regular soil yeah it compacts right and it’s not good for them right um so then are you watering often because it’s so airy i water this time of year yeah i water daily wow and when we water we flood the plants we don’t water the plants we flood them the water runs right through the pumice and the lava and whatever absorbs as much as it can right and then releases it to the roots i think that’s probably why you see a lot of bonsai pots that have large holes on the bottom because you always constantly have to flood them drainage is crucial yep yep you don’t put these into pots without drainage yeah that’s deadly yep deadly amazing and then also this is a good reason to keep your many of your bonsai outside or at least if you’re watering them and you have one that’s indoors water it outside if you’re going to be flooding them or in a sink where the water could flood out because otherwise you’re going to be ruining your furniture on the inside i guess you probably don’t care as much about your deck out here because well it’s designed to abso absorb all that yeah and then so what other special ones do you have here that you would like to show us okay um i’m sure they’re all special but you have to be selective yes well uh let me let me show you this one okay and i want to show you this one too okay just because it’s but this is a blue spruce wow i have to say our blue spruce in our landscape are having a lot of problems because of the fungal fungal blights bruce says too yeah blue spruce i know all of our blue spruce oh yeah so you gotta you gotta well i can i can address this put it that’s another nice thing about having a tree in a pot like this you can’t address it with fungicides right whether it’ll work or not but i i really like this see here’s a little on the funky side this is not a typical bonsai um and this was collected in the rockies by a friend of mine another friend and are they collected as seedlings like just little seedlings no no no no no no this was collected it looked like this oh wow oh yeah okay except it didn’t the branches weren’t it was just it was quote ugly yeah by um and that’s why i liked it because of the dead wood and all this is an old tree yeah and it was growing in a valley he won’t tell anyone where it is growing in a valley um with um on top of a lot of rocks very very rocky it might have been a big huge creek bed at one time uh every winter and there’s water flowing underneath every winter uh that water all freezes and it would cut the roots off damage all the roots bonsai so automatically naturally the tree had to send out new roots and stunted the growth and so he collected this and you can see um that it’s just now putting out the new growth and i’m going to have to if to keep it short mm-hmm i have a way that i have to address this are you do you clip half i’m going to show you i’m going to show you right here let me i’m going to have to put it down to do that let me do it right over here if i may saunder these will grow way out so for one thing there are three buds right at the end here uh if we allow all three to grow with some exceptions um it gets we get a fat knob here and that’s not going to be good and what we’re trying to get is bifurcation we want one to spread two so i will take this whole bud off okay and that’s down to two right then also what i don’t want some of these they’re still just oh here up here yeah some of these are just a little small but i don’t want this to grow out a lot longer yeah so how do i keep it short i hold the back of it just pinch the tops yep pull the uh the center out of it yeah yeah and it’ll still grow it’ll still grow it’s healthy as much and next year i’ll get two here [Music] what you do with ponderosa since they have such long needles the thought is what you do is you’ll just let it let it grow it’s going to be too long for initially year after year but with all this extra growth you’re going to get more back budding we’re always talking about back budding back in here and then you which not all species will back bud correct that’s correct so so what species are not back butters i guess um in the conifer family in the conifer grouping well they don’t back butt on on uh old wood right for the most right right with some exceptions yeah uh some just are better than others yes okay but then then once you start getting the back buds then you can remove some of the ends if you want it squat if you want to pull things back in yep amazing it’s just like an ebb and flow i mean look at this tiny like this really yeah small one behind you is that one of the ones that you made no oh this is the one that you have uh you have a dealer there’s a woman there’s a woman in in oregon who just i just flipped when i saw her work just flipped it’s very expensive and i write and i i’m on the board of american bonsai society so i have a lot of little jobs i’m supposed to do and one of them is to make sure there’s a lot of strings you could pull too yeah don’t tell anybody um it helps there’s benefits there is benefit and um i i see to it that our journey we have a journal and i have to i look for artists to to submit and so i asked jan rensselaer i said oh i love your work would you write an article about your work for the magazine oh she says i’m not a writer i can’t do that i i said i tell you what you get it down on paper and i will edit it i’ll take care of it which is what i did and we ended up with a nice nice article about her work and i got a package in the mail she sent me this pie oh that is just so nice and then i love how i just love it and you’re curving this up and i found a little tiny tree it’s a it’s a korean horn beam again and so notice the smaller leaves is that something that yeah yeah and i just i thought that’s perfect yep so beautiful got to be really ginger with all this i mean all the moving back and forth and everything season over season and you get these precious trays and planters and ceramics things can happen yeah um unfortunately so i noticed you have some up here and then you have some down there are these kind of like your your pets uh and that’s the backyard well i had some special people coming today and so i thought i’ve got to open things up a bit yeah okay so before you were we would have been like this well not not quite that bad but those trees are typically up here okay got it yeah but then i’ve got other trees too okay cool uh but those those are those are uh not as far along and and i’m just doing a little of this and a little of that with those see this yeah go ahead no i was going to say i was going to point over here i collected this i collected this tree now i did collect this one this is another ponderosa pine and uh thank you yeah i think that is uh thank you i think that is something that’s brand new oh i know what those are yeah yeah those are those are uh i want to say soft flies goofy yeah they’re caterpillars yeah um and they get quite large oh i’m so glad you saw this i don’t haven’t seen it i know i’ll take care of those okay now those will not get sprayed yeah i’ll pull them off yeah because they’re easy enough to pull off i looked and i was like that looks like almost like a flower but then they’re all they’re all like little eyes just like but i did collect this tree and i collected that tree yep uh with my friend in um in south dakota and it was fabulous oh we went up in the mountains and uh uh it was it was wonderful and these these are trees growing uh in cracks in the rocks yeah and they’re they’re just not going to make it right they’ll grow for years that tree right there is about 150 years old oh wow minimum and we know that because he did core samples on others about that size yeah so you know this tree is probably right in that same ballpark now what’s interesting is that you have this little other seedling kind of growing yeah that’s an aspen aspen that does a quaking aspen that just dropped in that just dropped dan the peaking aspects are like that but you can see i love plants yeah i have real trouble sometimes yeah pulling it out so i kind of like it though because sometimes you know we have this giant oak tree that is on our land and well there’s lots of things growing on it it’s become its own little microcosm so unfortunately there’s a japanese honeysuckle growing up on it but interesting but i like that look like i like how there’s like little microcosms kind of growing in and on the plant too which is neat yeah yeah and then sorry i i kind of checked you from here well this is uh engelman spruce i don’t know if you’re familiar with it i’ve heard of english oh they’re huge and i’ve never out west i’ve seen them um and it’s not a very happy spruce it got some sensitivity this is this is ugly yeah yeah so the browning of the leaves yeah and i don’t know quite why it did last year it did get some scale okay which i that’s my worst problem that’s what is tough i fight how do you deal with scales some kind of like horticultural oils and i’ve tried that i’ve tried soap um it’s tough and yeah i’ve heard this i’ve even tried cleaning some of the needles or leaves and ugh do you think like humidity like our humidity ever you know sets these plants back at all maybe maybe i don’t know because it would be drier out west this would be dry the same with the ponderosas a friend of mine gave me some systemic uh stuff that i have been putting on and i dislike using pesticides yeah that’s always like my last last resort yeah but yeah i love the the ferns they just they just come up like gangbusters this and these are sensitive ferns i think right that’s correct yeah that’s so cool yeah and they now they i think will look really nice yeah i try to keep the fronds a little on the small side so that the proportions but i like this it had movement and uh um so i’ve been working with that well it’s it’s definitely a process you’re showing it it’s a process you know it’s very much so do you ever take photos year over year to see how it’s progressed i do yeah and for some of these i’ve got photos when i first got them yeah and you compare it to where they are now and you think how did he get here from there that’s really helpful though if you show the process of it all and just how it kind of here’s another angleman oh no this one looks better doesn’t that look a lot better yeah um now that is a literati are you familiar with that tern literati um not in not in botanical okay um the literati were the learned people of uh of china and they would sit around they were wealthy apparently but they would sit around and philosophize well i know that artwork right literati i know from that term but i didn’t know is it is it it’s not a botanical term or is it being it’s a it’s a well maybe it’s a bonesight term yeah okay that’s all i that’s how i learn when i think about literati i think of like what you’re saying like the learned the philosophies that’s how that’s how it got started but they would paint trees to look look a certain way and this this tree now is maybe not a good example of it but that would be considered a literati movement in the trunk not a lot of leaves on branches uh uh it minimal less is more [Music] that’s that’s something really big in in bonsai less is more but i i fell in love with this and it it didn’t look like this when i got it i’ve only had it a few years and you can see i’m holding this branch down that’s ugly but until this branch uh really sets um i have to i have to do something to keep it down yeah and are you ever fertilizing these trees absolutely okay and how often uh that is the question everybody in bonsai is wondering um the younger trees that were where we’re just getting things started you fertilize them fairly often but that promotes as you well know can promote excessive growth growth yeah and also depending if you’re trying to get growth out of it fine as the trees get more and more mature we um pull back on our fertilization do you do slow release or do you do something that’s like you know because if i’m imagining if you’re going more organic versus like a liquid synthetic you’re gonna i prefer the uh the organic and i make my own a little recipe that i have but i also do use the chemical fertilizer some of the people do use the slow release i heard a horror story of the slow release in that the people were using it they had a very cold spring and the release it doesn’t release unless it’s fairly warm the the little pellets warm weather a hit sort of like now and it released more of the material than they really normally really early on it killed many of them yeah right so i don’t use it anymore okay now here’s one that’s catching my eye because you have two in one kind of growing here yeah was that something that just happened again it was a little seedling yeah i was going to move it one pine maybe very good very good it is a white is it yeah well yep oh it is yep you know your plan no sometimes i’m so impressed because they don’t well no i’m so impressed really you you’re really good um one great example of some of those no those are candidates yeah right and when you break them off oh i had a friend of mine what we were talking about he’s learning and he broke them all off way down here where there are no needles right and so there were no needles that that doesn’t work yeah you’ve got there’s a bare area and then the needles start to come out yeah so when you break it off you’ve got to break it off in the needle area so that some needles are left on the tree anyway this is another balsam fur as you i’m sure no but i just i fell in love with this yeah that’s oh yeah i just love that so craggy i don’t like this yeah no what would you do with that can you just do you just have to leave it or would you um eventually try to clip it it’s a major major branch yeah root part so what i really could do if i could turn it down a little bit more and get it under the soil level maybe that would help right wouldn’t be so obvious yeah but i’ve only had this a couple of years but i’m not pushing with fertilizer i don’t push much but since back to the fertilizer since we’re watering so heavily and the water rushes right through it pulls the nutrients out right and the fertilizer out more quickly so you got to always keep that in mind right also one of the men in our group um is a horticulturist from cornell and he got talking about using biochar are you yeah like tara pretzel yeah and that’s a big deal now apparently yeah and so now several of the bonesight people i know the professional ones are incorporating biochar charcoal because that holds not only moisture but holds uh organic yeah because it has all these like it’s almost like a tufa you know it has all these crags and stuff that hold it all and it’s it’s porous but still can maintain it has all that surface area for all the good stuff yeah yeah and then uh when when are you going to leave i’ll take it off or do you take it out no i think i will take it out okay um once once i repot it um i’ll i’ll take it out maybe i’ll do a little something with it the white our american white pine doesn’t do well as a bonsai it’s leggy and it just doesn’t do well but when i think about it in the forest oh they’re beautiful they like to go straight up yeah you know they like to shoot straight up and if they’re lucky they’ll they’ll be as straight as an arrow yeah so yeah i mean i think of also like junipers and you know i feel like that’s a very popular one i don’t see i have any here i have very few junipers i don’t particularly like them why don’t you like them because they are a popular uh plant for a bonsai it’s a very good question maybe because i’ve had didn’t have much luck with them when i started okay i do have some okay i thought maybe they’d be two they’re they’re too pedestrian no no no no no no um not at all yeah it’s just that i they’re very popular mm-hmm and uh yeah you know you you don’t have to have an explanation well you have preferences for plants too i’m sure i love this one oh i don’t care for them well what is your favorite that you grow from a coniferous standpoint and also from a deciduous standpoint there we go um i like the larches and i like the ponderosa pines because they have such interesting twists and turns the ponderosas are just outstanding in my opinion right um on dece when i got started i was interested in deciduous not conifers i don’t think conifers just didn’t turn me on over the years more and more i got mostly conifers now yeah yeah i think it’s so funny how we like transition and come over to you know because when we when we first came onto our land i could see that he had this preference for the acers the acer palm autumns and like he brought in a lot of you know korean japanese um himalayan species of conifers so non-natives and i’m kind of like oh no native all the time i’m native all the way right but i’m now seeing the beauty of them in the landscape and how you can manipulate them to be an interesting artistic living sculpture within the landscape and so i’m coming over to it okay and learning as well yeah i’m evolving and it gives me something new to learn which is really wonderful and so i was eager to come here because when i look at this kind of stuff i was like i could create that in the landscape with what he has absolutely and it’s been growing for decades so you know you get the beauty of the older bark and and it’s not just something that like plunked in the landscape like yesterday yeah so um so yeah i i see the value i call it character character and and that’s that’s what um creates an interesting life that’s what creates the story around it yeah and every one of these trees has got a story with it every single one of them yeah some of the stories are a lot more fun than others but but this one here this is another balsam um i lifted this off of a boulder in the adirondacks and i’m making a semi-cascade this so reminds me of in a way our hemlocks and i’m wondering can a hemlock be a good okay there it is they are they are not easy to work with you go out in the woods and you say i’m gonna go collect one they’re all over they they just don’t have much interest right um this one’s for collecting this one seems a little yellow it is a little yellow and i don’t know what the problem is okay it’s like i’m being too restricted no i don’t think that’s it uh it was in bad shape when it was given oh my goodness but you have like some liver words and stuff right there right right liberal we i i like it but it means things are a little on the wet side on the wet side okay but but usually hemlock but hamilton find them in the bottom lands exactly yeah exactly so that’s why it hasn’t bothered me i made that pot yeah oh wow that’s nice that’s very precise of a pot yeah i made it in a work is it like a sculpture like is it a mold i mean or yeah well he brought he brought the strips okay and we had to put them all together got it to make the pot yeah and then we had to choose our glaze okay i like the natural the natural kind of i don’t like anything too glazey this one this one really speaks to me this this type of planter that’s concrete is it concrete that’s concrete i love it yeah i do too in fact we’re talking about doing that in a workshop at the we have a local club that i kind of spearhead i i love the um organic shapes of of of those okay oh and let me show you another if i’m going too fast no no by the way we’ve got water in there too guys yeah and we’ll break bread so yeah this is um an eastern um white uh eastern sea it’s through your occidentalis okay yeah it’s uh a lot of things are called cedars oh that term is terrible it’s like just a generic term for like probably six genders eastern white cedar yeah yeah yeah but it’s not a it’s a thuya yeah uh which actually worked really well in our landscape and we have a lot of these planted all over the landscape this is exquisite it looks like a wind swept yep you know on top of a high altitude mountain this will probably go in the national show and i’m going to tell you about the national show okay because i think you will be turned on there yeah i love being turned on by plants okay good um and this pot is by a very well-known woman sarah raynor okay in minnesota i’ve got several of her pots um really like her material she’s really super uh anyway uh this i picked this this was a little tiny tree in 1986 i picked it out of a river in the adirondacks floating down the river had fallen out of the bank wow it was floating down the river i picked it up brought it home planted it at my pond and for years the deer nibbled it never it didn’t do anything yeah i was before i got into bonsai yeah i got into bonsai and just a little light bulb went on john why don’t you just try to do something with that and so i did and so this is what i came up with that is exquisite it’s a really exquisite piece and the the bark and everything and now this is a full cascade because most of the tree is below the edge yeah gorgeous absolutely stunning and it’ll be my first tree in the national show and so do you get uh do people vote at the national show is it like uh where you get like ribbons or medals yes okay they bring in they bring in three judges there’ll be one from japan one from the uk and i think one from either mexico or canada okay sure and then what are the criteria for this oh oh they have a whole list okay they’ll look at the rootage yeah they’ll look at the pot they’ll look at the color of the tree the health of the tree they’ll look at the ramification all of these things and give it a number and then at the end of the day they put it all together and come up with the best conifer the best deciduous the best uh native uh species it’s a big big deal yeah oh that’s good and what took you so long to actually submit uh my trees are not that great i’m being honest yeah totally honest yeah um anyway uh this is and i i i i have to look up what the species is i thought it was a winged elm it’s an elm i thought it was a winged elm but it’s not i’m pretty sure it’s there’s a i got it in oklahoma um dug it it took me two and a half hours literally because i timed it two and a half hours to get this little baby out of the ground and how big was it before um well it had branches and stuff up in here okay but it was in a cow chomped field wow look at the thickness of this trunk and uh it looks like an elephant the soil was way up to here oh wow so it was buried yeah yeah and it was probably like being suffocating the it was a field um of cow patty of cows yeah and they nibbled it every year wow so they they did the bonsai yeah but they were they were literally piling up their cow poop and like well they may have and there were all these rocks in the field so you you couldn’t take a shovel and typically and to dig it out yeah well it looks exquisite it looks like i like its foot yeah it’s amazing i i really like it yeah so i’m happy with it i think this is i think this is a wonderful tour is there any last one that you want to show us i mean i mean i know you want to show us everything but no no you can’t look at everything um that might have a story with it oh my well yeah yeah because i think this people will be able to relate to this maybe a little um is this a little plum tony asked tony astor okay no i don’t know that one ah okay um this you can people put these around their their homes okay it’s a nursery nurseries carry these somebody was digging this up and throwing it out and i said oh no no i can do something with that now again it it it it didn’t look quite like this yeah but i made it into a little uh a cascade and then in that was you probably worked with a wire to kind of you know pull it down right okay and i did this i’ve only had this two years now this is the second growing season wow so the idea being everyone thinks well it takes 20 30 years to have any kind of a treat no right you can have things very quickly and of course it’s flowering which is nice we’re just about finished with that yeah so inspirational well you really gave us a lot of food for thought here and you really allowed me to see kind of what i want to do in miniature but like in in my landscape as well so even if i don’t get into i think my avenue into bonsais are going to be through my actual landscape trees sure and then moving from that that point forward um i already sensed my i already feel my spidey senses our senses are telling me that i’m going to move that direction just because i’m also getting books on it now too whenever whenever i get the books i know i’m going i’m starting to get go deep so well this is just incredible john thank you so much for sharing your passion with us now if you visited any of my sites including or even our newest site at then you’ll know the slick design and the easy to use interfaces are complements of squarespace now the first thing you’ll notice about them is that they just have really nice modern design templates and there’s quite a selection to choose from and i’ve even used different templates for all of my sites just to give them a different 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