Archive for the ‘California Inspiration’ Category

Fence Bench   Leave a comment

This has been my first full year of retirement. It has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and medical issues. Rosie and I have worked thru them and we are excited for this new summer.

Early in the Winter I started expanding my grow out area. It was expanding and I needed more room to house all the pots and larger tree growing out. It is especially hard since often times canopies are allowed to grow unpruned until sizes are reached on certain branches before pruning back. Having these sitting all over the yard and moving them to mow and water and prune other things is a hassle. What I did was reinforce the fence by installing knee braces at each post with a 4 x 4 and a steel stake driven in the ground. This made the fence super rigid and also adds more strength to the fence since it’s shared with a neighbor. I installed a 16 foot shelf on the fence at the post height, about ten inches from the top of the fence. These are mostly for growing out shohin size trees and with the shelf at 10 inches from the top, I don’t have to worry about something or someone coming along and knocking it off the shelf from the other side.

Two months ago I built the second shelf under the first. This shelf is about 14 inches below the first shelf. Here you can see the knee braces holding the fence firm. Both shelves are 16 feet long. This area gets full sun almost all day. The sun starts about 9:30 AM and gets shade about 5 PM. Notice all the larger stuff on the ground sitting around in colanders and cut down nursery containers.

Today I finished the lower shelf on concrete blocks two high. The shelf is two 16 foot 2 x 6’s with a small block every 5 feet for support and to keep them from twisting. The bench holds all the larger trees that need the support. Underneath is all my seed trays.

Up on the shelves contain cuttings and smaller rooted plants of things taken last year.

These clay pots have elm root cuttings in them, neagari style and the tips of the cuttings all have small green shoots popping out.

Like these….

These small green things are semi cascade style small leaf privets. Just poke them in the ground and roots in 60 days.

I got these three pines from Ed Clark March 14 this year. Two of them have been styled, the third one tomorrow.

The big pine I got from Steve DaSilva. It’s growing really well. I lost two very small branches that turned brown after about a month. The rest of the tree is responding well.

Candles galore.

These two colanders have , I think,  Crape Myrtle seeds in them. They popped out last week and are really growing quite fast. They will be getting the screen on top this week end. The screen keeps them from growing up, and puts all sorts of movement in the seedlings.

These were tridents I did several years ago with the method. Just window screen laid over the seed bed.

That’s the way you put movement into trunks at an early age. I have several hundred tridents that I am doing this way again.

The Trees that Throw Apples?   Leave a comment

Early in my life I saw a movie that scared the bejeezus out of me. The Wizard of Oz. As a small child the beautiful parts of the movie ended up taking a back seat to the scary parts of the movie. I mean, who could ever forget that green witch with her evil cackle and scary looking broom. Later, we would see the team skip down a yellow road and into a spooky forest only to be molested by evil apple throwing trees. That image stuck with me until this day.

Now I have talked many times about a term called “mental model”. A mental model is a term used to explain why people are drawn or not drawn to certain images in their life. Due to my age, BI (before internet) my first exposure to bonsai was the first book I ever purchased. I bought it on my honeymoon and read it cover to cover many times during that week. The pictures in that book set my mental model of what bonsai should look like. I didn’t have the internet to look at and be exposed to countless thousands of images of bonsai from around the world like so many do today. That book was my world and that is what I knew, and bonsai for me was contained upon 50 pages in a small book. Of course my horizons broadened greatly as I found out about the bonsai scene within the state and began to see images of trees not in the book

This modified single trunk tapering “S” curve trunk was my mental model of what bonsai should look like. If only everything we find in nature could look like this!

This photo also captivated my imagination due to my proximity to the trees in nature near me.


This is how I thought bonsai should look. I thought based on the pictures I saw of how to develop bonsai and a finished product, that all bonsai were shaped like an “S” , had massive taper and finished in a pointed triangle.

The subject of this article started in 2011. I was invited to Steve DaSilva’s home for the first time to dig some material from his field. The maples we were digging at that time were about five years old. They had been started in 2006. Up to this point I had only one really big, and good trident maple in my collection. When I saw these in the ground I allowed my awe to get the best of me. I wanted the biggest one I could find. I wanted the tallest, the fattest and digging it gave me so much satisfaction.

I had that puppy out of the ground, Planted in a cut down ten, and filled it with my soil mix. That is just how this tree has sat for the last nine years.

I have moved it around my yard countless times and tried this and that. Started some pine tree type branching on it, but the tree never became all consuming to me. It was always just watered and cared for, without doing much bonsai work to it. Last year after a look at the tree and what I was able to take out of the top, I decided to layer out that top.

That top had made a turn to the side and a new leader was chosen and it looked as if it could be something.

The top removed and planted out.

After removal of the top, I had this stump. Many of the branches left on the trunk have not necessarily been trained in that shape, they are mostly there and that way due to me cutting them back so they didn’t stick out into a travel path. They many times presented a trip hazard and I would just lop them off.

Cesar Ordonez, a new guy to bonsai but eager to learn, asked if he could come over on a Sunday due to his work, and help out with what ever it was I was doing. This past Sunday was a good time for that as I had some things that needed tending to. I put the big monster on the bench and we looked it over. I had it on a turntable and I asked Cesar if there was anything he saw in the stump. We turned it different directions and looked and looked. It had branches but they were in not so good places

I began working the top with a rotary tool. I removed wood from between branches in an effort to add some taper to the stump.

Based on various indicators around the stump like branches, taper, or lack there of, nebari, large roots and future refinement I kept coming back to this one place. I indicated that by placing a sharpie mark on the base of the trunk. While there are places that the trunk looks fatter, it comes with other things that ruin that look. I liked what was going on but was unsatisfied with the shape of the trunk. For this thing to be believable it would need to look like it had lived thru harsh storms and rough living. Nature would have tapered this thing all by itself.

I turned the tree a little off my mark and carved some more. It was looking better and more of the feeling I wanted. The trunk didn’t look so blocky this way and had a subtle turn. I asked Cesar what he thought and I just nicked it with my grinder to seal the deal. No turning back now.

The only thing that kept me from working more was that damn eye poker branch.

With that branch gone there was nothing stopping me from really getting to work on the trunk.

In my research for spooky trees I found some pictures. Of course we have the Wizard of Oz, which had the creepy talking apple throwing trees that scared me as a child.

In my research, which means I look to the internet for inspiration. I found a common theme in scary trees. They all tend to be blocky trunks, cut off square and branches coming out of the top. Perfect, I’m on my way.


More grinding with the Arbor Tech and more woods turns to sawdust. At this point I am adding some texture to the removal of the wood. This will become much more prominent in the future as the interior dries out and texture can be carved with fire and things like that.

I did some cleaning up of branch stubs and buds on the trunk ready to pop.

The tree was popped out of the can and the roots were exposed to the air nine years later. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of that, though Cesar may have pics on his phone. The tree was prepped up and planted into the colander to build a better root ball and the tree was planted more slanted to accentuate the creepy nature of the tree. Most of the pictures above show the subtle curved trunk at an angle in the soil.

Though the branches are large and unbendable, I was able to move a lot of them. Some of the big ones will be carved down later as smaller new growth, that can be wired into twisty spooky shapes, can be done.

Yosemite in Autumn   Leave a comment

Yosemite is ablaze with the colors of Fall. My wife and I had the rare opportunity to see the colors of the Yosemite Valley during this colorful season.




























Posted October 30, 2016 by California Bonsai Art in California Inspiration

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Backyard Lilies   Leave a comment

Over the last few weeks my backyard has been a blaze with the blooming of the lilies. Asian lilies and day lilies. Here is a look at whats blooming.








Posted June 12, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in California Inspiration

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Spring begins in the Foot Hills   2 comments

This is the best time of the year here in the Central Valley. The hint of rain in the air, billowy rain clouds frame azure skys and the attributes for great pictures are there.

California is called the Golden State, and for good reason. The state flower is the golden poppy and when the conditions are good and the rain is adaquate the hills will glow with the golden color of the poppy. Last year the rains did not come and the poppies were not very plentiful and the show was not very good. Wild flowers did not come as well. This year was different.


These are the golden hills of California.




Carpets of wildflowers blanket the backdrop of blue cloud filled skys and majestic oak trees.

Lupins and poppies.










This ground squirrell gets some air.






Three generations of oak.





Posted March 1, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in California Inspiration

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Direct, from the top of the world, Fresno CA.   5 comments

I drove to the limits of Fresno County on Saturday to have a look at some old cedars. I had seen these as a kid but had not been back to this part of the world in over 45 years. This post will contain mostly pictures and so will be told thru captions. I am at tree line here, and many of the mountains you will see are the tallest in the lower 48. Mt Goddard shown many times below is over 13,500 feet tall.


That big tall one in the middle, rather darker than the rest is Goddard.



Just to the right of Goddard is a typical glacial cut “U” shaped valley as seen in Yosemite also.





As we drove on the wildflowers were awesome. I have never seen such beautiful flowers so high.



Big bumble bee deep inside the flower.







As we near the end of the road at Courtright Resevoir, we are at 9000 ft in elevation. Nearing treeline, the face of the mountains are solid granite. Even in the valleys it is solid granite. It is amazing that trees can even grow in this solid mass. The roots, ice, snow, freeze thaw, and erosian help to put some soil atop this solid mass for plants to grow.

Trees at this altitude have their tops blown off by lightning all the time. This tree has grown a new top by growing sideways and then beginning its new apex moving straight up. Cool top!


This is a grove of young Lodgepole Pines, Pinus Contorta var. Murrayana. As one can see there are many trees here suitable for bonsai. many would make beautiful Literati trees with minimal work. All of the movement is due to the soft juvinile growth and the heavy snow pack that is here for 6 months out of the year. This year was very dry and so I was able to make it here in mid June. many years this area is still in heavy snow pack untill late July, early August. This area gets 25 to 30 feet of snow in average years, and over fifty feet in a good year.






This tree was broken down by the snow and ice and is essentialy growing on the ground in a circle.






How about this for a twin trunk literati. I was tempted to just give a tug and see how sturdy it was. My wife felt it might be in our best interest and not having the car impounded to just leave it there for a few more hundred years.


As you step back and take in the whole image of things one can see the larger trees. As they gain girth and begin to solidify in the rock, they can start to stretch out some of the juvinile twists and turns all the snow pack has given them.



Some of these are really great. I want them all.


At the top of the summit is LeConte Divide. This divide seperates the San Joaquin River Watershed and the Kings River Watershed. Notice here that the tops of the mountains are now nearly all granite and the trees are much more sparse.


As we leave the summit we decend slightly to Coutright Reservoir. An alpine lake filled on a solid sheet of granite. There is no soil at the bottom only stone.





My wife near the waters edge.


A little geologic lesson now about the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Against a backdrop of 4.5 Billion years, the relativly young Sierra Nevada’s don’t seem so old. Like the Himilayas, these are young mountains. The effects of erosian over the next million or so years will take their toll and cut them down to size, but for now, they are jagged and tall. About 200 million years ago the North American plate began overriding the ocean plate. The sedimentary ocean floor began being pushed up with repeated collisions with this plate. The red rock at 8300 feet in altitude used to be ocean floor. The sedimentary rock has now turned to metamorphic rock due to heat pressure and force.





As magma and volcanic action turned the ocean floor to a new stone, mica schist, it combined with the granite to form these unique patterns.

Sedimentary rock is always flat and thin seperating into layers very easily like slate. Due to the huge geologic forces here, the sedamentary rock turning into metamorphic rock sometimes becomes folded and wavy due to the forces.


As the granite cools, it creates long fracture zones that fill with other minerals. Mostly it was during this time in the Sierra Nevada’s that these dikes filled with quartz and gold 98 million years ago.



The granite does not cool at the same rate either. As it cools the smaller minerals and the larger minerals cool at differing rates creating an effect called
“schlieren”, German for streaks.


As recently as 10,000 years ago glaciers covered much of this part of the US. In the soft metamorphic rock can be seen the streaks of tons of material sliding past these mountains.


Another event common with glaciers is the “Erratic”. An erratic is a stone left over by the glacier as it recedes. Sort of like leaving a garbage trail. These boulders can be brought from many hundreds of miles away and left in a totally different place than where the original stone was picked up by the glacier.

In this picture a string of four huge erratics are shown left by the receding glacier.


A close up of an erratic.


A very large erratic with a small tree growing on the downhill side looking like it is holding back the huge boulder.


A few more miles to the end of the road and we can see the huge gorge of the SanJoaquin watershed. This gorge is about 2000 feet deep.



When near the top again the trees start to look very strange. Stunted and sparse, growing flat and somehow very mishapen.






Okay, so now you have come this far. This is what we have been waiting for, those old cedars I promised. They are patriarchs and I am glad I got to see them again. They really havn’t changed much in 45 years…..




When you get under the canopy and reall look at the tree, one can see how the snow has pushed all the branches very close to the trunk.















Hope you enjoyed my trip as much as we did.

Posted June 23, 2013 by California Bonsai Art in California Inspiration

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