Another Olive Stump Begins the Journey

This is a typical wonderful day here in Santa Clara, CA. Lovely afternoon to work on trees. Late September is the final time to set up my olives for winter growth. I had one last olive stump to open up. Originally the base of a 6′ tall wild growth, it has been reduced over the years. I have kept it cut back to create foliage near the stump itself. Years ago none of this material existed. Prior to wiring out the stump looks like a weird young tree with all the branches reaching for the sky, similar to all the young trees you see for olive harvesting as you drive south on Hwy 5. The goal of today was create depth, open the tree up for fall/winter sun and begin to give it a bonsai style. It is wired with copper wire in a caged fashion that will not bite into the thin olive skin. The wire will be removed in early spring as the tree begins its aggressive growth phase.

Olive stump prior to wiring and shaping. Lots of young growth low to the stump.
Olive stump after wiring and shaping creating much more depth and age to the tree.

Cleanup Summer Foliage

Today was one of those sick days you have to go outside and work on trees. Many of the shimpaku junipers were let grow to recover from a bad year past. Between too much heat, sun, and stress most suffered. So this year they were in grow mode to recover. However; we got some brutal heat this summer and the trees stressed out again, the good thing is that I had not cut them hard and wired them. In the heat of summer the foliage looked very tired. After the passing of the worst heat, it was time to open up the foliage, define branches and do a little restyling.


Shimpaku, Before cleanup 2017
Shimpaku, After cleanup 2017

The first project was this shimpaku. It has always suffered since I got it more than 7 years ago. The bottom branch was too weak and split; I had been trying to keep it strong but never won the battle. So now it is a jin. The foliage on the top was tired and burned but there was new growth appear now that the heat had passed.



This next tree is a San Jose Juniper. They are difficult trees at the best of times but this one suffered after re-potting last year and styling so it was let grow out to get stronger. I let that take its course before restyling it. It has a long ways to go and its mixed juvenal foliage and mature textured foliage will mix again soon.

San Jose Juniper, Before cleanup 2017
San Jose Juniper, After styling 2017









My next project was another Shimpaku Juniper.This tree has been in the collection over 10 years. It has suffered just like my other shimpaku from too much heat and sun. Last year after re-potting we were hit with a heat wave. Most of the trunk on the right side died and I feared for the tree. This year after growing out it was time to ‘start over’ on this one. Cleanup of the dense foliage and dropping some branches will put this on the way to recovery.

Shimpaku, Before cleanup 2017
Shimpaku, After cleanup 2017









Still another Shimpaku Junper, one of may favorite long term projects from the GSBF workshop with Jim Gremel needed cleaned up as well. This one was destined to a show earlier this year but the heat decimated this one in its shallow pot. Cleaned up now it will be on its way to recovery.

Shimpaku, Before cleanup 2017
Shimpaku, After cleanup 2017








I also worked on some other small projects today. Cleaning up a shohin black pine, and continued working on this lovely Potentilla. Since joining the collection this year it has come a long way from a bush.

Potentilla, Still working on the basic design since this one joined the collection this summer. It has come a long way since bush style.


A Final Farewell to Trees

Today, I had the opportunity to work for one of my long time clients. I have worked for him for about 5 years on a small collection of trees that were purchased from Kusamura Bonsai Club show sales tables. When I started working on them they were not in good shape. The owner had purchased them many years ago and was just hanging on to them and they were just alive. Some trees are a joy to work on. We rehabilitated an old ficus that is now quiet a lovely thing. Some of the other trees are passable now having added branches and such. One of the big projects we had was separating a group of three oddly matched Juniper compacta. Originally all three trees were in the same pot and going different directions. Today, two remain in a pot together and one stands alone as a lovely tree.

The client is retiring and moving up to Santa Rosa. So I gave the trees some love to keep them going in the year to come and said goodbye to Steve. He intends to learn much more about the art of bonsai in his new place and I hope he can connect with the nice people of REBS sometime in the future.

Juniper Procumbins compacta, 2017 pre cleanup. Client tree. SF
Juniper Procumbins compacta, 2017. Two of the trees from a group of three now growing strong together. After cleanup
Juniper Procumbins compacta, 2017 after cleanup. Client tree, SF

Last of the Summer: Re-potting Those Warm Weather Lovers

The heat wave here in California broke today leaving humid heat in the upper 80s. That is perfect time to sneak outside and re-pot those trees that still have time to settle in the warm Fall heat and prepare for winter. Trees that love work this time of year are boxwood, olives, ficus, and subtropical trees. My boxwood needed considerable work when I tested the  soil recently.

Boxwood at the beginning of the re-potting process. Out of the pot and teasing roots free of soil.
Boxwood became root-bound in just a few years. This is solid mass of roots.
Boxwood summer re-potting shows is was really in need of work. The root mass had exhausted the soil mixture leave just a mass of roots. This tree was re-potted just a few years ago.
Boxwood after root pruning and set in the pot for tie-down.
Boxwood in new pot made by Jim Gremel.



















This being the end of summer I checked on some small olives, black bamboo and re-potted those as well. The rest of my olives had been worked on earlier in the summer. However, the ficus microcarpa had quickly become root bound this year. I found the roots has fused in the pot. Those fused roots take up considerable space in the pot and had to be cut back to allow room for more root development.

Root bound ficus was extremely congested. This was re-potted last year.
Ficus become root bound and roots fuse into a solid mass. We must cut into that mass to make room for more roots.
2017 FIcus after re-potting.










All these trees will have time to harden up and be stable for the Fall. In this part of California we always end up having along warm stretch into September and October before the rains come.

September Bay Area Heat Wave

Today temperatures in the SF Bay Area, Santa Clara region, peaked at 101 in the shade. Temps reached 108 degrees. For my bonsai friends around the bay, remember to cool down those pots. You may have to water twice a day in some areas of full sun. Humidity is only 14% where I am so things are drying out fast. Soil temperatures on my black pine pot was over 120 degrees before watering.

Take steps protect your trees. The tree below, the olives, are loving the hot temps and is drought resistant. After watering today the leave are busting out every where and dark green. They will enjoy the watering and humidity I introduced much more.

Olive after re-potting, I kept this one in the same pot.

Blog at

Up ↑