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Beginning of 2018 updates

Hey All,

In the start of 2018, I decided to clarify and outline for myself what the most important things in my life are and focus more on those things. What I settled on was:

  • Family
  • Bonsai
  • Health
  • Friends

Ultimately, if it's not on the list above, i'm trying to spend less time on it and more time on the things that are most important to me.  Lately, life has been busy and exciting with my first kid on the way which will obviously be at the top of my priorities.  The wife and I have been getting the nursery all prepped, buying baby stuff and reading up on what to expect when your expecting.  When not prepping for the future little one I've been working hard at upping my Bonsai game.  If your interested in following me more, I've started posting more frequently on Instagram and would love if you followed me @lee_bonsai.

Here's a couple maternity pics we took.

CA native -Coast live oaks - Quercus agrifolia in the background 😉


Last month, I exhibited my tree I jokingly refer to as the Coffin Box tree at the 19th annual Bay Island Bonsai show.  Can you believe Boon and his club have put this show on for nineteen years now?  I’m looking forward to next year as they celebrate their 20th-an incredible accomplishment in continuing this exhibition.  I had a great time as usual hanging out with all the BIB members and assisting with photography.  Huge props to Sam Ogranaja the photographer who took this beautiful picture and Boon for all the help since 2010 in working on it!  I was incredibly honored as the tree was selected as the Members Choice award for Large Conifer and it was accepted into the 2018 US National this September.


A couple details snapped with my cell.



Quick flash back from 2010 after getting the tree home and cleaning it up a bit.


Here it is just before collection.  I collected this with my good friend Larry White.  Hard to even recognize it's the same tree.


Here's another tree I just kept coming back to at the show, at first glance I thought it might be a Japanese White Pine.  It was even better in person.  Have you ever seen a Shore Pine all detailed out like this before? This phenomenal tree is owned by Alexi and was wired and styled by Daisaku Nomoto.  I’m blown away by the way it turned out and think we should look at this US native as a reference to what Shore Pine and Lodegepole can offer us.


Beautiful flaky bark.


Last weekend I started laying down 3/4inch granite around my Bonsai benches.  Because of this, I could no longer use my hydraulic cart as the wheels were made of hard plastic and wouldn't role over the rock.  I was able to go to the local Tractor supply store and picked up these new rubber wheels.  My neighbor is a welder and helped me install them.  If you work with large trees, this is a fantastic way to move them around.  Simply pull the cart alongside your Bonsai bench,  scoot your tree over to the hydraulic table top, then you can wheel it way and raise or lower it.  The new wheels are quieter, can role different types of surfaces and dampen the vibrations of the cart which is easier on the trees.


Speaking of needing a Hydralic chart, the last update I have for you is that I purchased a beast of a Ponderosa from Randy Knight.  This is just a teaser shot of the base for now, but I'm sure it will end up on the blog in the future.  I've got some exciting announcements to make in the near future and really appreciate you checking out my site.  Thanks for stopping by!


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Visit from Boon and Kaya

On Friday night I got to hang out with Boon and Kaya Mooney in San Luis Obispo. Kaya is a twenty years old from Florida who's passionate about photography, Yerba Matte and bonsai where he plans to spend at least a few years studying with Boon as his newest apprentice.  He also took the pics of my tree below and is an all around awesome dude!  I took them to one of my favorite local restaurants called Goshi's for some amazing, high quality, traditional style sushi and then stopped by SLO's famous Bubble Gum Ally before heading back to my house to get some sleep before the next days work.

Kaya & Boon


On Saturday, we got a full day of work in.  It was nice to have help moving this tree around!  This Sierra Juniper aka Juniperus Occidentalis Australis was collected last October and has grown really well since then.  This is the earliest that I've ever worked on a juniper after collecting.  It's something that I can't recommend as a general practice. Typically I would like to wait at least two years before jumping in to the first working of the tree.


Because I was able to collect almost 100% of the trees fine root pad, which fills the entire length of the box, the tree didn't seem to skip a beat and grew nicely. Sierra's are also some of the strongest of our native junipers.  Because it was so newly collected, we were very gentle when wiring and removed only a limited amount of the old foliage.  We kept all the strong foliage tips, because Junipers strength is in their foliage and especially the elongating tips.  I think the foliage quality on this Sierra might be the smallest and tightest Sierra in my yard, I plan to keep this one with it's natural foliage.


We placed four root grafts on the tree so once the grafts 'take' the tree will be shortened using the roots in the black nursery can.  I'm stoked to someday see what the final image of this tree will look like, making a smaller tree will create a much more powerful final tree in my opinion.  We also placed two Kishu foliage grafts, to create two smaller trees with the remaining lower section of the tree.

Shari Detail


I imagine the final tree tilted slightly to the viewers left-hand side and the angle of the front rotated slightly.  During the first time placing wire on the tree, I was not concerned with making it look super nice.  More so, I wanted to get the main branches close to in place.  Now I plan to allow the tree to grow strongly without touching it to generate back budding and get the grafts to take.


Boon also helped me graft some Kishu scions onto a couple of my smaller Sierras as well.  Here's a true Shohin sized Sierra.   On this one we used a chisel to scion graft directly onto the live vein/trunk.  The Kishu scions are rolled with parafilm tape purchased through which keeps the foliage from drying out until the graft takes. I experimented by adding some plastic screen/mesh to help keep these slightly shaded from the summer sun.  Please cross your fingers for me that they will take, and thank you for reading!

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V Tree Progression

*Update- 7/3/17

Sorry all!  I've always stored my pictures on Photo Bucket.  They recently updated their terms and I no longer have access to my pictures unless I pay $399 per year. Currently working on other options and hope to get the site back up and running asap.  Here's a picture from my last collecting trip.  Lots of beautiful water flowing in the Sierra,  Thanks for visiting!


You'll probably see pictures of my trees on Facebook before I throw them up on my Blog.  I hope you can find some value in these posts, or at least you don't mind looking through the pictures. Personally, I'm a big fan of the fact that I can look back on my blog and it helps me keep track of dates, see what I was thinking at the time and see the progress of my trees.  Here we are just after collection a few years ago.  The trees large root ball was wrapped in trash bags which contained moist New Zealand Sphagnum moss and tied to my metal frame pack to hike it back to the trunk.


Fast forward to summer of 2016.   Here it is before the work, growing vigorously and ready for some initial frame work and setting branches into place.  Notice all the branches growing straight up towards the light, I could have worked on the tree earlier, but just didn't find time to make it happen.  This Western or Sierra Juniper is the most vigorous species of Juniper that's native to the U.S.


I decided to bend the live vein/branch in the center of the tree so it could be incorporated into the design, using it's foliage to create the new apex of the tree. I wanted to protect this important area so I wrapped it with raffia and used thick aluminum wire as a supportive spine.  The aluminum wire allows the pressure of the bend to be divided more evenly throughout the length of the branch, so no one area should be taking more force than other areas.

After adding the wire spine I used more raffia to hold the spine in place. While it wasn't an extremely severe bend, I was still relieved that it went well and the end result was a success.  If this branch died, the tree would have lost a ton of what makes it unique and interesting.



Fast forward to Dec 2016, when I cut off a significant portion of the root mass. You can see how the tree grew out again.


And the final fast forward to last weekend when I worked the tree again.  The first step was to remove this back branch which is located too high up to be incorporated into the design.


I replaced about 20% of the existing wire on the tree, because it was biting into the branches.  I cut the tree back in certain areas and adjusted the branches into place.

During this adjustment, I erred on the side of caution and didn't remove all the branches I normally would have if I didn't work the tree so much recently. The blue towel is covering one branch that I definitely want to jin, but that will happen next time.  This tree still has a ways to go before it's show ready.  I'd like to develop the branch on the viewers right hand side and likely shorten the foliage on the left hand side.  The tree is too symmetrical right now, but lengthening the right hand side and likely shortening the left hand side will help create the asymmetrical style i'm looking for.  The tree also needs a good cleaning and removal of bark in several areas.  I expect it to look a lot better in the future.



Lastly here's a closer shot, showing the live vein V, dead wood and spiky jin.  I've only seen two junipers that have reversed their sap flow like this in order to survive.  It will be cool to see the V enlarge over time and to see the tree get more refined.  Thanks for taking a look!