Cut Backs

These cut backs have nothing to do with the credit crunch 🙂

As well as digging up a Ceanothus yesterday I cut back 2 large Escallonia. I plan to collect these next Spring but by cutting them back now, I will have loads of tight growth ready made which should also help with die back.

Here’s the first one. I’m doing the cutting and Stephen is doing the camera work. Good job if you can get it.



Nearly there

Finishing touches

The main bulk of the base of this tree is hidden under the soil. It’s going to be a beast 🙂

This is the other one.


nearly there

No shohin either, and the escallonia is large too :-0


The last one is still far too cluttered but time was running out and I see the tree every week. I’ll give it a closer look and take a few bits off when it suits me. No point rushing it now and removing something I needed.

All the cut offs were piled up for a bonfire.

I’ll keep you posted with how they respond to this light pruning 🙂

Japanese Bonsai Nursery

Just watched this on Youtube. I think if I walked into a nursery like that, I would wet my pants!! Where would you even start looking!!

A different approach

Yesterday morning, accompanied by Stephen and my son Matthew, I visited Josh’s garden to return a few trees that our club had displayed recently. Josh has been a bonsai artist for 30 years (rough guess but pretty accurate) and is one of the few out there that truly inspires me. When you talk about bonsai and techniques with him, his knowledge is evident, but he also tries to learn from you. Most bonsai artists of his level tend to close their mind to suggestions from people with less time served, but not Josh. A walk around his garden is always fun and ideas and suggestions are made by everyone with no one taking offence.

I had previously visited Josh’s garden in September last year and this is the page I put together for the Society website. Josh’s Garden.

I was looking forward to this visit as I knew all the deciduous trees in the ground would be bare allowing me to see the structure of the branches.

These are the first trees to greet you on arrival. A large formal Larch, not really a bonsai, but you definitely know you are at the right house 🙂 A massive Beech and a chunky Field Maple still to find a bonsai pot. I’m the black ninja hiding behind the Beech.

Here’s a close up of the field maple. It was collected from park land during a club dig many years ago and chopped down and developed in the ground.

Stephen admiring my camera work in the background 🙂


Other side

Josh talking about how he developed the Field Maple.

A few shots of the big Beech collected within a school grounds.

This next one is a favourite of mine. Josh said he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Give it to me was my reply 😀 It’s a Wych Elm, Ulmus Glabra. Again, it was developed in the ground and has never been in a pot. I think I managed to get Josh talking about most of it’s history on video. I’ll be putting together a movie clip of the visit soon.

My son Matthew for scale

This is the next part of the garden you walk into. You step out of the back door into a display area and also where Josh does most of the work to his trees.

Stephen standing in admiration

Here’s a few of the trees in this part.

Shohin Lonicera


Elm Raft

Cascade Ivy

When you turn around and look the other way, he has a Japanese Garden type display area with gravel, stones and water bowl.

Camellia Bud

Over looking this  are a few more trees. These two are Raulli, similar to Hornbeam.

Next you walk through a gate into the training area. This is where he developes most of his trees in open ground.

This is a contorted Hazel with catkins hanging. A truly beautiful tree that may make it into a pot this year.

This is an Oak that is fighting with the Hazel for the pot 🙂

This is a Japanese Maple that Josh is thread grafting. Here you can see the branch bent round and thread grafted through the hole drilled in the trunk.

This is another thread graft on a Larch.

When we arrived, Josh had been working on several Beech. He was digging them from the ground, trimming and adjusting the roots and putting them back in the ground again. This way he is maximising growth and improving the nabari. This obviously works when you see the nebari on his trees.

Josh took us into his garage to show us a log collected from a downed Oak. He decided to turn it into a Mantle for his fireplace.  I asked if he had ever tried woodwork before and he said no. I guess he can turn his hand to anything.

As it was bloody freezing, we retired to the house to drink tea and talk about bonsai, movies, fishing, then bonsai again.

Why did I call this post ‘A different Approach’? I believe Josh’s approach to developing bonsai in the ground opens up more avenues to creating quality bonsai. It’s not necessarily a new way but I believe he has a different slant on it. He isn’t growing trunks, he developes complete trees in the ground before lifting. The Wych Elm is a fine example of this. I would have had it in a pot years ago!

Our club is going to do a day of garden visits this year and Josh is happy for us to come to his for a guided tour. Can’t wait 🙂


I have looked at this monster Ceanothus for years wondering if I should bother giving it a go for bonsai. After all escallonia were rarely used for bonsai and now seem to have taken off.

I know they aren’t very hardy in our climate with this Winter killing lots of them on local gardens. They are also prone to dieback if conditions aren’t right. This one survived the Winter as it was sheltered under a tree. I took the plunge and dug it up with very little help from Stephen 🙂 Sorry Stephen, couldn’t resist. I think Stephen wants my camera now after taking all these pics in his clean clothes. Sorry! Did it again 🙂

Ceanothus has the common name in the UK of Californian Lilac. I’d be interested to know if anyone has given one a go for bonsai.

This is it last Summer

and yesterday, rough looking but it has survived the Winter.

I trenched around the tree having to contend with some roots from the big tree behind it.

It had been moved to this spot about 4 years before and was therefore shallow rooted.

Into the car.

I’ll post more on this in a few days. It has a rather nice deadwood area. Fingers crossed it’ll survive the lift.



Phil’s Escallonia

Part of my busy day yesterday was taking a few record photos at Phil’s house. He has touched for a rather nice collecting site for Escallonia that are part of a condemned hedge. As you can see these are not shohin!!

This was the unveiling. With a couple of hard frosts this week, Phil has covered them with plastic.


This twin trunk was my favourite



Stephen is in this one for scale, but bear in mind he is roughly the height of a hobbit 🙂

I also took a snap of this squat little Yew that’s ready for work this year.

This next picture of Phil’s pot shelf in his shed tells you all you need to know about his personality.

Below is Phil’s winter protection set up for some of his trees.

He makes a lovely cup of tea and his biscuits were of the highest quality 😉



Sitting here at 01.45 hours knowing I don’t have time to post all the things I did today. So, to give you a taster of what’s to come here’s a few photos to keep you interested.

I visited Josh’s Garden.

I cut back two Escallonia for collection next Spring.

I collected a large Californian Lilac.

I visited Phil’s garden to photograph the Escallonia he collected this week.

Full update tomorrow, or is that today!