East meets West: Chojubai on Riding Spur

Michael Hagedorn

This is a Japanese Flowering Quince Chojubai presented on a Western riding spur. ‘Presented?’ ‘Held’? ‘Lofted’? ‘Attached’? One might argue the proper term, but the riding spur was found on a hike in the Arizona mountains about 20 years ago, after falling off someone’s boot decades before. I’ve dragged it around everywhere I’ve lived, figuring it had an unknown future as part of something else. And that was revealed last week. When casting about in the garage for something to attach the chojubai to, my eyes settled on this ancient piece of ironsmithy…and the phrase ‘East meets West’ popped up, and I laughed, and there you have it. The latest bonsai orchid to grace our shade cloth structure was on its way to being born.

We had a great time making this, and throughout it all I wondered how old that riding spur actually was. It’s pretty dry there in…

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Bunjin Shore Pine Restyle-

Michael Hagedorn

This Shore Pine—Pinus contorta subsp. contorta—has several interesting fronts. It has been a conversation piece with guests for their favorite front. Here’s what we did in a restyling.

The original front of the tree, where we started our adventure

…but here was a more engaging trunkline, about 90 degrees left, and inclined 30.

 After cutting off the long right branch. Bunjin are best with short branches, and high up on the tree. This helps show off the wiggly parts of trunk line, the bark, and the character of this idiosyncratic bonsai style.

The final design. We made a small jin out of the cut off branch. And we swapped the container for this one, sporting a glaze splash and nice, rich brown color. We chose to leave a few roots as a design element, like a shoe, the toe of which is exploring beyond the edge of the…

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Torote (Bursera filicifolia)


Bursera filicifolia, common name torote, is a dry tropical forest species from Baja California. It is related to Frankincense, myrrh, and copal. The leaves and sap are fragrant.

February 16, 2019:
The tree today.

March 19, 2012:
The tree as purchased from Living Stones Nursery in Tuscon, Arizona.

April 17, 2012:
Potted and sprouting on the bonsai bench.

June 2, 2012:
Spring growth.

August 9, 2013:
Summer growth a year later.

December 18, 2013:
A bit of fall color.

March 30, 2014:
Repotted on a saucer to improve the nebari.

October 20, 2014:
Summer’s growth after repot.

April 9, 2016:
Second bare-rooting.

April 9, 2016:
Branch-pruned and repotted. Possible front.

May 14, 2016:
Another possible front.

August 19, 2016:
Summer growth.

February 11, 2017:
Winter two years ago.

July 20, 2017:
Tree on the bonsai benches with new growth sprouting.

July 26, 2017:
Growth one week later.

August 22, 2017:

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Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis)


The January 6 entry for this blog shows the development an American hackberry, Celtis occidentalis. Today’s entry is another species of this genus, the Chinese hackberry, Celtis sinensis.

January 18, 2018:
The tree today.

November 26, 2012:
The tree upon arrival from Wigert’s nursery, Florida.

January 20, 2013:
The tree in January with no new growth yet. This would have been a good time to begin selecting branches I wanted to keep and those to eliminate.

March 3, 2013:
Abundant spring growth.

January 4, 2014:
The tree 13 months after purchase. Began eliminating unwanted branches.

July 13, 2014:
Spring growth.

January 21, 2015:
Over two years since purchase.

January 25, 2015:
Bare-rooted, first time since purchased in 2012.

January 25, 2015:
Root- and branch-pruned, repotted.

February 21, 2015:
Spring growth.

November 28, 2015:
Tree in late fall.

January 16, 2016:
Tree in winter after branch-pruning.

March 23, 2016:


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Tiger-bark ficus (Ficus microcarpa)


I’ve been colonized by ficus. Tiger-bark figs, rock figs, strangler figs, willow-leaf figs, and other fig species. When I first began working with figs I would place the cuttings in spare pots with soil whenever I pruned. This is the recipe for filling your bonsai bench space with figs. I have finally accepted that I need to throw away the cuttings when I prune, even though, with minimal care, they could become small trees. I need the room for other trees!

My first ficus was a Tiger-bark (Ficus microcarpa) that I bought in March 2012 from Walter Andersen nursery in San Diego. It was sold as a “houseplant ficus”.

January 11, 2019:
The tree today.

March 10, 2012:
The “houseplant ficus” when purchased in spring, 2012.

March 10, 2012:
Initial potting.

July 16, 2012:
Four months of growth.

August 4, 2013:
One year of clip and grow.

November 16, 2013:

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