The New American Gothic

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Aug 24 2007 | Comment now »

My family took a bonsai hunting trip and we stumbled on the new American Gothic.

Worms and Coffee - hmmm, what more can you ask….?

Paul - Raffle Winner

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Aug 21 2007 | 1 Comment »

At the recent Bonsai Societies of Florida annual convention, they had an interesting fund raiser. Various artists donated a private session to be raffled off to other Florida enthusiasts. The catch was the winner would have to travel to the donor’s home/nursery for the session. Paul Katich, of Jacksonville, was lucky (or unlucky enough ) to win a session with me.

I had a great time meeting and working with Paul. He is a very accomplished bonsai grower and bonsai potter (more on that later). He brought some trees that he had been growing for over 10 to 15 years. He merely needed some prodding in the styling direction.

Here are a few photos of the Saturday we spent working on his trees.

Paul arrives in his truck with some material.

Paul wanted to work on this parsonii juniper he had collected over 10 years ago.

The juniper had potential - but the branches that were there were too far out on the tree to make an instant design. In addition, while the tree had been growing for many years in this box, it was still somewhat loose in the soil, hence the guy wires. I probed the trunk and sure enough most of the trunk was already withered. That’s why the roots were not firmly holding the tree in the pot. They were one sided. The good news about the dead section of trunk and thin life line meant we could carve the shari to reduce some of the pigeon breast curve and to add 3D interest. And thats what we did.


Note the carving dust.

The weak roots meant we really couldn’t style this tree in one session. In fact I wasn’t comfortable removing lots of foliage at this time. Paul and I discussed what to do after the tree recovers from this work - perhaps next winter.

Thick branch to be bent.

Here is the work finshed for today. The shari was extensively carved although Paul will go in an later to peel little slivers of fiber to detail the work. The thick top was bent with a branch bender. The lower left branch was bent by hollowing and placing wire in the hollow and raffia around it. However, Paul and I discussed reducing the branch to the first sub-branch to make it shorter to fit the design. (Next winter - the goal being to keep the juniper alive. Drastic work on junipers in Florida will readily kill a tree, especially in the summer.)

Here is a virtual rendition of what the tree could look like in a few years.
Its in a pot that Paul made himself.

As I said, Paul makes his own pots. Here is one he gave to me as a thank you. Well I say, “Thank You Paul.”

Digitally Photographing Bonsai Trees

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Aug 21 2007 | 2 Comments »

I recently wrote an article about photographing bonsai trees for the American Bonsai Society magazine.
The focus (no pun intended ) is on using digital cameras and techniques. It will run in a three part series starting with the current issue.

Here is a scanned copy of the first page of the article.

Karl’s Virtual Yew

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Aug 16 2007 | Comment now »

Karl Thier of Austria posted a Taxus on the IBC. He made a triple trunk of it.
I thought the tree would look better if he used only the main trunk and only the first branch on the right trunk. The left trunk would become a jin integrated with the front shari for taper.

I made a virtual to share.

Trees many times look better when designed as shorter trees. Something to ponder.

BCI In Puerto Rico

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jul 22 2007 | 4 Comments »

Last week BCI and FELAB held a great convention in San Juan Puerto Rico. The display had some very top notch trees, the demos and lectures were great and everyone had a good time. The golf course I played, El Conquistidor, also had spectacular scenery. Here are a few photos from the event.

First a few shots from the nice hotel, the Condado Plaza. It was under rennovation during the show so the lobby was not available and there was hammering and sawing all the time. They plan to use the same hotel in 2009 so it should be top notch by then.

This Cascading Buttowood (Conocarpus erectus) by Julio Riveria, won several awards, including the BCI president’s award. A little more refinement and this tree will be a world beater. We should look for this guy at the World Convention in 2009 in San Juan.

This cascade Carissa had extremely small leaves. The multiple tail cascade worked very well.

A large Australian Pine (Casuarina equistrifolia). I’d like to see the top fill in a bit more and it too will be world class, maybe by 2009 it will.

The second one is a very large Ficus Microcarpa Retusa. There was a rumor that tree was originally from Taiwan, but I couldn’t confirm it. - Followup - both Juan and Jose Riveria informed me that this is indeed another of Jose Rivera’s great trees. Jose started this from a cutting as he mentions in the comments below. It is quite a testament to Jose’s ability that people confused this with a Taiwanese Ficus as the Chinese ficus are some of the best in the world.

I really liked this shohin Clerodendrum.

Jose Luis Rodriguez told me he collected this Bay Cedar (Suriana maritima) only a year ago. Lots of potential.

Another large Ficus Microcarpa with many aerial roots. The second large Buttonwood was a 4 man carry (4 strong men).

There were many other great trees in the display. I’ll try to post more later.

Tree of the Week July 14, 2007 Ficus Nerifolia

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jul 10 2007 | Comment now »

This Ficus Nerifolia was bought at a club auction in 2005 from Charles Bevan. I reduced the top and put it in this BSF 2004 commemorative pot by Horse Creek Pottery. Now that the basic sillhouette is there I can work on ramification. Initially the nebari was nonexistant on one side but in the past two years some nice roots have grown.
The tree is about 9-10 inches above the pot.

This was it in March of last year. I didn’t take a photo when I first obtained it.

Tree of the Week July 6 Roaring Mastodon

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jul 04 2007 | 2 Comments »

Tens of thousands of years ago, Mastodon roamed North America. No longer with us, we have to rely on fossils to learn about them. Fortunately, paleontologists routinely dig them up. This one was dug up from South Florida and is showing its displeasure over something, or perhaps voicing primacy over its terrrain.

This July The Roaring Mastodon Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) was in need of some detail work and some bud pinching. The main structure of the tree is finally in place. Here is the front, side and back. It’s in a Sara Rayner pot.

With a little bit of pinching, removal of dead leaves, and wiring the small branches, I gave the tree a bit or redesign. The branches match the rational exuberance of a mastodon roaring The remainder of the year I shall pinch it regulary and strive to reduce the leaf size.

The wedges indicate the new planting angle. It sagged a bit since I first potted it. Hopefully I will repot it this weekend and then apply a fresh coat of lime sulfur to the deadwood.

Here are a few earlier shots of this tree.

2006, 2005, 2004

It has come along quite well in the few years of training.

Interestingly this year many of my buttonwood bonsai have made flowers. This is the first year that some have sprouted flowers, including the Roaring Mastodon. I wonder if I should read anything into this - other than I haven’t been pinching as much as I should??? Although, even my big one that I totally defoliated earier in the year has made flowers after defoliation. Weird.

After seeing the flowers you may understand why its called buttonwood.

Time To Chop

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jul 01 2007 | Comment now »

Paul won a workshop with me at the recent BSF Convention raffle. In preparation he’s been sending me photos of some of his trees. I like this Florida Elm (Ulmus Americanna) he grew from a sappling. I think he needs to pull a Paul Bunyan and chop it by about a third or more and then let it grow out again. What do you think?

And a virtual showing the chop plus a few years.

.

Tree of the Week June 30, 2007 Shohin Ixora

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jul 01 2007 | Comment now »

The tree of the week gets featured due to a pressure washing accident. I knocked it off its bench and broke the shell pot it was in. So I repotted it and decided since it had some flowers to give it a look in its new pot. Dick Reyerson of California made the pot.

The Ixora is about 9 inches above the pot top. This variety is attributed to Norm Nelson according to Ed Trout, who gave me the plant.
When it gets totally covered in flowers it will be very attractive - perhaps in a couple of years.

To show a bit of progression, this was the tree in September 2005, almost two years ago. Since then I changed the front.

Morikami Gardens

Posted by Rob Kempinski on Jun 23 2007 | Comment now »


The recent BSF Convention was held at the Morikami Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida. It’s a nice garden, even if not an ideal place for a convention.

Here are a few shots I took of the gardens.


This stone lantern was a nice tribute to the 7 astronauts, and in particular Ellison Onizuka, on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

For more info check out their web page.
http://www.morikami.org/index.php?submenu=Gardens&src=gendocs&link=Gardens