My Bonsai Journey

Boon’s Intensive, Finally!!

This Thursday will I be attending my first intensive with Boon Manakitivipart. If you have not heard about these classes or who Boon is you can visit Boon’s website at http://bonsaiboon.com/.

I will be spending three full days doing, studying, breathing, and living bonsai. How awesome is that? I’m really excited, as this is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I’ve noticed that the more I learned about bonsai, the more I want to learn. It is endless.

A little about my path in leaning bonsai, as I think there is a valuable lesson to learn in it. When I first became interested in bonsai, I joined a club, attended every meeting, ask a lot of questions. I checked out every book I could find on bonsai from the local library and spent countless hours on the internet looking for information. After three years, I could keep a tree alive, but had little or incomplete understanding of even the very basics, like repotting and wiring. I found myself at a point where I was going to either give up or find a new way to figure this out. When I looked at my trees I had no idea of what to do next.

It was around this time I attended a workshop with Marco Invernizzi. Marco is a pretty well know young bonsai master and I was really privilege to spend a day with him. But to tell you the truth, even though I learned a few things, it became apparent to me how little knowledge I had after all this time. The next day I was able to observe Marco working on a customer’s tree for six hours. I just watch and learned. This had a huge impact on me. I could see his technique over and over and realized that this is something I could do. I just needed to find a way.

During the next few months I talk to my wife Lori about this, and together we came up with a plan. I proposed starting a local study group within my club and to bring in someone to teach us. The club was excited and a program was setup. I had heard about a young bonsai artist, Peter Tea, who was looking for this type of work, so we ask him to teach the first six monthly workshops. I started what I consider my true bonsai education.

Over the next two years I learned the basics from Peter, he is a great teacher. I worked a full day on my trees with Peter every month, and started to really understand how trees are developed. I now have that foundation that I was lacking for so long. I also have a confidence that I never had. When I look at trees, I see things that I was never able to see before. It is not that I have better vision, or that I have looked at more trees, it is because I simply know what traits a quality tree should have and how to recognize these traits.

Peter left to Japan at the beginning of the year to study under a master for five years. At first I was not sure what I wanted to do next, but knew that I had to continue my learning. So here I am, on my next step. Boon is Peter’s first teacher, so I am very excited about what I will learn. Hopefully, this will be my first of many intensives. I will let you know how it goes.

So, if you are new to bonsai, or feel you just are not learning, don’t get stuck like I did. Seek out people that really know bonsai, people like Peter and Boon. Find someone that can teach. Not all bonsai artists are good teachers, so find someone you can learn from. Work on trees with this person. Leaning bonsai is much easier by doing rather than watching or reading. I think those are the main keys to becoming successful and enjoying this hobby.


I spent the last week camping at Yosemite. It has been about 20 years since the last time I was here, well before my bonsai hobby. This trip rekindled a want to explore this area more, mostly to see the sierra junipers above 8,000 feet. Here are some pictures I took with a focus on trees that inspire me to create bonsai that have this amazing natural beauty.

Glacier Point, elevation 7,214 feet: A view of Half Dome in the background to the left, and two water falls Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls to the right. This lodge pole pine is about 10 feet tall and has a small hold in a crack on the granite wall. Behind the tree is a 3,200 foot shear granite cliff with the valley floor below.

Olmsted Point, elevation 8,300 feet: I was awe-struck when I pulled into the parking lot. The view is so amazing, and this sierra juniper is about 100 feet from the parking lot. It is joined by a lodge pole pine on the peak of a large sloping granite slab. I was lucky get a few minutes with it alone to admire it’s beauty; this tree and point attracts a lot people since it is so accessible.

A view of the front, as seen from the parking lot.

Here is my water bottle to give a sense of scale.

It is sad, but because of the location of this tree, it gets abused by a few visitors all summer. Imagine, not only does this tree survive the lack of water, heavy snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures, but also people touching and climbing on it, and who know what else.

Here is the pine that keeps guard over the juniper. It is hard to believe that this area is buried under snow for several months in the winter.

This tree is also near Olmsted Point, but on the other side of the road, so it does not get the hands-on treatment like the others above. I only had a few minutes to explore this area, and one day will come back to spend an entire day here. This tree is about 15 to 20 feet tall and is so perfect for 3 trunks. I’m sure I will use this tree to inspire me for a group planting at some point. Notice how the dead wood extends above and forms the apex.

Here is a lower branch on the triple trunk; this twisting is what I love most about sierra junipers.

Another view of the twisting life line. There are actually two life lines that feed the branch.

Another interesting feature of the triple trunk is this long exposed root. It runs at least 20 feet away from the tree on the surface.

Look at the next series of photos and find my comments below, I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

OK, what did you think? For me, I really wondered how did this tree get here? It looks like a giant was walking by and plugged it into the rock. I can’t really tell if the base is cracked rocks or roots over rock, I think it may be both. Notice the shari, I usually don’t see this much on a larger tree, maybe it was struck by lighting at some point? There was a group of rock climbers on the side of this dome about mid-way up, you can spot them. They are in the 2nd photo if you zoom in, and are on the left towards the base. That is only way you would be able to get to this tree. I figure it must be about another 1,000 feet above Olmsted point, which would put it at around 9,300 feet. This is another area I want to come back to and spend more time exploring.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. I was so excited about what I saw I had to share it with others that would appreciated this. Thanks for reading!


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