Bonsai Tonight

Juniper deadwood at Elandan Gardens

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on August 3, 2012

The bonsai at Elandan Gardens are displayed against the attractive backdrop of Puget Sound and the fantastical background of the gardens themselves. Dan Robinson has adorned the reclaimed land with stones, trees, and even deadwood collected from the mountains in an effort to create an experience that evokes alpine beauty. It’s a great spot to spend an afternoon.

Elandan Gardens

Pond at Elandan Gardens

Elandan Gardens

Elandan gardens

Deadwood at Elandan Gardens

Juniper deadwood at Elandan

Not far from the displayed deadwood one can find live junipers with outstanding deadwood.

Rocky Mountain JuniperJuniperus scopularumDate of Origin: 1250Discovered near Drummond, MT on a quick reconnoiter up a hill in 1989. Carrying just a crowbar and pruners, I had to sacrifice my shirt to tie up the roots of this beauty after extraction. It was growing in crumbling basalt, so it came out bare-rooted. Its incredible trunk line and profound age make it a favorite.

Rocky Mountain Juniper – Juniperus scopularum

Discovered near Drummond, MT on a quick reconnoiter up a hill in 1989. Carrying just a crowbar and pruners, I had to sacrifice my shirt to tie up the roots of this beauty after extraction. It was growing in crumbling basalt, so it came out bare-rooted. Its incredible trunk line and profound age make it a favorite.

Deadwood

Deadwood detail

Juniper

Collected juniper

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Rocky Mountain juniper

Deadwood

Deadwood detail

The deadwood at Elandan is testament to Robinson’s eye for good trees. This is no surprise considering that he’s been at it for 50 years – read Dan’s Story at the Elandan Gardens website for details.

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Stroll through Elandan Gardens

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on July 31, 2012

You just don’t know what you’re going to see next at Dan Robinson’s Elandan Gardens,  in Bremerton, WA, but you can bet it’s been around a while. Or, at least it will look that way. The Japanese larch below is younger than I am, grown from seed since 1974. Robinson planted this tree on a lava rock years ago, but over time, most of the soil has washed away. Robinson actually picked the tree up to show me the shallow root ball and marveled that the tree could withstand the high temperature the rock reached on sunny days.

Japanese LarchLaryx loptoleptisYear of Origin - 1974Grown from a seed, this tree was field grown by John Hinds. When The Colonel donated the tree in 1997 I decided to train it as a hollow windswept tree on a rock. Carving, wire training and planting the tree on the lava stone was achieved in 2001.

Japanese Larch – Laryx loptoleptis

Year of origin: 1974

Grown from a seed, this tree was field grown by John Hinds. When The Colonel donated the tree in 1997, I decided to train it as a hollow windswept tree on a rock. Carving, wire training and planting the tree on the lava stone was achieved in 2001. (Caption: Elandan Gardens)

The hemlock below is far older. Planted in an ornate unglazed pot, the hemlock is thriving in the cool Pacific Northwest summer.

Alpine HemlockTsuga mertensianaYear of Origin - 1550Collected in 1997 from an alpine area on Vancouver Island. Heavily carved and wire trained in 2003. This splendid tree has been selected as the logo tree for the Evergreen Bonsai Club of Kitsap County.

Alpine Hemlock – Tsuga mertensiana

Collected in 1997 from an alpine area on Vancouver Island. Heavily carved and wire trained in 2003. This splendid tree has been selected as the logo tree for the Evergreen Bonsai Club of Kitsap County. (Caption: Elandan Gardens)

Hailing from the opposite end of the US, several Bald Cypress were doing just as well.

Bald CypressTaxodium distichumYear of origin: 1550This naturally hollow-trunked beauty came from deep in Florida and was collected in March of 2004. Because of a healthy root system it never seemed to know it was uprooted and flown to its new home at Elandan Gardens. The growth was vigorous in 2004 and the future for this plant is promising. It is planted in an antique Chinese pot, circa 1835.

Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum

This naturally hollow-trunked beauty came from deep in Florida and was collected in March of 2004. Because of a healthy root system it never seemed to know it was uprooted and flown to its new home at Elandan Gardens. The growth was vigorous in 2004 and the future for this plant is promising. It is planted in an antique Chinese pot, circa 1835. (Caption: Elandan Gardens)

Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress

A small number of Elandan’s trees were imported from Asia, including the Korean hornbeam below. The trunk shows that deciduous trees can also convey great age.

Korean HornbeamCarpinus koreanensisYear of Origin - 1925This tree was collected from the mountains of Korea in the 1980s. It was reduced from its original 12-foot height. The new sprouts, which issued form the remaining trunk and base, were trained into its basic form. I acquired the tree from Brussell's Bonsai Nursery in 1991. Carving was done to eradicate the large pruning scars left over from its initial reduction. Careful pruning and wiring has lead to its now aged yet elegant form.

Korean Hornbeam – Carpinus koreanensis

This tree was collected from the mountains of Korea in the 1980s. It was reduced from its original 12-foot height. The new sprouts, which issued form the remaining trunk and base, were trained into its basic form. I acquired the tree from Brussell’s Bonsai Nursery in 1991. Carving was done to eradicate the large pruning scars left over from its initial reduction. Careful pruning and wiring has lead to its now aged yet elegant form. (Caption: Elandan Gardens)

One of my favorite trees in the garden is somewhat of a rarity – a big cone Douglass Fir bonsai. The trunk movement and deadwood are great.

Big Cone Douglas FirPseudotsuga microfaradYear of Origin - 1500Collected in the Colorado Rockies in 2009. Untrained at present, its extraordinary trunk speaks to a life of durability in the face of adversity. Life followed by death is evidenced by the successive layers seen here on the trunk.

Big Cone Douglas Fir – Pseudotsuga macrocarpa

Collected in the Colorado Rockies in 2009. Untrained at present, its extraordinary trunk speaks to a life of durability in the face of adversity. Life followed by death is evidenced by the successive layers seen here on the trunk. (Caption: Elandan Gardens)

A number of chamaecyparis found their home in Elandan, including the yellow-foliaged specimen below.

Chamaecyparis family

Chamaecyparis family

Elandan’s trees are planted in a variety of containers, from Japanese and Chinese stoneware, to stones, to containers made by local potters. The pot below, as well as several similar pots at Elandan, was made by Oregon potter Charles Gloucester.

Pot by Charles Gloucester, an Oregon potter

Charles Gloucester pot

The last tree I saw before leaving the garden was an awesome collected hemlock that defies stylistic categorization. I can’t wait to see what shape it takes after its initial styling.

Hemlock

Hemlock

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Ponderosa pines at Elandan Gardens

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on July 27, 2012

Dan Robinson has been growing pine bonsai for a long time. Some of trees on display at Elandan Gardens started from seeds Dan collected in Korea when he was in the service. Most, however, were collected from the mountains, including the awesome specimens below. All text accompanying the images comes from signs displayed with the trees. I’ve identified trees without signs simply as “pine”  – feel free to let me know the details if you’re familiar with these trees and I’ll update the post accordingly.

Ponderosa PinePinus ponderosaYear of Origin: 1700When I spotted this tree struggling for life in the crack of a granite boulder in Wyoming, I instantly had a plan to create a cascade style bonsai with its swollen base and short compact branches. To complete the design, heavy wiring would be needed to manipulate the branches. Heavy wire holds the branch in the position you determine for the tree's artistic creation.

Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa
Year of origin: 1700

When I spotted this tree struggling for life in the crack of a granite boulder in Wyoming, I instantly had a plan to create a cascade style bonsai with its swollen base and short compact branches. To complete the design, heavy wiring would be needed to manipulate the branches. Heavy wire holds the branch in the position you determine for the tree’s artistic creation.

Ponderosa Pine Pinus ponderosaYear of Origin: 1500This untrained tree has an eminence about it that only a powerful stone pot could possible frame. The balance here looks a bit precarious; perhaps a larger post will be necessary.

Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa
Year of origin: 1500

This untrained tree has an eminence about it that only a powerful stone pot could possible frame. The balance here looks a bit precarious; perhaps a larger post will be necessary.

88. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)Year of Origin: 1750I replaced the original Ponderosa Pine foliage by grafting Japanese Black Pine foliage onto it in 1970. The Black Pine foliage has a density, color and length that is very desirable.

Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa
Year of origin: 1750

I replaced the original Ponderosa Pine foliage by grafting Japanese Black Pine foliage onto it in 1970. The Black Pine foliage has a density, color and length that is very desirable.

Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa pine

Eastern Pitch PinePinus rigidaYear of Origin: 1820Collected in the Adirondak Mountains of New York with a young and enthusiastic Frank Heidt. Pitch pine is a favorite of East Coast collectors and it is easy to understand why. It's amazing that within an hour of New York City gnarly stunted trees can be found.

Eastern Pitch Pine – Pinus rigida
Year of origin: 1820

Collected in the Adirondak Mountains of New York with a young and enthusiastic Frank Heidt. Pitch pine is a favorite of East Coast collectors and it is easy to understand why. It’s amazing that within an hour of New York City gnarly stunted trees can be found.

Lodge Pole PinePinus contortaYear of Origin: 1850Collected on a collecting trip near Gold River, BC in 2003. Potted in September 2004. The upper trunk was split and torn down in April 2005. Training has just begun.

Lodge Pole Pine – Pinus contorta
Year of origin: 1850

Collected on a collecting trip near Gold River, BC in 2003. Potted in September, 2004. The upper trunk was split and torn down in April 2005. Training has just begun.

Pine

Pine

Pine

Pine

Pine

Pine

Ponderosa pine deadwood

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on July 24, 2012

For good reason, horticultural endeavors don’t often focus on death. Bonsai is an exception. Exposed deadwood on old trees can reveal hardship and character that defines a tree better than any other feature.

One of the best places to appreciate deadwood on bonsai is Elandan Gardens in Bremerton, Washington. Elandan is an amazing expression of Dan Robinson’s imagination – a bonsai museum and nursery on reclaimed land along the shores of Puget Sound. I think the best way to introduce the museum is by appreciating a great example of natural deadwood found on a Ponderosa pine whose character and age is well expressed in the scaly fissures of its weather-beaten trunk.

Ponderosa pine deadwood

Ponderosa pine deadwood

Ponderosa pine deadwood

Wonderful curves and scales and splinters

Ponderosa pine deadwood

Unmistakable signs of age

The tree is over three feet tall – a winding specimen with sparse foliage atop curves that tighten as the trunk nears its apex.

Ponderosa pine

Ponderosa pine at Elandan Gardens

As you can see by the setting, Robinson has created an environment for his trees that retains elements of the mountains from which these trees were collected. It’s a nice touch, and a great way to focus his visitors’ attention on the details in which he takes such great interest – the deadwood.

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