January has always been one of my favorite times of the year for bonsai. Full of repotting and show prep, wiring and cutback, the month entails some of the hardest and most rewarding work of the year. It also fills me with optimism for all of the bonsai work the year will bring.
For all of this, I’m grateful. Bonsai has enriched my life and led me on wonderful adventures around the world. Through it, I have made lasting friendships and learned to appreciate some of the more subtle beauties nature has to offer. I expect this year will be no different.
Years ago, I came across a flyer that provided a good summary of what makes a bonsai special. Age, character, and beauty, it asserted. I’ve used the definition often. If a tree lacks age, it cannot demonstrate its relationship to the environment. If it lacks character, there is nothing to distinguish it from the next tree on the bench. And if it lacks beauty, whether the elegance gained over time or the heart-rending tenacity that keeps it alive, the tree will fail to move us.
Full of age, character, and beauty, the Bristlecone Pines never fail to move me. The following grow along the Discovery Trail in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
One of the more famous trees along the trail. It lived for over 3,000 years.
It’s neighbor is still alive – it too has celebrated more than 3,000 new years.
John next to a huge Bristlecone pine.
Maybe the most photographed branch in the grove. The natural twists are outstanding.
A proud tree on the west edge of the grove.
Two Bristlecones catching last light.