Go West, Young Man! Last week Matt Reel and I took up that call and made a trip out to Wyoming. What better place to get inspired and create bonsai.
We flew in to Denver, rented a truck and made the drive three hours north to Douglas, WY. Once you get a little north of Denver there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. Deer, antelope, cows, hawks and some of the largest grasshoppers I've ever seen and sound like rattle snakes when they fly. I even told Matt about the elusive Jack-o-lope and he was on the lookout the entire trip trying to spot one!
We were invited by Steve Varland and Daniel Wiederrecht to work on their collected trees they have been carrying off the mountains since 2012. They are the owners of Backcountry Bonsai. (www.backcountrybonsai.com) Steve and Dan have an eye for spotting good material in the mountains and show the utmost respect for the health of the trees. And this shows with the incredible selection of trees they have sitting in their yards. Most of their trees had yet to be touched by a professional bonsai artist and Matt and I had the honor to do some initial styling on a few of them.
Here are the before and afters.
First is a Limber pine Dan carried of the mountain in 2012. It is really a story of two trees. One that grew tall and long only to be destroyed by the harsh Wyoming weather and another that so gracefully took over and grew up in its absence.
Only seeing pictures of this next tree does not do it justice. The movement of the trunk is the very exemplification of a yamadori tree. The contorted trunk that turns as it runs out to the tip and contrast of deadwood and lifeline...it as a superb tree!
This next Ponderosa pine is one of the best collected semi-cascade trees I have seen here in the States. We had to use raffia on most of the branches in order to do some major bending. It really turned out cool. I look forward to seeing this tree develop, it wouldn't surprise me if this tree becomes an American masterpiece.
This common juniper below holds a special place in Steve's heart. I believe he and his son collected this tree together and it was one of the first trees he collected.
Above is a tree Steve wired up with a little guidance.
Below, Steve stands with the trees we wired up, all of which he and Dan carried off the mountains on their backs.
Here is Dan with a really sweet juniper he collected himself. Dan is a busy man these days with a new born boy, Noah. Matt and I took every opportunity we had to try and get him giggling. It wasn't hard. He is a sweet little boy. Both Matt and I will be waiting till the day Noah turn 18 and is ready to become a bonsai apprentice! Until then, he will be growing up with some of the best yamadori trees in the United States in his back yard.
After a long days work, Steve recommended that Matt and I check out Grandma's Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage. We would have but we were hoping for Grandma's Granddaughter, It must have been her day off...
If you are ever around the area, keep a lookout for the mountain monster. His face pops up on windows everywhere but has never been seen in person. Legend has it that this toothless monster can be heard hooting and hollering in the hills of Wyoming on a clear day searching for his favorite snack, Vienna Sausages.
I had an amazing time working with Steve and Dan. They are two of the most friendliest guys you will ever meet and are working hard to bring some world class trees into the American bonsai community. Thank you guys again, this was a trip I will always remember. Can't wait to do it again!
Last week I made a trip Louisville, Kentucky. I had an awesome time thanks to Russell Stevens, Steve Hammel and the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society. It was a busy trip, working on a lot of trees, but it makes it all the more fun when you get to work with some nice people and talk bonsai non-stop.
I spent the first day with Russell. I wired up a Scotts pine and Ponderosa pine. We cleaned up a number of other trees and talked about his collection. Russell is a hard worker, continuing to improve his eye for design and elevate the quality of his collection. We had a free morning and afternoon the following day and he took me to Cave Hill National Cemetery. Cave Hill is a 296-acre Victorian era Cemetery and arboretum. It is the resting place for Colonel Harlan Sanders and most recently the great Muhammad Ali. It is also home to some really old trees. Russell and I spent a while wondering through the cemetery discussing horticulture as we visited some really cool trees.
Cave Hill is also home to the largest Ginko tree I have ever seen. The tree is rumored to be two centuries old.
Russell took me to meet Steve Reeves, a local potter who is making bonsai pots. We had a good conversation talking about his pots, what I typically look for in bonsai pottery and our general love for pots. Mr. Reeves was very kind and gave me a gift to take back home with me.
That evening I did a demonstration for the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society. One of the members is an owner of Against the Grain Brewery in downtown Louisville. We had a private room to ourselves and a waitress who provided beer throughout the demonstration. I was given a large San Jose juniper to work with. It was healthy and had grown long and leggy. My task was to do an initial styling, getting the bone structure of the tree set.
On Saturday was led a club workshop. It was another long, busy day working on a lot of trees. Everyone had a great time!
I spent my last day working with Steve Hammel. Steve has a discerning eye for bonsai and he too is looking to have a collection full of quality trees. I wired up a cascading ficus and a ponderosa pine. We also thinned out a few black pines and talked about branch selection, structure and overall evening the strength of the tree.
Thanks again to Russell and Steve as well as the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society for hosting me. I can't wait till my next visit!