Grow Better Bonsai with Air Pruning


When trying to grow trees for bonsai we only have a few options. First we can grow them in the ground; this results in the tree growing faster but the roots eventually growing in some undesirable configurations and thicknesses that have to be corrected later. This also leads to having a tap root or constantly removing the reforming tap roots during digs. Second we can grow them in pots; this results in a slower growth rate but more control over the root system. Even with pot grown trees we get circling roots and elongated roots not suited for bonsai. Another contributing factor is using soil not meant for container growing. Despite your views on soil, container growing requires a loose oxygen rich mix to grow plants.

The way in which air-pruning happens is pretty simple. The process is automatic and natural. Think about what happens when the top of a plant is pruned to promote lateral growth. When air-pruning happens, lateral growth of the roots is the result. Air-pruning occurs when a plant’s roots reach the side of the aeration container. In quality aeration containers, the root tip will come in contact with the air and the pruning occurs. This action will cause more roots to grow and the process will occur again and again, filling up the container with roots and root tips.

A few years ago I made some boxes to achieve this but to make them last the materials were expensive and took a while to build what I needed. I found these amazing pots that came out of the UK that solved all the problems that I ran into with the box. The Company Air-Pot was not really sold in America other than on Amazon and they where and still are overpriced.

Air pruning is the best of both worlds and air-pots is the best tool to achieve great results. I decided to bring them into the Bonsai Bardo Store as they are a high quality tool that is used for growing and air layering bonsai trees. They come in an array of sizes some better suited for seedling and developing great nebari on bigger trees. Pond Baskets were great and cheap but they are not reusable and they don’t create the root system that air-pots do. Disposable colanders also offer air pruning but the plastic cannot handle the sun and quickly becomes brittle and breaks. Air-Pots do cost more but are reusable year after year. When a part wears out you can replace just the worn parts making ongoing use cheaper.

Air-Pot ‘s also make a great air layer or ground layering tool for achieving more feeder root branching than traditional methods where new roots tend to elongate and wrap around the bag.

The Superoots Air-Pot is a recyclable, reusable plastic container that actively enhances the quality of the root systems of plants. This revolutionary approach to containerizing plants and trees produces fabulous, non-spiraling root systems that are impossible to develop in any other available container.

Made of recycled HDPE in the UK, the Superoots Air-Pot is circular in shape with a perforated sidewall. There are no flat surfaces due to the inward and outward pointed cones, which eliminates any chance of starting the spiraling process as well as dramatically increases growth rates for container grown plants.

I am very excited to be selling these pots. Almost as excited as I am to finally get to use them and grow better root systems. I am also very excited about exposed root plantings options as these can be cut down to make shorter pots or make much taller thinner pots for a dramatic exposed root piece.

Air-Pot benefits are simply as follows: Eliminates root circling, Reduces growing time in the garden, Increases fruiting and flowering, Simplifies production, Minimizes the need to transplant , Ensures Superior Performance in Extremes of Weather, The Air-Pot is made of recycled HDPE plastic, Reduces the chance for overwatering.


Summer Class at Boons 2015

Summer Class at Boons 2015

So after waiting and traveling and all the what not I got sick the day I got to California. I worked my way through it and it nocked me down a few notches but I still got a good deal of work done. Godzilla was in need of summer decandling and after I got to wiring did not finish wiring before I had to head back east.


IMG_0415 IMG_3192 IMG_3178 IMG_0427 IMG_3176 IMG_3195 IMG_0422

Going to Japan to Study Bonsai!!!

Going to Japan to Study Bonsai!!!

Sorry for the lack of general information but at least the bonsai are still growing. I have been pushing the envelope a little this year with the decision to go to Japan and a trial acceptance to go in May 2016. Most would get wrapped up in the craziness of that decision I just simply wrapped myself up in the fact I didn’t speak Japanese. Well with a panic and great excitement I enrolled in a class and hired a tutor to help me and well on the way to speaking in some  embarrassing broken Japanese. So it slowly set in that at 33 years old I am going on a great adventure of a lifetime and couldn’t be more excited and terrified. The largest weight was taken off my shoulders when a great friend Matthew Ouwinga called. After I texted him with the exciting news that I was going he called to tell me “Im going take care of your trees for you” REALLY  “yes I want you to have trees when you get back from Japan”. I have to say for those who don’t know thats a big deal for anyone to do for someone. So now I know where my trees will live so back to the books and study, lol.

I am going for a 90 day trail at first to the nursery of Shinji Suzuki in Obuse, Japan. A Short list of Americans to follow in the foot steps of Michael Hagedorn, Matt Reel and Tyler Sherrod. Nervous would be understatement of the Century but I usually dont have much time to think about it with 2 days a week going to learning Japanese and still going to Boons to learn.

Winter Intensive 2015


Another trip to Boons and it was great. Boons senior Daisaku was visiting from Japan during our class and we watched him start to wire what will be possibly the best white pine in the United States owned by my good friend Adair Martin and previously owned by Boon imported from japan and allowed to grow well for past 10 years. It was great watching him set the structure that will be this trees future.

Well like all trips to Boons we had great food of course because if there is one thing you will never say at Boons is that you did not eat well. It always a great time meeting new people and making connections some that last much longer after the class is over.

Personally this trip for me was a good deal of refreshment on repotting techniques and and how to different conifers vary in root types and what they should look like. I did repot a collected tree that had been in a pumice mixture with a good deal of collected soil on it. It was a good chance to see the safe amount to remove without stressing the tree and after next year it will no longer have field soil.


We did a fun grafting exercise we did grafts of the plum tree on the side of Boons nursery and to mix it up I did a couple flowering apricot grafts to add some color. We labeled our grafts with a tag so next time we are back we can see what grafts took and what ones didn’t. The truth is we are all competitive when you get down to it.IMG_0347IMG_0349

I walked around the garden only to see trees iv worked on in the past. It great to see there progress and I think its good to go months without seeing them so the differences are much more visible than one my trees I see everyday.

I think every time I go I learn but beyond that things make more sense In June I will be at Boons for a 10 day stretch and I can’t wait one reason I’m looking forward to it is I can push myself harder with that much time and work on a bigger project that can take a few days.

Boon will be coming to NC in March and will do a evening workshop at Triangle Bonsai Society. It will be great having him on east coast because its hard to learn about your own trees through pictures. IMG_2604IMG_2605

I am always amazed that each class we have a new person to bonsai dedicating themselves to bonsai and the intensive program. We all started in a different way and interesting to see people interest converge at one place.

I am thinking that 2016 might be a great year to go and study in Japan. I think after Boons intensives it will be a great choice. Boon is a traveling artist so he is on the road a lot and doesn’t have full time students at the house. In Japan it would be constant bonsai and learning at a pace that Boon’s would have prepared me for. I know some people who are very happy they went for as little as a month but I do know I want more than that.  It is a little ways out but in Bonsai 2016 will be here before you know it. So deletions, decisions, decisions.

I had a guy in the class ask me how can you just stop work and life and go. I don’t think life should trap you into anything and I like to look forward. I do think I am getting older but I don’t think that should bind us to a life that we can look back at and wish we had done different . Everyone says iv lived 10 live with all the things iv done and that might be true but why chose to stop now. Life is here for us to live it and you can do anything you put your mind toso we shall see what the next chapter holds.


My Bonsai Pot Collection

My Bonsai Pot Collection

I have started a decent size collection of bonsai pots all from the biggest importer of high quality antique pots in the USA Matthew Ouwinga.

Below are a few examples of what I have on the shelves.

Bad lighting but at 2 deep there are few choices for spring repotting !!!


10717481_1478431692424757_1640547172_n  10726524_1478431695758090_1911882864_n





45810_1439437742990819_7332944525036936764_n 10527755_1439437762990817_5248244419645132814_n10383021_1439437826324144_3741860455245616110_n


10300695_1432084840392776_2411683005853669830_n 10421107_1432084003726193_7205016086114207395_n10437782_1432074597060467_7263465411617695864_n  10483303_1432101200391140_424142981_nba-65ct




this ones not from matt but I love the color


My First Old Pot

My First Old Pot

This was my second pot I bought from Matthew Ouwinga and at time had no real idea what I was buying I just know I loved the look of the pot and the clay feels amazing. Its an older Gyozan (I think its spelled right). Its about 12″ x 12″square with the four leaf clove drain holes. Didn’t buy it with a tree in mind just loved the pot.