Brazilian Pepper Bonsai

Starting a Brazilian Pepper bonsai from scratch

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

Brazilian Pepper Bonsai National Bonsai MuseumIn Florida the Brazilian Pepper Tree is an invasive species and is hated by all those Floridians who posses even a fundamental knowledge of gardening, landscaping or environmental conservation.

State, County and City governments cut them down with vigilance but the tree is nearly impossible to kill and new shoots will spring up from stumps in just a couple of weeks. I too hate the Brazilian Pepper and would enjoy seeing them all eradicated from the Florida Peninsula.

And with that attitude in mind, can you imagine my surprise as I stood in the National Arboretum recently in Washington D.C. admiring a beautiful bonsai only to read the sign and discover that it was a Brazilian Pepper?

Needless to say I was shocked, yet at the same time I was inspired by it because it was a really nice looking bonsai. And if there is a positive to be said about Brazilian Pepper being used for bonsai it is that they are so prolific that even cut branches left behind on the ground can sprout new roots and start growing again. So I decided that I wanted to start a Brazilian Pepper Bonsai, and here’s how it went:

After returning home to Florida; one evening I tucked a folding pocket saw into my back pocket, hopped on my bicycle and rode through my neighborhood to a few empty lots. I stopped at each one to inspect the Brazilian Peppers that were growing there. At my third stop I found a tree with thick branches. One branch in particular had a bit of a curve to it. With folding saw in hand, I spent about ten minutes cutting through the branch and eventually separated it from the tree. I got back on my bicycle and struggled my way back home dragging nearly twenty feet of foliage behind me, no doubt a curious sight to my neighbors.

Once I arrived home, I grabbed the pruning loppers from the garage and cut off all the foliage. I then put the branch onto my table saw. Adjusted the saw blade to the steepest angle and cut what remained of the branch in half. I was left with a piece of wood 7 inches in diameter and 15 inches in length. (If you’re listening only to the audio version of this article, you can visit The Bonsai Garden Podcast website to see pictures of it).

I had an empty bonsai pot in the garage. I ran some thick bonsai wire through the drain hole of the pot to be used as an anchor for the rootless branch. I secured the branch to the pot using the wire and then filled the pot with bonsai soil. If you try this yourself, it’s really important that the branch be right side up in the pot. In other words, the branch needs to be in the pot in the same orientation it was on the tree. The vascular system within the branch will not work in reverse. If you plant the branch upside down it will die.

Brazilian Pepper Bonsai from scratchSo I planted this bare log into a bonsai pot on March 26th and by April 11th, just two weeks and two days later, I noticed the first bud beginning to open on the side of the branch. To the new bonsai artist this process of cutting off every leaf and every branch may seem strange or even harsh, but the reality is that new buds will eventually pop from all over the branch giving me perhaps a dozen or more options to choose from once I begin to have a vision for how I want the bonsai to look. But I won’t do any branch wiring or even any branch selection until I know that the tree has had plenty of time to develop a new root system. So I will most likely leave the tree untouched for about one year before I do anything further to it other than applying fertilizer.

Brazilian Pepper Bonsai? Who would have ever thought? But the one featured in the National Arboretum was outstanding. So if you want to make one yourself, give it a try.

P.S. – *The family Anacardiaceae contains poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Schinus terebinthifolius, or Brazilian pepper-tree. People sensitive to poison ivy, oak or sumac may also be allergic to Brazilian pepper tree because it also has the potential to cause dermatitis to those with sensitive skin. Some people have also expressed respiratory problems associated with the bloom period of pepper tree.

*Reference Source http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/405

Cheryl Manning Bonsai Artist Interview

An interview with Bonsai Artist Cheryl Manning

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

Cheryl Manning BonsaiWelcome to the bonsai garden podcast where the object is not to make the tree look like a bonsai but to make the bonsai look like a tree.

BGP: My interview today is with Cheryl Manning a bonsai expert for over 30 years. Her website, Better Bonsai dot com, says that she’s been an artist since childhood and an avid gardener since her teens. Cheryl discovered Murata Bonsai Nursery in 1981 and it was love at first sight. Art and gardening wrapped into one small package. She later became a student and close friend of John Naka the father of American Bonsai. Cheryl has conducted bonsai demonstrations, workshops and slide presentations in the United States, Canada and Australia. She has written more than 40 articles for many bonsai publications and currently pens a column, Trash to Treasure, for the Journal of the American Bonsai Society. Cheryl has also edited John Naka’s sketch book, a compilation of John’s bonsai sketches from around the world. So I’m really excited to have Cheryl Manning on today’s episode.
Continue reading Cheryl Manning Bonsai Artist Interview

An interview with Michael Hylton of the East Bay Bonsai Society

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

East Bay Bonsai SocietyWelcome to the bonsai garden podcast, where the object is not to make the tree look like a bonsai, but to make the bonsai look like a tree.

Michael Hylton is the vice president of the East Bay Society, which was originally founded in 1961. It has become one of the most enduring bonsai organizations in the United States. They host many events including workshops, auctions and a very large annual bonsai show. Their club meetings dive into the definitive care and creation of award winning bonsai with topics such as watering, fertilizing, re-potting, styling, grafting and more. It was my pleasure to interview Michael Hylton on The Bonsai Garden Podcast.
Continue reading An interview with Michael Hylton of the East Bay Bonsai Society

Preparing a Bonsai for Show

Part 29 of a series by Eugene Howell

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

Bonsai at Malvern Garden show

If you’re considering entering one or more of your bonsai trees into a bonsai exhibit, show or other public display there are a few things you’ll need to do to get your tree ready for the show. Especially if you want your tree to be on the same professional level as all the others.

In bonsai, as all hobbyists know, small leaves are of special value. For this reason, if you enter a display or show with a tree on which you have not tried to miniaturize the leaves (if they need it), you are already far behind. So you need to begin this “getting ready for a show” by doing something about leaf size. Because new leaves do not just spring out after defoliation, the process of getting ready for a show should start about 12 weeks ahead of the show date. This allows plenty of time for the tree to produce a full canopy of new leaves before show time. For tropical trees, keep in mind that if the show is in mid winter, you shouldn’t defoliate. Tropical trees are very unhappy about having all their leaves plucked off during that time of year, so don’t do it. In this case you’re safer to show the tree as is.
Continue reading Preparing a Bonsai for Show

How to Clean and Maintain Bonsai Pots

Part 28 of a series by Eugene Howell

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

Bonsai at the Temple de la littératureThe bonsai pot is not just for holding the soil in which the bonsai grows. The pot’s appearance is very important to the overall impression your bonsai gives to the viewer who’s admiring it. We covered pot selection in part 13

Today however, I want to talk about cleaning a bonsai pot. Granted, while your bonsai sits in your own backyard, it’s likely that you’ll be the only one looking at it and therefore dirty pots may not be something of much concern. However, when it comes time to display your bonsai trees, whether in a show, exhibit, or even a club meeting, it’s important to clean up the pot so that it adds to the impressiveness of the bonsai.
Continue reading How to Clean and Maintain Bonsai Pots

Interview with John Callaway

John Callaway Bonsai ArtistWelcome to The Bonsai Garden Podcast where the object is not to make the tree look like a bonsai but to make the bonsai look like a tree.

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

John Callaway is a past president of the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society and a current member of the Bonsai Society of Greater Cincinnati. He’s been practicing bonsai since 2002, and studied with Boon Manakitivipart and joined the Cincinnati Advanced Study Group mentored by Ted Matson.

Here is my phone call with John Callaway:
Continue reading Interview with John Callaway

Protecting Bonsai with a Microclimate

Part 27 of a series by Eugene Howell

click the play button to listen to this episode.

EXPOSICIÓ DE BONSAIS DE TARDOR CIUTAT DE VILANOVAWe’ve begun to have cold weather this winter in Florida. The temperature for three successive nights got low enough to do serious damage to any tropical bonsai which may have been left outdoors and unprotected.
Continue reading Protecting Bonsai with a Microclimate

Bonsai Dormancy

Part 26 of a series by Eugene Howell

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

bonsai in winterIn the previous article we began the discussion of bonsai dormancy. We covered the definition and the fact that not all species go dormant, and not even each plant within a particular species, goes dormant at the same time. We also learned of the interest scientists have in the subject of dormancy. We finished the first part by asking the question, “So what causes dormancy and when can it typically be expected to occur?” We will answer that question in today’s article.

The first part of the question is easier to answer than is the latter part. Typically, dormancy is caused by one or more of the following four events; shorter days, cooler temperatures, hotter temperatures or drought. Two of these sound like an oxymoron, but they are not. Not all plants respond to the same events in initiating dormancy. Some plants need shorter daylight hours and/or lower temperatures while others need hotter/drier conditions. In both cases the plant is protecting itself from adverse weather conditions that might otherwise injure it. In the first case the plant is protecting itself from the cold temperatures that frequent winter, and in the second case the plant is protecting itself from the desiccating conditions that occur in late summer and early fall in some parts of the world.
Continue reading Bonsai Dormancy

Dormant Trees

Part 25 of a series by Eugene Howell

Click the play button to listen to this episode.

Dormant treesYou’ve heard that the best time to do major branch pruning and root work on deciduous trees is during the winter when the trees are dormant. But what does it mean that the bonsai is dormant?

If you look in a horticulture dictionary you will see that dormancy is “a resting phase; a state of temporary cessation of growth and the slowing down of other activities in whole plants”. In this phase transpiration almost stops, production of food stops, and leaves turn color and eventually drop during fall. The only part of the tree that stays fairly active is the root system. During this period the roots take the opportunity to continue their development.
Continue reading Dormant Trees

Lynden Sculpture Garden Bonsai Display

An interview with Jack Douthitt

Public Bonsai DisplayWelcome to the bonsai garden podcast where the object is not to make the tree look like a bonsai, but to make the bonsai look like a tree.


Click the play button to listen to this episode.

*Jack Douthitt has been a bonsai enthusiast for over forty years. The former president of Bonsai Clubs International, he has served as a judge at bonsai exhibits and exhibited his own award winning bonsai at various shows. Jack’s bonsai appear in both the National Arboretum Collection of American Bonsai in Washington D.C. and the Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Tacoma, Washington. In 1987, he was named “One of America’s Outstanding Bonsai Artists” by the National Bonsai Foundation. His book, Bonsai: The Art of Living Sculpture approaches bonsai as art, exploring how the traditional fine arts apply to bonsai. He focuses on the specific design elements of the bonsai – the roots, trunk, branches, foliage, and container – and discusses how bonsai artists can manipulate these elements for a specific effect.
*http://www.milwaukeebonsai.org/bonsai_workshops.htm

BGP: So welcome Jack Douthitt to the Bonsai Garden Podcast.

Thank you

BGP: So, I understand that The Milwaukee bonsai society has plans for a Public Bonsai Collection to be displayed at the Lynden Sculpture garden. Can you tell us about that?
Continue reading Lynden Sculpture Garden Bonsai Display