Atlas Blue Cedars, Starter’s Progress


             Two Atlas Blue Cedars Purchased Jan 2017 from Kaizen

Last Christmas my two sons Ben and Julian gave me gift vouchers for Kaizen Bonsai, many thanks fellas.

I spent the following week studying their website and wondering what to buy myself and eventually settled on a small Trident Maple, which whilst not looking much now had some potential. I went to buy it and just as my cursor made it’s way to the Add to Cart button- it disappeared from sight – some rotten swine had bought it in front of me.  XXY!! 

The next  few days I kept careful watch on  the site watching for new additions to the selection and after a while five little Atlas Blue Cedars appeared. Not having come across before in the bonsai world myself I nipped over to Google had a  quick search and soon found that they were considered very desirable and quite hard to find.

So I rushed back to the Kaizen site and purchased two of them which are shown above. It was just as well I did for within an hour or so the remaining three had gone as well.

The Atlas Blue Cedar Cedrus Atlantica Glauca is a true cedar that grows in the humid zones of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains’

The first thing I did was to re pot them into slightly larger training pots in some of Kaizens No 2 Compost mix. I normally use Tesco’s  finest dust free cat litter with some added pine bark but I thought as I was getting something from Kaizen that I would add this to the order and try it and I must admit it looks pretty good  and the trees seem to like it.

In my research I had discovered George Omi’s website in California where he specialises in these trees and went of to find his You Tube videos on wiring Blue A.C. this video is one of a number of his which were very useful as there is little else on this speciesAtlas blue 3
He demonstrates wiring a very young one by placing  a sturdy wire alongside the trunk and then binding the tree to it with twine prior to bending to the desired shape. Evidently this is better than coiled wire for these trees as it is less likely to mark the bark.

By June both trees were were beginning to look a lot better, their structure having  been thinned out quite a bit by now.

But the faults were glaringly obvious the top of  one was in dire need of control and as an artist the branch half way up the trunk of the upright really annoyed me and needed to Atlas Blue 10be raised above that exact halfway mark . That  has since been done and the  straightness of that branch has also been  dealt with as the photo looking down from above shows.


Atlas Blue 11


The top looks a little heavy
due to the thick wire bound onto the tree.

On the other tree the original bound wire had served it’s purpose and has been replaced for a shorter time with a coiled wire which I must keep an eye on.Blue atlas wired 1

A long way to go yet but within this short time I can see why anyone who has an Atlas Blue Cedar can get pretty enthusiastic about them and  want more of them. 

Useful Reference sites
George Omi       Evergreengardenworks                     Kuromatsu Bonsai 

As I have said before this blog is very much intended as my own record of my bonsai activities but should you find it interesting you can always let me know any thoughts or suggestions you may have. And if you are new to bonsai the best advice I can give is to join a Club where you can get some hands on assistance from the more experienced members, I know  it made an enormous difference to my knowledge, technique, confidence and to my trees. 


Now should I remove the cones to conserve strength or not?


Club Shoe Box Competition August 2017

Our President’s idea which has been done in other clubs this was my entry .


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Juniper Project Phase 3 Continued

Before on 25th

Now at the end of July the Juniper has put on a healthy burst of growth and is ready for thinning out a bit and wiring even more carefully .

Just Started work

Fresh supply of wire to hand and starting work on the lower branches first.

Work in Progress

Work in progress 3

After wiring the whole tree right out to the tertiary branches I decided it was time to take off some of the very heavy 6mm wire (should have done that first,I know.) that was used originally to make a major change to the direction of the trunk and a secondary branch. (March 17th this year)Work in progress 4.jpgmasked

The very topmost part of the trunk needed quite a heavy wire still to be redone but the rest seemed to have done the job OK.

Work in progress 5.jpg masked

Sue is being very patient about this great black nursery pot on a stand outside the window and I am getting impatient about seeing it in a more bonsai like pot albeit a pretty big training pot.

Bonsai workers

Adrian from Taunton & Somerset Bonsai Club help to get me on the right track with this project.

The present pot is about 56 cm wide by 35 cm deep, so it is a bit of an eyesore. Kaizen have just introduced a round nursery pot in either 50 or 60 cm diameter and Got Bonsai do a black rectangular one of 58cm width  so I will have to think about it.

Might even get it into a proper bonsai pot before my 80th birthday with luck DV.


Harry Harrington of Bonsai4me says that there is a window in August when one can repot Junipers when it is warm and humid but having done such a lot of drastic work on it this year one should really leave it now till next spring so as not to put too much strain on the tree.




THE JUNIPER PROJECT  The whole story so far from it’s discovery at the back of an old nursery can be seen at   The Juniper Story 



As I have said before this blog is very much intended as my own record of my bonsai activities but should you find it interesting you can always let me know any thoughts or suggestions you may have. And if you are new to bonsai the best advice I can give is to join a Club where you can get some hands on assistance from the more experienced members, I know  it made an enormous difference to my knowledge, technique, confidence and to my trees. 

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Bonsai Progress July 2017


My Bonsai Progress over the last six months or so.


Juniper Project JUly black 1

This is coming on a treat now, looking a bit better than it did not so long ago at the beginning of May, the High Nitrogen feed seems to have done it good.

Good one.jpg2

Just looking forward to getting it into a better pot, my Sue is getting a bit fed up with this big black pot out there but it will have to wait until the spring for a repot and root prune. Got Bonsai do a 50cm  plastic which is about a big as I can get or afford for the next stage.

Penny Pinching Pensioner’s Bonsai Purchases

Some of my earlier cheapies are beginning to look a bit more like bonsai now or at least potentials these Larch for instance cost about £1.33 each in Jan 2016


At my age group plantings give you a chance to get some satisfaction in quite a short time for a modest outlay when I certainly don’t have the budget and an actuary might say that I may not have the years to invest in a long term project.

Their winter wiring removed the branches are lifting again and will be rewired in the winter. The twins are guyed to protect them from the strong winds we have had recently

For only 60p I also bought this Blackthorn at the same time . The hedgerows around here make such a show of these when they are in blossom.

Blackthorn training

 And for absolutely  nothing I dug this Hawthorn out of the back of a border at my daughter & partner’s house in Wiltshire as a 4ft high whip in 2015 which I cut down to about 9 inches and trained up new leader. It has always had very small leaves.

Hawthorn TT


Pyracantha semi cascadeOther garden or garden centre starts include  this pyracantha which I have just decided to bring the right hand branch down on, lowering Berried smallit below the level of the pot rim.A bit different from it’s early days when I first started work on it in 2013





My  Rowan has not been defoliated this year and flowered a little while ago and the trunk is thickening up quite well now compared with 2014.


The Turkey Oak is putting out a lot of leaves but they are very large and I have heard that they are hard to reduce very much


                     Jan this year                                                                         July

And this is the Turkey Oak that was felled in our village recently as it was diseased.Some of the great cross section slabs of wood were  given to locals, one gentleman is making a headstone for his parents who used to sit on the bench beneath it in their younger courting days, what a nice thought. It is to be replaced this autumn with a Spire Lime which has a narrow width of canopy in order not to overhang the main road.

Ashcott Oak FB


For a few Pounds more

These two young Blue Atlas Cedar were purchased Jan this year with Kaizen coupons from my son Ben and seem to be making headway particularly these last few weeks 


compared with January when they arrivedCedar PairFB


The good thing about taking photos regularly is that not only can you compare the tree’s progress but very often once one sees the photos it becomes blatantly obvious that you have neglected to do the obvious, So once having seen the last two photos I couldn’t wait to get back out there and smarten these two nice little trees up a bit and this is the result.


And my Mulberry that Sue gave me is looking pretty healthy as well.

Better Mulberry

Air Layering my first Attempt

We have a very healthy Contoneaster Franchettii growing against our garden fence and last year I tried an air layering but failed, it created a bridge  across the gap where one cleans the bark off. This year I tried again in March and a few weeks ago when I could see quite a good amount of roots I cut it off and planted it in a training pot .



 All three branches are in the same plane, as a fan, at the moment.So I am going to cut off the two right hand branches and lower the remaining thinner upright and hope it bushes out, it’s parent plant grows like the clappers, let’s hope this will.

Less is More

A tree I have had for some years and never been very happy about is this Juniper which was from Garden Centre stock. The first photo shows it in July 2014 when I was trying to style it the first time,the foliage on the left was typical of what had been  all round the tree, on the left, right  and to the front. The following photo shows it in Oct 2015 when the first branch was removed and the tree was rewired . Finally the latest photo this week July 2017 when the the remaining branch on the right  branch went for the chop. And before Ade from the club sees it ,yes I know, the pot is too big.


Old juniper


Some Observations for beginners and newcomers to Bonsai.

Most of us try and rush trees into little bonsai pots far too soon.

Don’t take every comment of advice, on Facebook or websites’ as sound advice they may just be beginners too, look for the old established names and for what they say.

Get some more trees, it is so much easier then to do something drastic that is recommended    “Why don’t you take off that branch there and cut that back there.” all seems pretty frightening when it is the only tree you have, even though it is the correct course of action. 

Finally do join a Bonsai Club it is the best thing I ever did in my Bonsai trip.

wisteria 3

OK I know I have put this on my site before but I just so love it.


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Juniper Project Phase 3

It was back along at the beginning of February when I discovered this Juniper hidden as foundaway in the potting up area of an old nursery, a tale that has been told earlier  in the saga of this tree’s discovery  . Use this Link for  .Phase 1
Things have gone on at quite a pace now, the previous phases being  via these  further two links-

Phase 2  when with Adrian, a friend from Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club, dramatic pruning was undertaken

Phase 2 continued when I carried on myself styling what remained.

Originally the trunk and nebari area was a total mess, weeds,  damaged branches and disorder, now after the last two sessions it is very different and is waiting for the stumps to be attended to. Size guide- the first pot was 24 inches diameter the new one is about 21″

                    Feb  2017                                                                        Mid March 2017

My worry is that a number of bonsai folk have said that I have gone on too far and too fast,admittedly after the second session I went at it a bit enthusiastically myself intending only to clean it up a little and of course hours latter I found that I had got carried away  and  done far more than I had intended. Mind you at my age an actuary would have probably told me to get on with it.
So it was with my  heart in my mouth I awaited Adrian’s observations when he returned again to help me this month on May 9th.

Bonsai workers

Apart from Adrian’s many more bonsai years experience behind him than me I had just had a cataract operation a few days before following a Macular Hole op last year and had the nurse’s instruction ringing in my ears. ‘No gardening Mr Cooper, no dirty hands by your eye and no dust and  flying bits near your face for some time.’ so that was my excuse for calling in the cavalry and taking up an observers post instead.
The tree is still so heavy it needed both of us to get it up onto a stand where Ade examined the foliage and told me to stop worrying it was putting on healthy growth and besides it had been in a very large pot for years and we had only taken it down 2 inches this year with only modest root pruning.

Ade’s first task was peeling back the bark on the very wide stump with jinning pliers and then hollowing out what remained with a Dremel power tool using various heads as he went along striving towards the natural broken branch appearance that I had in mind, at least I contributed some thoughts on that.

This left us with a rather hairy and fluffy stump which  Ade then cleaned up with a small blowtorch and a  wire brush. (Below)

7.brushing down

A bit more burning and rubbing down and we had the Jin that I had been looking for.

8.Large jin

Now  with a few cups of coffee already behinds us it was time for something else, a stroll round the corner to The Ashcott Inn  about 100 yards away and avail ourselves  of the pensioners  Tuesday special for my wife Sue, Ade and I. It seems they are bringing that offer to an end soon and having Tapas Tuesdays instead , shame.
Revitalised we got back to work and Adrian then set about a Shari on the trunk on what may well be the rear of the tree.

11.The trunk shari

After some of the smaller Jins were then done it was decided to let it rest now to put on some more growth. I am feeding it with High Nitrogen fertiliser ,spraying the needles daily and watering but not too generously as needed. The following two photos of the tree as it is today have been doctored  on the computer (paint net- free software) in order to eliminate a very confusing background. 

Whole treeleft

Good one.jpg2

My very  grateful thanks to Adrian for all his help with this project and making it possible to get to this stage, for doing most of the work and giving me the confidence to at least do some myself, thanks Ade.

Note.         Jin:     Japanese word for dead wood where a branch has broken off.
                  Shari: Deadwood torn down the trunk of a tree.

This Blog is very much intended as my own record of the progress of my trees throughout the year, should you find it interesting do keep an eye on this site and remember as today has proved that one of the best ways to learn the art of bonsai is to join a club and benefit from the experience of others who have walked the path before you.

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Blooming Beautiful Wisteria

wisteria 3

Last year I was luck enough to acquire this beautiful Wisteria  from a fellow member of Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club who I think had returned from an auction with a car full of purchases and felt that he should whittle down the rest of his collection a little.

August 2016                                                                                   April 2017

For the past week or so Sue and I have been looking out of our window watching the trees progress and in fact there are still a few racemes to fully open but after yesterdays hail I wanted to make sure that I had a good record. This has set quite a standard to follow next year though.

Wisteria on wall

Isn’t this a wonderful time of year for bonsai, every day something new to see and something to attend to. 

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Juniper Project Phase 2 Cont’d.

Juniper a nd neighbours FB

Now left to my own devices without Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club mate Adrian to give me advice I  carried on tidying the tree up,removing hundreds of dead needles one by one,dead and small damaged branches.


Juniper as discovered

Then I started started preliminary wiring and trying to get straight in my mind what I was doing, or at least trying to do.

Removed much  upward and downward growing foliage and tried to create shapes that would allow light through to the growth beneath. At least I am beginning to see what I think may be the front now which is a help. Rather concerned about the very top which is very weak with a small split in the tip of the trunk which may hamper growth there.  May have to chose between the next two alternatives

A                                                                                                                    B

A.   Has the weak top which if it grows OK gives it a bit of height,which I quite like.

B.   Is a computer Paint possibility  to wonder what it would look like with a lower top.

Do let me know what you think 

Next  there are the Jins to work on and to carry on saving for a large pot one day .

I  notice in my photos that some needle areas seem to have been knocked a little out of place whilst taking the pictures
and as I said, preliminary wiring, I realise it needs tidying up somewhat,just needed to see the wood for the needles.

Previous posting of this project are 

Juniper Project Phase 1  February 16th -The discovery of the tree and getting it home.

Juniper Project Phase 2  March 18th  – Getting down to serious work.


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Springtime Blossom


Just had to share this photo of this Crab Apple that my dear Wife Sue gave me for my Birthday back in December. At times I was really worried at how fast it was progressing and wondered if the supplier, All Things Bonsai near Sheffield, had kept it in a tunnel, they assured me that they hadn’t. 

   Jan 3rd                                                         Feb 2nd

As it showed flower buds so early I did take it in to the garage on a few nights when frosts were predicted but as you can see it all turned out well. So very pleased we have it, Crab Apple was on my list of trees that I was after and as it can be seen from our kitchen window we are both able to enjoy it many times a day. Thanks Sue.

Note- despite being packed very well the carriers managed to break the pot some how. All Things Bonsai replaced it withing 48 hours. Having an EBusiness myself I know these things happen however well one guards against it, what matters is how well one rectifies the mishap, well done All Things B.

Crab Apple March 27th 2017

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Juniper Project Phase 2


It is a month now since I brought this tree home from the nursery where I discovered it, (see earlier Phase 1 posting) and I have had a while to think about it and round up some help as well. Adrian one of the most experienced members of Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club had kindly offered to come and give me the benefit of his bonsai years.

I had already tidied it up, removed the smaller dead wood and old needles which took a lot Ade startslonger than I had expected.

First of all Ade burrowed around to see if there was any interesting root system just under the soil. To the left of the trunk (above) there were only very fine roots but just under the surface there was a very large root on the right directly  beneath the heavy long branch. 

Ade  pointed out that that long branch competed with the trunk as to thickness and divided ones attention when looking at the tree as a whole. I had thought this myself but was rather nervous of removing such a major feature and such a large amount of my new acquisition.One could see how weak and limp the foliage at the end of the long branch was and in fact how damaged one of it’s minor branches was, so off it came.

ade cut 1 BLOG

This major surgery was soon followed by some more amputations though at times I think I was more nervous than the patient.

ade cut 4 BLOGade cut 5 BLOG

Where branches had been removed
I have left stubs to work on later and Jin

One branch was also wired up to give
some height to what was now left.
The tree will now be left for quite a while to recover from todays work and with some High Nitrogen fertiliser soon and a summer ahead I look forward to it’s progress this year.

We then took a couple of photos with a white board behind to make images where the structure of the tree rather than the drama of the day  would be easier to see.

As we were now up to our ankles  in off cuts and I was suffering from tree owners nervous exhaustion it was time to pop round to the pub only a hundred yards away, eat,drink,talk trees and then put the world to rights over  bacon,cranberry and brie sandwichs and chips.

Getting back home Adrian advised and helped on some of my other trees and got his Dremell out to clean one up.  All in all a very worth while few hours,  thanks Ade.

My next task was to try and create computer visuals from the above photos which include some of the next phase of work to do.

And the amazing thing is that throughout this exercise I had been wondering what my dear Wife Sue would say as she had been looking out at the tree for a month now and I was preparing for comments such as ‘Bonsai Massacre’  and ‘What on Earth have you done?’
so when she said ‘That looks better you can see it’s going to be a bonsai now.’

Thank you Ade and thank you Sue

This Blog is very much intended as my own record of the progress of my trees throughout the year, should you find it interesting do keep an eye on this site and remember as today has proved one of the best ways to learn the art of bonsai is to join a club and benefit from the experience of others who have walked the path before you.



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Springtime at Last


Prunus Incisa ‘Paean’
Purchased as a spindly nursery tree about four foot high February last year,cut down to about 9 inches, in training pot until n ow.

One of the  magic moments of nature is the Spring as buds starts to emerge and signs of life return to our trees and it is time to set about re-potting most of them.When the roots go round and round in the pot and start pushing the tree up now is the time to take them out,comb out the roots aiming to arrange them radially out from the trunk and trim them 1487803455499back. With a tree that  has been in a deeper training pot the depth of the root area should try to be reduced as well in order  to fit it into a shallower bonsai pot .

This Hawthorn has lots of root growth to tease out and reduce.

Last year I also purchased some bare rooted Larches which as they were intended for woodland trees had thick tap roots.They were first planted into deep flower pots the roots being cut back later and planted in a deepish oval bonsai pot without great care as to their arrangement rather a care about their survival.

Now it is time to place them more carefully into a shallower pot with more thought as to the composition of the arrangement.LarchgrroupMarch 17

Lornicera feb2017Among other trees that have had the spring time re-potting routine are the following. A nice little Lonicera Pileata purchased in May 2014 from Kaizen  about 6″ high. A Hawthorn which I salvage from my daughter and her partner’s garden in Wiltshire, it was about four foot high and I also cut that down to about 9 inches and trained up a new   leader.Last summer it’s leaves were so Hawthorn 10march 17small it looked pretty good.



A Cotoneaster which has grown from a seedling found in 1993.Cottoneaster feb 2017

Berberis which was purchased at a garden centre and worked down to about a 7 inch tree.Berberis feb 2017





Among my other smaller trees there are also two Mulberrys which my Wife Sue gave me last year as an extra part of our Golden Wedding Anniversary present. I think she got them from All Things Bonsai near Sheffield.


The main present was my smashing Acer Kashima which will grace this blog site when it’s amazing foliage display starts,

The last tree I got round to in the last few days was this little Semi Cascade Juniper bought from a landscaping nursery in 1982 but neglected during those busy years of my working life.Juniper semi cascade March17


As to the fancy black background photography, well I was sitting in the garage working on a tree and held it up to eye level as the sun poured in the door beside me lighting the tree with the garage interior behind in almost total darkness. I have had to take out the step ladder and the waste bin that was visible in the gloom  but otherwise a handy bonsai photo spot.

Some of the larger trees to do next,watch this blog.

This blog is very much intended as my own record of my progress along the fascinating pathway that is Bonsai. Though I have had some trees since 1985 they were sorely neglected for many years whilst I had a business to run,employees, the landlord, bank manager and the VAT man to support. It is only in recent years that I have been able to give my bonsai the time that they deserve and through joining my local Bonsai Club the
Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club
that I have had the encouragement to pursue this other form of art more seriously.





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Juniper Project Phase 1


The number of times I have stopped to explore some small out of the way nursery in the hope of finding some potential bonsai treasure. But I suppose like the Princess and the Frog you have to kiss a lot of frogs first.

However a few weeks ago  I remembered a nursery not far away that I had not been to for a few years so perhaps it was time to give it another try. I pottered  around their tree collection, poked around their shrubs and browsed through their tunnels and green houses and then just as I was about to leave I rounded a corner at the back and came across this Juniper Squamata or Himalayan Juniper, which looked as if it had been there forever

Trying hard not to get too carried away with first impressions I got down on my hands and knees for a better  look   (and then had to get up again!) and  took the photos above.
Just to give you an idea of size that tub is almost 30 inches across, Nebari 3inches plus

Being a penny pinching pensioner bonsai collector I had to give it some more thought though and  then went to find the proprietor who told me that it was not their’s but left by the previous owner who had retired two years ago and he had taken it as part exchange from a customer. An interestingly  good  provenance as they might say on the Antiques Roadshow.The following  week I returned to find out the price he wanted  for it,  having meanwhile consulted one of wiser heads in our bonsai club for his expert opinion on my discovery.

Thinking that it would provide me with a Bonsai Project for the next few years that might  be a very worthwhile and satisfying task to keep me occupied further into my dotage I returned and bought it.

Would it even go in the car, well yes it did after Sue the very helpful lady at the nursery  got it out of that larger pot and into a smaller one, of only 21 inches or so, smaller?juniper-1-collectedblog
Got it safely home and then asked a neighbour if he would help lift it out for me, his wife also came over to see what we were up to and wanted to know what on earth my Sue was going to say when I tried to get it into the house.
Some people still think that all bonsai go on windowsills!

Managed to get it through the garage into the juniper-2-colectedblogback where all my trees are and unpotted it  for the second time that day. It was in a pretty heavy peat based compost some more of which I knocked off but only cutting back a couple of heavy roots which were making it hard to get juniper-3-un-pottedbloginto a 21 inch pot.


Settled it in to a mixture of Tesco’s finest dust free cat litter so beloved by Harry Harrington, see his essay on the subject on  his website Bonsai4me , with  the addition of some Pine Bark. Cut away some obviously dead needles and small twigs and branches and watered the pot and sprayed the foliage.
My next task is to take my dear Wife shopping in Taunton tomorrow having used the first fine day for more than a week to get my tree. Then I will set about cleaning it up a bit more, possibly some extra drainage holes in the pot, Jin a few of the broken branch stubs perhaps and give it some High Nitrogen feed soon to give it a boost and then get Ade my helpful friend and brains at the  club over for a session for his advice on it’s long term possibilities and a bite at the pub round the corner afterwards.

          With many thanks to Sue at the Nursery, John my neighbour, Ade for his advice and     encouragement and to my Sue for putting up with me and putting off a trip to M & S.
The car by the way, knows the way to M & S Taunton as our Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club meets in a building entered via the M and S Car Park.


Do follow this blog for further news on my Juniper Project and other bonsais

    I suppose I had better start saving up for a pot for it one day !

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