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The Art of Bonsai Making is Still Alive Today with Bruce Baker and Goliath

Category: How-To Projects, Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

Bruce Baker has been working on one bonsai project for 12 years — and he’s just getting started.

Taking the long view is part of being a bonsai artist or practitioner. “Bonsai trees can live hundreds of years and they’re always changing,’ he says. “They’re never done,” he adds.

The process, as Bruce sees it, is about gradually revealing what is already there, and enhancing or sometimes exaggerating it.  It takes patience, planning and plenty of solitary contemplation—just you and your tree.

The art of bonsai dates back 2000 years to China. Later it was adapted by the Japanese, where it was given the name bon-sai, which translates literally to ‘planted in a container.’ When I visited China I visited a bonsai collection in Suzhou, in the province of Jiangsu, at “The Garden of the Humble Administrator.” I took the photos on this page in that beautiful garden one November.

For anyone who wants to own a bonsai tree but doesn’t want to create one from scratch, bonsai can be purchased, even online.  Some are low maintenance, requiring little more than a humidity tray and occasional pruning.

For bonsai enthusiasts like Bruce, who want to immerse themselves in bonsai culture and instruction, there is the American Bonsai Society and many local bonsai clubs all over the US.

I recently spoke with Bruce about his journey with bonsai, which began when he was in law school.  Since his retirement last year he has been able to spend more time working on his outsize tree. Because it’s a big tree his tools include a chain saw as well as carving tools. He recently recorded a video explaining the process and how he first came to own this tree.

Even by world standards, Bruce’s is very large.  “I’m one of a handful of people who would dream of doing a project like this,” he says. His tree came from a neighbor when he lived in Ann Arbor, MI.  He had been eyeing the aging ewe in his neighbor’s yard and was given permission to remove it when the property changed hands.

Everything about the story, from the transferring of the tree to his backyard, to the annual storing of it for winter at his windy lakefront Michigan property, is documented in Bruce’s video.

Bruce is the only person I know who practices bonsai making. I watched his video and then I interviewed him over the telephone.  Bruce is also the designer of the Radius Garden Weeder tool sold on our website!

I saw my first bonsai tree collection when visiting the Chinese town of Suzhou and “The Garden of the Humble Administrator.” See my photos, taken in Suzhou one November.

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3 thoughts on “The Art of Bonsai Making is Still Alive Today with Bruce Baker and Goliath

  1. Priscilla Sands says:

    Priscilla Sands: I enjoyed this article and would love to see the video of Bruce with his Bonsai but get no response at all when I click on it. I have an HP Windows 10 Laptop. I thought you should know, in case others have this problem. Maybe it is a format not compatible with mine, but it doesn’t even try to open! Thank you.

  2. Kathy Lusco says:

    I clicked on the red words “Bruce’s video” and was able to watch it. An intriguing and pretty thorough video! I know very little about bonsai trees and learned a lot from his video. He does a great job at explaining how he created this work of art.

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