Ezo Spruce and Analogies

Posted by on Feb 27, 2016 | No Comments
Ezo Spruce and Analogies

Here in Northern California, spruce is not a particularly common tree to see in bonsai shows. The weather being hot and dry in much of the state probably has something to do with that. I have one spruce in my own yard which got a tinge of needle burn on it during a hot spell last summer – but a hot spell in San Francisco is 85 degrees.

While traveling in Japan a visit to Shinji Suzuki’s garden, the very same place that Matt Reel, Tyler Sherrod and Mike Hagedorn all have apprenticed, I got to see quite a few nice spruce. Suzuki’s garden was immaculate as usual; truly a wonderful place to spend an afternoon admiring bonsai.

Among Suzuki’s strong points are Ezo Spruce, Japan’s native spruce which grow well in the colder parts of the country. Here in the US an analogous tree is the Engelmann spruce of the Pacific Northwest. Spruce, like pine, fir and true cedar have a needle structure, but unlike pine the short needles radiate around the twig all along the length. In effect they are somewhere between working on a pine and working on a juniper.

When we visited the garden Matt Reel was busily working on a large specimen, which was tagged as an “Important Bonsai Masterpiece.”

Matt adjusts a branch on a large multi-trunk planting.   Note the density difference between a tree that is being rewired and trees that are being shown.

Matt adjusts a branch on a large multi-trunk planting. Note the density difference between a tree that is being rewired and trees that are being shown.

Adjacent to the workshop was an area where a few trees were being kept.   This is a famous spruce I believe, having appeared on the cover of Bonsai Today many years ago.   The deadwood and hollow trunk make it particularly captivating.

Adjacent to the workshop was an area where a few trees were being kept. This is a famous spruce I believe, having appeared on the cover of Bonsai Today many years ago. The deadwood and hollow trunk make it particularly captivating.

A closeup of the deadwood and hollow section.

A closeup of the deadwood and hollow section.

A great spruce that appeared in Kokufu-ten during my last visit to Japan in 2011.

A great spruce that appeared in Kokufu-ten during my last visit to Japan in 2011.

A large double-trunk Ezo growing in one of Suzuki's greenhouses.   The cold weather in Obuse seems to be particularly well suited to the species.

A large double-trunk Ezo growing in one of Suzuki’s greenhouses. The cold weather in Obuse seems to be particularly well suited to the species.

At Kokufu this year there were many Ezo's, but my favorites were two medium size trees.   This one has a trunk and matching jin, both shaped like a cartoon lightning bolt.

At Kokufu this year there were many Ezo’s, but my favorites were two medium size trees. This one has a trunk and matching jin, both shaped like a cartoon lightning bolt.

A closer look at the jin and trunk.

A closer look at the jin and trunk.

This medium tree has an interesting dynamic feeling.   I particularly like the elbow sticking out of the side of the crown, a feature more commonly seen in large red pine or twisted shimpaku.

This medium tree has an interesting dynamic feeling. I particularly like the elbow sticking out of the side of the crown, a feature more commonly seen in large red pine or twisted shimpaku.

It’s no surprise that Mike Hagedorn, Matt Reel and Bobby Curttright are among the people in the Pacific Northwest diligently working to create American bonsai in the same vein as the Ezo Spruce of Japan. Check out Mike’s blog for some interesting photos of both Ezo, and Engelmann spruce.

An Ezo spruce in the garden of Mike Hagedorn in Portland, Oregon.

An Ezo spruce in the garden of Mike Hagedorn in Portland, Oregon.