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.”
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.