Rocky Mountain Bonsai With Larry Jackel
 By Jerry Meislik


In June 2006 I had the pleasure of visiting Denver Colorado to lead several programs for the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society as well as to give a lecture on container culture to the Denver Botanical Gardens.  My friend Larry Jackel was my host for the visit. I was able to study Larry's great bonsai collection and to pick his brain about the great materials that he is collecting and using for bonsai. He was also kind enough to share many of his special techniques that he uses for his bonsai.

Larry works with Pinus flexilis - Limber Pine, Pinus ponderosa - Ponderosa Pine, Picea pungens - Colorado Blue Spruce, Juniperus scopulorum - Rocky Mountain Juniper, Pseudotsuga menziesii - Doug Fir, as well as many other species.

Larry particularly loves working with the old collected mountain material, yamadori. These trees often have great deadwood and show the results of a great struggle to survive in a hostile environment. One day we visited several groves of trees at 10,000 foot elevation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to see the natural environment of the Limber and Bristlecone Pines. These trees are exposed to high winds, dry summers and brutally cold winters. Somehow they manage to survive but at great cost.

One living branch is all that remains of this Limber Pine.

Pair of windswept Bristlecone Pines.

Ancient Limber Pine growing out of rocky soil.

Bristlecone pine, "Methuselah", thousands of years old.

Nature's dead wood.

We spent much of our time studying how the environment shapes these trees. The wind, snow and ice blast these trees and they often show greatly contorted shapes as well as shattered trunks, and branches with much exposed and eroded dead wood. Nature does a marvelous job of wearing away the dead wood to reveal multiple wood colors, varying textures and complex mixes of new and old erosion.

Many of Larry's bonsai trees show the same types of dead wood as the natural mountain trees. After much study and practice Larry has been able with hand and power tools to shape the dead wood to be virtually identical in character with the natural trees. He studiously avoids leaving any scars that look man-made. Larry uses small tools to pull off layers of wood fibers and also fine rotary tools to carve fine grooves into the wood. Small chisels carve deeper channels into the dead wood.

Larry's bonsai sunk into their bed.

Limber Pine, 24 inches tall, in training 8 years.

Larry "fine-tuning" an elegant Ponderosa Pine, 28 inches wide.

Ponderosa bonsai, 20 inches tall, trained for 8 years.

Marvelously contorted Ponderosa, height 23 inches.

Dead-wood on the above tree detailed by Larry with
fine carving tools and charred with a torch.

Picea pungens, height 27 inches, trained for 2 years.

Collected Douglas Fir, 33 inches tall.

Larry sets his bonsai trees into a mulch bed. Pots are kept settled to their rims to buffer the often brutally hot summer temperatures in his mile-high home. Roots are protected and keep the trees healthy and vigorous.

Pot sunk to its rim in mulch to protect the roots from summer heat and winter cold.

Larry collects small numbers of mountain trees for his bonsai workshops as well as for sale to lucky buyers. To contact Larry click here e-mail .

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All Rights Reserved © 2006 Jerry Meislik