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Michael Hagedorn's Historic Ponderosa Restyling (in a rusty old brake drum!)


Michael Hagedorn's Ponderosa pine in an rusty old brake drum.

Okay, if your interest isn'tpiqued by the photo and caption just above, maybe it's time for a nap. Or a cup of coffee...
However, if you're still here, rather than listen to me scribble on, here's the whole story in the words of Michael Hagedorn, our favorite brilliant bonsai bard and shapeshifting trickster.

In Michael's own words, just as I lifted them from his Crataegus Bonsai blog: "Years ago a friend dropped off an old brake drum, an old rusted thing from a car, and said ‘Put something in that’. I was pretty amused and said I would, and yet it’s taken me a while to find something worthy of it. We finally did, this spring, and it was the first time I’ve ever put a tree in a metal container.

"I’ve featured this Ponderosa here before. Collected way back in the 80’s, it made its way onto the cover of BCI magazine in 1992. The lower branch was getting weak and last fall we had a post about cutting that branch off, and rethinking the inclination and front."

The same Ponderosa pine on the cover of BCI magazine in 1992.

Michael's caption... "Fall of 2019. A lower branch was cut off, with some blocks helping us think about what a restyle might look like. The only problem with this perfectly serviceable front is that it looks like a bonsai should look, when it’s being polite."

"This spring we put the pine in the brake drum. I worried that the metal container would heat up a lot, but, interestingly, it didn’t (more about that in another post).

"Fall has arrived and the tree is plenty strong enough for a restyle. While looking at the pine again an edgier front possibility arose, and we went with that…

"August 2020. In spring the Ponderosa pine was repotted into a rusted brake drum, at this new angle, but we found a new front, too. The decisions here were not easy (are they ever), as we had to give up an interesting burl of wood at the base of this tree for the new tucked in look. What I liked was the more interesting line from this view. Bunjin is all about line, not base, or nebari, so we sacrificed that to get a far more active trunk line. No major bends were done, just a turn of the pot 90 degrees. There is nothing I did here that a future owner couldn’t undo, with a return to the original front, which is a nice one. But, the original front felt a bit…prosaic…to me, and I wanted something edgier. The unusual container choice and the unusual front have a touch of simpatico. It’s a little less bonsai-like and maybe a little more interesting. To me at any rate."

That's our favorite bonsai trickster on the right, trying to confuse a juniper.

A close up from the cover of Michael's now famous Bonsai Heresy. I'd like to say 'the only bonsai book you'll ever need' but that might be silly. So how about this quote from Gary D. Wood that appears at the beginning of the book: "Doing it right will take you a long time; doing it wrong takes forever". 

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