Ezo Spruce Maintainence

Ezo Spruce are one of my favorite trees grown as bonsai. Ezo are found growing north of Japan on the island of Sakhalin. This island was once part of the empire of Japan but was annexed to Russia after World War II. Prior to WWII the collecting of Ezo was promoted by the late Saburo Kato and his father Tomekichi of Mansei-en . Despite the many qualities of Ezo Spruce for bonsai, mature specimens are not commonly seen in the U.S.

Saburo and Tomekichi Kato with collected Ezo Spruce, circa 1930’s
(Photo from Thomas S. Elias’
“Mansei-en and the Kato Family: Part One” article, pg. 16)

One reason for the lack of Ezo in the U.S. is that Spruce are prohibited from being imported into the country with a few exceptions.The other reason is that even though Ezo can be propagated by cuttings they grow very slowly so mature Ezo bonsai are rare in North America.

One place you can see specimen Ezo bonsai is here at the  Museum . Our three Ezo bonsai  do not begin to push new growth until late May and are some of the last to come out of winter dormancy. Trees found growing in very cold climate  have developed this trait to  ensure their tender spring growth is not damaged by late frosts.  The way we handle their new growth consists of pinching new growth and cutting back where possible.


This Ezo is flush with new growth and ready for pinching.


Timing is everything in bonsai and there is a specific window of opportunity to pinch Ezo. This image shows the ideal time to pinch the new growth. The buds have elongated enough to pinch but have not started to harden off.


Simply pinch the tip of the new shoot  and pull.


Make sure to leave a portion of new growth.


Selective pruning is also essential in maintaining Ezo bonsai.


Prune back to smaller buds when possible so that the trees stays compact and energy is balanced throughout the tree.


Before pinching and pruning


The same section after.


The total amount of material removed as well as few small  faulty branches.


Before we began


and the finished product.

The gift that keeps on giving.

Trees have played a unique role in the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. The first major gift came in 1912 and consisted of 3000 Japanese cherry trees.

The second major gift of Japanese trees were the 53 bonsai given in 1976. Since then additional bonsai have been exchanged between the two countries.

In 1998 Japanese Prime Minster Keizo Obuchi gave President Clinton two bonsai, an Ezo Spruce and a Trident Maple, upon his visit to Japan.

https://i2.wp.com/www.udc.edu/images/cherry_blossom_logo.jpg2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the cherry trees arriving in DC  making this years blossom’s particularly special.

At a special event for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced that 3000 American dogwoods are being sent to Japan to mark this anniversary.

Richard Olsen, a plant geneticist at the National Arboretum, was interviewed on NPR concerning his role in bringing the trees to Japan.

Richard was not the only Arboretum staff tapped by the state department.  Jack and I had to get the Clinton Ezo ready for its appearance at the dinner.

In order to get the tree ready we needed to pluck some of the longer buds, wire a few branches, apply moss and clean the pot.

The changes are subtle which is the idea when getting a tree ready for show. You don’t want to show a tree that looks like its had a lot of work done on it recently.Jack putting on the final touches.

I’m not sure if those in attendance realized the significance of the bonsai that was sharing the stage with these two dignitaries. While Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Noda represented their countries, the Spruce represented  the relationship between these two nations. Just as a bonsai is a small representation of something very big. This bonsai was the ambassador for all the gifted trees, from the cherries surrounding the Tidal Basin to the dogwoods making their way across a much larger body of water.

The gift of trees is not just for our enjoyment but for those who are yet to come. I think Richard summarized it well when he said “you’re planting something for future generations to enjoy. And trees and plants are one of the few things that appreciate in value. You plant it, and then over time, they actually grow and become more valuable. And to be part of something as altruistic as this and noble, just the act of planting trees is very exciting.”

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