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On The Road to the 2021 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

I've never entered a tree into any competition, let alone the US National Bonsai Exhibition. Frankly, I've never owned a tree anywhere close to the level needed to compete. That all changed last fall. After accomplishing a rather important milestone in my life, 10 years of sobriety, my wife gave me the green light to find a tree that lived up to the achievement. By chance, my teacher, Bjorn Bjorholm happened to have a tree at his nursery that fit the bill. Scots pine has been one of my favorite species for awhile and this particular specimen was top notch!

Scots pine
Loading up the Scots to transport to Eisei-En

When the call went out to submit trees for this year's U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, I knew I had to give it shot. After waiting a few weeks, I received notification that my tree was accepted! I was excited, but my first thought was, now what!?! Of course, I knew who to call. Bjorn styled the tree initially, and I knew he would help me get it ready for the show.

Fast forward to last week. I had a morning open and scheduled some time with Bjorn to get the tree ready. It was a hot morning here in Nashville, but it's always awesome to spend time at Eisei-en and Bjorn. This morning was no exception. After loading the tree into the workshop, the tree began its preparation for the show. First up, a blow torch! Yep, we intentionally set my tree on fire. Sap had formed around some cuts and had turned bleach white. The white of the branches overwhelmed the look of the tree. Fire was used to burn off the sap and dull the white areas.

Burning sap on a scots pine bonsai
Fire! Fire!

It may seem drastic, but care was taken to be sure none of the foliage was harmed and the burning itself only lasted a few seconds. After the fire, came the cleaning. Superfluous (big word, I know) needles were removed, as well as wire that was noticeably biting in. Two guy wires* were cut and the branches were arranged in a structured, yet soft manner and given a clean look. It was now onto finding a suitable stand and accent for the show.

Guy Wire - A wire used to place a branch in place, usually made of steel or thin copper. The wire is attached to a stable point on the tree or pot, then safely secured to the branch.

While we entertained several options, Bjorn and I agreed on a solid and unassuming presentation. Using a stand that closely mirrors the band in the pot and choosing a stone accent representative of the high mountains of Europe where Scots pines are found.

The final presentation for the show

For me, this tree symbolizes my sobriety. The strength and stability of the stand and stone are good representations of the strength and stability that sobriety has given me. While also a reminder that there are no frills, no easy days to one's sobriety. Each day a grind, like the day before and the day after. But over time, a beauty and sense of tranquility is found through this grind, not unlike the beauty and tranquility of this tree and its journey to the 2021 U.S National Bonsai Exhibition.

I'm excited for this tree to be displayed. Unfortunately, due to a prior engagement, only the tree will be making it to this years show. I will not. But, my hope is that through Bjorn and the rest of my bonsai buddies, that I'll get plenty of photos and videos to share the journey with you. Stay tuned!

Two Beautiful Specimens and One Bald Sober Dude

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Pitoon Ekarintaragun
Pitoon Ekarintaragun
Aug 06, 2021

That's a fantastic tree, crossing fingers you win an award. Good luck!


Aug 06, 2021
Replying to

Thank you so much! 🤞


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