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Feature Gallery

The Bonsai of Andrew Smith

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Bonsai and photographs by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is a contract forester in South Dakota's Black Hills. He became fascinated in bonsai in about 1994 while collecting core specimens from very ancient pines to use in past climate studies.

Andrew Smith transplants 300-400 trees per year for bonsai and has supplied demo and workshop trees to many of the world's best bonsai artists. He enjoys learning about this beautiful and extraordinary art and meeting with other enthusiasts around the country.

This is one of my favorite trees.

"This is one of my favorite trees. Probably about 125 years old. I call it "Seven foot tall" because when I first collected it I measured the length of the trunk around all the twists and it was just over seven feet. In a white pot with crackle glaze by Sara Rayner. I asked her to make this pot, just for this tree."


This is a large old spruce, probably around 200 years old.

"This is a large old spruce, probably around 200 years old. I've had this tree for quite a while. I first styled it in Atlanta in 1999 in a workshop with Masahiko Kimura. As it is pictured now I have just heavily pruned it and rewired it. It's in a Sara Rayner pot. Although I think this tree has great potential I have never really been satisfied with it. I'm trying to figure out why that is. Next spring I'll repot it deeper in the pot, possibly change the angle a bit and study it some more."


This is a nice, small, twin trunk spruce.

"This is a nice, small, twin trunk spruce. I've had the tree two years and wired it a month or two ago. The tree is in a Mike Hagedorn pot that I retrieved from a garbage can in several pieces and glued back together. That's the pot I wrote about in "The wabi-sabi of superglue" for BCI magazine."


Here's a tiny little spruce

"Here's a tiny little spruce that I've had growing a few years in a 20mm canon shell. Some of the areas I collect in were used by fighter pilots as target practice before they went to Europe in WW11 and that's where this shell is from."


Here's a nice pine I like a lot.

"Here's a nice pine I like a lot. It's fairly simple but I like the general proportions of the tree. Also, this is a tree I saw the very first year I collected trees for bonsai. At the time I thought this was too big for bonsai so I left it. A few years ago I accidentally wandered back into the same spot and instantly remembered the tree. This time I collected it. I keep a pink "human-stone" in the pot. I like to collect viewing stones but I don't have much time for carving diaza so i put a lot of them in pots with various trees. The tree is in a plastic pot right now, but I have a Don Gould pot for it next year."


This is a forest of old spruce trees.

"This is a forest of old spruce trees. All of these are 80 or 90 years old. I collected them the same day and potted them in that tray and all of them did well. I like the way the forest looks in person but in a photo it seems very messy and confusing. I find it very difficult to get a good photo of a tree. I'm not sure if a bad photo means the trees need more work (they always do anyway) or if it's just because you're losing that third dimension and the ability to move your head and see into things from different angles."


This is a western red currant.

"This is a western red currant. The trunk is really fantastic! I don't expect to find another this good very soon. This is a fairly old plant, though I haven't done any sampling on currants so I'm not going to say what "fairly old" might mean. Where I live most deciduous species used for bonsai do not do well. But these currants are incredibly cold hardy and tough as nails."


This is a small pine cascade.

"This is a small pine cascade. I really enjoy this tree, even though I realize the needles are completely out of proportion. I just like the thick, rough bark and the big base. It's old, charming and tiny. Over time I'll try and reduce those needles."


Here is another favorite tree.

"Here is another favorite tree. It's a pair of spruce with the trunks split and one tree growing through the other. The shari inside the trunks is sky blue. "Heart of Sky." Again, I like it better in person than in a photo. But I think as it ages and gets rough bark it could really get to be interesting."


This is a pine I admire.

"This is a pine I admire. I'm not sure whether I left too much driftwood on it or not. It's very white at the moment which makes it a bit overpowering. But that won't last. I expect this tree will look better in a round or oval pot. At the moment it is in a Certre pot which is nice, but doesn't quite fit the tree."


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