The President's Column is a recurring article within the Minnesota Bonsai Society newsletter and offers the current MBS president a chance write about whatever is on their mind.

The current Minnesota Bonsai Society President is Dave Weiss.

By Dave Weiss, President

It was winter 1990 and I moved in with two of my brothers on the east side of St. Paul. A recent college graduate I was in the “what am I going to do with my life now” stage.


Ponderosa pineThere is an old-fashioned phrase that resonates with me when I think of our bonsai trees. “Having the care of it”, may not be fashionable, but the meaning is very clear.  Many of these trees have lived for hundreds of years in the wild, surviving all kinds of weather and natural disasters.  After we purchased a few collected ponderosa pines that were very probably hundreds of years old, my responsibility of caring for them took on a whole new meaning.    These were not “disposable” trees for us to learn from, they were natural masterpieces and it was incumbent upon us to learn to care for them in the very best way possible.  Thank goodness someone else was willing to collect, train, and care for these trees so I would have this opportunity.


It’s hard to believe that spring is right around the corner. It seems like winter will be over before we know it this year. Luckily, we had planned for spring by getting everything organized for re-potting last fall. We sifted and blended soil components, selected trees that needed to be re-potted and the pots that might be most suitable, made sure we had everything we needed brought inside and set up in the basement workshop. One by one trees were brought in from the cold-frame, old soil was removed, new pots selected and trees were re-potted and taken back out to the cold-frame to rest and recover, ready for spring. We are nearly finished with the trees in the cold-frame and we’re starting to think about trees wintering outdoors. If they’re thawed enough, we may start bringing them into the cold frame to continue thawing out, re-pot them and return them to the cold-frame, under lights, to let the roots recover.

Winter Twilight

It's deep mid-winter and our bonsai trees are resting quietly in the cold-frame, or in the shelter of pine and spruce trees in the backyard. I enjoy this time of the year when we have some extra time to reflect on the past year and begin to plan for the coming year.For many years, our bonsai work began in late April or early May and, except for storing the trees for the winter in November, ended in September.Imagine my surprise, when a visiting instructor told us that people in Milwaukee begin re-potting trees in January! Sure enough, roots are active and growing in temperatures as low as 40 degrees, which is the temperature our cold-frame begins to run in February.Since this revelation we’ve discovered that bonsai can be practiced nearly year-round here.

It's late March, and we're deep into the re-potting season. A few weeks ago, I spent 2 ½ hours removing the old leaves from one of our beeches. We acquired the tree 2 years ago and are just beginning the refinement stage of the design for the tree. To many, this task may seem tedious or boring. To me, it was the perfect opportunity to get to know the tree intimately.  Beeches are unique in that they hold their old leaves through the winter to act as protection for the new buds emerging in the spring.  As I carefully removed each leaf,  I took great care not to disturb the buds that were just beginning to swell. I noted each branch that was too long, too short, too thick, too thin; making note of others that would need wiring in order to place them in the optimal position. The leafless silhouette of a beech is the perfect time to assess and plan future development of the tree's design.