Alameda bonsai expert on the resurgence of the horticultural art form


Jonas Dupuich from Alameda is a giant in the bonsai world. Podcasts are his latest project. As interest in bonsai grew during the pandemic, it spread to this medium. We spoke with him about the art of growing small and how those who admire bonsai can go from hobbyist to cultivator.

Q How would you describe bonsai to someone new to the art of the garden?

A “Bonsai,” which translates to “plateau planting” in Japanese, refers to the practice of growing small trees in containers that resemble larger trees in nature.

Q How did you come to bonsai?

A After college I was working in the family business, Encinal Nursery in Alameda, when I met a Hayward bonsai teacher named Boon Manakitivipart, who over the following years became one of the most prominent teachers in the world. country. I studied with Boon for over 20 years.

Q Why are we now seeing a renewed interest in bonsai?

A Bonsai is a great alternative to our increasingly digital culture that allows people to embrace their horticultural and artistic sides.

Q What characteristics do you need to become a successful bonsai grower? Let’s say someone has a good eye for design but never had a green thumb. Would this person be a candidate?

A The most successful bonsai growers care deeply about their trees and are always curious about how they can increase the beauty of a bonsai tree while maintaining its health. It is not difficult to learn the basics of horticulture, but you can spend years honing your technique or artistic sensibility.

Q How much does it cost to start bonsai?

A Getting started can be as easy as picking up an inexpensive tree for $ 20 to $ 50 from a garden center and pruning it to your liking. Your local regional park is one of the best places to study tree growth in your area. Take note of the species that thrive if you are looking for species to train in bonsai. If you have an outdoor space, a juniper is perfect.

Q What type of time commitment is involved?

A As little as a few minutes a day. Most trees require regular watering and seasonal pruning.

Q Can we keep a bonsai indoors?

A: Yes! Species like ficus or portulacaria grow well indoors and can make convincing bonsai.

Q Tell us about your pride and joy.

A One tree that comes to mind is Korean charm. Shortly after acquiring the tree, I removed most of the branches and pushed them back to create the image I had in mind for the tree. I showed this at the US National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, New York, in 2016. I also have a strong connection to the many pines that I have grown from seed over the years. Some are over 25!


Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland: Spectacular bonsai, including an oak tree that was presented to President Lincoln’s envoy to Japan in 1863.

UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley: One of the best places in the Bay Area to see mature specimens of exotic trees and shrubs from different parts of the world.

Muir Woods National Monument, Marin County: Offers insight into the growth of the tallest trees on Earth. The coastal redwood is an excellent species for training as a bonsai.

Lobos point: Features some of the most attractive Monterey Cypress trees along the California coast. Study the trees here to see how the elements influence the shape trees take.

Inyo National Forest: Visit the ancient Bristlecone pine forest to see the oldest trees on Earth. Over 4000 years old, these pines exhibit the most prized characteristics of bonsai: great age, character and beauty.


Comments are closed.