My work

Portfolio of bonsai work by Julian Tsai. Work encompasses projects done during apprenticeship (2018-2020) at Fujikawa Kouka-en in Osaka, Japan in addition to various client projects in the states.

Projects include refinement work, styling, as well as developmental work for both deciduous and coniferous material. Please use the sliders to see progression of photos.

Check out the Facebook and Instagram links to see what I’m currently up to

Japanese Black Pine – Pinus Thunbergii

Very interesting Japanese black pine originally styled by John Wang. Clean up and refinement work done, as well as tweaking of pads. It only needs a little more work to be show ready. Decandling, cutting back some leggy areas, remove old wire, and finally very light detail wiring planned for 2023 season.

Chinese Elm – Ulmus Parvifolia

Seedling grown shohin chinese elm in Tofukuji Jr. riveted drum. This was one of my very first bonsai. I grew it from a stray seedling off a neighbor’s chinese elm tree. The tree itself is only 10 years old. With good technique, and consistent care high quality trees can be made “quickly.” In general there are 3 things to consider when making cut backs on deciduous trees. Use it to inform your decisions for deciduous material.

Cut backs achieve 3 things:
1. Change in Direction
2. Increase in density
3. Taper in branch line.

Procumbens Juniper – Juniperus Procumbens “nana”

Bunjin, mother daughter style procumbens juniper. Sonare, or procumbens juniper is often overlooked by it’s popular sibling, shinpaku. Despite the coarser foliage, a very refined and clean look is achievable. The daughter trunk, elongated left branch and mutiple pad lines interplay to make an elegant tree.

It was repotted into a Zenigo pot in December of 2022. The tree will undergo another round of scissor work and refinement later in 2023.

Trident Maple – Acer Buergerianum

Trident maple in development originally from Peter Tea Bonsai. The tree was defoliated, lightly cut back, and areas needing to thicken left to run. I will continue to progress the development of ramification. Developing fine ramification starts in tight and is slowly and progressively built outwards.

Japanese White Pine – Pinus Parviflora

Informal upright Japanese white pine. Work done at Kouka-en, 2018

Tigerbark Ficus – Ficus Microcarpa

Shohin ficus, developed entirely from cutting over 8 years by myself.

Green Atlas Cedar – Cedrus Atlantica

Old multi-trunked green atlas cedar. Acquired in 2020, rebuilding back trunk and sub apices which had died back in previous years. Multi-trunked forms of this tree are rare and will become among the best of this species in the states. Refinement wiring to come in 2023.

Repotted 2022, first wiring 2021, acquired 2020

Pomegranate var. “Nejikan” – Punica Granatum

Deciduous Projects are slow and steady. Branching are developed through cut backs–timing, frequency, and depth. Wire is a tool to guide branching or soften and improve lines, but it cannot build branching itself! Pomegranates have a coarse growth habit so it’s important to developing branching with compact internodes and tapering lines.

Yamadori Japanese White Pine – Pinus Parviflora

Customer white pine at Kouka-en for consignment. Tree was restyled and repotted at new angle in antique Chinese pot. 2019

Utah Juniper – Osteosperma

Utah juniper originally collected by Tom Vuong. I’ve been working on this tree with my customer the last 3 years. I put a high emphasis on the cleanliness of juniper structure and how pads are set. This is very critical to ensure that your tree not only looks good, but can continuously improve and develop age as bonsai.

After rebuilding most parts of the tree with structurally cleaner branches the form is getting well defined. Another year of pad work will have the silhouette well established. Transition into bonsai pot 2024.

Photo 1: December 2022
Photo 2: October 2021

Magnolia Liliiflora

Field grown magnolia, development of pre-bonsai material. Large flower variety, best magnolia in Japan displayed at 2018 Kokufu-ten shown in last slide.

Hope to propagate and increase popularity of these in the states.

San Jose Juniper – Juniperus Chinensis var. San Jose

Here is a project I have been developing together with Bob Pressler. This tree has a great story. Originally grafted with itoigawa, it met the unfortunate fate of being sprayed with horticultural oil during a record heat wave of 2017. All the foliage died, but miraculously the understock foliage began budding from the crotches. We’ve patiently regrown all the new branches and over 3 iterations, set a very clean, compact, and interesting design.

Japanese Black Pine – Pinus Thunbergii

Powerful chuhin sized black pine. Interestingly this tree was previous worked on by professional Juan Andrade in 2014 where big structural bends were done to the trunk. By coincidence my Oyakata acquired the same tree 5 years later. I further compacted the trunk and wired the entire tree.

Cork Oak – Quercus Suber

In addition to work on more developed trees, I also create bonsai trees from scratch. Oak trees are resilient, beautiful broadleaf evergreens with the characteristic cork bark which our wine corks are made out of.

I started this tree in 2016 from a 10 gallon can. Over 5 years, I’ve grown new trunk lines, primary branches, and developed feeder roots immediate to the base of the trunk. I’m beginning to develop the ramification more from this year and will be a very powerful chuhin sized tree.

Prostrata Juniper, grafted kishu shinpaku – Juniperus Chinensis var. kishu

This tree is an older grafted prostrata juniper with kishu foliage. It had underwent several iterations, first with another professional.

For long term sustainability of trees, structure is extremely important. Many times we are too focused on the outer silhouette we don’t spend enough time to grow and build branches.

Over 3 periods, coarse branches on this tree were reworked up to the last iteration where I suggested an angle change and redesign to the customer.

California Juniper, grafted itoigawa – Juniperus Chinensis

This tree was grafted and initially developed by another professional, John Wang out from LA. I wired out the tree to compact the apex, revealing the nice deadwood, as well as cleaning up the pads.

Itoigawa Juniper – Juniperus Chinensis var. Itoigawa

Old field grown material from Japan. Well developed lifelines and shari. Work done at Kouka-en, 2019

Procumbens Juniper – Juniperus Procumbens

I like to show that even from humble material, you can find potential with a little creativity and good technique! Here is an old bonsai given a new lease on life.

Japanese Cedar – Cryptomeria Japonica

Developing a cryptomeria at Peter Tea Bonsai, from 2020 to 2022–

This particular cryptomeria is reminiscent of the ancient cedars in Yakushima, Japan as opposed to the more commonly seen formal upright style for this tree.

Japanese Cedar – Cryptomeria Japonica

Here are 2 more refined cryptomeria undergoing bi-annual scissor work. These trees are further down the refinement path compared to the previous tree.

Coast Live Oak – Quercus Agrifolia

Old coast live oak, acquired 2021. Working on furthering ramification, maintaining strength in lower branches, and eliminating coarse tips.

Bujin Japanese White Pine – Pinus Parviflora

Simple but old Japanese white pine, Kouka-en 2018

Kishu Shinpaku – Juniperus Chinesis var. Kishu

Humble field grown material, but a lot of interest for the size. Mother/daughter style.

Japanese Red Pine – Pinus Densiflora

Powerful chuhin sized red pine, Kouka-en 2019