Here’s the mystery tree two years later (2006). The owner/artist is Jay McDonald of Marin County (that beautiful place at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge). We lifted this image from the Bonsai Society of San Francisco.
And the winner is…
The contest winner is Lawrence LeClaire. Lawrence teaches beginner’s bonsai classes and is the editor of BSSF’s newsletter, Fog City Bonsai, so he had a bit of an inside track on this tree, and apparently on reading my mind as well.
From formal to informal
It’s still the same tree two years later, though it’s in a new pot and has almost new front, the result of a little twist a few degrees clockwise. That and some timely pruning expose a trunk that now appears more informal upright than formal upright.
I originally thought the tree was remarkable because it looked like a formal upright Japanese maple. Virtually all formal uprights are conifers and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a Japanese maple in that style.
The (no longer a) mystery tree as it appeared in the contest. The photo was taken in 2004.
The winner and the almost winner
BTW: the winner’s educated guesses don’t show up in our comments. Lawrence was having trouble posting on Bonsai Bark, so he sent his answers to me via email. By way of full disclosure, when Lawrence got very close, I helped him out by suggesting he ‘name it.” I did the same for our second place finisher. However, it was too little, too late.
Vinicius Costa, who almost won the last contest, almost won this one too. A matter of hours after Lawrence sent his answers, Vinicius figured out why I found the tree remarkable (though he didn’t mention the words ‘formal upright’). If Vinicius comes in second one more time (or first, for that matter), we’ll give him a gift.