Still Crazy and an American Bonsai Classic 6/29/17


Michael Levin's 'Hatanaka' Prostrata juniper, June 2015. Even though the foliage hasn't filled out yet, this shot clearly shows the bones of the tree and seems like a good place to start.

Still Crazy. Yesterday we put together a Before and After post that featured three trees by Bonsai Crazy (aka Uchida Yusuki). This jogged my memory and led me back to a November 2015 post about this great old Hatanaka/Levin Prostrata juniper that Bonsai Crazy wired while he was in the States visiting Michael and some other American bonsai growers. 

Here’s what Michael Levin, owner of Bonsai West and long time bonsai enthusiast, artist and entrepreneur wrote about this spectacular tree…

“The Juniper as you know was originally styled by Mrs Hatanaka of Anaheim California and is a true american classic started from a cutting in the 1950’s, I purchased it in the mid 1980s . I’ve tended it for 30 years and most recently it was wired by Uchida yusuki “Crazy” from Japan. It is a mufti generational collaboration between the first generation American Japanese to my generation and now a third new contemporary generation of bonsai wizardry….
Continued below…

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At the Artisans Cup and in full foliage. Photo by Julien Dussaix. The stand is by Howard Chittenden.

Michael, continued from above…
“In 2012 I started to prepare this tree for Bill’s 2014 Rochester show.
As you know Prostrata juniper have very loose and hard to control foliage, made up of both juvenile and mature growth. This tree was very shaggy and I started tip pruning it in the way that Mr Hatanaka taught me way back when.

“I repotted the tree in the Spring of 2013 and continued to prune all during that year. I have found that most of my trees respond well to regular pruning in small amounts of frequent cuts rather than a full hair cut all at once. For instance my pruning regimen would be to visit the tree everyday and prune back the elongated growth as needed over the whole growing season…

Hatanaka20092009. This is the oldest photo of the tree Michael sent. He bought it in the mid-eighties, so plenty of time had elapsed by the time this photo was taken.

Continued from above…
“So it went like this through the summer and fall of 2013 into the spring of 2014. After the tree got accepted to Rochester for the fall show I wired every branch in the spring of 2014. As the year progressed I fed the tree high nitrogen fertilizer to push it along but it never grew to my expectations and in August of 2014 I pulled the tree from the show. It was a huge disappointment for me after all the work I had done, but it wasn’t up to my standard.

“In the Spring of 2015 it was looking great and I hadn’t even thought about the Artisans cup, If I had I was still reluctant to ship a tree all the way to the west coast…

Mrs Hatanaka

Mrs Hatanaka with part of the Hatanaka bonsai collection. I don't know when Michael took this photo, but can guess it was in the 1980s or 90s. Oops, date is on the photo. 1997.

Continued from above
“As the Deadline approached for entering a tree in the Artisans Cup “Crazy” (
Uchi-san aka Bonsai Crazy Uchi asks to be called Crazy) was in town working with me and I thought it would be a great opportunity to finish this project. He did a great job as you could see from this picture.

“As the summer progressed I decided to fertilize with only organic food but still used high nitrogen until July at which time I stopped fertilizing completely. I did however use my pruning technique which I feel is unique to me, in that I pruned almost every day for 2 months straight.

“When I am pruning like this I feel as if I am rocking a car out of a snow bank-the tree seemed to build strength(momentum) and continue to grow all season. My last cuts were made the end of July.

“By the way Ryan did an amazing job of making sure that the tree and its stand made it across the country perfectly, not a scratch on the stand or a twig out of place on the tree.

“The pot is an old commercial Chinese 28 inch oval, They really don’t make them like that anymore. I asked Ron Lang to custom build me one for the tree and he said save your money; the pot is perfect and that he didn’t think he could do better.”



Michael and his American classic at the Cup.


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