Hi!

I’m Zach Smith and I’m passionate about helping you achieve your highest potential in bonsai design.

Fine Quality Bonsai and Pre-Bonsai For Sale

Here’s The Kind Of Progression I Like To See

In the ideal bonsai world we'd collect a tree, watch it bud out and then push nice shoots for us to work with, we'd wire and pot the tree, and it would have developed its complete structure by the end of the first growing season.  Ah, if only.... Well, this looks like...

Do You Know The Best Thing About American Hornbeam For Bonsai?

American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, is one of my best deciduous species for bonsai.  It has many stellar characteristics as a bonsai subject, including relatively small leaves that reduce in size readily, smooth greenish-gray bark, and the easily recognized...

Another Cedar Elm Gets Styled

This Cedar elm, Ulmus crassifolia, is now strong enough for an initial styling.  I know this because it has undergone its second round of growth following the initial recovery period.  Notice in this photo the growing tips of the shoots.  There's roots below ground!...

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Tulip Poplar, Hackberry, And Is This A Catbird Grape?

Everybody knows that you avoid trying to make bonsai out of magnolias.  Grandiflora, specifically, with its dinner-plate sized flowers.  No, I don't go there, so this isn't going to be about some valiant effort to overcome the species.  With that said, this Tulip...

The Initial Styling Of A Very Cool Cedar Elm

I collected this Cedar elm, Ulmus crassifolia, in April of 2017. As you can see from this photo, taken in October of 2017, its post-collecting recovery was weak.  You will likely encounter this sort of situation from time to time.  The key is to recognize it and treat...

Designing A Bald Cypress Pairing – Next Step

In early March I created this bald cypress pairing.  On the 31st here's what it looked like.  Not so impressive.  But from humble beginnings.... A month later, the trees had responded like bald cypress responds, and I was able to get the initial styling mostly done. ...

What In The World Do I Do With That?

It has to be the most difficult challenge every developing bonsai artist faces: namely, staring at a piece of material that's all full of growth but which has no clear design in sight.  When I teach workshops the basic issue with every tree we work on is, "What in the...

Let’s See If I Can Add Video To My Blogs

So last year I slip-potted this Cedar elm, Ulmus crassifolia, in September.  It's a nice specimen that looks great with a bit of a slant in its planting angle.  As I've noted before, I need to ground-layer some roots in front of the tree.  This will be a simple task...

A Fun Friday With Cedar Elms

Here's one of the Cedar elms, Ulmus crassifolia, that I collected in March.  It's a smaller specimen, with a trunk base of 1" at the soil level, but it's packed with character.  I've been keeping an eye on it now since it first started showing buds a week after...

Starting Over With A Bonsai – You Will, Sooner Or Later

Last year I was working on this Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, for a client who had purchased the tree and was anxiously awaiting delivery.  I had collected it in 2015, and began its training that same year.  The primary work last year was to pot it into a nice...

Art In Small Packages

I've posted blogs about this old Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, that Allen Gautreau and I collected in the early 90s.  He left it to me when he passed.  I've since done some redesign work and put the tree in a different pot.  That's not the topic of this blog,...

My Latest Shot At Swamp Maple

I seldom write about Swamp maple, Acer rubrum 'Drummondii,' not because you can't make nice bonsai with them but because I have had no success collecting larger specimens and maintaining them past a few years.  In about year three they start rotting from the chop...

Repotting Mr. Van Winkle

It's been a couple of years since I repotted my big Willow oak, Quercus phellos.  Last year I named him Rip Van Winkle, because he waited until May to finally bud out.  (I was afraid he was R.I.P. Van Winkle.)  Anyway, when I did the repotting back in 2016 I tried...

Just Had To Share

Chinese Elm - 8/4/14 Chinese Elm - 4/4/18 Not bad for four years' work! The progression has been updated too. Note: Comments are closed. Remember to use the new Insider's Club Form to post your questions and comments. This helps everybody learn and help and this is...

Bonsai South News + Odds & Ends

In the next two weeks we will be launching our updated website.  Cathy has created a wonderful new design, which will be much more functional and easier for you to use.  We'll send out an announcement when we launch. Meanwhile, here are a few...

Hawthorn Gets New Home. Nice!

  If you've spent any time browsing through our site, you've seen my awesome Riverflat hawthorn (Crataegus opaca).  After several years, this tree is really well developed and frankly is one of my all-time favorites. One thing I've come to realize over the past year...

How To Fix Problems When They Happen (For They Will)

As you know by now, we had an unexpectedly cold winter that included two snowfalls that accumulated (inches, which for us is unheard of) and temps of 15F on three separate occasions.  For those of you up north, this is probably balmy spring weather, but down here the...

Spring Work – Potting And Repotting

The beat goes on.  As I mentioned yesterday, spring is the time when you need to do all sorts of things all at once.  One of those things is potting.  Another, related, is repotting.  Here are today's subjects. Here's my Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, that you can...

Spring Work – Parsley Hawthorn

Spring is upon us, and that means a lot of things need to happen all at once and quickly.  This includes developmental work on trees collected in prior years.  The Parsley hawthorn below (Crataegus marshallii) is a case in point. I treated this specimen as I do...

Collecting Season Ends – Got Some Nice Cedar Elms

Spring has come very early to the Deep South.  Things are blooming and budding.  Yesterday Cathy and I were able to collect some Cedar elms (Ulmus crassifolia), and I think we got some very nice material.  Here are a few specimens that I hope to be able to offer soon....

Hackberry Collecting Goes Well – Weather Sucked

So we left home on Friday around noon to travel to North Mississippi, where I was meeting up with a friend to go Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) collecting.  It was almost 80° and sunny when we left.  300 miles later, the temperature was about 45° and it was overcast. ...

For All You Timid Root-Pruners Out There

I regularly cause a lot of anxiety by how drastically I root-prune newly collected trees.  To be sure, it takes some courage to start really chopping on your deciduous trees the way they need to be, but once you figure out they don't mind it does get a lot easier....

I’m Seeing BC Buds!

This winter has been pretty awful.  In addition to being colder than usual, it's also been wetter than usual.  That does not make for a pleasant time. Just over the past few days we've seen temperatures moderate a bit - and by that I mean it gets into the 60s during...

February Sucks, Styling Helps

Every August I think August is the suckiest month, then along comes February and I remember there are worse things than killer heat and humidity.  To help make February less sucky, there is some work that needs doing on trees being developed.  If you have some...

Hornbeam Harvest Part 2

I made a collecting trip with a new bonsai friend today, and we got some really nice American hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana).  Among the nicknames for the species is "Musclewood."  This is because as it matures the trunk of a hornbeam will produce sinewy-looking...

Hornbeam And Huckleberry Trunks

I posted a blog a couple of weeks ago about new American hornbeam and Huckleberry specimens I'd collected.  That post disappeared when we changed hosting services.  I don't feel like trying to recreate that blog, so here's a replacement to show you a few nice trees...

More Great BC Material – Collecting Trip 3

The weather was dodgy today, meaning we had a torrential downpour all across South Louisiana.  We did have the good fortune to be able to collect a few nice trees before the sky really opened up, however.  Here are a few photos to give you an idea of how we did. This...

I’d Like Your Opinion On This

After posting yesterday's blog, a reader commented that I should include a standard reference object in order to make it easier to gauge the size of certain trees.  Here's a photo of the really big two-tree Bald cypress specimen I showed you yesterday: I've never done...

Great Bald Cypress Material – Collecting Trip 2

So, four days ago we had a couple of inches of snow here, and temperatures around 15°F for a couple of nights.  Today it was 60°.  That could only mean one thing: go collect more Bald cypress! Here's today's haul.  I focused on larger specimens today, which means I...

More Collected BC Fun – Hard Chops And Small Stars

I often get questions about chopping the roots of collected trees, and it seems the question most often asked is, “If you chop the roots back that far, will the tree survive?”  The short answer, of course, is always, “Yes, it will.”  This is from a lot of experience,...

The 2018 Bald Cypress Harvest, Part 1

Once the BC we collect this year start budding, I'll begin sending out advance photos of candidates per your requests.  For anyone not currently on our list who would like to be, just send me an email with the size you're looking for and/or budget and I'll add you. ...

Fascinating Facts About 10 Bonsai Species

There's not much growing at this time of year, so I got to pondering some fascinating facts about 10 of the species I grow as bonsai.  Here they are, in no particular order. This species produces more trunk buds when collected as bare stumps than just about any other...

The Harvest Is Underway

With the new year only nine days away, and with some time to spare today (after wrapping Cathy's Christmas present), I decided to lift a few trees and get a head-start on the season. Estimated Age: 35-50 years A couple of weeks ago I lifted two huckleberries to see if...

Getting Ready For 2018

Now that winter has set in, it's time to begin working on the 2018 growing season.  The "official" collecting season begins on January 1 and goes through about March.  Sometimes the weather throws this schedule off, but most of the time it's a reliable 12 weeks during...

Winter Work – Design Evaluation

We tend to hunker down in winter, since our bonsai aren't growing and the weather is often miserable.  But that doesn't mean we can't make progress with our bonsai.  In fact, once the leaves on our deciduous trees have fallen, we have an ideal opportunity to see the...

Trying Stuff = Getting Better At Bonsai

Unless you are strictly into bonsai as a connoisseur, meaning you collect bonsai and have a visiting or resident artist/curator maintain them for your viewing pleasure, you can't ever ever stop trying and learning stuff.  Now, don't take that to mean you should learn...

Fall Color And Reflection

As the year draws to a close, it's nice to spend some time reflecting on this year's growing season and how it impacted our bonsai.  Was it a good year?  What new things did you learn?  What surprises (good or bad) popped up?  It's for sure that you never stop...

A Few Sweetgums For 2018

It's not time to dig trees yet, certainly not Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua), but it's not a bad time to scout for specimens to dig when the time comes.  Here are a few that I expect to lift in 2018.   This one volunteered four or five years ago, and I finally...

I Love This Tree, It Just Keeps Getting Better

My great Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, is finishing up year six in my care. The leaves will be off the tree soon, but just as the deciduous tree gives us different looks throughout the year I like this in-between one too. For those of you who haven't worked...

The Learning Never Stops – Here Are A Few Survivors

I do all sorts of things with trees, some good and some bad but all with the best of intentions.  The ultimate goal is a great bonsai that really makes you think it's a real tree.  My preference is to speed up the process as much as possible.  Here are a few examples...

It’s Showtime! How To Prepare Your Tree

My local bonsai club is having its fall show this coming weekend.  I've been pondering which of my trees I'd like to show, and today this one caught my eye.   This, you might say, is one heck of a hornbeam.  The American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, is one of the...

God Bless The Ever-Reliable Crape Myrtle

Living in the Deep South has some advantages.  Fall color on bonsai trees is not one of them.  So imagine my surprise when I noticed this guy last evening Lovely fall color, right? Crapes tend to produce fall color down here when most other deciduous species just end...

Happy Halloween From Me And The Dragon

Today's Halloween, and Halloween is my birthday, so I took the day off and it turned out to be a perfect day to do some work on the Dragon, my super-duper Water-elm (Planera aquatica). For those of you unfamiliar with this tree, here it is in "stick" form back in...

Don’t Ignore Problems At This Time Of Year

As the growing season comes to an end, we have certain chores we do to prepare for winter.  Deciduous trees are either in full color or already dropping foliage.  Watering needs decline from two or three times daily to once every few days.  Cold frames are getting...

It’s Getting Cold Tonight, Why Not Dream Of Elms?

I've been hustling today to finish getting my greenhouse up and heated, so all those tropicals I just had to make this year will survive.  It looks like a light freeze is headed our way tonight. And this is turn means the weather has broken, so it's just a matter of...

Let’s See If I Can Kill This Bald Cypress

In bonsai we learn the real lessons by doing.  With that said, there's no way to learn everything about every species of tree or shrub in every specimen that comes into your care.  The closest you can come is if you have many specimens that are all the same size from...

So How Big And How Old Do You Think This Cedar Elm Is?

With fall upon us and cold weather waiting in the wings, I'm feeling antsy because there's three solid months of zero growth ahead.  That cuts way down on styling work.  Styling is my favorite part of bonsai. This is the last of my "late-bloomer" Cedar elms that I...

I’m Anxious For 2018 To Get Here. How About You?

Okay, I haven't made it through winter yet nor have my trees.  In fact, it's just going to actually cool off a little tonight for the first time this fall.  But that hasn't stopped me from starting to think about (and plan for) 2018.  I collected and grew more trees...

Can You Wire In Fall? Yes, You Can, Provided….

I often see the question asked, "Can I wire in the fall?"  The short answer is, "Yes, provided...." That sounds a bit evasive, but as with many things in the wonderful world of bonsai you have to be aware of qualifiers that may come with different species and...

Fun’s On The Way Next Year With These “Two-fers”

I have a couple of specimens I acquired this year, one that I collected and the other that I bought from a fellow grower.  The first is a Swamp maple, Acer rubrum "Drumondii."  Now, I have not yet in my bonsai career been able to crack the code when it comes to...

Years Experience

Bonsai Articles Written

Bonsai Created

Bonsai Demonstrations

We Do More So You Can Have More

Our trees are collected and field grown … which means we raise them. We choose only the best because we deserve … and you deserve … only the best.

Insider's Club

Insider’s info about what’s going on at Bonsai South

One-Of-A-Kind Trees

Fine quality collected and field grown deciduous trees

Images Sent Directly To You

Advance notice of fine quality, collected and field grown deciduous trees for sale

New Bonsai Blogs

How-to articles that show you, step-by-step, how Zach developes both stock material and finished bonsai

Bonsai Community

We are working to create an exclusive, members-only forum where you can interact with Zach and other enthusiasts

The Bonsai Files

Access to general and how-to articles, the Bonsai Files, that are detailed and filled with bonsai images

Gallery

Tons of pictures detailing the progression and craftsmanship of Zach’s unique bonsai

Workshops

One-on-one workshops and group with Zach held in beautiful St. Francisville, LA

How-To Videos

Instructional videos to help you improve your design skills

Contact Bonsai South

We love bonsai … you love bonsai … let’s talk! Drop Zach a line with your questions and comments; he works to answer every email personally as soon as it arrives in his inbox. Thanks!

Address: 9116 Dorothy Lane
St Francisville, Louisiana 70775

Phone: (225) 784 – 2168