Background – Owen Reich

IMG_0340Looking back, a career in bonsai is a logical place for me to end up.  Having been interested in nature from an early age, I pursued a formal education in ornamental horticulture.  My tastes evolved from collecting and growing orchids to rare cacti and succulents; both extremely addictive but had a tinge of artificiality with all the “zonal denial”  as we plant nerds call it.  From my college days until about 5 years ago, I was most interested in rare and unusual cultivated varieties of plants.  This interest has been tempered by my love for nature and a realization with a few exceptions, truly good bonsai should resemble the colors, textures, lines, and shapes commonly observed in nature.  Kusamono on the other hand allows me to grow the weirdest most obscenely vairegated plant with extra large flowers : ).  Bonsai is the only thing I’ve found that you cannot fully master every aspect of in one, let alone many lifetimes.  This art-form is a passion worth pursuing.


While I do not work for free in person, information on the proper styling and after-care of plants is necessary to keep your trees alive. Background on why we do certain things when training bonsai can also shed a great deal of light on this art form.  My goal with the blog is to meet others interested or heavily addicted to bonsai and share some of my experiences while I travel across America and abroad. If you search hard enough on the internet, you can find out pretty much anything.  However, who do you listen to?  My feeling is, photos validate claims.  Do you trust the guy who heard about it, or the one documenting the process and the aftermath?  The proof is in the pudding. Face to face instruction should never be discounted.  A great deal of bonsai work is not only visual, but tactile.  The feel for proper technique must be gained over time with qualified teachers.  I strongly support the concept of study groups that meet regularly.  The best bonsai in the world are worked on a little at a time over the course of the year. With so many bonsai professionals currently teaching and many more in training now, it can be a challenge to choose who to book for upcoming events.  The background and pertinent experiences of any given professional are very important.  Do they work regularly with the species you like?  Are they knowledgeable?  What of communication skills?


Most of my life I’ve lived in the Southeastern part of America.  I’m drawn to the mountains and have spent a great deal of time in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.  Deciduous trees and broad leaf evergreens have always held the most interest for me and my mind goes straight to maples, fruit trees, and winter flowering species when it comes to bonsai.  The plant nerd in me likes the less commonly used species without a doubt.  This area of bonsai is where I hope to have the greatest impact by sharing techniques for their creation and maintenance.
My background is in the Green Industry and I have a degree in Horticulture from The University of Georgia.  All my internships and summer jobs since I was old enough to work have involved getting my hands dirty.  After graduation, I spent 5 years building, managing, and expanding Samara Farms LLC as the Nursery Manager.  An interest in Asian species (especially Japanese) and unusual plants kept me busy propagating while also producing crops of species suitable for the nursery trade.
I’ve always enjoyed the moment when something clicks and new insight is gained by the student.  Now, after completing my first two years of a formal apprenticeship at Kouka-en, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned so far in Japan as well as all the horticultural insight gained from past experience.
The best way to describe my teaching style is laid back and practical.  There are many “gray” areas when learning about bonsai, but navigating these murky waters is possible.  The most important thing when working with bonsai is that this activity should be fun.  While styling and caring for exhibition quality collections is something I’m capable of, some people just want to improve their skill sets without all the pomp and circumstance.  An ideal end to any workshop I lead involves a room-full of students worn out from information overload; not guessing what the next step is for their bonsai.

Interests and certifications that I feel will benefit students I teach:

Pest / Disease I.D. and Treatment
Antique Pots
Plant Propagation
Japanese Gardens (presentations available)
Rare and Unusual Plants
Non-Traditional Display
Irrigation Systems
Niwaki (Japanese Garden Trees)