Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven Critiques a Ficus

Tom Kruegl-Simulation

Robert’s digital simulation of a Ficus nerifolia that was submitted by Tom Kreugl.


Tom’s original. The small stick marks the front Tom has chosen.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Bonsai tree: The Second Time Is a Charm

Mike Andrews-2-Simulation

Robert Steven’s second simulation of an Atlas cedar that we presented a while back.

My opinion (for what it’s worth)
I think Robert’s second simulation is an improvement on the first one he did. Generally Robert’s critiques have been spot on, but I thought his original of this tree left something to be desired. Apparently Robert was reading my mind; he sent his follow up simulation yesterday.

Just three more days
Our current big big sale (we have lots of big sales, but not too many big big sales) is almost over. Among other useful items you can purchase, Robert’s books (Vision of My Soul & Mission of Transformation) are there for the taking. Double discounted no less.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven Critiques a Shimpaku

Leigh Taafe-Simulation

Robert’s simulation. My apologies for the fuzzy. The original (below) was submitted by Leigh Taafe.

Carved Shimpaku1The original.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Bonsai tree: Decandling a red pine forest – part 2

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Decandling a red pine forest – part 2

I decandled the red pine forest below about 3 months ago (see Decandling a red pine forest). The summer growth has come out and the trees look much fuller than they did in June. But because the summer was cool, this grove isn’t as far along as I’d expect for this time of year. No matter, in the mild San Francisco Bay area climate, pines continue to grow throughout the fall.
Just two days into fall, however, it’s too soon for needle pulling and cutback as the new needles are still soft. Some enthusiasts thin summer growth at this time, but I usually wait until late fall or winter. Typically I continue to water and feed the trees this time of year, trying to encourage out what growth I can before the weather turns cold.
I also check the pines I’ve decandled to gauge their response to the decandling. The trees in this forest have a long way to go to achieve any sort of balance which makes them great for practicing decandling techniques. Here’s the forest as it looks today.

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Red pine forest, 16 years old

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bonsai tree: 9th International Crespi Cup


This genarly, natural looking old tree is from the 9th International Crespi Cup which took place last weekend. It looks like some kind of spruce (Ezo?), but that’s just a guess. The photo is by Nicola Crivelli. I took the liberty to crop it a bit.

The Cup

The Crespi Cup is a world famous bonsai, suiseki (and more) exhibition that is held every two years by Crespi Bonsai in Milan. Though I’ve never been, I’ve heard that the turnouts are huge, almost beyond comprehension for those of us in the States who are used to shows that attract a few hundred people.


This old monster is also from the Crespi Cup, and the photo is also by Nicola (uncropped this time).

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven Critiques an Atlas Cedar and Provides an Interesting Lesson in Creating Shari

Mike Andrews-Simulation

Robert Steven’s digitally enhanced version of a Blue Atlas Cedar. The original photo (below) was submitted by Mike Andrews.


The original.

Robert’s critique

Basically, this is a very nice Cedar with nice movement and sufficient well-arranged branching and the shari helps create a feeling of age. But, there are few issue here :

  1. This bonsai is styled in a very common “S” shape with a basic 1,2,3 branch arrangement. Although there is nothing wrong with it, it lacks excitement. In other words, it could be styled in more interesting and natural fashion.
  2. The shari is not properly done.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven Critique: Smaller Pot, Stronger Tree

Carl Morrow-Simulated

Robert Steven’s digitally enhanced version of a Trident maple by Carl Morrow (the photo Carl submitted is below).

Carl Morrow, Acer buergerianum, Age 25, Training 1990, (c) Carl Morrow DSCF9798 rdcd

The original photo.

Robert’s comments
Despite the details, bonsai design is all about composition, and the pot is one of the most important composition elements. A well chosen pot can reflect and enhance the best features of a tree and effect the overall image, adding both nuance and balance.

Our first impression is a sense of visual imbalance. This is due to pot size (which is too big) and improper potting position. Another disturbing thing is the foliage edge on the left side seems to be heavier than the right side. This creates and unbalanced effect, since the tree’s movement flows to the right.

Solution :
  1. Reduce the foliage on the left to enhance the tree’s natural flow to the right.
  2. Prune some leaves to show some of the branches structure, this will give an older look to the tree.
  3. Use a smaller pot.

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Bonsai tree: A Touch of Bonsai Sweetness


A flowering cherry from one of our mystery Japanese books. Check out the pot; there are two things you might notice. First, it’s unglazed, which is unusual with flowering trees (especially in Japan), and second, it’s hand-made rough. Maybe it was chosen because its earthy naturalness goes well with the color and natural aged feel of the trunk.

Cherry Blossoms

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bonsai tree: Grafting Results

Some of you have asked to see results of the grafting done this spring. Here are a few photos to share:

This is a Red pine graft on Ponderosa. The Red pine is the bright green foliage in the center. There are only two grafts, and I've weakened the Ponderosa shoots somewhat. Perhaps by the end of next year I'll be able to take off all the Ponderosa, and then we'll have a Red pine.

The second graft on the same tree. Although the foliage is as long as the Ponderosa right now, it will reduce considerably in a smaller pot with less fertilizer. And then there is always the possibility of using the standard Black pine technique of cutting the candles, and then we have needles as short as we like.

A Rocky Mountain juniper grafted with Chinese juniper. The grafted foliage is the tight mass in the center, and the Rocky Mountain is the droopy foliage on the bottom. This was a cleft graft, with two scions. Approach grafting is also very common and actually easier for juniper.
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven World Famous Bonsai Artist, Teacher & Author Will Critique Your Tree For Free


Robert Steven at work.

I just received an email from Robert Steven suggesting that we offer his critiques of your trees on Bonsai Bark. Needless to say, I hesitated about 1/10th of second (maybe less) in accepting his offer.

About Robert

Robert Steven is one of the most innovative and prolific bonsai artists in the world. Robert possesses enough vision, daring, imagination and masterful control of technique to fuel dozens of us more ordinary bonsai lovers. If you don’t believe me (overstatement is not unknown around these parts) check out his books: Vision of My Soul, and Mission of Transformation.

Here’s what you do

Send us photos ( of the tree or trees that you want critiqued. Though one simple front view photo will suffice, it might be helpful to send back and side shots as well. Try to make the photo as clear as possible and try to minimize clutter. 500 pixels (or larger) jpegs are best, though other formats will be accepted.

No guarantees

We cannot say for sure that your tree will be chosen to critique, but no harm trying. Send your offerings to We look forward to seeing what you have to offer.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bonsai tree: Kimura’s American Apprentice


Ryan Neil working on one of Masahiko Kimura’s most famous trees. Photo from The Art of Bonsai Project.

Coming Next Weekend

Ryan Neil is appearing at The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York on September 13th. Ryan spent six years apprenticing to the world’s most famous bonsai master, Masahiko Kimura. If you live in the vicinity (or if you don’t mind traveling) you can see him demonstrate on a collected juniper and answer questions about being an apprentice in Japan, Master Kimura, bonsai, or whatever comes up.

A little piece of an interview with Ryan to whet your appetite (from The Art of Bonsai)

AoB: Why Kimura? Certainly you could have apprenticed with another master, some even closer to home and with less cultural differences, so what made you choose Kimura?

Ryan: After I past the initial phase of excitement upon discovering bonsai it didn’t take long before I started exhausting my resources for self study. Out of the blue a family friend handed me an issue of Bonsai Today that she found at a garden center and it just so happened Mr. Kimura’s work on a cascading shinpaku was the main article in that issue. I was mesmerized by what he was doing with the tree and the manner in which he brought about such change. It was like watching him sculpt a personality and give life to something already living, a second birth of sorts. As I gathered back issues of bonsai magazines that contained Mr. Kimura’s work I became more and more enthralled with the way he was able to tease so much interest and expression out of a tree. Contrary to the sedentary image of a classical Japanese bonsai, Mr. Kimura’s work had life and vigor, it talked, and moved, and always seemed to tell a story (a theme his work maintains to this day). Like many other western bonsai practitioners, Mr. Kimura’s work opened my mind to what a bonsai could be.

Post Dated & The Magician

Michael Hagedorn’s excellent book
on being a bonsai apprentice in Japan is now on special at Stone Lantern. The Magician, The Bonsai Art of Kimura 2 is also on special.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bonsai tree: A Good Place to Visit (in the Winter)

The Bonsai Exhibit at the The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens.

Visit The Morikami (the essence of Japan in South Florida)…


Once you get past the purple/pink background you might notice that this wild and sparse Rocky Mountain Juniper is reminiscent of the Ponderosa pines that you (and the Pine beetles) find by the millions in the Rockies (and the Sierras). It’s on display at The Morikami. It was styled by Ben Oki.

Bonsai & Japanese arts & culture
Since its opening in 1977, The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens (and bonsai exhibit) has been a center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida, with rotating exhibitions in its galleries, tea ceremonies performed monthly in its Seishin-an tea house, an educational outreach program with local schools and organizations, and Japanese traditional festivals celebrated for the public several times a year.


This chaotic looking Ficus wiande presents a container full of aerial roots, trunks, branches and leaves in a fashion that is quite unique.

Bonsai & Japanese gardening books

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