Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bonsai tree: Michael’s Return (x 2 + Kokufu)

luscious white pine that Michael Hagedorn wired in hopes that it will be accepted into the famous Kokufu Exhibition.

Michael Hagedorn is back

After a two plus month hiatus, Michael Hagedorn has suddenly resurfaced on Crataegus Bonsai, and in Japan no less. This is good news. Not only does it solve my problem (another day, another post; how can I keep this interesting?), but it also gives us a further glimpse into the life and times of our favorite American apprentice in Japan (Michael has a delightful book on the subject).

We won’t spill all the beans

Rather than simply steal Michael’s last two posts, we’ll just show you a few photos to whet that old appetite. After that, it’s up to you to make the short and simple journey over to Crataegus Bonsai.

Suzuki, Michael and friends. We usually just stick to bonsai and stay clear of the social scene, but this photo is just too good to pass up. Shinji Suzuki (Michael’s sensei) is on the left and Michael is second from the right. You can visit Crataegus for the complete cast of characters.

A few of Michael’s other friends.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bonsai tree: Growing Your Own Maple Bonsai

Red Maple
Bonsai trees need tender, loving care and may need extra effort from you to grow and thrive. But, they will reward you with their natural beauty.

The Maples are very vibrant and beautiful trees. They are very leafy and have a full appearance. In the fall, as the leaves are turning, they will turn to yellow and red, this makes a fantastic display.

This is why they are beautiful as Bonsai trees and they tend to thrive well if kept right. The ideal conditions they need combine partial sun and shade for healthy growth.

In the winter, pay particular attention to the roots as they may die if they get too cold. The do not need as much water in the winter, either.

Maples prefer moist soil, so make sure that they have an adequate amount of water daily. Also, make sure there is adequate drainage so that you do not over water it.

These trees do well as informal uprights because of their leafy nature. They may be trained as a cascade but be very careful as you can split the trunk if you do not handle the them delicately. Remember these trees are a long term project and so take your time if training or shaping them.

Some people prefer to wire the tree into a curve. However, this looks and is unnatural for the maple tree. It is recommended that you prune it and work towards a gentle curve. If you are determined to cascade it however, be careful because the tree could scar from any trauma.

Feed the tree approximately once a month. A fertilizer is needed to assist with the growing process, however, do not over do it.

These trees are hearty and must be pruned back fairly regularly. You can also trim the roots if you believe it is getting too large.

It is best to prune the branches in late Fall and Winter when most of the leaves have dropped off. You may want to use a paste to cover the wound once a branch has been cut off.

It may be difficult to determine at times, how much growth is necessary and what needs to be scaled back. The object is to have a miniature rendition of a real tree. Ideally, it should not look like an ordinary houseplant if this is the case it has over grown.

The tree needs to be re potted on a regular basis, typically, every one to two years. When repotting use a mixture of soil, sand and peat.

They can be a very challenging, yet rewarding to grow. Try to obtain as much information in advance so you know what to expect and will be on the alert if there are any problems. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the tree for years to come. Read more!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bonsai tree: Bonsai Indonesia & Sherlock Holmes


Graceful simplicity contrasted with a wild shape and texture make for a striking bonsai. I lifted this photo off of a facebook page titled ‘Bonsai Indonesia‘ by Silky Jemiran. The owner is listed as Zhylonk Kiakiz Alfarizhy. I did not commit the sin of chopping off the pot, though I did adjust the image to take out background noise.

Sherlock Holmes

Sometimes tracking down the real owner of a bonsai that appears on facebook requires the imagination and determination of a Sherlock Holmes. Even then, you can’t always be sure you’ve got it right.

Problem solved?

When I first saw the tree above, I thought it might belong to Silky Jemiran. Then I noticed that he listed the owner (see above). He also listed the owners of the two trees below. Problem solved (provided Silky got it right). However, in many cases, the owner isn’t listed and you might assume (often incorrectly) that the person who posts the photos is the owner. This is where Sherlock Holmes comes in handy.


There’s a lot going on here. Not the least of which are: some very distinctive aerial roots, a funky nebari, excellent ramification, a perfect silhouette and what looks like a very well suited earthy, handmade pot. Silky lists Wayan Suwendra as the owner.


Root-over-rock perfection. Everything works here; including the way the tree and rock merge into one dynamic form and the way the rocks on the left mirror the sweeping horizontal branch. Then there’s the well chosen pot that quietly provides a sense of earth and balance. Silky lists Rudi Julianto as the owner.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bonsai tree: Akio Kondo Bonsai Award – 2011

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Akio Kondo Bonsai Award – 2011

Bay Island Bonsai members were happy to entertain a visiting bonsai professional from Japan at their recent exhibit. Akio Kondo was in Northern California to visit the exhibit, to work on client trees, and to teach. While at the exhibit, Kondo selected a tree for a new award, the Akio Kondo Bonsai Award. The winning tree was a Korean hornbeam.

Korean hornbeam

Korean hornbeam, Carpinus turczaninovii, 16″ – Raho pot

Side view

I was very happy – and surprised! – to learn that my hornbeam had won the award.

Kondo presenting the award

On January 15, 2011, at the annual bonsai exhibit of Bay Island Bonsai, this award was given to the owner of the bonsai deemed most worthy of the award in this year’s exhibit according to Akio Kondo.

The award included a Japanese bonsai pot and an autographed copy of the 2010 Sakufu-ten show book – an event at which Kondo took the second most prestigious prize for exhibiting a beautiful hinoki he has worked on since 2005.

I have worked on this hornbeam since 2002. The trunk was in good shape when I acquired the tree but the branches lacked character so most were removed or pruned severely, as was the previous apex. Nine years later, the tree is starting to develop a more mature silhouette. Here is the tree as it was displayed at the exhibit.

Korean hornbeam and shimpaku as displayed

As displayed with small shimpaku and accent

I am very honored to accept this award and I hope I can continue to improve the tree as it ages.
Read more!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bonsai tree: A Little Change of Pace: Robert’s Tokonoma &…


Definitely not Japanese. From Echo of My Heart, a series of photos of the bonsai art of Robert Steven.


Not too long ago we featured a tokonoma by Bill Valavanis. To me, Bill’s tokonoma stands clearly in the Japanese tradition, with maybe a touch of Bill to distinguish it. In this case, we’ve got something a little different. It’s a tokonoma by Robert Steven, and though I’d say there’s a nod to the Japanese tradition, there’s clearly something quite different going on. A little Indonesia? A little something else? And, as is often the case with Robert Steven, more than a little daring.


Though it might be easy to lose track (miss the tree for the forest, so to speak), the bonsai that graces this unusual scene is a real show stopper. Elegant, flowing, dynamic, alive, robust, wild and just plain beautiful.


More art by Robert from Echo of My Heart. Though not a tokonoma, the planting and the background create a powerful scene.

A question and an opinion

Does the man on the ledge distract from the tree and the rest of the planting? Or is it just me? I’ve noticed how often I seem object to strong figures in plantings. Especially human figures.

Another opinion and another question

Usually I don’t care for dramatic scenes as backdrops for bonsai. Somehow though, this one works. Maybe it’s because it’s not overdone. There are some sun rays (often an overly dramatic statement), but they are subdued and contrasted with the clouds and fog in a way that seems natural. Anyone else?

Robert Steven’s books

Robert Steven is a highly acclaimed bonsai artist, teacher, author and frequent contributor to Bonsai Bark. His books are Vision of My Soul, and Mission of Transformation; with more in the works.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bonsai tree: Members’ Choice Awards

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Members’ Choice Awards

Bay Island Bonsai held their 12th annual exhibit last weekend at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The show was a big success, drawing several hundred bonsai enthusiasts from around the country.

Each year a handful of trees receive Members’ Choice Awards. Here are the 2011 winners.

Western juniper - ogata

Ogata (large) conifer bonsai – Western juniper

Ogata deciduous or broadleaf bonsai – Ficus benjimina

Chuhin (medium) conifer bonsai – Japanese black pine

Chuhin deciduous or broadleaf bonsai – Corkbark elm

Kifu (medium-small) conifer bonsai – Japanese white pine ‘Myojo’

Kifu deciduous or broadleaf bonsai – Olive

Shohin (small) conifer bonsai – Japanese black pine

Shohin deciduous or broadleaf bonsai – Flowering quince ‘Chojubai’

Bay Island Bonsai members have been judging their exhibit trees from the first exhibit to the present. While the details may change a bit from year to year, the basics remain the same:

  • Members vote for their top choice in each category
  • Winning trees are not eligible to win again for five years

As our teacher, Boon doesn’t get a vote, and his trees are not eligible for voting. To help the rest of us identify winners, Boon runs practice judging exercises throughout the year. We use a simple judging form for these exercises with the following categories:

  • Trunk (10 pionts)
  • Roots (5 points)
  • Branches (5 points)
  • Pot (5 points)
  • Overall aesthetic (5 points)

By evaluating trees on the above criteria, we can refine our skill at recognizing excellence in each category. I’ve always enjoyed the exercise, and I found it useful this year as there was strong competition in several categories. Read more!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bonsai tree: A Touch of Spring


The flowers are white, and we’ve got plenty of white stuff on the ground here in Vermont. That’s as far as it goes, but we can dream. The photo is from Bonsai Guest House Osaka (facebook). Here’s their website. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I’m guessing it’s a Ume (Flowering apricot). I’m told that Ume is one of the few deciduous trees holds deadwood for a long time.


More than just a touch. I like it when azaleas show some leaves when they bloom, like this one. Sometimes you see them completely covered with flowers, which can seem a little unnatural and overdone. This magnificent Nyohozan Satsuki Azalea belongs to Melvyn Goldstein. Its height is only 10 inches (25cm). It, along with nearly two hundred other of North America’s greatest bonsai, can be found in the 2nd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album.

A brief word from our sponsor

We have both the first and the second U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Albums in stock. And our powerful but sweet book sale is still happening. This is your chance.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Bonsai tree: just opened the Kiln

The last firing before travelling to Noelanders Trophy in Belgium. I was delighted to see these 2 slightly new designs (for me anyway) looking as good as anticipated, especially since they are both commissions. The red/brown oxide one is a particularly complicated shape to hand build, the finish on both pots has the “aged” look that is so important to me, in my work.

I look forward to seeing many old friends in Belgium at the weekend.

Read more!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bonsai tree: Bonsai Evolution: Display


The two photos in this post were taken at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Japan. You can view the uncropped originals and other photos from the Museum at Bonsai Network Japan.


Has bonsai evolved as it has moved from Japan (and China) to the rest of the world? If you look at experimentation and innovation, I’d say yes, there is plenty of positive movement beyond Japan (and in Japan as well). However, if you look at display, you might draw a different conclusion.

Laziness and neglect, or spontaneous freedom?

I spend a lot of time perusing bonsai on the web. Many are poorly photographed with very little attention to detail,. This is particularly true on facebook, where a casual style seems to be the norm. Not that there’s anything wrong with a spontaneous casual approach that reflects a sort of ‘things as they are’ attitude. But still, when people do take the time to prepare the tree (right down to simply cleaning the pot) and the environment, genuine beauty, even magic, is more apt to be the result. In this light, I think these two displays speak for themselves.


Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bonsai tree: Backyard Bonsai #9


A piece of Christian Przybylsk’s garden (I took the liberty of cropping his photo a little). If you visit his site you can see the uncropped original, as well as over a dozen backyard photos that are not included in this post. Like this one, they are more about the garden than the bonsai, but still, there are enough bonsai sprinkled around for you to get the idea.

Picking up an old thread

Way back in May 2009 we started a series called Backyard Bonsai. Most of the eight previous posts are from 2009 and early 2010, though the last one is from just a few days ago (David Benavente’s, which I didn’t include as part of the series because it is clearly a commercial situation and the others – with one or two possible borderline cases – are just bonsai enthusiast’s backyards).

A bit of a mystery

The one featured here belongs to Christian Przybylsk. He’s a bit a mystery to me; I don’t know much about him beyond the fact that his site is in German and his email address indicates that he lives in Germany; and that he’s an accomplished bonsai artist and landscaper. Maybe that’s enough.


The bonsai in this shot are difficult to see. Still. it shows another view of a well-designed backyard; and if you look closely, you’ll see what looks like a stump (middle left) where you might imagine a bonsai is sometimes displayed.



It’s not exactly Christian’s yard, but it’s a pretty good bonsai. If you go here, you can see how Christian transformed this tree from partially developed stock, to this finished (for the moment) gem.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Bonsai tree: some trees and material for sale

A few for sale, I want to reduce my collection, trees, trees in training and raw material.

below is just a selection, all pictures on a 30cm turntable, species name should appear if you hover over the pictures,

 for prices or more info on any of them please e-mail me,

there are others availiable for anyone who wishes to pay me a visit.

Read more!

Bonsai tree: Bonsai Pots at Stone Lantern

bonsai pots

A small sampling of what we have and what’s to come.


We’ve been talking about offering bonsai pots for a while and now, finally, we’ve got them. So far we’ve put up thirty-some, with many more to come. Stay posted.

A ways to go

Organization-wise, we still have a ways to go. Once we get enough up, we’ll organize them into sub-groups for your convenience. Meanwhile, it’s pretty easy to go through what’s already up.

Competitive prices too

We are being very careful to keep our pot prices competitive. Feel free to compare. In this vein, we have also been working on lowering prices on some other items we offer (tools, fertilizers, wire and other stuff).

Don’t forget our book and magazine sale

Big discounts! We haven’t decided when to end it yet, but it won’t be too much longer.

new books jan 2011

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bonsai tree: Digging Around Pays Off


You can find this monarch of bunjin pines and other great trees on Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai website. This one is from the 2004 Taikan Ten show in Japan and is part of an article called Japanese Shows that Michael posted in 2008 (the caption says White pine; however, it looks like a Black pine to me).

Digging around

Sometimes digging around through old material pays off (if you call 2008 old). I found this powerful, stately old pine (above) and several other magnificent trees while digging around Michael Hagedorn’s postings on Crataegus Bonsai. It’s part of a posting called Japanese Shows that features trees that Michael worked on while he was an apprentice in Japan. Here are two to whet your appetite. For the rest you can visit Michael’s site.

Michael’s excellent book

If you haven’t read Michael Hagedorn’s excellent book (Post Dated – The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk) on his experience as a bonsai apprentice in Japan, this is a good time to get your hands on it – Stone Lantern is currently running a big book sale.


This Itoigawa juniper is from Kokufu ten, the most prestigeous show of all.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bonsai tree: Correction & Apologies


Back on November 19th I posted this magnificent tree by Walter Pall. At the time I didn’t know it was Walter’s, so I didn’t attribute it, though I did say where I found it. So far so good…

The problem was…

… I was convinced it had been photoshopped to enhance the fall color. Now, after reading several comments, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t photoshopped. My apologies to Walter Pall and everyone else. The details are here.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Bonsai tree: Refining shohin black pine

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Refining shohin black pine

Typical fall work for Japanese black pine: remove old wire, remove unnecessary branches and needles, wire remaining branches.

This simple process can reveal a lot about a tree. I’d been thinking the shohin black pine below had the basics in place – good primary and secondary branches that could be quickly developed into an attractive silhouette. Not so. Although the tree appeared to be full before cutback and wiring, it turns out that looks can be deceiving.

Front - fall 2010

Shohin Japanese black pine – Fall 2010

After cutback - before wiring

After removing wire, unnecessary branches and superfluous needles

So far, so good. I began the wiring with the first branch on the right – which came out better than I expected. The next branch I wired – the first on the left side – was a bit thin, but there were still plenty of shoots to work with.

As I worked my way up the tree, I began to realize there just weren’t enough branches near the apex. Grafting may be necessary, and plenty of time for the apex to ramify.

After wiring

After wiring – note thin apex!

I’ve wired enough pines to know that there never seem to be enough shoots near the apex. This simply takes time, and none of my pines have been in training long enough to develop mature apices. Fortunately this tree is developing quickly. I started working on it seriously about three years ago, and the progress has been dramatic. See “Shohin black pine from scratch” – my third post to Bonsai Tonight – for photos from January 2009. Read more!