Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bonsai tree: hot from the kiln

490749144889 Read more!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bonsai tree: New Products, New Low Prices

Bonsai Soil Sieve Set (3 screens). Not exactly new, but back after two years. Was $39.25, now $29.70.

New, nearly new, or back after a long break

This post is to let you know about new products at Stone Lantern. It’s also a way to let you know about products that were gone (for whatever reason) and are now back.

Also new; low prices

As you may know, we’ve been lowering prices on almost all of our products to near wholesale levels. We’ve learned that in this age of digital shopping, you want our quality products, service, information and the lowest prices. So feel free to compare. We may not have the lowest price on every single item, but we’ll be close. And you’ll still receive quality products, friendly service and a wealth of free information.

Myconox mycorrhizal inoculant. Don’t even think about transplanting without it. Myocnox contains mycorrhizal fungi, which grow on (sometimes inside) roots and help make the following possible: water and nutrient absorption, loosening of compact soils, increased winter hardiness, antibody production, decreased transplant shock, flower production and more. Suggested retail $12.95, your price $9.80

Koyo Transplanting Sickle. We used to have a much more expensive Koyo transplanting sickle, but then they came up with this perfect (and perfectly affordable) little tool. Retail $12.05, your price $7.70

Moss Milkshake. Moss fragments for growing your own. Just add water. Covers up to 20 square feet. Original price $26.00, now $17.15.

Flexcut Draw Knife. Draw knives are the most useful hand carving tool for bonsai and this is the sharpest, most versatile draw knife we’ve ever used. We sell a much less expensive Chinese draw knife (it’s very good for the price), but this one is pure butter. Was $34.25, now $25.60

Bonsai Pro fertilizer (7-9-5). Blended to provide all the known essential elements for plants. Low in soluble salts and urea free so you can use it without worrying about root burn and salt build up. Highly concentrated. $7.70

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bonsai tree: $250 Bonsai from Scratch Contest

A good example of a bonsai from scratch. Especially considering where it came from (see below). European yew (Taxus baccata) by Morten Albek (author of Majesty in Miniature, Shohin Bonsai), from Bonsai Today issue 107. Height 7″

Bonsai from Scratch

It’s time to get start thinking about your entry in our upcoming Bonsai from Scratch Contest. We’re going to make it worth your while with a $250 Stone Lantern gift certificate for the winner and other gifts for outstanding entries.

Five easy steps to get you started

1. Find an untrained stock plant. Your choice of size, variety etc.

2. Photograph it from all four sides (and any other angels you want) before you do anything else.

3. Grab your tools and get to work. Take your time; the contest won’t close for months. This will give our snowbound northern friends a fair chance.

4. Take photos as you go. The more the merrier.

5. When you’ve got what you want, put it in a bonsai pot (if it isn’t already) and photograph it from all four sides (and any other angel you would like). Hint: an uncluttered background that shows the tree to its best advantage is a good idea.

Stay posted

We’ll be following up with more information, like: categories, judges, deadlines, and whatever else we think will enhance the contest. Meanwhile, it’s not too soon for you to start planning.

This is what Morten started with. Height 40″

Three cut pastes from Japan. $41.85, now $29.70

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Bonsai tree: Restoring a Japanese maple grove

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Restoring a Japanese maple grove

Working on old or neglected bonsai is one of my favorite tasks. At a recent Bay Island Bonsai workshop, an old Japanese maple grove got the works. The owner is working to make something of these old trees whose roots have fused together long ago.

Japanese maple grove

Japanese maple grove

The project is not inspired by wonderful trunk lines or branching – these elements will be built from scratch, as evidenced by numerous scars.


Scars – major work underway

The rootbase is in better shape, though it too needs lots of work.



To improve the nebari, the tree’s owner removed roots growing from the bottom of the rootbase. This is slow work that will encourage the lateral roots that make the transition from the rootbase through the base of the trunk more attractive.


Rootbase from below

After extensive root work

Root work complete – downward growing roots removed

Once the rootbase is in shape, the tree goes back in a pot.

Ready to repot

Ready to be repotted

Repotting complete

Repotting complete

Repotting rarely provides the dramatic moments we look for in demonstrations, but it makes trees healthy enough to withstand the dramatic moments that come later. I don’t know what the future holds for this maple grove, but I’m confident that it will grow well this year. Read more!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bonsai tree: Abstract Bonsai Beauty & Concave Cutters

This is the kind of bonsai that can stir up opinions. I found it on facebook (of course), under My Bonsai by David. Carvalho. If you look closely, you might notice the little concave piece that appears to be missing from the pot.

What’s your cup of tea?

If you are a big fan of, let’s say Dan Robinson and his remarkably natural looking bonsai (Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees), then trees like this might leave you cold. However, if you appreciate flowing lines, sharp contrast, dynamic movement and highly stylized foliage, then the type of bonsai art that you see above (and that was pioneered by Masahiko Kimura) might be just your cup of tea.

My not so humble opinion

Not that you asked, but I love Dan Robinson’s raw natural look (Walter Pall’s and others’ too). But I’m also moved by Kimura’s and Carvalho’s (and many others) more abstract, highly stylized trees. When it comes down to it, I don’t think one style negates the other. They can each stand on their own (I also don’t think that bonsai is so simple that it can be broken down into just two types, but that’s a topic for another time).

John Naka’s famous dictum

I think if I had to favor one type, I’d say that the rugged natural look is more pure (whatever that means), especially if you follow John Naka‘s famous dictum: “The object is not to make the tree look like a bonsai, but to make the bonsai look like a tree.” Still, I think there’s room for great diversity in bonsai styles (and in opinions about those styles).

I think the colors of quince flowers are among the most striking brilliant and pure colors you’ll find anywhere. This photo also appears under My Bonsai by David. Carvalho.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Bonsai tree: Please help Isao Omachi

A couple weeks ago, when the big earthquake wiped out several of the seaside towns on the east coast of Japan, we lost some of the best bonsai in Japan and the life work of two great bonsai artists. Sendai was one of those coastal towns washed away, and it was the residence of Isao Omachi, who was Shinji Suzuki’s first helper in his Taikan Museum. Mr. Omachi is an amazing second-generation bonsai artist who has won prestigious awards in Japan for his bonsai work, including a Prime Minister Award given at the Sakafu show. His father was equally talented, and they had both contributed to an impressive yard of world-class bonsai.

For three days following the quake, everyone in my ‘bonsai family’ over there was accounted for and ok, everyone but Omachi. Suzuki had not been able to reach him and feared the worst. On the third day, they made phone contact and they learned he was ok, and his family was fine as well, but when the waves hit Sendai, his family home and all the bonsai were lost. I was never so tired as when I got that news.

It is hard to imagine one’s entire life’s work wiped out in less than one day. How does one come back from that, except inch by inch?

If you have wanted to offer help to Japan, this is an opportunity to do so in a directed and meaningful way. Please donate. This would help a family in our international bonsai community immeasurably.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bonsai tree: More from BABA’s 29th Annual Exhibit

Source: Bonsai Tonight
More from BABA’s 29th Annual Exhibit

Bay Area Bonsai Associates’ 29th Annual Exhibit featured large bonsai as well as smaller trees. Here are some of the medium and small bonsai on display.

Korean Hornbeam

Korean hornbeam





Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy

Japanese black pine

Japanese black pine

Korean Hornbeam

Korean hornbeam









Accent plant


Accent plant


The exhibit opened with an impressive demonstration by Ryan Neil on Saturday night. Neil followed the demonstration with a workshop on Sunday.

Workshop tree

Workshop tree – California juniper

I was impressed by what I saw around the room – I’m looking forward to seeing more of Neil’s work in the future. Read more!

Bonsai tree: Pushing the Limits

This wild and gnarly yamadori (collected bonsai) exhibits some classical flaws. Two of the most obvious are the long straight taperless section of mid-trunk and the cluttered roots around the base. However, that’s the way this tree grew and those flaws tell part of the story of its struggles to survive and thrive in an inhospitable environment. Without them, the story might not be so interesting.

Classical vs Eccentric

There have always been classical bonsai (ones that conform to accepted norms of an earlier time) and there have always been more eccentric bonsai that push classical forms and norms into new territory. Many of these more eccentric bonsai aren’t that noteworthy, they are just eccentric. However, there are those that maintain some relationship to classical notions of bonsai beauty (an evolving concept) while charting new directions.

Exposicion Nacional de Bonsai Alcobendas Madrid 2010

I found these photos on facebook (where else?). The were posted by Xaime Parada. I picked several that maybe push some limits a bit. Here’s a couple to whet your appetite.

Too eccentric? Aside from the jammed top of photo, what do you think of this tree?

Bonsai shears (off topic, but essential)

Koyo heavy duty stainless bonsai shears. Was $69.25, now $48.45 (the ring around the adjustment nut isn’t really green; it’s just a little photoshop joke). More stainless bonsai shears.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bonsai tree: Elevating the Art of Bonsai Display

Takashi Iura facebook photos. Astounding tree and a very interesting display.

Daring display

Many of the bonsai on facebook and elsewhere are poorly displayed, though occasionally you see trees where the artist/photographer took the time and trouble to set up a decent display. But none (that we’ve seen) are displayed in such a daring and imaginative way as the trees in these photos.

It’s not just the what, but also the where

I usually like to see bonsai displayed with a bare minimum of background clutter. The cleaner the better. But in this case, the art of display has been elevated by the background; a space in which the feature bonsai both stands out and blends in. My guess is that it’s an art gallery that happens to be featuring Takahi Iura’s trees.

Another great shot with a different feature tree and a deadwood composition in front. Is this an art gallery replete with liquor to lubricate potential buyers?

First tree from another angle.

Close up of the wildly dramatic first tree. A little grainy, but you get the drift.

Relief aid??

I’m going to Iwate Prefecture. Reaching You’ll Isao ! ! ! From a post by Takashi Iura on OMACHI GAMBATTE

What you can do

You can go here to learn how to help Isao Omachi who lost his bonsai, his house, and everything he and his family own….

…or you can purchase Japanese tools and other Japanese items from Stone Lantern and help out while getting what you need for your bonsai (we committed to donate 10% of all sales of Japanese items to the Japanese Red Cross before we heard about Isao Omachi’s plight, so we’ll stick with that good cause).

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bonsai tree: Robert Steven Transforms Raw Stock

Robert Steven’s simulation of a tree that was submitted by David Royinsyah (below).

Robert’s vision and artistry

This one is quite unusual. The stock is totally raw and not that interesting. Robert simply manufactured all the branching and the foliage from nothing and the trunks have been transformed from taperless sticks to what looks like naturally time-worn wood. He even created a new pot from scratch. Testaments to Robert’s vision and artistry.

David’s original provides an usual challenge for Robert.
Read more!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bonsai tree: Swept Away

Doing what you can

We encourage you to think about helping the Omachi family. You can simply send your contribution to the address above, or, if you have questions you can contact

Doing what we can

Stone Lantern is pledging 10% of all sales of Japanese items to the Japanese Red Cross and several of our contributors and customers have already pledged their help by donating contest winnings (see comments here).

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bonsai tree: The Facebook Dilemma & Japanese Tools

Nice tree. From facebook; Liang Lim’s photos. Beyond that, we know nothing. Except that we are swamped (it’s corporate tax time and etc….).

The Facebook problem

We receive several bonsai photos every day on facebook. Almost none mention the artist, unless the artist happens to be the same person who posts the photo (you’d be surprised how often this is NOT the case and how difficult it can be to determine whether or not it is the case). When we have time, we try to track down the owner/artist, but often, this is easier said than done. Beside, who but teenagers and retired people have time to spend hours every day on facebook? So that’s our dilemma and the tree above is a perfect example of this dilemma; we know the Liang Lim posted it, but beyond that, we know nothing.

Japan and our next tool shipment

As you know, the situation is horrible. especially in the northeast. But as you might expect, the quake and tsunami’s effects have spread throughout the country; rail service is halted, roads are clogged, phones are down and so forth. Among other much more important things, this means that our current tool order will be delayed. We don’t know for how long, but we do know that many of you are waiting for your orders. Hopefully it won’t be too long and thank you for hanging in there. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Speaking of Japanese products

We are donating 10% of all sales of Japanese products to the Japanese Red Cross. It’s not much, but hopefully someone will benefit.

Koyo Standard 8″ Concave Cutters: was $43.25, now $30.50. Designed to cut and cut and cut. All Japanese tools are good, and this one is no exception. However, if you like to pay a bit more for the highest quality, then you might consider this one: Koyo High Quality 8″ Concave Cutters: was $55.30, now $40.90 Either way, the price is right and the quality is excellent.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonsai tree: Talkin ‘Bout Tools: Shears

Koyo Masters’ Grade Sword Shears. If you try them, you’ll love them. I do a lot of field growing, so a tool like this that allows for quick work (but can make surprisingly fine cuts) is perfect for the job.

Was $144.55 now $109.20

Compare our prices

Competition on the web is fierce and the old days of 100% markups are over. So we’ve been steadily lowering our prices at Stone Lantern. Now they are virtually at wholesale levels and we intend to keep them that way.

Koyo 8″ Kiri Bonsai Shears. Another of my favorites. It’s almost a bud shear and standard bonsai shear rolled into one: the blade is fine enough for your delicate work, yet strong enough for good sized cuts.

Was $25.40 now $17.35

Okatsune Masters’ Grade Pine Thinning Shears. If you ask gardeners in Japan, they’ll tell you that Okatsune makes the best hand tools anywhere. This one is designed to allow you to cut pine candles and small branches without crushing needles. Beyond that, I find it to be perhaps the best all around light weight (amazingly light weight) pruning tool I’ve ever tried.

Was $69.00 now $52.55

8″ All-purpose Scissors. Chinese cutting tools are getting better and better, as witnessed by this surprisingly sharp and durable little tool. If you are a beginner who’s just testing the bonsai or flower arranging waters, this is tool provides you and excellent and very affordable way to start. Was $7.20 now $4.70

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!