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Walter’s Much Traveled Larch Bonsai

This is Walter Pall’s lead photo from a series he posted on FB. It’s a European Larch (Larix decidua) with guy wires and a checkered past. The pot by Derek Aspinall.

Walter’s sad news for Larches. Here’s what Walter Pall wrote about larches and climate change and about this particular larch: “European Larch #17 - The climate in Europe is definitely changing. In many parts European larches cannot be kept well where it was possible a few years ago. In Italy and even some parts of Germany bonsai folks are struggling with the summer heat which can be disastrous for our larch. Therefore a few really good larches are available for interested enthusiasts. I have the great luck that my garden is a bit cooler than most. So some larches recently found their way into my garden. This one has a great past - it was styled to look like a very good modern bonsai. I personally prefer it to look like a very good larch from the mountains.l So I started to naturalize the tree slightly after planting it into the new container by Derek Aspinall.”

More by Walter on the tree featured here. 65 centimeters is about 25 inches, BTW.

In an earlier stage and a different pot. You can tell it’s winter. Larches are one of a handful of deciduous conifers that grow on planet earth. We can only guess about other planets. 

Another shot from an earlier stage and in yet another pot. If you compare this shot with the more recent one at the top, you’ll see the apex migrated a tad to the left in the top photo so that it’s directly over the center of the tree and the pot, while the apex here is bit off center to the right (more about this below). 

Needing a haircut. Pot looks familiar.

Wired out to the tips.

A close up of a nebari that needs some help. If you look at the shot at the top of this post, you’ll see the improved nebari. Walter lowered the left side of the nebari and raised the right side. This changes the planting angle so the apex is just a little farther left. A definite improvement all around. 

This shot is very similar to the one at the top. Just a different background and the foliage is a little more filled out.

Here’s your link to this tree on Walter's Facebook.


Bill’s Bonsai Treasures & the 7th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

Unless you live in Vermont, or a similarly colorful place like Rochester NY, you might not know that spring color is almost as dramatic as full color. A little more subtle for sure, but stunningly beautiful nevertheless. This lovely Siegen Japanese maple with scroll and companion is pretty good example of spring splendor. It belongs to Bill Valavanis, as does everything shown in this post.

Time to visit Bill Valavanis, one of our favorites when it comes to all things bonsai. And when I say all things bonsai, I mean pretty much whatever you might imagine. I won’t mention them all here (you can do your own research by visiting his site, his blog and his FB pages - links are provided below), but you can get a petty good idea from the photos.

One thing I do want to mention and emphasize is Bill’s U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions. The 7th is coming up this fall (September 11-12, we’ve got a link below for that too). A year late (thank you covid) but well worth the wait. Anyway, September will be here sooner than you think. Time to start making plans!

Meanwhile, here are a few photos I picked up off Bill fb pages.

Another one with scroll and companion. This time it’s an Oto hime Japanese maple.

Flashback to fall color. Another one of Bill’s famous maples.

An American larch that Bill collected in Canada 30 years ago.


The same larch in Bill’s tokonoma.

Bill’s online magazine.

From Bill’s print magazine now in its 100th year (just kidding, it’s really only been 30 some years).


What must it be like to have a collection like Bill’s. And this is only the tip of bonsaiberg.


Bill’s work space is often happily peopled. That’s Bill himself behind the forest.


Welcoming the spring!

Early spring maple buds.

Another Oto hime Japanese maple. I think Bill raised this one from a cutting. Once upon a time, we called them Koto hime. Now it’s Oto hime. 

  

TIME TO MAKE YOUR PLANS! Here’s you link.

And here’s your link to Bill’s website
Bill’s blog
Bill’s facebook pages
and to his magazine


There’s More Than One Harry in the UK. A Quick Backyard Bonsai Tour

Visited our old friend Harry Harrington today. Well, visited him on facebook (we’ll take what we can get). I’m always struck with how distinctive Harry’s bonsai are. I think it’s the earthy, wild uncontrived character that keeps me coming back. To illustrate what I mean, here are a bunch of seemingly random shots that Harry put up recently of bonsai in various stages of development and maturation.

I won’t bother to try to identify them, but if you really want to know, feel free to do your own research (link below). Be careful though, you just might be overwhelmed… Harry is one very prolific bonsai artist. Enjoy!


Harry’s famous Foundations of Bonsai. I think we’re the only source for the first edition.


Suthin’s Stupendous Sale and Your Invitation to the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

This lovely Japanese quince is for sale on Suthin’s website.

We can’t go too long without featuring Suthin Sukosolvisit’s bonsai. He’s a favorite of ours and pretty much everyone else’s too. All but one of the trees shown here are (were?) for sale on Suthin’s website. It’s worth a click for sure (your link is below).

Speaking of Suthin, he’ll be at the U.S. National this September. It’s in Rochester and though it’ll take more than a click to get there, you will have to start with one (see below).


This is the one I wanted. Couldn’t wait to find the price and see if it fit my budget. But alas, when I made the quick journey from facebook to Suthin’s site, it was sold.


This one isn’t one the sale page, but no matter, it’s most def worth a look. I found it in a folder labeled ‘Suthin’ on my desktop and don’t remember if a variety was given, but the foliage is so tight it looks like it might be a Itoigawa juniper (very close cousin to shimpaku).


Chinese quince. Still for sale as of this moment (2:05 ET, March 18th, 20210).


Shohin Japanese black pine. Also still offered as of this moment.

The trees above are just to whet your appetite. There are more for sale on Suthin’s website.

And here's that link to the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition we promised you.


When to Begin Fertilizing in Spring

Illustration by Sergio Cuan from Michael’s Bonsai Heresy

Today’s post is timely (it is spring after all, at least for some of you), and it’s by Michael Hagedorn, one of the best when it comes to bonsai know-how. Michael is, among other things, Mr. Crataegus Bonsai and the author of Post-Dated, the Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk, and the more recent ground breaking Bonsai Heresy. I could say a lot more about Michael, but rather than me prattling on, we’ll let Michael speak for himself (from his Crataegus Bonsai blog):

Some plants really do need fertilizer right out of the gates. If you plan on decandling black pines, just before they begin visibly growing is the prime start time. Chojubai could use some early in the growing season as well. But those are rare; for the most part, for developed bonsai, let them grow a beat of time before fertilizing. Maybe wait a month or two.

We have, though, many undeveloped, younger bonsai. Many of those can benefit from some fertilizer in spring as they begin growing. This translates into greater caliper, more buds, faster build. Very old collected trees don’t need lots of fertilizer; for these a mild push is all they need, later in the spring.

I’d encourage the use of a slow release of some sort. Organic fertilizer balls or cakes are excellent (or perhaps small amounts of osmocote or apex, synthetic slow release fertilizers). Liquids work, but are labor intensive to get the right dose to the right plant. Another advantage to solids: if you get frequent rains in the spring and fall, with wet soil for weeks, the bonsai still get fertilized. If the pot is sopping wet you’re less likely to want to water in fertilizer.

 Check out Michael's books while you're here:


How Did He Do That? A Mind Bending Before and After Bonsai

This very impressive before and after Juniper is by Gabriel Romero Aguade. I could find no mention of the type of juniper, nor how much time elapsed between the two shots.

It might take a few moments to figure out what happened here. At least that’s what it took me. It’s not that the basic concept is that difficult with a little imagination. A few twists and turns (body and mind) might help too. Some digging also. And of course the experience and skills to pull it all off.

I won’t say much more except hats off to Gabriel Romero Aguade. A bonsai artist who has been pulling off these kinds of things for about as long as we’ve been blogging. In fact, if you look through our archives, you’ll find more of Gabriel’s artistry on display.


Before. In repose.


After. Standing up.

I found these two photos on FB


Design Tweak for a Bunjin Bonsai

Lodgepole Bunjin, before and after.

We’ve got a ‘hot off the press’ new post from Michael Hagedorn today . It’s an excellent example how small changes can make big impressions. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

In Michael’s own words “When our trees get out of shape and gangly they give us the opportunity to see them again. When a client brought in this Lodgepole Pine that he'd collected, it looked ripe for a tweak.

“'Integration' is a word we throw around a lot in bonsai. And it's an important design word. Generally what we mean by it is we want the foliage to be connected with the trunk. Often if too far apart the two don't relate at all, and the visual story we're trying to tell about a tree weakens. That would be poor integration.

“This pine is a good example of when integration falls apart, which is common after a few seasons of growth or simply if the wire is taken off. The branches go wonky, spread out, and disconnect from the trunk line---looking not unlike a long overdue haircut. Any attractive visual tension evaporates. (And in the visual arts we like tension---it's in good painting, sculpture, even dance.)”


Michael’s caption for this ‘after’ photo: “After repositioning the branches. Only a small branch in the back was removed; otherwise all that you see has just been repositioned. Because of the strong lean of the trunk, the key branch was used to bring some weight back along the trunkline, toward the base. By sucking the foliage up close to the upper trunk, there is more of a conversation there with the negative space. Also, small foliage masses work best with a skinny trunk.”

Speaking of Michael check out his groundbreaking book if you somehow haven't already.


Bonsai Heresy
by Michael Hagedorn


World Peace Through Bonsai

Here’s Makiko Koba’s caption for the Chojubai Japanese flowering Quince pictured here and just below… “Beautiful Chaenomeles japonica 'Chojubai' created by Mr. Hiroaki Suzuki. This tree received the Nippon Bonsai Association prize at the Sakufu exhibition 2019. These pics are taken in Mr. Shinji Suzuki's bonsai garden. Be strong 💪 Keep on smiling.”

We’ve got a new one today, at least for me. Her name is Makiko Kobayashi, though on FB it’s just Makiko Koba. She bills herself as a Bonsai writer and coordinator and her tagline is ‘World Peace Through Bonsai’ I discovered her on FB while perusing Bonsai Boon (one of my favorite destinations) and was immediately taken by the some of the bonsai and topics beyond bonsai, that she posts. Enjoy!

Speaking of ‘World Peace Through Bonsai’ it’s also the tagline for the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. And why not? There’s not much better in this world than peace and friendship. So in the spirit of a New Year, may you and yours, and everyone else, enjoy your fair share of both in the coming year and beyond.


More brilliant color. This Pyracantha displayed at the Taikan-ten exhibition 2018.


LifeStyles of the Rich and Famous. Or perhaps just an excellent bonsai in an usual setting. This photo is originally from Toshiyuki Okamura. Makiko's caption is simply... “Oh, wow!”  


Not bonsai, but beautiful nevertheless. I’ve been fortunate to see some great quilt art in my days, mostly by associating with the right person, and the more I see the more I have come to appreciate the creative scope, technical expertise and outright brilliance of the art. ホテル雅叙園東京 「 百段階段 」 Hotel Gajoen Tokyo 「 Hyakudan Kaidan 」

Makiko again… “Gajo-en located in the center of Tokyo is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. So beautiful old historical residence is now loved as the exclusive hotel.”  Here’s part of the hotel’s caption… “We also exhibit competition award-winning works at the Japanese Quilt exhibition that illuminates cultural properties.”

You can visit Makiko on facebook.


How to Correctly Read Bonsai Heresy

 The following was borrowed word for word from Michael Hagedorn's Crataegus Bonsai blog.

"When a student sent me this photo I began to worry that others might be having similar reading malfunctions.

"We are here to help. If you can't make any headway with Bonsai Heresy, please---before calling, writing, or showing up on the doorstep---check that you aren't taking direction from Rich, a past Seasonal student. It was a long 2 years. Orientation of this product is up to you, though optimal performance is to start at the top, and read left to right.

"Order your own copy at Stone Lantern.

"Happy Holidays everyone!"

Here's what Jonas Dupuich, author of the The Little Book of Bonsai has to say about Bonsai Heresy: "This peerless work is our best hope for leaving outdated thinking about bonsai in the past. Ignore it at your trees' peril."


Tribute to a Tropical Bonsai Master

Jim Smith’s monster bougainvilleais a popular attraction at the gallery. Its pot is 4 feet long and the tree can only be moved by forklift!

I’ve long been a fan of Jim Smith. Both the bonsai artist and the man himself. Jim (sadly now deceased) was a true gentleman whose easy going, friendly manner left a positive impression with me each time I encountered him. So when I opened the latest online missive from the National Bonsai Foundation I was delighted to see a photo of Jim pruners in hand tending to one of his most famous trees, a Portulacaria afra that serves as the logo for The James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery at Heathcoat Botanical Gardens, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

We’ll start you off with a quote from the NBF article about Jim: “The world of bonsai is fortunate to encounter so many legendary artists, many of whom are immortalized in displays, buildings or collections at bonsai museums and gardens. For this installation of Bonsai Around the World, we highlight the bonsai collection of an eminent and accomplished icon in the Floridian bonsai community: James Smith. 

James Smith working on a 5-foot, formal upright Portulacaria Afra – the logo tree for the James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery in Fort Pierce, Florida. 

This magnificent Ficus exotica by Jim is 4 feet wide, has been in training since 1972 and was displayed at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Show in 2019.

Heathcote hosts a “Garden of Lights” event each year, bringing in 10,000 people to the bonsai gallery in a matter of weeks.

Podocarpus macrophylla by Jim that we featured on Bonsai Bark a few years ago. My best guess is that Jim used his own hedge shearing method to develop this tree. We found the photo at The Art of Bonsai Project. Speaking of the hedge shearing method, the first time i saw large one-handed shears being used was by Jim at his nursery (about 30 years ago). Because Jim had thousands of bonsai and bonsai stock he needed something fast to keep them in shape. Especially down in Florida where the growing season is year round. Since then I’ve discovered our Masters Koyo Sword Shears, which are quite similar to what Jim was using.

A mounded Buttonwood by Mother Nature and Jim. 

Another of Jim’s Portulacaria from the Heathcote Botanical Gardens.

This massive masterpiece that resides at the Heathcote Gardens is a Willow leaf ficus. Judging by what I saw at his nursery, Willow leaf ficus seem to be one of Jim’s favorites. 

This elegant Crepe myrtle by Jim also makes its home at Heathcote.