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Walter's Bonsai Garden

Seeing trees photographed at home on their benches is a different experience than seeing them when they're photographed in a studio setting. Today's photos are of Walter Pall's bonsai garden as posted on Jennifer Price’s timeline. The only text provided is: Discussing trees in Walter Pall's garden today.

That's Walter with the American Bonsai T-shirt. I don't recognize the other gentleman.

Naturalistic Bonsai

This Scot's pine (Pinus sylvestris) is from the cover of Bonsai Today issue 104. It belongs to (or belonged to?) Walter Pall.

Perhaps you're familiar with the term naturalistic bonsai. If not here's a quote by John Naka on the topic: Do not try to make your little tree look like a bonsai, try to make your bonsai look like a little tree.

Walter Pall has thought on the subject oo: I have seen that the trend in styling is toward more and more refinement, which often takes away all the naturalness. I find that too many of these bonsai look like they are made of plastic and are not real.

And of course we have some photos to illustrate the point. If you'd like to further bone up on the topic Walter has an excellent article on his Bonsai Adventures blog.

Another naturalistic tree by Walter that's also from Bonsai Today (issue 106). It's a Norway spruce (Picea abies).

Some of Walter's best trees are Norway spruce and this one is no exception.

This one has Walter Pall’s naturalistic style written all over it. Here are some specs (from Walter’s website): Norway spruce. 75 cm high. Around 150 years old. Pot by Derek Aspinall. From a tree which was collected in Switzerland in 1998.

Here's another superb examples of a naturalistic tree. It's a Ground juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) by Nick Lenz, from Bonsai from the Wild 2nd ed. (Stone Lantern Publishing - now out of print).

Nick "Larch Master" Lenz was responsible for this one too. And yes, you guessed it, it's and American larch (Larix laricina, aka Tamarack).

Moving on to some highly stylized bonsai of the type that Walter Pall might take issue with. Bonsai that, instead of mimicking trees in nature, serve more as abstractions that bring to mind naturally grown trees that have been sculpted by the ravages of nature. Which might help explain why there's so much emphasis on deadwood.

I picked this one by Isao Omachi because it's such a powerful example of a highly refined tree with remarkable sculpted deadwood.

Like the tree above this one is also a juniper by Isao Omachi. Not only does it feature deadwood that has been sculpted, but its crown is perfectly layered and groomed. Not something you'd typically see in nature.

We'd be remiss not to show a tree or two by Masahiko Kimura, the original master of sculpted deadwood. This photograph is by Owen Reich.

Here's another one by Kimura. Even though you can't see it. there has to be a living vein hiding somewhere.


Great American Bonsai

This humped back Wild apple appears on the back cover of Nick Lenz' Bonsai from the Wild (long out of print).

Today, we've got a somewhat random collection of top notch American bonsai. There are so many, so don't despair if your favorite is not here. We're planning to make this a regular series, but even if we do it a thousand times, we'll still miss some good ones.

This Hinoki cypress by Dan Robison is from Will Hiltz' wonderful book Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees. I don't know if Elandan Gardens still has copies for sale, but you can find it online and it's a purchase worth making.

The natural look (or who needs manicured bonsai?). This photo captures two things I love about Eladan Gardens. The first is the rugged uncontrived look that characterizes Dan Robinson's bonsai, and the second is the perfect setting. The tree is a Sierra juniper (Juniperus occidentalis).

One of Nick "Larch Master" Lenz’ famous unique American larches as it appears in Wikipedia.

Another unique bonsai by Nick, who was gifted in so many ways. I believe Nick made the ceramic tank too.

This photo is from a post by Ryan Neil titled Bald Cypress #1, Evolution.


Ponderosa pine potted in an old brake drum by Michael Hagedorn of Crataegus Bonsai. By the way Michael is the author of Bonsai Heresy a book that annihilates mistaken notions and illuminates deep bonsai truths.

Ben Oki's famous Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis). Mr Oki donated it to the Pacific Bonsai Museum where it now resides and stands as one of the crown jewels in this amazing collection.

This Trident maple belongs to Bjorn Bjorholm.

Bjorn at his Eisei-en Bonsai Garden with a monster yamadori One seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma). It's the same tree that Bjorn worked on in an advanced bonsai course that was hosted by Bonsai Empire. We featured it in a review of the course couple years ago.

This Korean hornbeam belongs to Bill Valavanis. Bill has at least two famous Hornbeams. This one's a Korean hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii - some sources list it as Carpinus coreana, and I have seen it listed as Carpinus turczaninowii var Coreana... I'm sure Bill could shed some light).

Bill's Bonsai

I know it's not fall yet, but all too soon for some of us. This is Bill Valavanis' famous Full moon maple. You might notice how it has been thinned to offer a look inside, revealing the upper trunk and and even some twigs way up top.

We've some good ones by Bill today. He's one of North America's most accomplished bonsai artists and teachers, and after creating and hosting seven U.S, National Bonsai Exhibitions, he is without a doubt our leading bonsai impresario. He is also the third inductee into the North American Bonsai Hall of Fame.

Perfect photo, sweet tree! This lovely deciduous Magnolia with pulsing flower buds is a study in contrast and timing.

Another deciduous Magnolia that's about to bloom.

Here's a Magnolia that's just a little more advanced in the bloom cycle, with both buds and flowers. You're probably familiar with Bill's magazine, but if you're not, here it is. Still going strong too, with an online version that was added recently.

Bill likes red pots! The tree is a Firethorn (Pyracantha) that belongs to Bill Valavanis. Bill sent it to us with the line I LIKE RED POTS TOO!, in response to a Bonsai Bark post we did in 2018 ago that was titled: Red Bonsai Pots, a Shift in Taste.

This is one of Bill's luxurious Japanese maples, of which there are plenty.

Where's Bill?

More color! Once you get hooked on the brilliance it's hard to stop. This Full moon maple with its fiery foliage belongs to Bill.

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, but stunning nevertheless. This lovely Siegen Japanese maple with scroll and companion is pretty good example of early spring splendor. It belongs to Bill Valavanis, as does everything shown here today.

Multi hued Toyo Nishiki Flowering Quince by Bill.

Just in case you think Bill is all business. I believe this shot is from 2018 38th Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition.

Where to find him:
Bill on FB
Bill's blog
Bill's magazine
U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

Kiwi Bonsai

Getting the old girl spruced up for a competition is all Martin Walters has to say about this one. And though it speaks quite well for itself, it would be nice to know more (this is not a complaint, just an expression of interest).

I can't remember ever featuring bonsai from New Zealand, though memory has its way of playing tricks so feel free to correct me. Anyway we've got some delightful trees by Martin that we're sure you'll enjoy.

This was posted earlier than the photo just below. Though both are good, I think this sparser version with more of the branches exposed is more appealing.

This one has a one word caption: Jabba.

Not sure how the vertically alternating sun and shade happened, but it does create an unusual effect. No mention of the variety, but you can tell by the leaves that it's a Japanese maple.

Martin wrote the following about these four photos: Some detail carving work today on this Privet that is just starting coming into spring growth. A good sign that spring is around the corner and things will get better!

Here's Martin's caption for this one: Sweet little cedar in new shoes. A fantastic dragon pot from Thor Holvila.

Wire on. Wire off.

Rainy day workshop in Auckland is all we get with this one.

Stonking hot day in New Zealand! Playing around with summer design (anyone from NZ care to translate stonking?). BTW, it's the scroll that caught me. Legumes anyone?

More Marco

Freshly repotted Mugo pine by Marco Merschel. If you compare with the photo below you'll notice that the planting angel has changed slightly for better balance.

Because we are so happy with the photos by Marco that we put up this week, we've got some more for you today. Enjoy!

Here it is in its old pot.

Twisted Mugo pine. Text in captions is quoted from Marco's captions.

Marco says he's looking forward for styling this mugo pine, maybe in the autumn, you have to patient with such old trees.

Thuja (Arborvitae) from a seedling.

Larch with cones.

Spruce-cascade in development.

Rather than the highly finished look, Marco seems to lean towards the more naturalistic feel with most of his trees. Marco's caption reads nice yellow foliage of a carpinus-raft.

A rock formation in Saxony, Switzerland.

The Bonsai of Marco Merschel

Restyling and old mugo pine by Marco Merschel. In addition to being an accomplished bonsai artist, Marco takes A+ photos. Always a treat for those of us who spend a lot of time looking for good bonsai online. All today's photo are his.

Marco Merschel's caption: Picea abies (Norway spruce) in a new pot by Derek Aspinall.

Marco titled this one unconventional literati scots pine.

Scots pine in development. Pot by Erik Krizovensky.

Looks like the same tree in an earlier iteration.

Mature mugo pine.

Marco Merschel the photographer.

Best South African Bonsai, Hannes Down

The following trees are all by Hannes Fritz of Suikerbos Bonsai Community in South Africa. Hannes doesn't list the species on most, so you're on your own.

We'll start with this rather unique more-or-less ball shaped bonsai. But don't leave it at that. A closer look reveals a whole world of activity. Considering that it looks like an Olive and South Africa has the right climate for Olives, well, you might take a wild guess...

Though Hannes doesn't list the names of most of his tree on FB, he lists this one and several others as part of as his Celtis (Hackberry) collection.

Almost looks like a different planting with all the leaves hiding the flowing lines of the individual trees. Still and impressive forest.

Fall color and some idea of the sheer magnitude of the planting.

This one looks like it might be a raft or sinuous root planting. Unfortunately it's in trouble. Here's Hannes caption: Thought the group would like this. Most likely the last picture of this tree. I'm slowly loosing the apex, not much I can do about it. The main feeding line supporting the apex is dying and I don't know why.

Here's another one from Hannes' Celtis collection.

Waterfall style? No variety listed.

Looks like white might be in trouble. Is this Celtis a reinforcement?


Boon Bonsai

After shot from Boon Manakitivipart's photos.

Here's Boon's caption: Itoigawa shimpaku 3 approached graft on San Jose trunk. Originally Hatanaka’s tree from Southern California cut back and wire. It will take a few more years before we show it.


This wild, wonderful juniper and rest of the trees shown here are also from Boon. No captions provided.

This distinctive tree looks suspiciously like a Larch.

Boon is on a roll with the crazy wild ones today. His nursery is at the foot of Sierras, so this pine just might be a local native.

Aha. Another juniper and a little more conventional this time. Though that little hook at the bottom does send a message.

Another juniper. I think we'll call this style Double S Curve.

We'll leave you with this Juniper jumble.

Pine Museum

Not only is this an extraordinary cascading bonsai, but there's a story being told about energy balancing by the way the candles are strongest on the bottom third of the tree. I won't say more here as there are plenty of variables when it comes to energy balancing, depending on the type of pine, your climate and other factors, including who's doing the explaining.

All the pines shown here were posted by Luis Vallejo. You might imagine that all reside at Luis’ Museo de Bonsai in Alcobendas, Spain, but we can't say for sure. No varieties are mentioned.

You might notice that the strong candles are at the top of tree in this photo. Timing is key when it comes to energy balancing. So without knowing where we are in the sequence, I wouldn't want to say much about this tree, except that with apically dominent trees like pines, much of the energy balancing has to do with inhibiting growth at the top and encouraging growth in the lower regions.

Later, after the candles have opened.

It looks like most of the candles on this one have been pinched and/or plucked in order to maintain an already well-balanced tree.

By allowing the candles to grow on the far right and encouraging more vigor, on that side you might imagine Luis would like the tree to extend farther in that direction. I think this makes sense as the left/right balance might be a little static right now.

Another one after the candles have opened.