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Empire Bonsai's Kimura Masterclass, Reviewed by Michael Hagedorn

Before and after Shimpaku Juniper by Masahiko Kimura. No wonder they call him the Magician. The tree's height started at 15" (38cm) and ended up at 28" (71cm)


Empire Bonsai's new Masterclass with Bonsai Master Masahiko Kimura is cause for celebration in our world bonsai community. Though I have not had a chance to review the course, Michael Hagedorn has (Michael is the owner of Crataegus Bonsai and author of Bonsai Heresy), and anything Michael writes or says regarding bonsai deserves our attention, so it seems a good idea to simply reprint his review here

But first... because we know that many of our readers are relatively new to bonsai and may not know who Masahiko Kimura is, suffice the he is often referred to as 'the Magician' and the title is perfectly apt.

Master Kimura, more than anyone, revolutionized and brought the art of bonsai into the modern era. And he has accomplished this with remarkable innovation, daring and flair combined with deep knowledge of both the aesthetic and horticultural foundations of bonsai. Almost anyone who seriously practices bonsai has been influenced by Master Kimura, whether they know it or not
Continued below...

This is magnificent root-on-rock planting is one of many that Mr. Kimura created just a few years ago. The photo is from an event at the the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, titled Contemporary Bonsai Masters: Masahiko Kimura; Playing with Bonsai, the Origin of His Works

 Michael Hagedorn's review, in his own words...

"Bonsai Empire keeps rolling out new online courses, the latest being a rare look into the garden and work of Masahiko Kimura. This is the first time Mr. Kimura has agreed to do an online course.

Kimura Masterclass is divided into several sections: 1. the styling of a windswept white pine, 2. creating a juniper rock planting, 3. a wander through the garden’s two areas, and 4. an interview."
Continued below...


 Michael's review continued...,
"While Mr. Kimura does not offer any of the rare bending techniques he’s famous for, the sensitivity with which he sets branches on this white pine shows that he’s not just an inventor. The slow pace of the course allows for a thoroughness in the teaching."


 Micheal's review continued...
"He explains many fine points in his styling including the reasoning behind why he made such a broad crown on this windswept. It is interesting to see how the set of his branches has changed over the years, becoming much softer in the latter part of his career."


 Micheal's review continued...
"Apprentices help attach pre-wired junipers to this rock. They create their own dramatic rocks using techniques of reductive sculpture, later coloring them as well. Commonly Mr. Kimura uses a rock to suggest a trunk, and several small plants to suggest one larger one, and this composition follows suit."


 Micheal's review continued...
"Two areas are shown, the display area (shown here), which is public, and the private area, which is not, containing client trees and works in progress. It is very rare to get a look at anything in the private area so this is a nice glimpse."


Micheal's review continued...
"The end of the course was my favorite part, an interview showing off Mr. Kimura at his most introspective."

"Once again Oscar Jonker of Bonsai Empire shows off his skills as a videographer and as a reporter, only gently guiding with questions through a translator, and mostly allowing artists to speak and present for themselves. Keep them coming!

"To enroll in the lifetime membership online course, visit Kimura Masterclass."

Here's your link to Michael Hagedorn's Crataegus Bonsai website & blog

 One of hundreds of Mr Kiimura's masterful Shimpaku junipers. From the same event at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum (see above)

The Magician
from Stone Lantern's Masters Series


Michael Hagedorn's Post-Dated and Bonsai Heresy 



Bjorn Bjorholm, American Bonsai Artist

This Trident maple belongs to Bjorn Bjorholm

Robert Steven has been presenting bonsai artists from around the world on his timeline. This one features Bjorn Bjorholm of the U.S. (Tennessee). The following is quoted directly from Robert...

"North America Region : Bjorn L Bjorholm - USA
Bjorn L Bjorholm, owner of Eisei-en Bonsai Garden, is a bonsai professional and instructor who spent six years as an apprentice under Master Keiichi Fujikawa at Kouka-en bonsai nursery in Osaka, Japan before receiving certification as a bonsai professional by the Nippon Bonsai Association. His tenure as an apprentice at Kouka-en was followed by three years as artist-in-residence at the same location, making him the first foreign-born working bonsai professional in Japan. During his time in Japan, Bjorn’s works were featured in the Kokufu-ten, Sakufu-ten, and Taikan-ten exhibitions, among many others."


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 last August


Another of Bjorn's impressive yamadori junipers. The next three trees are also yamamori junipers from Bjorn's nursery 


Cropped for a closer look at the deadwood




Here's a closer look at trunk of the Trident at the top of this post.


Ancient Bonsai, Ancient Trees

This magnificent Juniper bonsai is said to be 800 years old, which makes it a very old bonsai. But not the oldest bonsai we know of and nowhere near the oldest living tree in the world. It resides at Kunio Kobayashi's Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo. We borrowed the photo from Bonsai Empire

All of the sudden it's unseasonably hot here in northern Vermont. Too hot and it's getting hotter (perhaps part of a long series of messages nature is sending us). Anyway, there's too much to do outside today, so it's a good time to borrow from our archives. This one is from March, 2016 (with several changes today). I think it's worth another look

I've long been fascinated with trees. It started with big ones in the ground and later spread to smaller ones in ceramic containers. Perhaps these photos will capture some of the fascination


Old Tjikko. This lonely Norway spruce (Picea abies) is said to be 9,500 years old. But the trunk you see in this photo is only a few hundred years old

Old Tjikko, the tree above originally gained fame as the world’s oldest tree, but that seems a bit of a stretch. Though its DNA may be over 9,500 years old, I wouldn’t say that it’s the oldest tree in the world. Instead, it’s the oldest known living clonal Norway Spruce

The following quote is from Wikipedia. “The age of the tree (Old Tjikko) was determined by carbon dating of genetically matched plant material collected from under the tree, as dendrochronology would cause damage. The trunk itself is estimated to be only a few hundred years old, but the plant has survived for much longer due to a process known as layering (when a branch comes in contact with the ground, it sprouts a new root), or vegetative cloning (when the trunk dies but the root system is still alive, it may sprout a new trunk).” Wikipedia has a lot more to say and if you’re like me, you’ll find the story fascinating

 This rugged little Bristlecone pine was posted on facebook by Jean-Paul Polmans. Bristlecones are considered by many to be the oldest living trees in the world. According to Wikipedia, the oldest,  a Pinus longaeva is more than 5,000 years old (Pinus longaeva is one of the three Bristlecone species). Bristlecones live their long lives in the remote, high altitude, semi-arid mountains of the western U.S.


 Oldest living bonsai? Here's a quote from Bonsai Empire "This Ficus Bonsai is reported to be over a thousand years old; the oldest Bonsai tree in the world.* It is the main tree on display, at the Crespi Italian Bonsai museum." I'm not sure about the oldest bonsai in the world part, but it's no doubt very old and very impressive. If the photo looks familiar, it might be because we've shown it before (or because it's a rather famous tree).
* They don't say how long the tree has been in a bonsai container
"This juniper is tested to be more than 1000 years old, collected in the wild in Japan. It is still in training and rough. It is at the Mansei-en bonsai nursery of the Kato family in Omiya, Japan. Photo by Morten Albek." I borrowed the photo and the quote from Bonsai Empire 


Speaking of Mansei-en and the Kato family... 
Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai
by Saburo Kato


Bonsai Heresy and Beyond - New Interview with Michael Hagedorn


 Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy is here. It's a remarkable book, full of deep bonsai wisdom that can only be the result of years of practice and study, as well as a willingness to learn from one's mistakes (and the mistakes of others), an abiding suspicion of conventional so called wisdom and a gift for communication. A high functioning sense of humor doesn't hurt either

A few days ago, I reposted our 2009 interview with Michael about his apprenticeship in Japan and more specifically about his book Post-Date, the Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk, which was a refection on the strange wonders of that time. I thought reposting it would be a good prequel to today's second interview, Bonsai Heresy and Beyond. I hope you enjoyed the Post-Dated interview and that you likewise enjoy this one as much as I have


Michael Hagedorn


My questions are in italics and Michael's answers are in plain text

Wayne... Why Heresy?

Michael... The idea for the book started very early in my apprenticeship. I'd already had over 20 years of bonsai 'experience' before becoming an apprentice under Mr. Shinji Suzuki, and shortly after my arrival it quickly became apparent that I'd a lot of unlearning to do. Some of that feeling started when I studied with Boon Manakitivipart, before going to Japan, but the book concept started overseas. And it held true throughout the writing process, my initial intention of starting a conversation about where we were and where we are now in bonsai technique and aesthetics. It essentially asks, how might we do bonsai optimally? It uses a lot of embarrassing stories from my time running a bonsai garden back in the states as fodder. I figure if you're not ready to embarrass yourself it probably isn't going to satisfy the reader much.

The title is a bit of a double entendre. Though I wrote it from the standpoint of what I consider to be heretical to bonsai, many might think what I'm saying is heresy. A third complication to the title is that some of the technical parts involved a lot of research, and in digging though primary scientific research I discovered that I myself had harbored heretical thoughts. Burnable notions.

My father, himself a scientist, always thought I'd be burned at the stake at some point, and he might finally be right. I console myself with the thought that there's still time to escape the country by rowboat.
Continued below...


Which brings me to the image on the cover, a lit match. That was the only illustration that was my idea. Where illustrator Sergio Cuan went with that one was entirely his creation. And all the interior illustrations were his as well. He's a mad genius, and I was delighted to make his acquaintance with this project. One of the illustrations even has a bikini on a bonsai pot, so see if you can spot that one.

What were some of the big surprises in your research?

The research behind the cold hardiness of roots was particularly interesting and complicated, and surprising. As was some of the background behind organic vs. chemical fertilizers (I thought these were some of the funniest chapters---for some reason I found the entrenched positions in our community to be quite amusing). Also, I had to pay for an old paper that explained where we went wrong with vitamin B-1. The history of that was fascinating, going back to the 30's. Finally, in a long search that involved my friend Jonas Dupuich, we discovered through translating an old article written by Saichi Suzuki that black pine decandling was not from the early 1970's, as we had thought, but originated way back in the 1930's.


Decandling a black pine from Michael's Crataegus Bonsai blog


If you had to do it again, what would you change?

I suppose any technical book that relies on science for at least 30 percent of its content is going to be obsolete shortly after publication. As the book was being printed we discovered that the acid we used in our bonsai garden, muriatic (hydrochloric) acid, is not used by horticulturists because of concerns over chlorine burn. And there were a few strange things in the bonsai garden that no lab could identify as pathenogenic, yet we never thought to look at the acid. So, long story short, there's one errata I can claim at the start: try acetic acid to lower your water pH to the ideal of 6.5, not muriatic.

Because Heresy was just released, you haven't gotten much feedback yet. I'm sure there will be ample positive responses, but when it comes to negative feedback (if there is any) which topics do you suspect will be the most incendiary, to borrow your cover metaphor

I'd be curious about the responses to the soil media and fertilizer chapters, both of which take a slightly different tack than I have in my blogging about them. In general though I hope that the chapters will start conversations rather than end them, and so a response of any sort is encouraged. I think that's implicit in the writing. It is after all a continuation of the big conversation that we've all had since entering bonsai, just with Heresy there's maybe a few more data points to engage with.


Michael and his sharpie illustrating something
at one of his Seasonal programs. I forgot to ask Michael
about his Seasonals in this interview. Next time...


How's your next book going?

Rather well. As Heresy was being printed I was in a momentum of writing and just started the next one. I wrote most of Heresy in a tiny home that I'd built in 2017, and had such an interesting experience living in it and discovering how it changed many of my assumptions about what living well is, that a book about that felt right. Much like Heresy, while the majority of it is from my experience there are also large chunks that are research based. So I'm learning a lot about architecture. The book itself will resemble Post-Dated, in that it's journal based, with some after thinking. And it's rather humorous.

Following that I do have another couple ideas for future bonsai books, and am making notes for those as well.

Ah... future bonsai books. Now you really have my attention. I understand it may be too soon to say much, if anything, but just in case, anything you'd like whet our appetites with?

The book I just mentioned has a working title 'Life in a Teacup: Tiny Home Epiphanies from Design to Daily Living', which obviously isn't about bonsai but about what it's like to live in a tiny home. Then there are two bonsai books I've been sketching out. The first bonsai book's working title is 'Yanking on Needles: The Bonsai Tantrums of the Unsettled West'. This one is going to playfully explore some of the hot-button topics in our diverse community. The second bonsai book is a comedy, and doesn't even have a working title yet. It's a set of stories with dialogue, and follows the bonsai capers of our ridiculous and not very bright heroes Shin and Jari as they generally make a mess of things. A Laurel and Hardy duo.


"Life in a Teacup" Michael's little house in his backyard (his apprentices live in the big house)."Kanso means ‘elemental and natural, free of non-essentials’---a good name for this tiny home which I built in 2017. And the flowers are nice."

Staying on topic with books, though not necessary books about bonsai, what are you reading now?

Many non-fiction books. I'm writing non-fiction so it helps to read good non-fiction. Two books that are helping frame my tiny home book are 'Home: a Short History of an Idea' and 'the Architecture of Happiness' (which is about architecture). For fun I'm reading two books about birds, 'the Wonder of Birds' and 'the Genius of Birds', and a hilarious but disgusted essay from 1907 disparaging the working conditions of the Industrial Revolution, 'The Right to be Lazy, and Other Studies'. Drop-off-to-sleep-reading is the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. good to get into another world just at bedtime.

You had a tongue in cheek post awhile back where you referred to your apprentices as pirates. I know it's not all unicorns, but I get the sense you like having apprentices. Still what are the challenges and the rewards for you

Apprentices are great! And it's a win-win. It grows the community with new highly skilled bonsai professionals, and allows me a slightly more relaxed work day where I can investigate other projects. Bonsai Heresy is a product of having apprentices. Without them that educational book would have taken three times as long to write. So in a way having apprentices helps the whole community, not just the professionals.


The Dark Paths of Apprentices from Michael's Crataegus Bonsai blog

 I'll open this question by reminding our readers that you were an once apprentice yourself... I'm not sure if this question makes any sense but it keeps coming to me...After fourteen years since your apprenticeship, how far do you feel you've moved from the Japanese ways of bonsai?

I use what I learned from tradition to make bonsai that are sometimes in line with traditional ideals, but often they're in a more personal style. it's probably best to see this visually than talking abstractly about it, so I'll suggest my portfolio page (link at the bottom of the post)
On this webpage the images are linked to photographic stories about how each bonsai was created. I do a lot of creating in the studio, from raw stock. Some of it is collected, some of it is grown. The old collected trees get turned into respectable looking bonsai at 1/10th the speed of a deciduous plant, so there are more conifers featured there on the portfolio page than deciduous, but if you visited the garden about half my trees in development are deciduous.


Michael with Boon, his first bonsai teacher, from an earlier, more innocent age

Speaking of you garden... Not only do you live in the Willamette Valley, a near perfect place a for growing bonsai, but you're lodged between two mountain ranges with others not that far away, All with excellent potential yamadori just waiting for you. Do realize how lucky you are?

Actually we don't have much in terms of collecting that resembles what we're used to in twisty old trees; the area is too mild for that. We have the height in the mountain ranges, but too much rain and not quite the right sort of rock for good pockets. There's nothing like the Rockies. But, there's some interesting 'alternative' trees out there like mountain hemlock, yellow cedar, and vine maple. The yellow cedar often has some interesting shari, but generally speaking the Northwest offers shari-less collecting.


A yamadori Rocky mountain juniper from Michael's Portfolio on has Crataegus Bonsai site

How's the Bonsai Village going?

Being recreated! Andrew Robson is now the Director of the Portland Bonsai Village. He had an exciting World Bonsai Day event set up and co-sponsored with the Portland Japanese Garden this May that was sadly kneecapped by Covid-19. But Andrew has other events planned though so stay tuned there.

Quoting Michael... 
"Sadly, I discovered a few things about the new Portland Bonsai Village
passport on my trip to Europe. For one, it won’t get you
into the Habsburg castle in Vienna…"


If you could grow only one species for bonsai what would it be?

Probably mountain hemlock. Really easy plant to grow, and if I am forced to grow only one thing I'm assuming life is challenging and I've only time to grow easy things...


Michael's prize winning Mountain hemlock planting 



 Michael's books (to date)
Post-Dated and Bonsai Heresy are available at Stone Lantern

Here's your link to Michael's Crataegus Bonsai website,
which includes among other things, his blog and his Portfolio 

Interview with Michael Hagedorn - Post-Dated and the Early Days

 Here's what Michael Hagedorn wrote about this tree.... "My teacher’s juniper from the 2010 Sakafu show has been my favorite since it first came into his studio in 2006, and I was in my last year apprenticing there. The delicacy and naturalness of this meter-high tree has always left me spellbound.
"He had clients calling him nonstop asking about it, one of them was so insistent he called a couple times a day, wanting to buy this tree. But Suzuki was determined to save this tree for the Sakafu, and waited and trained it four years before entering it in the professional show. Some of you may remember this tree from photos in my book Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk."

This interview first appeared here on Bonsai Bark in February, 2009. I've added some photos and captions, but otherwise, it's exactly as it appeared then. Including my introduction...

In my last post I wrote a review (Bonsai Bark, February, 2009) of Michael Hagedorn’s Post-Dated; The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk, a book I consider to be an important and unique contribution to English language bonsai literature. You could say that Post-Dated is in fact literature, as distinguished from the how-to genre that most bonsai books fall into

In addition to being a very accomplished writer, Michael Hagedorn is a first rate bonsai artist. His work appeared in the Kokufu show in Tokyo (Kokufu is the pre-eminent bonsai show in Japan) in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and Mr. Suzuki (Michael’s teacher) honored him with the opportunity to wire two trees that went on to win a Kokufu Prize and a Prime Minister Award.


Still in print and still a great bonsai read 


Interview with Michael Hagedorn...

Wayne: Why Post-Dated?

Michael: Post-Dated is a title that the reader will only understand on finishing the book. The last chapter gives a clue to its choice.

What do you think is the most important thing you learned in Japan?

I came to believe that bonsai was unlike any of the other creative expressions I’d explored before. It was not modern art. It was not individualistic. It assumed collaboration: by default, with other artists, through time. It was collaboration with a living thing. It was collaboration with a tradition. This was all new to me and, honestly, disorienting. But I came to love it and find a lot of excitement and joy in being a part of that larger surround. I guess anything where we feel part of something larger is a valuable thing, and studying bonsai in Japan was that for me. And I think all bonsai activity has that potential. There, here, anywhere.

Can you say something about Japanese and North American bonsai; the relationship and how it is evolving?

There will probably always be a parent/child relationship there. In that sense Japan is the parent of any country that is interested in bonsai, as China was to Japan long ago—and ‘overtaking’ Japan is unlikely. Bonsai work in Japan is probably evolving faster than is generally known. They are very inventive, and seem to have the best balance of holding on to things that worked well and keeping an eye out for some new way. For a traditional art this attitude works better than our ‘throw out everything with the dishwater and start again’ impulse. And so I see their work progressing steadily whereas our progression is more erratic and dependent on individuality more than community. But I’m generalizing too much. The bonsai community in North America is coalescing, and that is very positive.


A cellphone shot of a photo of Michael in Post-Dated

Do you think a distinctly American style is developing?

I do not see this, unless one can call a group of individual styles a group style. I don’t. There is an impatience I think for us to see this sort of thing. We are used to being leaders in so many fields—medical, university, technology, etc.—that it is almost a reflexive that we should assume a singular voice in bonsai too. But our work in a ‘tradition’ does not seem as strong as our work outside of one. Perhaps it’s our social structure, or maybe what we value: eclecticism.

Would you like to go back to Japan and study some more. Perhaps with another teacher?

I will be returning to study with my master, Shinji Suzuki. In bonsai one does not generally study with more than one teacher, that is, if you have studied at length with that person. A month here and there has been done by many people, Europeans in particular. But once you start calling a teacher ‘master,’ things change. That is a very special relationship that is broken by studying elsewhere. Your master becomes responsible for your welfare, and you can see how that sort of thing can get confusing for a culture centered on relationship hierarchies. Who is responsible for so and so when they are studying with everyone? So they prefer to keep it simple.

Shinji Suzuki, who Michael refers to as his master (see just above)

Tell us about your teaching these days. What do you enjoy about it? What don’t you enjoy? Are you working mostly with more advanced 
students? Beginners? A mix?

Ah, it’s a wonderful challenge. I like the diversity of people who seem drawn to bonsai. And it is gratifying to see students get excited about taking things to another level. I’d say the only hard part is teaching in a workshop type of situation where the concept of a ‘good tree’ is difficult to teach. It is almost like trying to understand Michelangelo’s ‘David’ from photos. I was thirteen when I saw the ‘David’ in Italy and discovered that it was huge. He had made his David be a giant, the real Goliath. I would have never gotten that by looking at a photo, but it hits you in the gut when you’re there. Not book knowledge. Likewise, we can’t really learn the essential points of bonsai from reading, and we can’t learn what a good tree is by seeing a photo or talking about it—we have to see it in person. So I’ve been changing my style of teaching a bit. I prefer to be teaching the way I learned at my master’s place, by standing in front of a good tree. I think this is the best way to learn. We learn ten times as fast. So I am working on gathering a ‘teaching’ collection so that I can teach from my backyard.

I work with both beginners and advanced students. Some of the advanced students end up becoming beginners again, as my techniques are new to those who began bonsai by reading about it. There tends to be a lot of starting over with my students.


Michael with one of his Seasonal students 
 Before he apprenticed in Japan, Michael studied with Boon. When this photo was taken (circa 2001) only one of them was a first rate bonsai artist and teacher. Now all three are. From left to right, Jonas Dupuich, Boon Manakitivipart and Michael Hagedorn

To see more of Michael’s trees, his photos and his writings visit Crataegus Bonsai 


Classic Flowering Bonsai & News from the Home Front

Tomentosa cherry (Prunus tomentosa: Japanese Yasura-ume). The Japanese love of flowering cherries is evident in this gnarled old shohin size (5") bonsai. This and the other photos shown here were scanned from Classic Bonsai of Japan (Kodansha, now out of print)

I've been working on an interview with Michael Hagedorn, which I hope to have for you in our next post. Meanwhile here are three photos from a post we did back in 2017. They're from the book, Classic Bonsai of Japan (now out of print). 

As an off-topic distraction, I've a added a few words about a couple weeks in the life of local bonsai enthusiast 
Continued below...


Karume azalea (Rhododendron obtusum: Japanese Kurume-tsutsuji) 

Continued from above...
It's that time of year when it's almost impossible to keep up. In addition to my day job (Stone Lantern, Bonsai Bark and our Newsletter) there has been lots of digging the last two or three weeks. This entails moving stock (mostly larches) from our growing areas and into growing pots. For most plants these are Tie pots, though for bigger ones we use large nursery pots (next year we plan to build boxes for some of the real monsters)

Now that most of the digging is done here, tomorrow we'll make a trip up north to a friend's hot bed of native larch (Larix laricina). They're in a cold pocket, a couple weeks behind us here, so the time is right. We'll dig a couple dozen there and plant them in the ground here where they'll grow on for a few years before we move them into pots. And so the cycle repeats itself

Then of course there's fertilizing and so much more to accomplish this time of year, but we'll leave that for another time. 


Japanese apricot (Latin-Prunus mume: Japanese-Ume). From Classic Bonsai of Japan (Nippon Bonsai Association). My apologies for cutting off the bottom of the pot; my scanner couldn’t quite fit the whole photo



 Tie pots are available at Stone Lantern


Imperial Bonsai - Correction

 At least two things set this Root-over-rock Trident maple (Kaede Ishitsuki - maple planted on a rock) apart from thousands of other root-over Trident maples on this planet. First there it's exceptional quality, and second, it was part of Japan's Imperial Bonsai Collection. The tree's age is about 90 years. Its height is 57 cm (22.5"). Here's a quote from the Imperial website... "Among 'zoki' deciduous trees, Momiji (Japanese maple) and Kaede (Trident maple) are particular favorites of bonsai lovers because of the way they show off the four seasons. Aficionados appreciate the young buds in early spring, the fresh green leaves in May, the red foliage in autumn, and the bare trunk and branches in winter. Kaede does not turn as red in fall as momiji does, but its autumn leaves -- a mixture of yellow and red hues -- are equally prized.... At the Imperial Palace, this Kaede has been transplanted almost every year, according to the condition of its roots. Due to its beauty, it is used for ornamental purposes throughtout the year."

I've seen countless root-over-rock Tridents over the years, but never one quite like this. The way the roots cling with such a firm grip (almost like a hand) and yet so gracefully, is simple bonsai perfection

All five trees shown here were donated to (this was incorrect when I posted it on Wednesday, the corrected text follows...) are from the Japanese Imperial collection and the Trident maple above and the Japanese red pine below were donated the U.S. National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. The other three trees are still in the Imperial Household's collection in Japan

I am struck by the quality of all five and further by how well the curator and staff at the National Bonsai Museum have maintained the two that were donated


 "Bright reddish leaves cover a 'De-Shojo momiji (Acer palmatum 'De-Shojo') in the budding season in April, as shown in a photo. Most of those leaves turn green in summer, but some remain red. They turn red again in autumn before the tree loses leaves toward winter. " From the Imperial Bonsai website.
The tree is about 50 years old. Its height is 95cm (37.5"). If you'd like to dig in further, there's more on this tree and the others shown here at the Imperial site


Another momiji (Japanese maple). This one is a Seigen (Acer palmatum 'Seigen'). It's age is about 100 and its height is 74cm (29"). Here's teaser from the Imperial site... "Red leaves bloom from the tree in April. The color is not as vivid as hues found in the leaves of "deshojo," another momiji species (above), but it is a cherished spring color.
"The tree features radial "nebari" (surface roots) and dynamic "tachiagari" (the initial rise of the trunk) that help balance the shape of the whole tree. Its "mikihada" trunk surface gives a sense of old age and represents an ideal momiji bonsai work. Given that its leaves grow strongly in summer, the tree was planted in a relatively large vessel. This makes viewers think of a tree growing from Mother Earth." 


This Fuji Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda Fuji) is about 450 years old! It's height is 83 cm (almost 33"). This time we'll show you the entire quote from the Imperial site...."The tree age is astonishing. Despite the great age, this tree continues to bloom flowers powerfully every year without showing any signs of weakening.
"The viewing season falls in late April. But this year, the Fuji tree sent out flowers a bit earlier than usual. The Fuji was in full bloom in mid-April with its long bunches hanging down.
"After the flower season is over, what appears to be a dent which looks like a hole comes to be seen in the lower part of its trunk. But it is not a hollow hole, but a work of natural formation that has grown into something like a dent over a long period of time.
"Despite the large size of the tree, it is planted in a relatively small pot. The vessel is overcrowded with tree roots. So, the Fuji tree is transplanted once in every two years with the roots being unstiffened (untangled?).
This is considered to be a species of the original Fuji, or the so-called yamafuji (silky wisteria), that had not been modified."


This famous Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) was donated to the U.S. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum by The Imperial Household of Japan. It has been in training since 1795.  



Today Is World Bonsai Day...!

This Japanese beech planting belongs to Sergio Cuan, who happens to be the illustrator for Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy


Today is World Bonsai Day, so here they are... world bonsai. So many people have generously offered photos of their trees and the variation is spectacular. All types of trees from almost everywhere, and they range all the way from magnificent to strange and back (you can substitute 'daring', for 'strange' if you like). We put some up Wednesday, now here are a lot more for your viewing pleasure.

All the photos shown here are from California Bonsai Society's World Bonsai Exhibition pages on Facebook (scroll down the bottom for the link). Enjoy!

Full Moon Maple (Acer japonicum). William N. Valavanis


"The Calligrapher" (Pemphis acidula) Robert Steven


Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea). Zino Rongo


 Golden pinball. Sanjay Dham 


"A bonsai exhibition is incomplete without pots..."  Bonsai Monogatari


Juniperus chinensis. Andrea Junger


Ficus phillipinensis. Juan Llaga


Trident maple, Root-over-Rock. Mark R Cooper


Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani). Mugo Ferrari


Bucida (Terminalia molineti). Enrique Castaño


Chinese hackberry. Marge Blasingame


Cork bark Chinese elm. Michael Roberts


Chinese elm (Ulmus parviflora). Ed Trout 


Cadetia Kusamono. Bonsai Monogatari 


"From BIG to small" Mark Arpag


We started this post with one of Sergio Cuan's offerings and now we'll end it the same way. Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis)



 One of Sergio's illustrations from Bonsai Heresy


Here's your link for the California Bonsai Society's World Bonsai Exhibition pages on Facebook


Celebrating World Bonsai Day In Style

Japanese beech (Fagu crenata). The caption says Japan. It was posted by Tomás Bustamante Gómez

World Bonsai Day is coming in two days (Saturday, May 9th). In celebration, bonsai artists around the world are posting photos of their trees on California Bonsai Society's World Bonsai Day Exhibition Group (scroll down for your link). The ones you see here are just a few that jumped out at me. There will be more to follow. Enjoy!

Japanese maple ukon (Acer palmatum var ukon). Steve Mckee


Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea). Zino Rongo


Korean hornbeam (Capinus tschonoskii). William Valavanis


European olive (Olea europaea). Zino Rongo 


"The Swiss Dragon" Mugo pine (Pinus mugo). Steven Trolley


   Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii). John Romano


Mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb). Tony Tickle


 Here's your link to California World Bonsai Day Exhibition on Facebook


Taming a Difficult Bonsai, Before, During & After

After, by Juan Andrade. This is a very unusual tree with three trunks merging into one (you can just see a small piece of the third trunk). Though it does look like the reviled reverse taper, but in this case I don't think it's a problem. I cropped the original photo (below) for a closer look at the trunk

There's good chance you know by now the Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy has arrived (see below). Because we pre-sold so many, we are full tilt here trying to catch up. So rather than put together a new post, we've dug up a good one from our archives (all the way back to 2013). One of our earlier Before and After posts

Here's what we (that's me) wrote at the time... Just couldn’t pass this one up. This Japanese white pine transformation is so unusual and the result so striking and unique, that… well, you can see for yourself.

The artist, Juan Andrade is one of a whole host of young apprentices who are studying or have studied in Japan

The progression. It’s clear that plenty happens that you can’t see.
For example, how on earth did he get the left trunk to cooperate?
And did he really bend the tree over that far without repotting it?
Guess you’ll just have to use your imagination


Before. From this to what you see above is no mean feat.
There’s that pesky bowed out left trunk for starters, but clearly there’s more


During. Still in the same pot, but now we have a new planting angle 


The original after photo


Here's your link to Juan's original on Facebook



Bonsai Heresy is here!
and we're only 2 or 3 days behind shipping
Thanks to Ric and to Corey, Ric's stalwart, socially distanced masked helper