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Our Top Two Recommendations for Must-Read Bonsai Books

First, if you don't have a copy of David De Groot's Principles of Bonsai Design, it's time. And if you know a bonsai lover that doesn't doesn't have their copy, soon it will be December: time to express your unbounded generosity.

The second book we recommend for bonsai enthusiasts is Michael Hagedorn's Bonsai Heresy, a deep dive into the art and science of bonsai. Scroll down for more from Dave De Groot and Michael Hagedorn.  

David De Groot's now famous Redwood bonsai bridge. David is one of North America's most respected bonsai teachers and the author of Principles of Bonsai Design. He was also the curator of the Pacific Bonsai Museum for 25 years (Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection at the time). 

Principles of Bonsai Design by David De Groot

Dave De Groot's Masterpiece is back. And it's better than ever. New content and superior new layout & design makes the best English language how-to book on Bonsai Design even better. If you really want to learn bonsai, all the way from basics to advanced design principles and techniques, this is the book for you.

A piece of Dave De Groot's meticulously well organized, clean and all around impressive bonsai collection. 

A young and happy Dave De Groot with the great John Naka 'The Dean of American Bonsai.' Circa 1974. 

Michael Hagedorn is the author of Bonsai Heresy, a must-read for any and all bonsai lovers. 

Here is Michael's impressively unique Vine maple tower. In addition to a wide range of traditional bonsai skills and knowledge, Michael's fearlessness and humor when it comes to breaching established bonsai conventions is evident.  

Bonsai Heresy by Michael Hagedorn

This photo was posted in a review of Bonsai Heresy by Brown C. that reads as follows:

" Bonsai Heresy, by Michael Hagedorn, is an articulate, balanced, researched, captivating — and sometimes witty — discussion of bonsai topics covering everything from techniques, to supplies, to aesthetics. So thoughtful and well written, I couldn't put it down. It's a serious book, more than 300 pages, substantive for the longtime practitioner as well as accessible to the bonsai beginner. Personally, I agree with Michael's assessment and conclusions regarding — well, everything. I'm sure that I'll be going back to reread portions as various situations arise. I highly and enthusiastically recommend the book!!!"

For more on Dave de Groot, check out his New Zealand Bonsai Demo

For more on Michael Hagedorn, check out this collection of his bonsai


Gallery Sources:
David De Groot on FB
David De Groot on Bonsai Bark
Michael Hagedorn Crataegus Bonsai
Michael Hagedorn on Bonsai Bark

Bonsai By Wire: Bonsai Wire Sculptures by Ken To

Today we have some wire sculpted bonsai by our old friend Ken To, someone we featured way back in our distant past. Welcome back Ken. I hope you have time to enjoy his remarkable handiwork.

The fingers give away just how tiny and intricate this Rock-over-rock wire sculpted bonsai is. The artist Ken To, someone we featured several times way back in the pre-pre-covid era. 

It's impressive how much scenery Ken can fit into such a small space. 

Gone fishing.

Must be a juniper with all that deadwood.


Gallery Sources:
Art by Ken To
Ken To on Bonsai Bark

How to Grow Bonsai from Scratch: A Bonsai Course

One of the most satisfying experiences in our bonsai journey is developing bonsai from scratch. It takes more time and perhaps a little more attention to detail, but bonsai is about time and attention to detail anyway, so why not take the leap and reward yourself with a course by two highly accomplished bonsai artists.

Developing Bonsai from Seed is offered by Bonsai Empire and it's not just about seeds, but includes other time tested ways to start bonsai from scratch. Scroll down, take a look, give it some thought and then sign up (you can watch it whenever you want as many times as you want). You'll be happy you did.

Michael Hagedorn, bonsai artist teacher, author of Bonsai Heresy and Post-Dated, and the perhaps the person who has had the most profound influence on my bonsai journey...

... and Bjorn Bjorholm who just might be the most recognized North American bonsai artist and teacher (and for good reason). BTW, both Michael and Bjorn apprenticed in Japan.

Another shot of Michael from Bonsai Empire's Developing Bonsai from Seed course.

And Bjorn again.

Here's your link to Bonsai Empire's Developing Bonsai From Seed course

Speaking of Bonsai Empire's Courses
and Michael Hagedorn: Bonsai Empire's Kimura Masterclass, Reviewed by Michael Hagedorn



Bonsai Empire's Developing Bonsai from Seed

Bonsai Bark

Stone Lantern

Bonsai Outside the Lines: Bonsai by 鳳鳴盆栽

Today we've got some trees that you might call Eccentric. Or at least out of the mainstream. They are all by 鳳鳴盆栽, an artist with some interesting twists and turns. 

Here's a representative sample of bonsai by 鳳鳴盆栽. Or, at least some of his bonsai.

None of the trees are ID'd, but as you can see, there is a preference for junipers.

Loop to loop. 

Same tree. New apex. 

Maybe not eccentric, but a little unusual. 


A lot of his tree's are rangy like this, but this one strikes me as particularly well done. 

Loopy Crape myrtle. 

One of my favorites. Not as unconventional as some, but still pretty wild. 

Aha. 鳳鳴盆栽's perfect nod to tradition. 


Gallery Sources:

鳳鳴盆栽 on FB

Knockout NorCal Bonsai from Redwood Empire Bonsai Society

Today's bonsai photos (below) were taken by Jonas Dupuich at the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society’s 37th annual show in Rohnert Park, Sonoma County, California. For Jonas' observations on the show, visit his Bonsai Tonight blog

Japanese maple, photo by Jonas Dupuich (all of today's bonsai photos are by Jonas).


Scroll down for more photos from the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society's 37th annual show.

Grafted juniper. Photo by Jonas Dupuich.

Chinese elm.

Satsuki azalea 'Akanagi' from the recent Redwood Empire Bonsai show.



Gallery Sources:
Bonsai Tonight blog
2023 8th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

2023 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition: Photos by Bill Valavanis (Part II)

Today we're continuing with Bill Valavanis' most excellent 2023 Kokufu photos. In my not always humble opinion, it's still the number one bonsai show in the world. 

All of today's photos were borrowed from Bill Valavanis,

root-on-rock juniper 2023 Kokufu bonsai

Looks like a root-on-rock juniper. With the exception of this one and for the sake of accuracy, I will forego captions unless they are Bill's.

2023 Kokufu bonsai
2023 Kokufu bonsai
2023 Kokufu bonsai
Japanese Black Pine Imperial Collection Kokufu bonsai

Special exhibit: Japanese Black Pine from the Imperial collection.

Korean hornbeam 2023 Kokufu bonsai

Kokufu prize. Korean hornbeam.

Japanese black pine 2023 Kokufu bonsai

Kokufu prize. Japanese black pine. 

2023 Kokufu bonsai
2023 Kokufu bonsai
2023 Kokufu bonsai

Gallery Sources:

Bill Valavanis Bonsai blog

Bill's International Bonsai site

2023 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition: Photos by Bill Valavanis (Part I)

It has been too long since we visited Bill Valavanis' bonsai blog. And, I believe we missed posting about the 2023 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition (the Grandaddy of them all). So, let's do both right now!

This Juniper from this year's Kokufu Exhibition belongs to Doug Paul, owner of the Kennett Collection in Kennett, PA. Doug often has trees accepted by Kokufu. 

The photo is by Bill Valavanis, who, no matter what, keeps showing up at all the major Japanese (and other) exhibitions. 

Here's Doug's whole display. 

This powerful maple (looks Trident from here) with its rather impressive nebari is owned by Mark Cooper, another Westerner (UK). 

Had to show this one. The boundaries of what is acceptable in major exhibits and elsewhere have expanded over the years. In my fifteen years of bonsai blogging, the movement beyond conventional styling seems to have accelerated. Especially in Japan of all places. Or maybe Bill just has an eye for the unusual. 

Here's another one that strikes me as a tad out of the mainstream. 

No caption with this one. 

None with this pine either. 

It wouldn't be a bonsai exhibition without some Shohin displays. 


Gallery Sources:

Bill Valavanis Bonsai blog

Bill's International Bonsai site

8th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

Hand Held Bonsai from Javi Campos Juan

I’ve always liked photos of hand held bonsai. The hand immediately provides a way to determine the size of a tree and it adds a personal touch, without the distracting photos of the proud artist posing with the tree.* 

All the bonsai photos shown below were posted by Javi Campos Juan.

*I'm not opposed to showing the artist and tree together as long as we can see at least one photo of just the tree so we can appreciate it on its own merits.

No variety is given with any of the photos featured here and we won't bother to guess. They all belong to (or belonged to back in 2016 when they were taken) Javi Campos Juan.

Great tree with a powerful base and excellent taper, but what about that distracting shoot on the left? Well, eventually it will be shortened, but for now it's there to draw energy into the branch and hasten its development. It will be removed once its purpose is accomplished. It's called a sacrificial branch and sometimes they are allowed to grow very long before they are removed. 

You may have noticed by now that these are exceptional bonsai. The skilled work of an accomplished bonsai artist over many years. 

This gnarly little tree with its gnarly little pot also shows a sacrificial shoot.

A closer look without the hand and pot.

And one more. The more I look at these photos, the more impressed I am. 



Bonsai At Its Best - Tour Omiya Bonsai Art Museum

Today we've one of our favorites, Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan. Scroll down and enjoy a magnificent bonsai feast. 

You don't see many trees that are as distinctive and altogether outstanding as this one. Unless you're somewhere like the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which is where this photo was taken. It wasn't identified, but at a glance and with a nebari like that, I'd say maple. Except for how white it is (could it be a Japanese beech?). Anyway, the profusion of so many flowing branches with such fine ramification all the way out to the tips, along with that nebari, make for a tree that's designed to stop minds. 

We've shown this one before, but the photo shows it in a different light (literally). I don't know what kind of pine it is, though it looks like it could be a Japanese white, nor do I know if the rock is natural or manmade. But I do know that that together the result is just right. 

Without the leaves you might confuse Japanese maples with Trident maples. Both can feature dominant nebari. However, Japanese maples tend to be more delicate than Tridents and this one has that delicate feel. 

Nice raft (perhaps sinuous root) style Japanese white pine. 

Here's a powerful tree for you. I can't see the foliage clearly enough to guess (perhaps yew or shimpaku juniper?)

Nice shot. Looks like a shimpaku juniper in winter color. 


This one looks like a shimpaku in summer color. 

We've shown various photos of this tree four or five times over the years, but I think this shot with such lovely sunset (sunrise?) light is perhaps the best of all. 

Gnarly works for this one. Or Gnarled too. How about very old?

A piece of the Museum, bird's eye view.


Gallery Sources:
Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
Omiya on Bonsai Bark

Teeny Bonsai Beauties

We've got some exquisite teeny trees for your enjoyment today.

Four powerful shohin trees by Miyazato Rintaro. Two junipers and two pines.

Miyazato Rintaro posted these four small trees in 2019. Here's a strange machine translation for you... "For Sale. I'm going to give it to the net in the afternoon. This time, from mini bonsai to small pieces, We have a tree with sights. Please contact us"

Machine translations have gotten steadily better over that last few years. By now you might expect something a little more sensible. 

Bill Valavanis took these two photos at the 45th Gafu Ten Shohin Bonsai Exhibition in Japan. Both are Shohin and both are in strikingly brilliant yellow pots that are so strong that only extraordinarily strong trees could hold their own. And, as you can see, both trees do just that. 

This tiny Shimpaku juniper belongs to Yoshiyuki Kawada. As do the next three trees below.

Teeny pyracantha (firethorn). 

No ID given, but it looks like it might be a Crape myrtle. 

Another Shimpaku juniper. 

Whoa! Just found this photo on FB. Looks like Yoshiyuki knows something about making pots too.