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Strong, Short, Stylish & Sweet - Two Before & After Bonsai

 The Guardian of Laments is Giacomo Pappalardo's name for this superb old European larch (Larix decidua

 I have a soft spot for larches, though ours here in northern Vermont are Tamaracks (Larix laricina) and the two shown here are European larch (Larix decidua). Not the same tree, but same genus and similar when it comes to growing and styling. Both before and after Larches shown here are from earlier Bark posts 

 Here's the before and after and it’s a good one. It was no doubt collected from the wild and shows all the signs of great age.  Scroll down for your link to Giacomo Pappalardo timeline for more on this tree


The large hole and deadwood add character. Well aged bark doesn't hurt either 


The ample apex shows age and a job well done. It's not that easy to develop fine branching with such a profusion of buds on larches



Another European larch. The artist is Will Baddeley. Someone goy lucky and bought this little gem from Will a while back

Here’s what Will Baddeley wrote about this tree in answer to my inquiry… “Ok. I bought it as raw material from Pavel Slovak in the Czech Republic 6 years ago. First two years were spent reducing and strengthening the bottom branch to use as the apex. This was hollowed with a dremel and bent round to compact the tree. No styling at that time as I wanted it strong. This took a year to hold and the tree had almost healed over. It has had two wirings since…


As you can see, this before and after shows considerable skill in styling and refining 


After the first restyling


After the second restyling


Will's masthead. An artist with a sense of humor


Here's your link for information and to sign up

 Speaking of Larches, we plan on bringing several dozen that I've been field growing to this year's U.S. National. Many are fairly raw stock with minimal pruning etc, though there will be some that are partly styled. They range from 10 to 25 years old.  

Bonsai Beginner to Bonsai Master

A daring Bonsai Masterpiece from this year's Kokufu Exhibition. No doubt the work of someone you might call a Bonsai Master. Photo courtesy of Bill Valavanis


I don't think most of us will achieve mastery in the art of bonsai. But I would never deny the possibility. If you're a beginner or relative beginner, then you have a ways to go. And if you're an intermediate student of bonsai, well, then you also have a ways to go. Either way, why not work in that direction. Who knows your hidden potential?
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This magnificent Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis) was a prize winner at the 2013 Kokufu Exhibition and work of someone with a high degree of mastery in the art of bonsai (or perhaps it was handed from master to student to master... every bonsai has its story). Photo courtesy of Phoenix Bonsai Society


Continued from above...
Below are two books that can help you on your bonsai journey. The first is one of the very best we've seen for beginners, and the second is one of the very best we've seen for intermediate bonsai students (two groups that cover about 99% of us)


This gnarled old Trident maple root-over-rock is from the 2018 Kokufu. Another example of bonsai mastery. Photo courtesy of the ever present, tireless and masterful in his own right, Bill Valavanis
 Another masterpiece bonsai from the 2018 Kokufu
This time it's a root-on-rock rather than root-over-rock 
The artist is Masahiko Kimura (The Magician)
the most famous of all the Bonsai Masters
Photo by Bill again



This wonderful new book is one of the very best
beginners bonsai books we've seen
Easy to follow, expertly written, photographed & put together
A Masterpiece in its own right
Only 14.99
(and hardcover no less)
Available at Stone Lantern


This great bonsai design book is our number one best seller
and the best we've seen on bonsai design for a very long time
an essential book for anyone who already has 
some bonsai soil under their fingernails 
Available at Stone Lantern



Do the Best Bonsai Always Win the Awards? Some Questions from this Year's Kokufu Show

Kokufu Award winning (from Part 1 of the Kokufu Expo) Sargent juniper (looks like a Shimpaku variety). No argument on my part with this choice. To my eyes it expresses power, dynamism, balance, great points of interest (eg the big twist, the little see thru holes, etc), age, just the right pot... everything you might want in a bonsai.  I cropped Bill Valavanis' original photo for a closer look (see below)

When Bill Valavanis goes to Japan you can except great photos. Lots of them! Especially when he's there for his annual Kokufu tour. We just picked Part 1 prize winners for today, but we'll have more soon. Still, they'll only be a fraction of the ones Bill posted. You can to visit his blog for the rest. It's a click well worth making (scroll down for your link)

No matter the show, sometimes the prize winners make sense to me, but sometimes I don't quite get it.* In this case, two of the four fall into that 'don't quite get it' category. Stay posted and I'll feature some of my favorites soon

*No insult intended to the artists, owners or the wisdom of the Kokufu judges, I take full credit for any fault in judgement

Part 1 Kokufu Award winning Trident maple. Though there's a lot to like here, especially the ramification, still this one doesn't quite knock my socks off. At least in this photo (I cropped it for a closer look, Bill's original is below).


I like the full, flowing feel of this Japanese white pine, but it's not one I'd choose (it's another Part 1 prize winner). Primarily because the foliage hides the most of the tree's bones (aka trunk and lower branch structure) and most of the rock as well. I always thought this was a no-no in bonsai, but I'm still learning and conventions and tastes don't stand still
I cropped the photo above for a closer look through the gaps in the foliage. Now you can better see some of the branching and a piece of the trunk. You can almost see the rock a little better too


Winner of the best Shohin Display for Kokufu Part 1 


Close up of the right part of the display. No argument here, though I  also liked the other Shohin shots Bill took

Bill's original shot of the prize winner (with companion) that's at the top of the post


Bill's original of the prize winning Trident maple


 I'm not sure if this Suiseki is a prize winner, but it looks good to me


Bill's close up

Here's you link to Bill's blog where he numerous of great photos from Kokufu and elsewhere


Bill again. The time it's his 7th U.S. National (North America's Kokufu). Coming this fall. Time to make you plans!


Stolen Bonsai Returned!

This is what two priceless bonsai look like at night sitting in the middle of the road that leads to the Pacific Bonsai Museum

From the Best News We've Heard All Day desk...
STOLEN BONSAI RETURNED! The Pacific Bonsai Museum is pleased to report that the two bonsai stolen from their secure, public exhibition space on Sunday, February 9, have both been mysteriously, miraculously RETURNED to the Museum.

Security guards discovered the pair of bonsai sitting on the road leading to the Museum at approximately 11 pm, Tuesday, February 11.

Here's the Japanese black pine that was stolen and miraculously returned 
It was grown from seed in a tin can by a Japanese American
while he was in an interment camp during World War II


And here's the other, a Silverberry that has been a bonsai since 1946
and was originally created by Kiyoko Hatanaka, who happened to be a woman 
A genuine a rarity in the Japanese bonsai community at the time


A piece of the Pacific Bonsai Museum with a little perspective

On First Seeing a U.S. Forest Service Aerial Photo of Where I Live
by James Galvin (from the Museum's facebook timeline)
All those poems I wrote
About living in the sky
Were wrong. I live on a leaf
Of a fern of frost growing
Up your bedroom window
In forty below

I live on a needle of a branch
Of a cedar tree, hard-bitten,
Striving in six directions,
Rooted in rock, a cedar
Tree made of other trees,
Not cedar but fir,

Lodgepole, and blue spruce,
Metastasizing like
Bacteria to the fan-
Lip of a draw to draw
Water as soon as it slips
From the snowdrift’s grip.

And flows downward from
Branch to root — a tree
Running in reverse.
Or I live on a thorn on a trellis —
Trained, restrained, maybe
Cut back, to hold up.

Those flowers I’ve only heard of
To whatever there is and isn’t

For more great photos and perhaps more great poems, visit the Pacific Bonsai Museum on Facebook. Or even better you could just visit the Pacific Bonsai Museum

Field Growing Bonsai for Good Results

This Trident maple's (Acer buergerianum) massive nebari is a dead giveaway that it was field grown before it was moved to a container

I once read a report from Cornell University about the advantages of planting trees directly into the native soil, rather than the common practice of digging in soil amendments, a practice that may be good for the garden center’s bottom line, but not always so good for your plants (the Cornell report is in reference to landscape planting, though the same idea might apply to field growing bonsai).

If you think about it, it makes sense; if you create a pocket of richer soil, then the roots tend to stay in that pocket. Over the long run this causes slower growth and increased susceptibility to drought and winter kill. This is especially true with landscape planting and in cases where you want your field grown bonsai to grow unimpeded for a few years to achieve rapid thickening of the trunk 

This doesn't mean you shouldn't mulch, which is different than creating pocket of rich soil. Just apply about a 3 inch deep layer of mulch in a fairly wide circle around the trunk (or throughout your field growing area) and it will help keep down weeds, keep the soil warmer in the winter and cooler and hold water better in the summer, and provide nutrients to the roots as it breaks down. Over the years the result will be richer soil and healthier plants

The same goes for top fertilizing. You can apply it to the surface of the soil and the nutrients will leach down to the roots
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The same Trident maple fifteen years earlier, right after it was dug from the field. At this point the nebari measure 20" (51cm) at its widest point. This photo and the one above are from Bonsai Today issue 64

Continued from above...
There are exceptions of course, the obvious one being if you have soil that is toxic or drains so poorly that it renders growing almost anything impossible. Then building new soil before you start planting is essential (raised beds can be a good solution). And also a lot of work. Fortunately most landscapes already have adequate soil

We're lucky. Our soil is fairly sandy and we're on a hillside, so there’s no worry about drainage; it can rain as much as it wants 

Digging a field grown Japanese Black Pine. From Bonsai Today, issue 75


 Here's another powerful Trident maple 
that looks like it was originally grown in the field
The artist is German Gomez


Juniper Bonsai Before & After (Antes y Despues)

Before and after Itoigawa juniper (Juniperus chinesis 'itoigawa') by David Benavente. It helps to start with a powerful tree. Still, this takes nothing away from the considerable skills of an artist like David Benavente. In fact, bringing a great tree back to shape and taking it to the next level requires considerable skill and experience

Still traveling so we'll take the easy way out and borrow from our archives. This one last appeared in 2018

Today’s Itoigawa juniper is one of several remarkable Before & Afters (Antes y Despues) that David Benavente posted several years ago. By the way, if you’re confused about the the differences between Itoigawa, Kishu and Shimpaku junipers? Nebari Bonsai can help shed some light (the link is below)


One of changes that stands out, is the way the crown has been refined and lowered; exposing more of the remarkable 'flaming' deadwood above. This also frames and draws your eye to the powerful swirl of deadwood in the center of the tree.

Here's your link to Nebari Bonsai

Here's your link to more by David Benavente

More Brilliant Bonsai from the Deli

This photo and the other photos shown here are from the 2nd UBE Bonsai Convention the was held recently in Aranjuez, Spain

I couldn't resist more from Bontxai_bonsai delicatessen The variety and quality of the trees and quality of the photos are remarkable. All were taken at the 2nd UBE Bonsai Convention. None were identified or attributed

The following is from our Feb 2nd post....   I get more impressed every time I see photos of bonsai in Spain. It's not just Spain of course, impressive bonsai are popping up over much of the world. Still, the Spanish are doing their fair share when it comes to quality bonsai. And equally important, quality presentation and photography 








Here's your link for more great shots from Bontxai_bonsai delicatessen 

Circles, Semi Circles and Waves

Circles, semi-circles and waves. It's a yamadori Pemphis acidula by Gede Merta

It has been awhile since we visited Gede Marta and his Bonsai Bali. Mr Merta often works with yamadori (collected from the wild) Pemphis acidula, a tropical plant native to the Indo Pacific region, which includes Indonesia and specifically Bali, Gede Merta's home

I'm not sure if it's his doing or the natural look of collected Pemphis acidula (most likely a bit of both), but Gede Merta's bonsai, especially his Pemphis, have a distinctive look that's easy to identify 

All the trees below are also Pemphis acidula by Gede Merta


That's Gede Merta's face in the corner 




 Here's a photo of Gede Merta from a post we did in 2016

You can enjoy more of Gede Merta bonsai on Facebook 


Bonsai Delicatessen

This and the other photos shown here are from the 2nd UBE Bonsai Convention the was held recently in Aranjuez, Spain

I get more impressed every time I see photos of bonsai in Spain. It's not just Spain of course, impressive bonsai are popping up over much of the world. Still, the Spanish are doing their fair share when it comes to top notch bonsai. And equally important, top notch bonsai presentation and photography 

I found these photos at Bontxai_bonsai delicatessen. All were taken at the 2nd UBE Bonsai Convention. None were identified or attributed












I cropped the lead photo for a closer look at the tree. I'm pretty sure I've seen it before, but a cursory look only turned up one that is similar (a Taxus by Mauro Stemberger- see our newsletter  - you can sign up for it on the right side or the bottom of this post)

All the photos above are from Bontxai_bonsai delicatessen on Facebook


Here's a Brand NEW Bonsai Book
that's destined to be Classic

The Little Book of Bonsai

by Jonas Dupuich

Only 14.99
Order Now for Immediate Shipping



Brand NEW! The Little Book of Bonsai by Jonas Dupuich

The Little Book of Bonsai

Yesterday we received a new book many of you have been waiting for.
It's The Little Book of Bonsai and though it is geared to beginners, it's different than any beginner's bonsai book we've seen

The biggest difference is the overall quality, especially when you consider the price (14.99 and hardcover no less). The clarity of the writing, the quality of the bonsai pictured (both the trees and the photos), the easy to follow instructions, and the overall quality of the production all come together to create a book any beginning enthusiast, or really any enthusiast should have in their bonsai library. Try it for yourself and you'll see
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This photo is a good example of the quality
of the trees and the photography you'll find in
The Little Book of Bonsai

Here's what Michael Hagedorn (author of Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk) and foremost American bonsai artist and teacher wrote..."We have waited a long time for a concise introductory bonsai book written by an expert, and we finally have it. Dupuich's book has the earmark of a classic"

And here's what Bill Valavanis famous bonsai artist, publisher, creator of the U.S. National Bonsai Expositions and third inductee into the American Bonsai Hall of Fame wrote... "This well written and beautifully illustrated book covers bonsai care along with authoritative information for creating you own bonsai. Highly recommended for beginners"


High Quality Trees and High Quality Photos 
enhance the book throughout

Many, if not most of the bonsai in the book belong to Jonas

If you have progressed beyond the beginner's stage on you bonsai journey. you can still be inspired by the bonsai Jonas uses as examples. They are, in almost all cases, superior to most of the trees you see in other beginners and even intermediate bonsai books

Hardcover, 6 1/4" x 7 3/4" 106 full color pages with clear, easy to follow illustrations and photos.

Price Only 14.99