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Arsenio Mondo Zen


After. This impressive Taxus baccata (English or European yew) was posted by Arsenio Mondo Zen—as were all of today's photos.


Before . Here's the caption (translated from Italian): "How far we've come together with this rate of Gianluca, and so much more to go. From a not very expressive material, with the right techniques and the right time, you can achieve great things. Just believe it."


"At Mondozen Bonsai Club."


Arsenio's Trident maple after defoliation and some pruning.


Before. Time to get to work!


Arsenio and friend.


Six Larches


A European (Larix decidua) from our archives. When the photo was taken, at least four years ago, it belonged to Walter Pall. The pot is by Derek Aspinall.


American Larch (Larix laricina - aka Tamarack) by Larch Master Nick Lenz. In addition to being one of our most accomplished bonsai artists, Nick was a skilled and innovative potter. So you might imagine that the pots was also his handiwork.


Another American larch by Nick Lenz. This time in full fall color. BTW, this tree is massive. Much bigger than it looks in this photo.


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


European larch by Will Baddeley.


Judging by the fall color on this wild larch, I'd say it's a Larix decidua (European larch). American larch's fall color tends more to bright yellow rather than this rusty orange. Though the color does change some as the fall progresses.


Bonsais & Martha Stewart

A couple months ago, I visited New England Bonsai Gardens, my old nursery, for only the second time since I moved on in 1999. Fortunately, Ashley was there to give us (my friend Barbara was with me) a tour. Unfortunately we couldn't spend all day which might have given us a chance to see  everything. Still, we saw enough to be very impressed. If you haven't been there (or even if you have) I highly recommend you make time for a visit if you're ever in New England. 

As an unexpected bonus Ashley introduced us to Andrea Meriggioli, a highly accomplished and very friendly young bonsai artist from Italy who happened to be there for few day teaching and working on some trees. 

I had to do a double take for this one from New England Bonsai Garden on FB. Here's their caption, "Two of NEBG's finest enjoyed a fantastic day with Martha and her team filming for an upcoming episode of her show (the date is TBD).

Congrats to Pete & Kevin for this incredible opportunity. "We will be sure to let everyone know the airdate once we find out."

One of dozens of bright spots at NEBG.

Want to see more? Make sure to sign up for our newsletters to get these magnificent bonsais (and potentially Martha Stewart) directly to your inbox! 


The Principles of Dave De Groot


Got a few photos today from our friend Dave De Groot. He's the author of Principles of Bonsai Design and much more, including a long stint as the previous curator of the Pacific Bonsai Museum. So you might say he's a big deal in our bonsai world (though I don't think he would say that).

One of the many things I enjoy about Dave De Groot's posting are his commentaries. I think we can learn a lot from accomplished bonsai artists that take the time to explain what their thinking is as they work with their bonsai.

"I had to hurry to get my Japanese maple thinning done before it gets too late. Here are two examples: First is a grafted green leaf maple (in need of cleaning) that is very robust and has a coarse growth habit. Because of that, it has been completely defoliated with the dual aim of encouraging interior budding and shorter internodes on second growth.

"The second example is a coral bark ('Sango Kaku'). This is not as robust, but I still want to encourage interior budding and branch ramification. In this case, only alternate leaves were removed.

"I recommend a bud shears... rather than a standard thinning shears... for leaf thinning. Its slim design allows it to get between and into branches easily, and the short blades help avoid cutting more than the leaf intended."


"One of my bald cypress bonsai was originally topped by beavers, and the resulting re-growth inspired me to design it in a typical deciduous tree form with ascending branches. This is actually a form bald cypress often take in urban landscapes where they are mature and not shaded by neighboring trees.

We are near the northern limit of growth for bald cypress, due to our relatively short growing season and cool summer nights. As a result, I have started thinning new growth very early in the season, before the tree has invested a lot of energy. Unsightly lumps form on branches very quickly where clusters of new shoots emerge, so thinning early is important. Also, thinning later in the season after the tee has invested a lot of energy in new growth seems to set the tree back, and recovery can be quite slow. Photos are the tree last week after thinning, and then closeups of a branch before and after the thinning process."


"My white wisteria is still very much in development - I'm letting it go a bit wild to increase the size of the trunk - but for one week a year, it deserves to be seen (and smelled)."


"My Windblown Chinese elm with Spring foliage."


The Bonsai of Mariusz Folda


Here's a good shot of what lookes like a Shimpaku juniper or close cousin (Kishu or Itoigawa). This and all the trees shown here are by Mariusz Folda.

It's been a while since we featured Mariusz's work. He's a long time favorite. Take a look and you'll see why we can't go too long without returning to his trees and gardens.

This impressive monster looks like it might be a Japanese white pine. Mariusz and plenty of other bonsai artists don't always identify their trees on FB, but some like this one are fairly obvious.

A little taste of late spring color, This azalea (most likely a Satsuki variety) would be a powerful bonsai with or without its flowers. Nice pot too. Mariusz is also a potter so perhaps this one is his.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this pine before. The clusters look like five needles, so Japanese white pine might be a good guess.

Here a lovely twin trunk deciduous tree with familiar looking leaves. We'll leave it at that (your guess is as good as mine).

Another deciduos tree. This time with compound leaves.

One of many excellent pots by Mariusz from his FB photos.

And a little piece of his garden. Scroll down for a link to more by Mariusz Folda.


Marc Noelander's Extraordinary Mountain Forest Planting

Ten years ago or so, we'd see Marc Noelanters' bonsai seemingly eveywhere, but not so much lately. Until recently that is, when I stumbled upon the extraordinary forest planting below.

Marc Noelanders' only comment with this extraordinary mountain forest planting is, "On request some pictures of a demonstration that I did a few years ago."

The trees. Marc says nothing about the type trees he used, but Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) comes up twice in the FB comments and based on how they look in this photo, I'm on board with that. 

The pot, slab, base or whatever you want to call it. There's no mention of the artist, but I think it could have been Marc. 

This photo of Marc was taken at the demo. 

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We also have some amazing tools and resources available on our website if you really want to learn bonsai, all the way from basics to advanced design principles and techniques.

 


When is it Best to Repot My Bonsai?

Today's bonsai blog post, When is best to repot? Do we repot them all at once? is taken directly from Michael Hagedorn's Crataegus Bonsai blog.

All the text in italics is directly quoted from Michael and all the photos are his.

 

Bud swell on Hemlock, about right repotting timing

Ponderosa Pine—a bit late

When is best to repot? Do we repot them all at once?

The general guideline to repot as they break bud is a good one. Some, like pines, though, are best repotted a bit before we see bud elongation. Maples, as buds open.

If you have a long spring—one that goes on at a mild temperature for a couple months or more—then the schedule separates into phases.

 

Black Pine—much too late

Ezo Spruce—the tree on the right, correct repotting timing; tree on the left, too late. Tricky for this specimen as it is a forest…try to gauge by the first tree to begin moving.



A long spring schedule might look like this:


Deciduous first: Quince (Japanese and Chinese), Trident
Then, Black Pines
Satsuki, as they green up
Single flush pines, like Japanese White and Ponderosa
Spruce
Then more deciduous, like Japanese Maples, Elm
Hinoki
Beech, Hemlock
And finally, Juniper

Beech—a hair early. Beech are tricky. They are late openers, usually almost overnight. Ideally, wait for a bit of green between the bud scales to show, then repot.

Vine Maple—like many maples, they can be repotted a bit “long in the tooth”, when the buds are swelling and opening

Though Maple can be repotted with buds opening, once leaves are out it’s on the late side

 

If your spring is short, just a month, trees may be repotted roughly at the same time.

If repotted outside its ideal window—before or well after bud break—place the tree in shelter, preferably a greenhouse for several weeks. Greenhousing any repotted plant is a good practice for protection from wind, frost and too much rain. A common mistake is placement in too much shade after repotting. Plants need light to grow roots, and in many locations the spring sun is mild.

 

Looking for repotting bonsai tools? Visit our website for incredible deals on all bonsai essentials.

 

 


Pushing Bonsai Boundaries with Peter Steven

There are always those pioneers who push the boundaries of any type art. Sometimes to the breaking point. Robert Steven is one of those pioneers and whether or not you like the results, my best guess is that, at the very least, your mind will be stopped for a moment or two.

This one and the two just below are from a show last summer Robert Steven created using his own mixed media bonsai. With a little help from his friends of course.

 

I like the story that this one tells. And the scale.

 

Hmmm. Unusual to say the least. Here's a quote by Robert that might go with this one. "Bonsai elites are those unconscious incompetence in bonsai, but you are idiotically fawning for their narcissism in cutting ribbons rather than how to handle bonsai tools " A little harsh for my taste, but given what Robert has accomplished over the years, maybe he's earned a pass. 

 

For more boundary breaking bonsai artwork, sign up for my newsletter where you can get beautiful art straight to your inbox! Also don't forget that we have a Big Spring Sale, with 40% to 60% off on approx 200 products. Everything else is 10% to 40% off!


Making Bonsai Pancakes with Peter Tea

If you don't know Peter, one of our most accomplished young bonsai artists, you're in for a treat. And if you do know Peter, you're still in for a treat.

Korean Hornbeam bonsai by Peter Tea in aqua pot

One thing that jumps out for me with this remarkable tree, is the well developed ramification all the way out to the tips of the twigs. Here's Peter Tea's caption, "The deciduous work begins! Defoliated this Korean Hornbeam and a slight thinning and cut back."

Ramified Seiju Elm bonsai in a Sara Rayner pot

Another one with good ramification. Here's Peter's caption, "Ramified Seiju Elm in a Sara Rayner pot! It’s going to get a repot in February."

Chinese quince bonsai by Peter Tea in teal pot

Here's what Peter wrote about this tree, "Chinese quince getting more refined! The roots are also starting to fuse and we’ll show more of that in the next repotting. Graft I did in early 2023 up top is growing and looking forward to fill the hole there. Pacific Bonsai Expo 202?"

Japanese flowering apricot bonsai by Peter Tea in teal pot

I'm looking forward to seeing this tree in few years after Peter has worked some of his magic. Here's what he has to say about it, "Japanese flowering apricot is blooming at the garden! We’re going to graft a few branches closer to the interior in March and dense this guy up!"

Peter Tea and friends gathered around a bonsai planting in Golden State Bonsai Federation's bonsai garden at Lake Merritt in Oakland CA

We'll let Peter do the talking, "Eli, Max and myself headed down to the Bonsai Garden in Lake Merritt and repotted this 1500+ year old California Juniper. It took three of us to lift the tree out of the pot and we were able to get the tree into a smaller oval pot."

By the way, Lake Merritt in Oakland CA is the home of the Golden State Bonsai Federation's bonsai garden. 

Peter Tea and friend slicing a bonsai rootball with a Sawzall

Here's Peter's story with one, "Eli and I making some pancakes! Repotted a number of Black pines in big nursery containers. Whipped out the Sawzall to take slices of the rootball away to save time. Once we got close to the roots we planned to keep, we went at it with hand tools." 

Seiju elm bonsai with moss covering some of the trunk by Peter Tea in grey pot

Peter's caption for this one, I purchased this Seiju elm back in 2017 at an auction and the first thing I did was cut all the branches to stubs and repotted it into a smaller pot.  I did this because the branches were very leggy and pot was huge! After a few years of branch development I sold it to a client of mine and has been under his care for the last 5 years. He has since decided to downsize his collection and now the Elm has retuned to the garden! The tree is now just starting to bud out due to warm days in Sacramento last week. I plan to continue its branch development and hope to show it in the future! 🤩
The tree stand right at 17inches tall."

Black Pine bonsai curved into a spiral by Peter Tea in small brown pot

One more by Peter and it's a doozy. Here's what he wrote, "Rebuilding this funky little Black Pine! Looking forward to a good 2024 and the continued refinement of this tree. 

"I feel like I should give this tree a name. What do you think?"

 

Sources:
Peter Tea on FB
Peter's website
GSBS Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt
Peter Tea on Bonsai Bark

Our Three Favorite Photos from UBE Expo in Madrid

Michael Hagedorn, a highly respected American bonsai artist and author of Bonsai Heresy and Post Dated, just posted some excellent photos he took at the recent UBE Expo in Madrid. I've picked three of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Itoigawa juniper bonsai

Itoigawa juniper. There's a lot going on here, with such a wild, free play of fluid movement. I think the artist was fearless, not to mention skilled, when he or she set about to transform so much living tissue into dead wood.

Chinese juniper bonsai

This one, which Michael calls simply Chinese juniper, is another tree where the deadwood demands our attention..

Bunjin

Aha. Bunjin. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you see that many great bunjin (literati) style trees outside of Asia. I like both the fine deadwood touches as well as the way the whole tree hangs together, with the downward sweep of the branches and trunk's strong upward movement (at times like this, I wish I were a poet).

Michael's books are here and links to Michael's site and blog are below. 

 

Sources:
Michael Hagedorn's Crataegus Bonsai site
Michael's blog
Michael on Bonsai Bark