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An Invitation to an Extraordinary Bonsai Event

Today’s photos are from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. They’re part of a Special Exhibition in honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Omiya Bonsai Village. All the captions featured here are direct quotes from the Museum’s descriptions with each photo. 

“This work is "Ishitsuki-Bonsai" created by Tomio Yamada, the 4th generation of Seiko-en in Omiya Bonsai Village. It is made by rooting Japanese White Pine on a unique circular stone.”


“This group planting is composed of Korean hornbeam, which grows naturally in parts of Japan and Korea. This piece was created fifty years ago by Teruo Kurosu, master of the Shosetsu-en Bonsai Garden, who trained at the Toju-en Bonsai Garden located in the Omiya Bonsai Village. The multiple trunks radiating from the main trunk create the scene of a grove of fresh green trees. Hanging scroll: Moon and Silver Grass (painted by Shoei Watanabe)”

“Gallery 5 Aka-matsu, Japanese Red Pine

This bonsai exhibits a thin, flexible rising trunk. This style is called “Bunjingi”, or Literary Style, because “Bunjin”, or literary persons, were fond of this style. Within an air of agility, the bonsai’s overall impression is drawn together by the branch that grows lower from the higher part of the tree.”

“Gallery 3 Hime-ringo, Chinese Crab Apple

The crab apple is known among apple trees for the innumerable fruit they bare. During the flowering season in April, it blooms near-white pink flowers, and from June to July, it bears guail-egg-sized fruits. In autumn, the bright red fruits are even more brilliant when leaves fall off.“


“Gallery 1 Yama-momiji, Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

The stability of the root base and the symmetry of the branches in this Japanese maple impress a sense of calmness on the viewer. The lush foliage accentuates the beauty of this work.”

“Gallery3 Hatsuyuki-kazura, Star Jasmine

As the white trunk shows its strong curves, each branch bears a well-balanced flush of leaves. Hatsuyuki (literally meaning first snow) is so called because of the white spots found on its leaves, which at this time of the year are pale pink coloring, adding to the bonsai’s stunning charm.”

“Shin Room Goyo-matsu, Japanese White Pine

The trunk, wearing its powerful twists, grows upward with a rich vitality that produces a sense of  liveliness throughout the bonsai while the backward growing branche of this piece add three-dimensional effect to it.

Hanging scroll: Seisho Tajushoku (calligraphy by Sobin Yamada) (E-174)

Side Alcove: Chojubai, Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai'”

“Shin Room Goyo-matsu, Japanese White Pine, Pinus parviflora

Even among imposing chokkan, or straight-trunk style, bonsai, this piece stands out because of the way its trunk tapers as it rises from the base, giving the viewer the impression of looking up at a tall, full-sized tree.

Hanging scroll: Shoju Sen-nen no Midori(calligraphy by Sokushu Akiyoshi)(E-083)

Alcove: Fuchi-so, Japanese Forest Grass.” 

“Shin Room Goyo-matsu named Sokaku, Japanese White Pine

The name “Sokaku” literally means paired cranes. With its height, and white vertical section it is a stunning bonsai. The tops of the two trunks grow thick with needles and take on the form of two cranes holding their heads together, which is where the name of this tree comes from.”
From the Museum’s caption. 

“A dragonfly came to see our bonsai.” 

“In the bonsai garden, usually 60-70 bonsai are on display.”

Bonsai Roundup

Trying something new today… an assortment of images that popped up on my facebook timeline. 

Both the perfectly balanced tree and the simplicity of the setting caught my attention. It was posted by Andres Alvarez Iglesias. No variety listed.

This one stands in contrast to the photo above in so many ways. It was posted by Enrico Savini. His caption reads “These stolen photos in the night shadows…”

Here’s something about leaf sizes on collected trees that was news to me and just might be news to you too. But you’ll have to visit Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai blog to get the story. 

Speaking of Michael if you somehow haven't read his excellent book please do.

David Benavente posted this excellent video, but you’ll brush up on your Spanish if you want the whole story.

This Japanese white pine was posted by Bjorn Bjorholm (Eisei-en Bonsai). Here’s his caption… “Field-grown in Japan and imported to the U.S, this chuuhin-size JWP is grown on its own roots and possesses soft, feminine foliage, characteristic of the species.”

Some of Walter Pall’s pots. It’s always nice to have a good selection on hand so you can find just the right one. What you see here is, I think, more than good… one can dream.

Walter Pall again. It’s a Scots pine that’s was collected in Sweden in 2019.

I think we’ve shown this one before. It belongs to Mauro Stemberger. His caption reads… “Me & Buddha are ready for ARCO BONSAI 2021, and You????”

This was posted by Luis Vallejo at his Jardin de Bonsai. Looks like a Shimpaku.

Posted by Mariusz Folda, a bonsa, ceramic and landscape artist we’ve featured a few times over the years.

On a sadder note two weeks ago some family and I had reservations at a lodge not too far aways from these majestic giants. Three of our party had never seen them. For me it would have been my third time, but no such luck. Two days before we were scheduled we got a call from the lodge that the forest service had closed the area. The next day this fire broke out.

National Bonsai Exhibition

Today we have some excellent bonsai from the recent 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition, courtesy of Jonas Dupuich. Head over to Jonas' Bonsai Tonight to see more.


Limber pine

Washington hawthorn


Yaupon holly

Matt Reel's Rugged, Naturalistic Bonsai

Today we've got some outstanding bonsai from Matt Reel. Matt is one of the ever growing but still small group of North Americans who has apprenticed in Japan. 

A little swamped here right now, so captions this time. I think the trees (and the cat) speak for themselves anyway. Enjoy!

In Defense Of Solid Fertilizers

Bonsai Heresy illustration by the great Sergio Cuan. Sailor tattoos on bonsai should be commonplace.

We lifted this post from the inimitable Michael Hagedorn. Check out his books Bonsai Heresy and Post Dated as well as our fertilizer selection.

Fertilizer adventures are a given in most bonsai gardens. For years I used solid organic cakes, being the traditional solution, but found the birds unmanageable in their hunt for grubs underneath them. I wasn’t willing to use insecticide to control fly larvae, so birds, and lost fertilizer, were my fate for a while.

Now there’s a cat in the garden. It’s a quite well-fed one, with a dragging belly (and no piles of feathers anywhere), but she’s apparently a sufficient talisman of ‘Don’t you even THINK of flipping a cake off that pot!’ We’ve increased her pension plan.

Now I’m back to my preference, organic cakes.

If you’ve read Bonsai Heresy, you may remember one chapter where I write about fish emulsion being our primary fertilizer. But the most important sentence comes right after it: ‘If my situation were different, I’d likely use cakes for their multiple benefits and ease of use.’ Yet now all I get are questions about our fish emulsion schedule.

One of the fears of any technical book author is that the most important sentence will be missed, and the least important remembered. The fertilizing chapters of Bonsai Heresy are full of such awkward potential.

If possible, go with a slow release, solid fertilizer. Organic cakes if possible, maybe chemical pellets if not, or try fish emulsion or maybe a mild chemical liquid. We’ve all got different yard variables, and so our fertilizing choices will likely differ, too.

Slow release works great for our process. A little bit gets in every time we water. Equally cool, slow release fertilizers resist flushing out. We can flush liquid fertilizer out with watering, and rain can flush it out, but slow release solids keep fertilizer levels steady regardless. Infrequent use of mild liquids often ends in pale, weak looking bonsai. You can use liquids, just be aware it’s often a lot more work.

In general, I’d say if confused by anything you’re reading, don’t blame yourself, blame the author. It’s what I do.

Which Branches Go?

Starting point on an Ezo spruce that belongs to Michael Hagedorn. Can you improve this tree by selecting branches to remove?

Today’s post is borrowed from our friend Michael Hagedorn Crataegus Bonsai blog. We’ve offered a whole lot ‘which pot would you choose’ exercises over the years, but hardly any ‘which branch.’

We’d love to see your choices. If you’d like to share them and perhaps your reasons too, you’ll need to visit us on facebook. Give us a couple days after we post this before it goes up on facebook.

Choice A.

Choice B.

Choice C.

Choice D.

Choice E.

Here’s Michael’s caption for this one… “Just for kicks, here’s where we started with the Ezo in December, 2016.”

Here’s your link to Michael’s original Crataegus Bonsai post. And here’s one to an earlier styling of this tree by Michael.

Check out Michael's excellent books too!

Bonsai Heresy


Brilliant Bonsai by Kimura and Friends

This lovely Cotoneaster is from the34th Taikan-ten Bonsai Exhibitoin. No information on the artist or owner is given.

We’ve got a real treat for you today… some of Japan’s finest bonsai by some of the world’s most accomplished bonsai artists. Enjoy!

Japanese white pine from Masahiko Kimura’s collection. This and the other photos shown here were borrowed from Facebook. Scroll down for the link.

This Shimpaku planting is one of Mr Kimura’s famous artificial rock plantings. And yes, he made the rock too. 

Kimura’s famous Flying Dragon Shimpaku juniper. 

This magnificent monster Black pine with its ancient bark lives at Taisho-en Bonsai Garden. 

A little background action at sunset. It’s a Japanese black pine at Taisho-en.

This striking Needle juniper is at Taisho-en. 

Diospyros Kaki Japanese persimmon at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunk-en Bonsai Museum.

Another masterpiece at Shunka-en. This time it’s a Shimpaku juniper with outstanding flowing deadwood, a single living vein and a powerfully strong and compact crown which was no doubt designed to hold its own in contrast with the sheer power of the deadwood.

Here’s your link for today’s source.

Walter’s Much Traveled Larch Bonsai

This is Walter Pall’s lead photo from a series he posted on FB. It’s a European Larch (Larix decidua) with guy wires and a checkered past. The pot by Derek Aspinall.

Walter’s sad news for Larches. Here’s what Walter Pall wrote about larches and climate change and about this particular larch: “European Larch #17 - The climate in Europe is definitely changing. In many parts European larches cannot be kept well where it was possible a few years ago. In Italy and even some parts of Germany bonsai folks are struggling with the summer heat which can be disastrous for our larch. Therefore a few really good larches are available for interested enthusiasts. I have the great luck that my garden is a bit cooler than most. So some larches recently found their way into my garden. This one has a great past - it was styled to look like a very good modern bonsai. I personally prefer it to look like a very good larch from the mountains.l So I started to naturalize the tree slightly after planting it into the new container by Derek Aspinall.”

More by Walter on the tree featured here. 65 centimeters is about 25 inches, BTW.

In an earlier stage and a different pot. You can tell it’s winter. Larches are one of a handful of deciduous conifers that grow on planet earth. We can only guess about other planets. 

Another shot from an earlier stage and in yet another pot. If you compare this shot with the more recent one at the top, you’ll see the apex migrated a tad to the left in the top photo so that it’s directly over the center of the tree and the pot, while the apex here is bit off center to the right (more about this below). 

Needing a haircut. Pot looks familiar.

Wired out to the tips.

A close up of a nebari that needs some help. If you look at the shot at the top of this post, you’ll see the improved nebari. Walter lowered the left side of the nebari and raised the right side. This changes the planting angle so the apex is just a little farther left. A definite improvement all around. 

This shot is very similar to the one at the top. Just a different background and the foliage is a little more filled out.

Here’s your link to this tree on Walter's Facebook.

Bill’s Bonsai Treasures & the 7th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

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 for sure, but stunningly beautiful nevertheless. This lovely Siegen Japanese maple with scroll and companion is pretty good example of spring splendor. It belongs to Bill Valavanis, as does everything shown in this post.

Time to visit Bill Valavanis, one of our favorites when it comes to all things bonsai. And when I say all things bonsai, I mean pretty much whatever you might imagine. I won’t mention them all here (you can do your own research by visiting his site, his blog and his FB pages - links are provided below), but you can get a petty good idea from the photos.

One thing I do want to mention and emphasize is Bill’s U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions. The 7th is coming up this fall (September 11-12, we’ve got a link below for that too). A year late (thank you covid) but well worth the wait. Anyway, September will be here sooner than you think. Time to start making plans!

Meanwhile, here are a few photos I picked up off Bill fb pages.

Another one with scroll and companion. This time it’s an Oto hime Japanese maple.

Flashback to fall color. Another one of Bill’s famous maples.

An American larch that Bill collected in Canada 30 years ago.

The same larch in Bill’s tokonoma.

Bill’s online magazine.

From Bill’s print magazine now in its 100th year (just kidding, it’s really only been 30 some years).

What must it be like to have a collection like Bill’s. And this is only the tip of bonsaiberg.

Bill’s work space is often happily peopled. That’s Bill himself behind the forest.

Welcoming the spring!

Early spring maple buds.

Another Oto hime Japanese maple. I think Bill raised this one from a cutting. Once upon a time, we called them Koto hime. Now it’s Oto hime. 


TIME TO MAKE YOUR PLANS! Here’s you link.

And here’s your link to Bill’s website
Bill’s blog
Bill’s facebook pages
and to his magazine

There’s More Than One Harry in the UK. A Quick Backyard Bonsai Tour

Visited our old friend Harry Harrington today. Well, visited him on facebook (we’ll take what we can get). I’m always struck with how distinctive Harry’s bonsai are. I think it’s the earthy, wild uncontrived character that keeps me coming back. To illustrate what I mean, here are a bunch of seemingly random shots that Harry put up recently of bonsai in various stages of development and maturation.

I won’t bother to try to identify them, but if you really want to know, feel free to do your own research (link below). Be careful though, you just might be overwhelmed… Harry is one very prolific bonsai artist. Enjoy!

Harry’s famous Foundations of Bonsai. I think we’re the only source for the first edition.