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Suthin's Shohin Bonsai Gems, plus 1

I cropped this one for a close look at the trunk and deadwood. It belongs to Suthin. The original is just below

We can't go too long without visiting our old friend Suthin Sukosolvisit. One of our very best bonsai artists and friend to countless bonsai lovers (and no doubt others as well)

I picked these small gems (plus the larger Trident below) off Suthin's fb timeline. No varieties are given, but at least we know who the artist is 


The uncropped original. Looks like a field grown Shimpaku juniper that had the twists put in when it was still young and pliant


Looks like a Japanese black pine. There are several ways to identify black pines. One of the best is counting the number of needles in a bundle - two for black pines - though it's not foolproof as there are other two needle pines


I won't guess this time


Not the first time Suthin has used an apple for perspective. It wasn't that long ago that some people used cigarette packs. Looks like it could be another black pine


Looks like this old Trident maple is swallowing its rock. A bit like a python with prey, only much slower and the rock doesn't really care


Koji's Before & After Bonsai


Before and After juniper by Koji Hiramatsu. Koji doesn't say what kind of juniper it is, but it looks like it could be Shimpaku that was field grown to look like a yamadori (bonsai collected from the wild)

I've never counted, but my best guess is we've featured at least two thousand before and after bonsai posts in the ten plus years we've been blogging. So let's make it at least 2001 with this radical transformation by Koj Hiramatsu


Before. It always helps to start with good stock. In this case the multiple trunks and elaborate branching provide plenty to work with


After. When I first glimpsed it, this radically transformed tree jumped out at me. Koji could have taken a conservative path with a more serene look, but he chose to go for something daring by creating, exposing and enhancing so much wild looking deadwood

For more before and after and other bonsai delights, you can visit Koji Hiramastsu on fb

As long as we're on the topic of Junipers, have you seen our Masters Series Book, Growing and Styling Juniper Bonsai?


Urban-dori Bonsai with Bjorn Bjorholm

Before and after on one of two urban-yamadori spruce featured by Bjorn Bjorholm. We'll feature the second soon. Stay posted

These photos are from a 2016 newsletter by Bjorn Bjorholm. Two before and after Bird's nest spruce were featured (we'll feature the second one soon) Here's what Bjorn wrote at the time... "Both are Spruce owned by Steve Ohman in Ohio.  Steve has an impressive collection of both imported and native US bonsai, but these two Spruce really stand out amongst his trees.  Despite appearing to be old, gnarly yamadori collected somewhere in the Rockies, both are in fact Birds Nest Spruce that Steve himself collected several years ago from a home landscape. Each tree took about a half a day to design and style.  With time, both will develop into great bonsai."


Before. Bird's next spruce (Picea abies var Bird's nest). Picea abies are commonly called Norway or European spruce. Though they are native to Europe, the Bird's nest variety has become a popular feature in North American gardens




 After. I cropped the original for a closer look at the trunk

The photos in this post are all taken from an article by Bjorn

You can see much more from Bjorn on his Eisei-en website and on fb 

Time to Get a Move On... The 42nd Midwest Bonsai Exhibition Is Now


Best of Show at the 42nd Midwest Bonsai Exhibition. It's a Rocky Mountain Juniper that belongs to Tim Priest. I cropped the original photo (below) for a closer look

 If you are anywhere near Chicago, you still have time to get your lovely self over to the 42nd Midwest Bonsai Exhibition. You can thank me later...

Here's something I lifted from the endlessly energetic and omnipresent Mr Bill Valavanis... "The 42nd Midwest Bonsai Exhibitionis being held on August 16-19, 2019 at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, hosted and organized by the Midwest Bonsai Society. Nearly 100 bonsai from across the Midwest and beyond are on display."
Continued below...


One my favorites. Of course I'm not there (had to mow my lawn), so all I have are Bill's photos (the next best thing)

Bill continued from above...
"The exhibition continues on Saturday and Sunday with workshops and and the world premier of my newest lecture/demonstration “Bonsai Refinement, Evaluation & Display Preparations” on Saturday at 1pm. Come, join us on Saturday and Sunday to view beautiful bonsai, meet and make new friends as well as to learn from the workshops and demonstration. Also, you can add to your bonsai collection from supporting the vendors. The Chicago Botanic Garden is huge with many gardens, plant collections surrounding scenic ponds and vistas. It’s worth a visit alone to see horticultural beauty and perfection."

Stay posted for more tomorrow. Or even better visit Bill's blog


Another of my favorites. Part of the reason I like it is because it's a Boulevard cypress, and I know just how tedious they are to keep clean. Aside from that it's a strong forest bonsai anyway


As long as we're featuring my favorites, this one is definitely worth a look


I like this one too. Good full cascading bonsai aren't all that common 

Sweet. I think it's a Butterfly Japanese maple 


The original photo fo Tim Priest's winning Rock mountain juniper


Banzai! or Bonsai - No Matter Where Yew Go...


This muscular Japanese yew resides at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan. Though we can't see the back, it's possible that the single live vein in the front is the only support for the large, lush crown. And just in case you didn't notice, that's a very distinctive jin...

No matter where yew go, there yew are. Okay, this is really bad pun though it is a simple truth that might be summed up something like... If you're dissatisfied, even if you win the lottery you'll still be dissatisfied. It's from from an obscure movie from a long time ago, called Buckaroo Banzai* (speaking of puns...)

One of the great things about yews is, because they grow almost anywhere and are a favorite foundation planting in landscapes, it might be possible to find good ones for bonsai in your own front yard (suburban Yamadori). Or someone else’s front yard (don’t get caught!… just kidding)
Continued below...


Rugged tree, rugged pot. Like the tree above it's a Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). It belongs to Walter Pall. It's 55cm (21.5") high and over 100 years old. The pot is by Walter Venne. The tree was originally collected in Korea

Continued from above...
Another great thing about yew is their cinnamon bark and their bright yellow green new leaves that pop out in the spring. And they take to bonsai culture like fish to water
The only downside is the wood is exceptionally hard. This makes carving a challenging task. Even cutting larger branches can tax (whoops!) your tools.

*The whole title is The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonsai Across the 8th Dimension 


Another Sad Story of Stolen Bonsai

Even though this Shimpaku juniper was stolen in Japan, it can serve as a reminder to protect your bonsai
 It's always a sad story when bonsai are stolen. The chances of recovery are low and the condition of the trees, if and when they are recovered is seldom good.
In this case, it was the masterpiece Shimpaku* pictured above and below (along with other unidentified bonsai) that was stolen from the Bonsai Garden in Kawaguchi city, Saitama Prefecture (details below). 


Cropped for a closer look

Here's the machine translated text with this tree (I cleaned it up into passable English)... "Please spread the word. Some Bonsai From The Bonsai Garden in Kawaguchi city, Saitama Prefecture have been stolen including the tree in the photo. This tree has been selected for the 88th Japanese-Style Bonsai Exhibition*  The pot is line corner (the same as the picture), and the height is about 85 cm.
It seems that the theft and damage have already been submitted to the police. If you are aware of this true, please contact us at the bonsai garden below, and we hope you will be able to help us."
Rakuen Rakuen (Lord of yasushi imure) 048-295-1550
Bonsai theft is ongoing. Everyone, please take care of the management of your bonsai."

I found the photo and translated text on Yoshihiko Moriyama's timeline

*Could the exhibition they are referring to be Kokufu, the most famous bonsai exhibition in the world? How many others have been around for 88 years?

Pure Bonsai Muscle & an American Bonsai Pioneer at the Huntington

Pure muscle and billowing clouds. The sign says Shimpaku, but I wonder if it's a California juniper with Shimpaku foliage grafted on. I can't quite read the name of the person (Mike ?) but I can read Golden State Bonsai Federation

I borrowed today's photos from Brian Van Fleet. Brain took the first two at the Huntington Museum. The others are trees from his own collection. This is a first for us, we've never featured Brian's photos or his trees. We look forward to more


I can read the sign on this one. It's a Foemina juniper that belonged to by Ben Oki, a giant of West Coast, American and world bonsai who passed away last year 

Here's something from a post we did in February, 2018... "RIP Ben Oki, respected and loved American Bonsai pioneer, teacher and friend to countless bonsai enthusiasts. Here’s part of a post from Verso, the blog of the Huntington Botanical Gardens where Mr Oki was curator of the bonsai collection (written before Ben Oki’s passing)…  “When Ben Oki first saw a bonsai tree as a curious youngster of six, he asked his father what bonsai was. “It’s something people do when they retire,” his father explained. Luckily for the world of horticulture, Oki didn’t wait that long to start.

The curator of the bonsai collection at The Huntington, Oki is one of the world’s leading masters of the art of bonsai. Trained under the tutelage of legendary master John Naka, Oki has devoted more than four decades to the art and has received so many honors as a teacher himself that several prestigious awards bear his name, including the Ben Oki International Design Award sponsored by the Bonsai Clubs International… 


Nice tree. It and the two just below belong to Brian Van Fleet. Here's Brian's caption... "Hawthorn, the back side...kinda like the dark side of the moon. Suishoen pot, vintage Tokoname"


Brian's "Shohin Itoigawa Shimpaku in a Bigei pot"


Brian again... "Sumo Shohin trident maple, Ino Shukuho pot...the star of the show" I like both the tree and the pot, but I think I would like the combination better if the pot were just a tad smaller. 

The photos shown here are all from Brian Van Fleet's fb timeline

Before & After Bonsai - Another Dynamic & Powerful Yamadori by Walter Pall

After. European spruce (aka Norway spruce - Picea abies) by Mother Nature with Walter Pall

Welcome to Bark post number five thousand on Walter Pall's bonsai (wildly exaggerated to make a point about just how prolific Walter is). But even at a more realistic five dozen or so, what we show of Walter's bonsai is just a tiny sampling of what he has put up almost daily for years

This one, which was collected in Italy in 1992, is part of a string of European spruce that Walter is currently featuring. All are dynamic old yamadori in his signature naturalistic style 


Before and after



Before before. Looks innocent enough. The larger spruce behind might make you wonder why this one grew so low and wide. I suppose being in the open has some part in it and maybe it's sitting on ledge with only a thin layer of soil, causing the roots and then the top to spread. You might notice the larch it seems to be embracing. To the best of my knowledge there is only one species of larch in Western Europe, which is appropriately called European larch (Larix decidua)


We don't want to spoil all Walter's surprises so we'll skip ahead. You can visit his timeline for more photos


I cropped this one for a closer look at the trunk and other details. Apologies for the fuzz 

Make Your Bonsai Look Like a Tree

When I first saw this photo, John Naka's oft repeated comment, "Make your bonsai look like a tree" came to mind. Not only does this one fit the bill, but it does it with natural elegance and beauty that you don't see everyday

John Naka is known for many things, including the saying "Make your bonsai look like a tree." It's good advice though some bonsai look more like trees than others. In fact, some are so stylized and abstract, that they might only suggest a tree, if even that. But this one (above and just below) is easy to imagine as fully grown tree. 

By the way, this is not meant to be a criticism of highly stylized bonsai, just an observation about one bonsai


Cropped and enlarged for a closer look at the textured trunk, nebari and primary branches. I found the original photo on Hendra Mawan's timeline. I think the tree is his, but until a few hours ago I'd never heard of him and it's not really clear from the caption (translated from Malay)



Learning how to visualize and sketch bonsai is an excellent way to sharpen your eye and improve your trees. Here's your link if you're interested


Quality Bonsai by a New (to us) Bonsai Artist

This Mastic Tree (Pistacia lentiscus) belongs to Andrija Zokic. I cropped the original photo (it's just below) for an up-close look at the trunk

We're always on the lookout for bonsai artists we haven't featured before. However, finding quality photos of bonsai that suit our taste and that are attributed and identified isn't always that easy

What I'm trying to say is that we're excited about a new (to us) artist whose trees are unique, express quality craftsmanship and posses an intangible quality that moves us (I'm the only one here, just a little wary of the incessant first person pronoun). Anyway, hIs name is Andrija Zokic and he lives and practices bonsai in Croatia


The uncropped original


Mock privet (Phillyrea latifolia). Looks like this one is slated for repotting at a slightly adjusted inclination


Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera)


Andija's caption for this one reads "Mastic Tree No.03 in retro pot by Horst Heinzlreiter." 


Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera). You probably noticed that Andrija likes guy wires


 Mahaleb Cherry ( Prunus mahaleb). I cropped this one for a close look at Andrija's carving. And again more guy wires. Speaking of, our tie pots are built for training with guy wires

For more on Andrija's bonsai, you can visit him of fb. Or just stay posted, we plan on a followup soon


Tie Pots