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A New Bonsai Dream

A real eye catcher. If you've been around bonsai for a while you'll most likely start looking for and appreciating trees with unusual designs and dramatic features, like this one. However, it does beg a question... is that wood or a man made rock?

We're always on the lookout for unusual trees and we're also looking for new and creative ideas and expressions in general. Not that old isn't good (it is bonsai after all) but new ideas, new venues, new artists, new species for bonsai, etc, can create a little excitement. Especially if the chops are there

In this case it's Mauro Stemberger's ItalianBonsaiDream Museum, and his chops are there in spades. We've been following Mauro and his Italian Bonsai Dream for years, but this is the first we've seen or heard of his museum
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I won't guess if this is a Yew (they're an abundant tree in European bonsai). T

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Here's a link to our source, Mauro's facebook timeline, here's one to his Italian Bonsai Dream website and here's a youtube video of his Museum that you might like


Part of the Museum is in a greenhouse and there's an outdoors too


 Fresh spring pine candles on a coiled snake


The pine looks good and the beast on the right speaks for itself

Bon(sai) Fire

This is not the first time I've seen bonsai burning, but it is the first time I've seen one that was intentionally destroyed by fire

I once heard a story about someone that has been growing hundreds, if not thousands of bonsai without any dying. Ever! Based on my experience with tens of thousands of bonsai (I used to own a nursery and now have around 100 trees in pots), I'm skeptical. A dead tree is a learning experience and personally, I've learned a lot. 

In this case, the tree succumbed to disease rather than neglect (or from the wrong person watering while you're on vacation) and was intentionally destroyed The culprit was  Cedar Hawthorn Rust Gall Fungus, and the victims were Morten Albek and his prize winning Juniper procumbens. 

We won't go into too much detail here, we'll just show just you a few photos and invite you to visit Morten's Kisetsu-en blog for the full story


Nice tree. Such a shame it had to go


The culprit in all its terrible glory


Morten burning his baby


Ever practical, Morten puts the coals to good use


Tamarack (and Other Wild Larches) Make Great Bonsai

American Larch (Larix laricina - aka Tamarack) by 'Larch Master' Nick Lenz. Unlike the Western U.S., we don't have that many natives here in the Northeast that are suitable for bonsai. But we do have our lovely larches. One of the best

Buds just started breaking here about ten days ago and I've been digging, planting and transplanting ever since like a mad bonsai fanatic. Almost all are American larches (Larix laricina - aka Tamarack), with a few others sprinkled in. I'll get around to taking and posting some photos someday. Meanwhile, we'll lean on a couple genuinely talented bonsai artists


European larches (Larix decidua) in training by Francois Jeker. If you recognize the name, it might be because Francois is the author of three excellent bonsai books (Bonsai Aesthetics, Bonsai Aesthetics 2 and Bonsai Deadwood)


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


Inspiration for your bonsai. The photo originally came from Bonsaimania.

Bonsai in All Their Bare-Skinned Glory

 This magnificent Japanese beech (Fagus crenata) is from this year's Kokufu Exhibition. I cropped the original (just below) for a closer look

We can't stay away from the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition for long. Just in case you are new to this, Kokufu is an annual bonsai exhibition that's held in Tokyo in the late winter of each year. This year's was the 93rd. There was a break during WW2, but otherwise they occur like clockwork
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All the original (full size) photos shown here are borrowed from Kazematsu Bonsai 

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One of the advantages to winter bonsai exhibitions is you get to see and appreciate deciduous trees in all their bare-skinned glory, including the all important line and taper that flow all the way from the base of the trunk out to the tips of each tiny twig. Getting this just right is the result of years of skillful trimming 


 Stewartia (S monoadelpha) are renowned for their clean lines. strong nebari and especially their lovely reddish exfoliating bark



If you see a root-over-rock bonsai in Japan, chances are it's a Trident maple (Acer buergerianum). This one is no exception  


The Future of Bonsai?

This little gem looks a lot like a Japanese white pine

If your seniority has dawned or is getting close, you probably realize that sooner or later you may need to downsize your bonsai collection. If not in numbers, then at least in the size trees you can work with. 

The older we get, and we all get older (until we don’t), the harder it is to work with and especially move larger trees
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Like Wednesday's post, today's photos are borrowed from Michael Bonsai. A near endless source of quality photos of Japanese bonsai. No species or owners are given


Though experience has taught me that guessing is a dangerous game, still, this one looks a lot like a Trident maple

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Also, it’s not unusual to move into smaller housing after retirement, or at least eventually, which often means there’s less room for bonsai.

Time to think Shohin, or even Mame!


I think I recognize this one, but we'll leave the guessing to you 


Nice pot. It's quite common to see small trees in decorative pots



Looks like a Needle juniper




One Finger Bonsai and Other Tiny Treasures

You don't see too many one finger bonsai. When they're this small they can't support much in the way of branches and leaves. Just a little trunk and three leaf stems in this case. And then there's the colorful little pot, which is so tiny that it doesn't overwhelm. Large pots with bright designs like this are few and far between

Today's photos are borrowed from Michael Bonsai. A near endless source of quality photos of Japanese bonsai. No species or owner are given


I like this little Japanese maple with its perfect pot, moss and fresh new leaves. It's tiny too, but just a little too big for one finger 


Bigger still and a whole lot more trunk, branching and leaves. It's amazing what just a little more soil can provide for


I'm still in the throes of repotting (mostly larches and nothing nearly as small as these), so we'll keep this post short and sweet, just like the trees



Transplanting Tips for Healthy Bonsai

A freshly transplanted Black pine. The photo is from our Masters’ Series Pine book

For most of you spring transplanting has come and gone, but here in northern Vermont we're in the thick of it 

I've read and heard different opinions on top pruning when transplanting. Some Japanese growers don't recommend much if any; top pruning can add stress to a tree that's already stressed from transplanting. Conversely, I've read that taking equal amounts off the top and bottom lessens the load on the roots while they are recovering. 

Mostly I try to err on the light side (or in some cases none at all), though some trees that are freshly dug from the ground are so overgrown that top pruning is essential 


We recommend these two items with every tree you transplant. Myconox, which is mixed into the soil, helps replace the all-important mycorrhizal fungi. Dyna-Gro K-L-N is a rooting compound that is formulated to reduce stress and encourage growth. I apply it with the first watering and about once a week for the next couple months



Pieces of the pie. From Bonsai Today issue 39
(we'll show the 'after' photo in tomorrow's post)

The technique shown here is particularly good if you want to replenish the soil while leaving some of the roots undisturbed. Doing this lessens stress and hastens recovery and is often used in the fall when recovery time can be short. Especially in cold climates

This technique is useful when you want move a tree from a larger to a smaller pot, or into a pot that has a different shape. It also works when you want to replenish some of the soil and then put the tree back into the same pot and is particularly useful for repotting forest plantings.

If the roots aren’t well enough established to hold the soil together when you take the tree out of the pot, then this technique won’t work


Before. A well developed Satsuki azalea in the wrong pot

Cutting corners. Because you’re going from a rectangular pot
to a round pot, you start by cutting off the corners


Removing the bottom roots

In almost all cases, you want to remove the lower roots. This encourages roots to spread out rather than grow down and because the tree mirrors the roots, it encourage the above ground growth to spread, which is what you usually want with bonsai, especially if you want a good nebari. Another reason to remove the bottom roots is to make more space to replenish the soil

Stay posted for the second half of this transplanting story...


Kokufu Bonsai Forest & Other Multi Trunk Plantings

 Close up of a forest planting at this year's Kokufu Exhibition. The original photo is just below. This is the only photo in this series where the species  is not listed

It's Kokufu time again. This time it's four multiple trunk plantings. All were posted on fb by Kazematsu Bonsai


This first planting is a true forest planting where each tree is separate (no shared root systems). The dominant tree is planted toward the front which in contrast to the much smaller trees further back and to the sides gives a feeling of great depth and breath. You might imagine that the first tree once stood alone in a large meadow and over the years seeded the others 


At first glance I thought this Needle juniper (Juniperus rigida) was a sinuous root planting, but I can't tell for sure, as it's possible that the trees are all on their own roots like the planting above. The large piece of deadwood which appears to be part of the main tree is an unusual feature in a multi trunk planting



 We'll call this rugged Trident maple (Acer buergerianum) a single tree with a three trunks, though it's possible that they were originally two or three trees that were fused together (there's a suspicious line between the two on the left)



This Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) looks like a sinuous root style, though it's possible that a single tree or two were added for interest (the little one on the far left looks like it could have been)   


Delicate Bonsai Beauty Through the Seasons


I don't know what this delicate beauty is. Nor do I know who it belongs to or who posted it (though we do have  photos and a link to his fb pages below). Let me know if you can read it


Here's a screen shot from the the top of the fb post 
where these photos came from.
The machine translation was no help at all

Just got the following message from Jim Gracie 3 hours after posting... "my Korean language understanding is very limited but the individuals name is Bong Sung Tae. I can only make out the last two words in the description - Jeju (island?) cherry blossom. 





Spring Bonsai Flowers by Haruyosi

We don't usually show trees in growing pots, but these four quince in bloom are too good to pass up. Haruyosi will remove the flowers before he puts them in bonsai pots (see below)

We haven't visited Haruyosi for a while. He's one of our favorites and there's no better time than spring to reintroduce him. All the pots shown here are also his. 


The evidence


 Four more quince almost ready for potting


Here's an already potted quince in display at a spring bonsai show in Japan. Nice pot too, also by Haruyosi. I don't think he makes his own stands and slabs, but I wouldn't be surprised


You don't see that many Forsythia bonsai


 Flowering cherry. An iconic tree in Japan (but you already knew that)


Another flowering cherry


One of Haruyosi's pots. As with his bonsai, his pot production is impressive. In numbers and quality

Want more? You can find Haruyosi on fb