A Long Awaited Bonsai Event


This is the long awaited weekend of Robert Steven’s first International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale. For those of us who were unable to make it to Indonesia, here are a few photos that Robert posted to promote the event. Many of these have already appeared here on Bark, but some are new to us. Stay posted for some photos of the event itself.


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Robert Steven’s Mission of Transformation and all of our other Bonsai Books are now on Sale for 30% to 40% off. Don’t wait though, the sale ends in a few days.

Bonsai Detectives – Win a $100 Gift Certificate


(A) I found this spectacular olive online with no attribution or identification of any sort. I know I’ve seen before, but don’t remember where. Maybe you can help me. We’ll call it tree A.

The contest. If you want to skip directly to the contest, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

European olives are not a traditional bonsai variety. If you were to surmise that this is because they don’t occur in Japan or China, I think you’d be correct.

However, as is the case with many Western native trees, all this is changing (actually, it has been changing for the past forty years or so). Though I’m not so sure you’ll see many Western varieties in major Japanese bonsai shows for a while, you’ll certainly see people continuing to experiment with a wide range of trees that have only recently been introduced into bonsai consciousness.

Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), this rise of non-East Asian bonsai varieties is a good thing and in the case of Olives, a particularly good thing.


















The contest. Here’s what you have to do to win.
Identify the artist (or owners) of as many of the olive shown here as you can along with links that provide evidence.

Links. I’ll say it again; you must provide links as evidence.

The deadline. You have one week from today. Entries after 11:59pm EDT, October 23rd, 2014 will not be accepted.

What you’ll win. The person who correctly identifies the most artists or owners of the trees shown here (and provides links to each one), will win a $100 gift certificate to Stone Lantern. In case of a tie, the person who submits their answers first will be the winner.

Email me!
Your answers must be sent to me <wayne@stonelantern.com> (DON’T PUT YOUR ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!). The subject line should say $100 Contest.

Good luck!

Still Searching (Every Which a Way)


At a glance you might think this is just a stump with some foliage tacked on, but then as you look closer you notice the taper at the base and the way the texture of the wood creates movement and a feeling of age. Then there’s that little cave that enhances the story of time and place and natural forces that came together to help create this Dogwood by Franco Berti. From a post titled Reportage Vi Trofeo Bonsai e Suiseki Città di Poppi by Bonsai Romano.

Taking off for the other coast today, so I’m sure you’ll excuse me if I dig into our archives. This one originally appeared November 2012. It was titled Searching for the Unusual. The only things I’ve changed are the title (if you don’t know, don’t ask) and sizes of the images.

Searching for the unusual
I spend a lot of time looking for unusual bonsai. Bonsai that they might cause a shift in how we view the art of bonsai and even how we see and approach our own trees. If that’s asking too much, there’s always the hope that something happens, positive or negative (hopefully not neutral) and that some spark awakens something, if only for a moment.


I don’t think you’ll see trees that grow like this in nature, with such symmetrical back and forth movement. This looks like the result of the old clip-and-grow technique. You don’t see as much clip-and-grow these days as you used to, wiring is faster and allows for more variation, but it’s still an excellent time-tested way to shape a trunk. This elm by Claudio Tampucci is, like the tree above, from a post by Bonsai Romano.


Too unusual? Though there’s plenty to like about this old olive, especially the powerful trunk with its aged bark and expressive deadwood that piggybacks up from the first curve to the crown, I wonder if the heavy piece of deadwood at the top right isn’t a little too distracting. Or, maybe it’s an important part of the tree’s story? The tree belongs to Franco Berti (just like the one at the top of the post). I found it on ubibonsai.it.

An Outrageous Explosion


This perfect curlycue has to be among the all time greats when it comes to distinctive deadwood. The tree belongs to the very talented Minoru Akiyama. The photo appears just the way I found it, with the apex and most of the pot missing.

The art of carving bonsai deadwood was popularized by Masahiko Kimura and his custom power tools back in the 80s and 90s. Now a couple decades later amazing deadwood (and not so amazing deadwood) is everywhere with more and more outrageously wild examples popping up.

Though this explosion of jin and shari is not everyone’s cup of tea, it has undeniably altered the art of bonsai and provided a range of new techniques, tools and possibilities. And a fertile ground for discussion and argument.

Though there are several worthy  pioneers in the deadwood art, two of my favorites have long been Mr. Kimura and Francois Jeker. Now after enjoying Minoru Akiyama photos, it’s time to make room for a third.


Cropped and enlarged for a closer look.


Jin (deadwood branches), shari (deadwood on trunks) and less common sabamiki (hollow trunk). Though Junipers reign as the deadwood kings, you sometimes see distinctive deadwood on Pines.


Deadwood and more deadwood. This one may be Minoru’s signature tree.

It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast in textures than in these two photos (just above and just below).


An explosion of detailed carving.


Behind all great bonsai artists are a great collection of tools (you probably guessed that Minoru is the gentleman on the right).

Bonsai Book Sale. Because we are now offering all of our bonsai books at the ridiculously large 30% to 40% off, I thought you just might like to see a few books that directly relate to this post.


Not only is Francois Jeker a deadwood artist extraordinaire, he’s also an accomplished teacher and the author Bonsai Aesthetics 1 and 2.


Masahiko Kimura is aptly nicknamed ‘The Magician.’ 


Junipers and Pines. And because three of the trees above are Junipers and one is a Pine

Bonsai Crazy


I love these close-up deadwood shots that let you see every little scar and sliver. The tree is a big Yew that belongs to Mark Fields.

Here’s what Mark Fields has to say about this tree: “Uchi-San just finished up styling the big taxus. It took about 16 hours to complete. Ready for the big show now! We know the pot is too big for the tree. We will repot in spring.”

Mark Fields is an American bonsai artist and owner of Bonsai By Fields in Greenwood Indiana. Uchi-San is Bonsai Crazy Uchi (we’ll devote a whole post to him soon). The show that Mark is referring to is the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.



After Uchi-san’s magic touch. I look forward to seeing a photo after the tree is repotted into a smaller pot.


Before Uchi-san. I dug around Mark’s facebook photos and found this before shot. You might imagine that’s Mark in this hands-on profile and you’d be correct.


Bonsai Crazy Uchi. Crazy is his idea and there’s a good reason he’s wearing shades (stay posted).

Staying on Theme – New NABF Website


Japanese black pine by Dan Robinson. Dan is known for his dramatically wild collected trees from the American northwest (and Canadian far west). Obviously this Black pine doesn’t fall into that category, though a bit of that wild look is still there. It received a WBFF Certificate of Merit.

We’ve been featuring new websites a lot lately so we might as well stay on theme. All the photos in this post are from the new North American Bonsai Federation (NABF) website. NABF is affiliated with the World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF)..

One of the things the WBFF is known for is their annual Photo Contest (here’s the entry form for next year if you’d like to enter). All the photos shown here are past contest entries from North America, except one, last year’s Grand Prize winner from Japan.


I was just looking in vain for a Dave DeGroot tree to feature in a post we did last week on the new Pacific Rim website (I hope you’re not an English teacher). Now this elegant windswept beauty shows up. They don’t say the type tree, but given the exfoliating bark, I’m guessing it’s a Crape Myrtle.



The Grand Winner of the 2013 WBFF Saburo Kato Memorial Award. It’s a Shimpaku juniper that belongs to Naotoshi Takagi of Japan.


This profuse Bougainvillea belongs to Brian Donnelly from somewhere in Canada.


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A seasonally appropriate Trident maple by Randy Clark that won a Certificate of Merit.


They call this Certificate of Merit winner by Bernard Gastrich a Canadian larch, but we know a Tamarack here in norther Vermont when we see one (no offense intended to our neighbors just across the border, they are free to call them whatever they like). If you look closely you can distinguish the well aged bark from the nearly identically colored and textured pot.


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Another seasonally appropriate tree by Randy Clark. It’s the feature bonsai on the NABF homepage.

Horst’s Pots & A Rare Event


This is the Horst Heinzlreiter pot that caught my eye and inspired this post.

We’ve been featuring Horst Heinzlreiter’s bonsai pots here on Bark for several years now and since he is so productive and it has been a while, here are some of his newer offerings (there may be one or two older ones mixed in, but I suspect that’s okay).

The links above are from facebook which is where I found the pots shown here. Here’s a link to Horst’s website.





We don’t usually post on consecutive days, but I wanted to make sure you know about our Site Wide Sale and that it ends Wednesday night. I think we’ve only had two site wides in the last several years, so it’s a rare event. The discounts are 20% to 30% off everything. This includes items that are already discounted.

Rainbow & Bonsai

rbowThis great photo is from David Benavente’s facebook photos.

There’s a lot going on here so we’re going to lean on our archives once again. This one originally appeared in April 2013 (lightly edited).

I think David Benavente is one of our most accomplished bonsai artists. You can check out David’s bonsai on facebook and on his website. His Before and After (Antes y Despues) series is particularly good (and instructive), but really, I’d recommend spending time and exploring all of his photos. Many tell stories, some with a little humor thrown in.


Here’s one of David’s ‘Before and After’ series.


Here’s another from ‘Before and After.’ I cropped out the ‘before’ to get a closer view of the ‘after.’ You can see them together here.


Fall color. I’m always impressd with how well organized and neat David’s nursery looks (at least in the photos he shows us, though I suspect he’s not hiding anything).

Here’s another close-up of an ‘after.’ The original photo is below.


The photos shown here are just a small sampling of David Benavente’s bonsai. For more, visit him on facebook or his website.

Hands Down – Our New National Bonsai Website


How many trees do you know of that have been in trianing since 1625? It’s a famous Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) that was donated to the U.S. National Bonsai and Penjing Museum by Masaru Yamaki.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and the National Bonsai Foundation have a new and much improved website. If you don’t get any further than this, just do yourself a favor and pay a visit. I think you’ll like what you see.

I’ve long had a soft spot for our National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. After all, it belongs to us and like everything that we do collectively, it’s a reflection of who we are. For better or worse.

In this case better wins hand down. The good people at the National Bonsai Foundation have worked diligently in putting together, promoting and maintaining our world class collection. If I had a hat, it would be off.

Continued below…

northamericanA few of the many great trees in the North American collection. All laid out and ready to be clicked for larger views. The Japanese and Chinese collections are laid out the same way.


John Naka’s illustriously famous Goshin. From the North American Collection.

The following is from an email I sent to Felix Laughlin (a dedicated bonsai enthusiast and President of the National Bonsai Foundation) as part of a discussion we were having about the new website:

First: what an improvement! Of course there was a lot to improve, but still, the homepage immediately tells you where you are and where you can go. For such a large and well-detailed site, it’s a delight to navigate. I’m impressed.

For me, the most important part is the bonsai images. Again, access and layout are fantastic. All the trees are right at your fingertips and descriptions are just the right amount of information.

As you probably noticed, the images themselves are a mixed bag. Some are very good and some aren’t so good. I was just a little disappointed that they were expanded to only 544 pixels (not bad, but even bigger is better). Much of this has to do with the limitations of the originals.

Rephotographing all the trees with better lighting and a larger crisper format is a huge job. Still, something to consider for the best bonsai collection in north America.

To repeat myself, I’m impressed (My hat would still be off)


japaneseA colorful selection from the Japanese collection.


A Trident maple from the Japanese collection. In training since 1856. Just a baby when compared to the tree at the top.

Since I wrote that email last week I’ve spent more time on the site and have discovered more that I like – the bios in the community section are very well done and a great personal touch, and the attractive Spanish language section was a very pleasant surprise (there’s a Vietnamese language section also) to name just a couple. There are also a few more things that I think could be a little better – for example some pieces from the old site that have been patched in turn out to be dead ends (these are the exception, most of the navigation is excellent).

Enough said. On balance I’m delighted and in awe of Felix, Jack, Johann,  the rest of the dedicated staff and the people who have been diligently working to improve the website. We are fortunate to have them.

chineseA few trees from the Chinese collection.


A Sageretia thea and musician from the Chinese collection. You’ll know you’re in the Chinese pavilion when you see the little figurines.

An Impressive List of Famous Bonsai Artists


Zuiou 1996 Kokufu prize winner, Japanese Black Pine. From Peter Tea Bonsai (Peter is one of the headliners at the upcoming Bonsai Visions of the West). Here’s some of what Peter wrote about this famous tree: “A few months ago I was fortunate enough to work on this large Japanese Black Pine.  The work wasn’t major and involved thinning and pulling needles; standard stuff for Black Pines in the Winter.  Just getting a chance to work on this tree was an amazing feeling for me because it tied my past bonsai career to my ending apprenticeship…” (for more visit Peter’s blog).



The Golden State Bonsai Federation with ABS presents Bonsai Visions of the West. October 30th – November 2nd, 2014.

As long as we’re on the West Coast (Rim Shots), The Golden State Bonsai Federation along with the American Bonsai Society is sponsoring Bonsai Visions of the West (October 30th – November 2nd, 2014). The GSBF and the ABS are two of the strongest and most venerable Bonsai societies in North America with long histories of first rate bonsai programs, and this one promises to continue in that tradition.

The list of bonsai artists and teachers reinforces this promise. The headliners are Peter Tea, Kathy Shaner and David De Groot (Rim Shots again). But the names don’t stop there; an impressive list of other well known bonsai people are involve in the seminars and workshops (rather than list them all, you can see for yourself).

There’s still time to make arrangements and the weather in Sacramento at the end of October might just be perfect (they do need rain however, and plenty of it – maybe the deluge will start the day after the program ends).



Juniper procumbens ‘nana’ styled by Kathy Shaner. Most pro-nanas don’t have such well developed trunks. The foliage looks a lot like the ‘Green mound’ cultivar that you sometimes find in Southern California (and elsewhere).



Kathy Shaner and friend working on another Procumbens ‘nana’ (root-on-rock this time).


As long as we’re discussing Juniper and Pine bonsai, these two benchmark Masters Series bonsai books are on sale at Stone Lantern along with everything else at our New Site Wide Sale. 20% to 30% off everything.