47 Years – An Exercise in Patience & the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition


Here's what Bill Valavanis has to say about this tree: "Happiness is finding a new much needed bud for a future branch on my maple bonsai! Now, lets see if I can encourage its growth. I only had to wait 47 years for this bud......" The tree is Bill's famous old Shishigashira Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira'). According to The Art of Bonsai Project, Bill started training this tree from a five year old container grown grafted plant in 1969. 

Another photo of a famous bonsai here on Bark. Nothing to get too excited about. Except that 47 years is a very long time to wait for a single bud and it’s Bill Valavanis who did all that waiting and any opportunity to talk about Bill and bonsai is a good thing. Particularly Bill’s upcoming 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. America’s foremost ongoing bonsai exhibition…

…and an event not to be missed. Make your plans now! You can thank me for the reminder when I see you there (and if I forget your name, please don’t judge me too harshly… age and an already faulty memory are conspiring against me).

The dates are September 10-11. The place is Rochester NY. If you would like see your bonsai in the show, the submission deadline is June 1st.

The photo above is from Bill’s facebook feed. The photo below is from The Art of Bonsai Project.



A younger version of the same tree in full fall color.

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Wild & Wonderful Bonsai, but No Tanuki Please

610A couple things qualify this bonsai as unusual. First, as you can see, it's got all kind of lines looping and jutting in an almost chaotic fashion. But there's a method to the madness. All the loops and juts not only add interest and excitement, but they come together in a way that creates both balance and tension. Second is the fact that it's a Procumbens juniper. A species that you don't see that often as specimen level bonsai. You do see a lot of dwarf Procumbens as little beginners' trees here in north America, but that's another story.

Yesterday’s post (Tanuki Bonsai – Is It Cheating?) aside from being a little misleading (the question of cheating wasn’t addressed and the lead photo was distinctly not a tanuki) did feature a photo of a tanuki. This got me thinking about how, in the approximately 2,000 Bark posts over the last seven plus years, we’ve barely mentioned tanuki. In fact, a quick search shows only three posts, including yesterdays, that even mention the word. So, long story short, here’s one of them. It’s from November, 2013.

Bjorn Bjorholm is one of several talented Westerners (American in this case) that are currently apprenticing in Japan (remember, this was 2013). We won’t say much more about him than we already have (here, here, here and here), except that the photos you see here present a sampling of some trees that he’s been putting up on facebook (most don’t belong to him, but you might assume he has worked on some of them, if not all of them). The ones I chose are similar in at least on regard; they are all somewhat unusual (a couple may even qualify as eccentric), at least to my eye.


I picked this one because it looks like a Tanuki (Phoenix graft), but it's not (Bjorn is explicate about this). Other than that, it's a great tree that is distinguished by flowing lines enhanced by the open cascading crown.


Speaking of unusual...


I like this tree. It's unlike most bunjin style bonsai with its almost completely straight trunk. But then there's all that movement in the branches and the curlicued jin at the top. It's a Japanese red pine from Bjorn's personal collection.


Would you call this tree a bunjin? Whatever you call it, at least two unusual features stand out. There's that hard-to-miss loop in the middle and then there's that strange, convention-defying jin that juts out to the right. While we're on the subject of jins, the little hanging one on the left is just so sweet. Which begs the question...

All of the photos in this post were borrowed from Bjorn Bjorholm’s facebook photos.

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Tanuki Bonsai – Is It Cheating?


This colorful full bloom Bougainvillea bonsai has nothing to do with Tanuki (that's below). It belongs to Rick Jeffery and the photo was taken at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. It came to us via Bonsai Mary's newsletter.

Just two seemingly unrelated bonsai photos today. The common thread is Bonsai Mary (Mary Miller). Mary lives in Florida and writes mostly (but not exclusively) about tropical bonsai on her excellent blog. Mary also offers an equally excellent newsletter which you can sign up for on her blog.


This photo of Randy Clark's Juniper is from an article on Bonsai Mary about Tanuki bonsai (Phoenix grafts), that asks the question "Is it cheating." Rather than try to answer here, I'll encourage you to visit Mary's blog and see what she has say.


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More Dramatic Bonsai then Back to the Real World

tai7 It's the pot stupid (just kidding and no offense intended)! Actually, it's the pot and the tree. A perfect match. The artist is Yang, Kuo-Yin. The tree is a Malpighia glabra.

Up against it today, so we’ll show you three more trees from the 2007 Taiwan Bonsai Creators 10th Exhibition booklet (this time with black backgrounds) and tell you about our FREE Green Dream bonsai fertilizer giveaway (see below), and then back to the real world.



Three things jumped out with this one: the pot, the trunk and last but not least, the highly refined ramification (branching all the way out to the profusion of fine twigs). A labor of love, time and skill. The artist/laborer is Huang, Chen-Hui. The tree is a Celtis senensis.


And so it goes... another great tree and another exceptional pot. Wu, Tung-Tai is the artist. The tree is a Hibiscus tillaceus.


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Wild Horses, Dramatic Bonsai, but No Snow!


That's a tiny horse standing on a rock cliff. Which begs the question, do wild horses ever venture onto rocky cliffs, or do they avoid them? My guess is the later, but in this case it makes for a little more drama in an already dramatic and perfectly arranged scene by Li, Hung-Chien. The trees are Premna microphylla.

The other day we featured a dramatic juniper bonsai by a Mr. Chiu Chung Cheng, a Taiwanese bonsai artist. It had been a while since we’d shown any bonsai from Taiwan and if you know Taiwanese bonsai, you know just how spectacular they can be. So, now that my memory has been jogged, let’s go ahead and make a quick trip to Taiwan.

All the trees shown here (except the snowy one) are from the 2007 Taiwan Bonsai Creators 10th Exhibition booklet.


Colorful pots abound in Taiwanese bonsai. As do dramatic bonsai. The exposed root trunk can be accomplished by gradually removing more and more soil from the base or the tree. Of course, if you live in the tropics where new roots grow like crazy, the amount of time to achieve something like this is much shorter than if you live in a cold climate (it's snowing right now here in northern Vermont - see below). The artist is Huang, Ching-Chuan. The tree is a Ehretia microphylla.


Is that a dead rabbit in the dog's mouth? Dead rabbit or not, this is a very powerful bonsai in yet another colorful pot. Even in the tropics it takes a long time to develop such a massive trunk. The tree is a Eurya japonica and the artist is You, Pen-I.


Chinese (Taiwanese in this case) bonsai artists don't seem to be very concerned about things like spaghetti roots or crowns made of near perfect disks of foliage. Still, once you let go of any ideas about how bonsai should or shouldn't be, it's hard to deny that this is a spectacular tree in a beautiful pot. The artist is Lin, Ming-Shan and the tree is a Pemphis acidula.


Simple lines, simple pot. Still, there's something very unusual about the perfectly groomed elongated, pointed crown. And am I crazy to think that the tree is both static and dynamic at the same time (or just too much coffee this morning)? No matter what you think about that, there's no denying that the powerful trunk is full of character and that you just don't see that many baby blue bonsai pots. All this adds up to a very distinctive bonsai. The artist is Fang, Mao-Ti and the tree is a Pemphis acidula.

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Not exactly a dramatic tropical bonsai from Taiwan, but then they don't have snow on April 26th.

Half Price Bonsai Today Sale Ends Tonight

BT61We still have one of this rare collector's Bonsai Today issue. Most other issues are still in stock, but like this one, many are down to one or two.*

50% off Bonsai Today Sale ends tonight at 11:59 EDT
For years Bonsai Today was the premier English language bonsai magazine. Fortunately we still have a selection of back issues that feature how-to articles and world class bonsai from many of the world’s greatest bonsai masters (East and West). However, our selection is limited. Some issues are already gone and many others will be gone soon.*

Our Bonsai Aesthetics and Okatsune Tool Sales also end tonight (below).

bt94hornThis Hornbeam appears in Bonsai Today issue 94

* We sometimes buy back Bonsai Today collections from people, so issues that are out-of-stock now may or may not be back in stock later.



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Pots, Chops and a Spectacular Juniper Bonsai

leadtreeThis spectacular juniper belongs to  Mr. Chiu Chung Cheng. I found it on Ryan Bell's Japanese Bonsai Pots Blog.

This will make three posts in a row that feature photos from Ryan Bell’s Japanese Bonsai Pots Blog. The last two were new Bark posts, this one is from our archives (December 2012).

For a relative bonsai newcomer, I’m impressed with just how thoroughly Ryan Bell has jumped into the thick of the bonsai fray. I’m especially taken with his pot collection (many are for sale) and his recent (remember this is from 2012) photo journey through many of our bonsai nurseries here in the Northeast (part 1 and part 2).

All the photos in the post are from Ryan’s Japanese Bonsai Pots Blog.

Hand painted geometrics on porcelain by Owari Yuho.


Hand painted pot by Sano Daisukie.


Another hand painted pot by Sano Daisukie. Do you suppose that that's a Japanese black pine?


What kind of tree would you put in this pot? Ryan's caption says "Super rare Tojaku porcelain arabesque. Pristine porcelain. Beautiful painting."

A piece of a photo collage that Ryan calls his Chop, Seal and Signature Resource.



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Fukien Tea with Elephant & Other Wonders


That's a lot of tree for a pot that size. But then that's a commanding pot, at least in color and design. The pot and presumably the tree (Breynia officianalis) belong to Ruban Yu. This photo and the one just below are from The 11th Annual Shohin Pottery Competition, on Ryan Bell's Japanese Bonsai Pots blog.

Continuing from yesterday, here are a couple more trees from Ryan Bell’s Japanese Bonsai Pots blog. Both belong to Ruban Yu. The pots below also belong to Ruban and are from his website.

Here’s what Ryan has to say about the two bonsai shown here: “Ruban’s containers pair very well with bonsai, I’ve seen some fantastic examples from Taiwan.  That’s perhaps the best Fukien Tea Shohin I’ve seen (below), and I’m quite envious of the second tree (first here, above), as well, a collected Taiwan Native, Breynia Officianalis.  Give his website a visit to see more of his work here: Ruban Yu.


Fukien tea with elephant. The pot is by Ruban Yu. I don't know for sure about the tree (or the elephant for that matter).



One of dozens of Ruban Yu pots you can find on his website.



Most of Ruban's pots show scenes, though he has some with simple non-representational designs. Of all of those I saw, this one really jumped out.



Wanna buy a pot? Here's a sampling from Ruban Yu's website. If you put on your readers, you just might be able to make out the prices.



Here's the Breynia from above, before I cropped it for a closer look.


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Shamelessly Stealing Bonsai Pots (Trees too)


I found this Kumquat on Ryan Bell's Japanese Bonsai Pot blog. My apologies for the fuzzy photo. It's cropped from a larger photo that originally came from Bonsai Tonight. The full photo and Ryan's caption are below.

It has been a while since we borrowed (shamelessly stoled*) from Ryan Bell’s Japanese Bonsai Pot blog.  As you might expect, it’s a great photo source for some of the best bonsai pots in the world. We’ll offer a glimpse of a few here, with and without trees. If you’d like to enjoy a whole lot more, I suggest you pay Ryan a visit.


Here's Ryan Bell's caption: "The bonsai on the right is in a Tofukuji pot. The left bonsai is a kinzu(kumquat) and you may recognize it from Bonsai Tonight, Jonas Dupich’s wonderful blog." I just searched Kumquat on Bonsai Tonight and though I did find a lot of brilliant photos, this one didn't turn up.



Ryan's caption: "Another traditional style painting, of Ume in bloom.  The single offset bloom to the right of center creates an assymetry that makes the pot stand apart(and gives direction and flow to."

The pot just above and the two below were created by Kiyoumine Ogurayama. Here’s a little history courtesy of Ryan Bell: “Karahashi Homiyabi was born September 5, 1920, in Kyoto.  Before bonsai pottery, he helped with the family business making traditional Kyo-yaki ware.  He started his earnest apprenticeship as a potter/painter in 1970 under Heian Matsumoto, and gained his independence in 1975, whereupon he built a hybrid gas/electric kiln and took the potter name “Kiyoumine Ogurayama”.  Ogurayama entered his first big bonsai pottery exhibition, the National Masterpiece Kobachi, in 1981, and took the Grand Prize.  Since then, he’s won numerous awards and medals for his work.  He is now retired, and his son is the Ogurayama.



Ryan's caption: "Ogurayama creates some of the best winter scene painted containers I’ve seen, from any painter.  This piece is sublime, with just enough color to focus the attention on the figures crossing the bridge.  The demon feet are a great touch, and show his carving work in addition to excellent painting."



Here's an unusual pot and here's Ryan's caption:  "A really unique piece.  The top a very highly detailed 5 color figure painting, and the base a gold overglaze enamel. Astounding contrast."


pot4All the pots shown here (and many more in Ryan's Ogurayama post) are excellent, but I think this one is my favorite. Here's what Ryan has to say: "This piece throws me for a loop.  Sitting under a tree, we are looking out on a landscape, rather than looking in.  Like the finger crossing the frame in the previous piece, this shows something entirely different and more artistic in meaning and purpose than we see from most painters of bonsai containers.  Very different…. "

*According to the Urban Dictionary, stoled is “past tense of stole, usually used by slack-jawed yokkles.” I guess that’s me.


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