Elevated Company, Circling Back from Venezuela to Taiwan


The sheer size and power are of this magnificent tree place it elevated company. It's a 50cm (20") tall Ficus microcarpa by one of our favorite South American bonsai artists, Nacho Marin of Venezuela. The pot is by John Evans from the USA.

Though this post was inspired by Nacho Marin’s powerful Ficus (above) and though Nacho is South American, when we start looking at Ficus bonsai we seem to circle back to Taiwan. In this case, much of the elevated company (mentioned in the caption above) comes from that island nation. It doesn’t hurt that they have the right climate for Ficus, but beyond that, their bonsai tradition and bonsai talent are simply exceptional.



This must be one of the greatest Ficus in the world, which is really saying something considering how many great ones there are. It's by Min Hsuan Lo (Min doesn’t give the variety, but does say there are details in his book, Bonsai Journey. You don’t see many defoliated Ficus either (they are broad leaf evergreens, so whenever you see one denuded of leaves, you know that it has been recently defoliated). The absence of leaves allows you to better see the structure and fine branching, both of which are exquisite. I like the pot too. Its dark reddish-brown helps bring out the texture of the trunk and also highlights the tips of the twigs.


Even without the caption there’s no doubt this powerful tree is a Ficus. If there are two bonsai varieties Taiwan is famous for, it’s Ficus and Taiwanese Junipers. Here’s the original caption: 2014, with Chinese-style bonsai exhibition award category: gold medal species: Ficus bonsai collection: Liu Jingyan



Ficus microcarpa by Huang,Ching-Chi. We originally featured this magnificent bonsai in a post titled Fantastic Trees, Fabulous Pots. I guess you can see why. It originally appeared in the 2008 Taiwan Bonsai Creators Exhibition booklet which appears on Bonsai Shari Si-Diao, Cheng, Cheng-Kung’s website.



The only English language book on Ficus bonsai. One of dozens of excellent bonsai books now 25% off our already discounted prices at Stone Lantern.

Sweet Bonsai – Still Fat and Happy

harupyracoccineaSweet tree, phenomenal pot. The little tree is a Pyracantha coccinea Roem by Haruyosi. The pot is also by Haruyosi. All the trees and pots in this post are by Haruyosi.

Yesterday it was Flowing quince bonsai by Haruyosi. Today it’s Pyracantha bonsai by Haruyosi. Five trees, two varieties. All flowering.

There are two common names for Pyracantha: One is Pyracantha (it’s not that often the Latin name and common name are identical) and the other is Firethorn. Either way, and as you can see, they make good bonsai (especially miniature bonsai); both the leaves and flowers are small and they produce abundant small berries late summer and fall (none here, it’s spring flowers now).

Two possible drawbacks: Pyracantha have thorns and are susceptible to Fire blight. If you can avoid or at least control the blight, and don’t mind working around the thorns, you might let yourself be inspired by Haruyosi and give Pyracantha a try.


harupyra copy

Pyracantha angustifolia in a striking yellow pot.



Another angustifolia.



And yet another angustifolia.



 I think this one is also angustifolia.



Angustifolia flowers up close.



That's Hotei. Still fat and happy. Pot by Haruyosi.

Wild Horses, Tiny Trees


This sweet little quince with its brilliant tiny flowers belongs to Haruyosi. It's a safe bet that he also made the pot.

It has been a couple years since I first stumbled upon Haruyosi and his delightful tiny trees and pots and though I’m usually loath to use the term bonsai master (once you introduce the term, pretty soon you see even moderately accomplish bonsai artists called bonsai master and that just ain’t right), if I were to use it, Haruyosi would be a good place to start. Or, more precisely, Shohin Bonsai Master. While were throwing the term around, we can add Master Bonsai Potter. No problem.

All the shohin bonsai shown here are flowering quince from Haruyosi’s facebook photos. They represent a small fraction of his shohin bonsai and bonsai pots.



If you spend some time looking at Haruyosi's bonsai you'll notice how attentive he is to harmonizing (contrasting?) the pot and flower colors.



Haruyosi makes his own pots and doesn't always need flowers to create a masterful display.



Wild horses and a wild little tree.



It's not that often you see a flower that dwarfs the pot.



Though you don't see that many yellow bonsai pots elsewhere, Haruyosi often uses them. Same goes for red.



Quince flowers and buds.



Want to find out more about tiny bonsai? This detailed guide to Shohin bonsai is on special for only 12.00 (actually only 9.00 with our 25% off Book Sale).


Great Close Ups, the Tallest Tree in the World, the Artisans Cup and other Bonsai Wonders


It's not that often that you'll find a tall tree like this with great lower branching. When you do, and in the right hands, the result can be striking and quite unique. It's a Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa) that belongs to Ryan Neil (Bonsai Mirai). All the photos in this post are from Ryan's facebook photos.

One of the things I like about Ryan Neil’s photos are his close-ups. It doesn’t hurt that his trees are phenomenal and so well photographed in the first place. But then to show such vivid close-ups invites you in closer. Like you are there in the studio.

We can’t mention Ryan Neil (or Michael Hagedorn or any one else who lives in or around Portland, Oregon) without mentioning the upcoming Artisans Cup. September 25-27th, 2015 at the Portland Art Museum. See you there.



Close up. Here's Ryan's caption: "Sub alpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa collected in the Washington Cascades. The dead top and contorted branches tell of the rugged alpine environment."



Ryan's caption: "Colorado Blue Spruce. Picea pungens. Collected from the Rocky Mountains. | This tree is nostalgic for me, having grown up in Colorado. Spruce are part of the landscape of my childhood."



A piece of trunk a piece of pot. A different kind of close-up. Here's Ryan's caption: "Bon-sai means "tree in tray" in Japanese. The container is just as vital to a composition as the tree itself. When a tree and container are well-matched, the union is transformative, as with this pot by Austrian ceramicist Horst Heinzlreiter and its Colorado Blue Spruce."



This one is a Douglas fir. Ryan's caption is below.



"The Douglas Fir is hypothesized to have been the tallest tree in the world, even taller than the Redwood. But no one knows for sure because the old growth Douglas Firs were all cut down before anyone had the tools to accurately measure. This stunted Doug Fir likely lived back when those Giants stood tall."



That's Ryan posing for a professional photo with a one of the most amazing root-on-rock plantings I've ever seen. Here's his caption: "In the studio today with @hornbecker shooting for the Artisans Cup promotional material." He doesn't say what the tree's are.


TAC_web_mirai_0 copy

Because you probably didn't read the text (above) here's an Artisans Cup graphic to catch your attention.

Bonsai Serpent Hiding in Plain Sight


The serpent is hiding in plain sight. This magnificent tree (with or without the serpent, though I prefer with) belongs to Enrique Castaño, who has this to say about it: "This Terminalia (ucarillo) got the name Kukulcan from the Mayan mythology, Kukulcan was one of the serpents with feathers, kind of like a dragon. Soon I will show Quetzalcotl another more impresive Terminalia."

The more I look at the tree above, the more I notice how well the elements all tie together. The way the color of the pot mirrors the bark and the reddish tips of the leaves. The way the bark undulates and flows from the base up into the serpentine deadwood which picks up the movement and carries it up the tree where the bark picks it up again as it flows into the foliage which sits so relaxed and well balanced. And then there’s the sheer power of the trunk… (we’ll blame it on too much coffee this morning).

All three of the trees shown here belong to Enrique Castaño (facebook say Castano but his book say Castaño – see below). According to facebook, Enrique is originally from Mexico and now lives in Bali, Indonesia (Okay. Turns our he’s still in Mexico. Never trust anything on the web. Facebook or Bonsai Bark). Enrique is the author of Botany for Bonsai (see below).



Like the tree above, the deadwood in this Buttonwood has a lot going on.



Another Buttonwood. This one is the cover tree for Botany for Bonsai.



Enrique's Botany for Bonsai. Currently 25% off our already discounted price, as are all of our books.

Dazzling Death Threats

Satsuki_NikkoThis Nikko Satsuku Azalea is from the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum's Japanese collection. It was donated by Masayuki Nakamura. 

This post features three azaleas from the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum and a book about azaleas. Specifically, Satsuki azales. Satsuki means fifth month in Japanese. We’ll let you figure out why they call them that …

This and the next paragraph were lifted directly from Wikipedia:
Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, particularly sections Tsutsuji (evergreen) and Pentanthera (deciduous). Azaleas bloom in spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks. Shade tolerant, they prefer living near or under trees.* They are part of the Ericaceae family.

In addition to being renowned for its beauty, the Azalea is also highly toxic—it contains andromedotoxins in both its leaves and nectar, including honey from the nectar.[4] The Azalea and Rhododendron were once so infamous for their toxicity that to receive a bouquet of their flowers in a black vase was a well-known death threat.


This one is a Korin Satsuki. Like the magnificent Nikko Satsuki above, it is part of the world-class Japanese collection at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.


Imperfect photos of great bonsai are not that unusual. In this case, part of the problem is that I blew it up to about twice the original size. The other part is the trunk is too dark; but when bonsai are in bloom it's about the flowers anyway. This is yet another stunning Satsuki azalea on display at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

The only English language Azalea bonsai book in print. Speaking of, all of our books are now 25% off at Stone Lantern.

We borrowed all four photos shown here (including the book cover just above) from a post we did exactly two years ago tomorrow.

*Azaleas are a borderline plant here in northern Vermont, with only a couple species standing a chance of surviving our winters. Even though they are always listed as shade tolerant, they do best here with some direct sunlight, as our season is shorter and our summer sun is generally less intense than in hotter climates.

Your Chance to Own Top Tier Tree from the Private Collection of a Famous Bonsai Artist

suthinmapleOne of North America's favorite bonsai artists is adding more bonsai to the public offering of some favorites from his private collection, including this prize winning Japanese maple. In his own words: "I have decided to let go of one of my favorite Japanese Maples. Some of you may recognize it from 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition 2012* I have enjoyed it for over 20+ years. It's now time to move into a new home. If you are seriously interested, please call me." 
*Ever modest, Suthin doesn't mention that it won the Finest Deciduous Bonsai award at the Exhibition.

This is the second time we’ve featured Suthin Sukosolvisit’s special sale from his private bonsai collection (here’s the first). We’re doing this because we consider Suthin a friend and because you and the rest of our bonsai community should know about this rare opportunity to own a top-tier tree by one of our most accomplished bonsai artists.



Another spectacular tree (Japanese black pine) from Suthin's private collection that's for sale. You can get some idea of the tree's size (it's bigger than it looks) when you know that the pot size is 11 inches (28cm).



This Japanese black pine is a whole lot smaller than the one just above; eight inches (20cm) tall, which qualifies it as shohin. It is also offered as part of Suthin's sale from his private collection.



You can find Suthin's Japanese maple and other trees of his in this spectacular photo album. Best of all, not only do we have a phenomenal price on this great book but we are currently running a 25% off sale on all of our books.

There Are Bonsai, and then…


There are bonsai and then there are bonsai. This fluid masterpiece belongs to Isao Omachi. There are other adjectives that come to mind, like elegant, graceful and exquisite, but the problem with writing about bonsai almost everyday is these superlatives get used until they lose their meaning. Oh well. Mr Omachi doesn't say anything about this tree and I won't venture any guesses. It's from his facebook photos.

All the trees shown here are from Isao Omachi’s facebook photos. If you’ve been following the international bonsai scene, you know that he’s the one who had his entire bonsai collection (and his house) swept out to sea just over four years ago. Here’s a Bark post from last month titled Back on His Feet – Isao Omachi Four Years Later.



Isao identifies this Itoigawa shimpaku and notes that is 29cm (11.5"). The other trees in this post appear show-ready while this one has a freshly lime-sulfured, in-process look.



The single word Ichii appears with this tree.



Another strikingly fluid tree. Isao says nothing about this one, but you can tell it's a Shimpaku.



Here's Isao's caption for this pot: housetsusanjin 40cm (16"). If had to write a caption, knowing nothing except what you see here, I might say something like 'very expensive.'

Mastering Worlds, Exploring Bonsai & Tribal Art


This 'living room' shot (cropped from a larger photo below) is actually a part of an important art exhibition titled Mastering Worlds; Exploring Space and Scale in Tribal and Asiatic Art that is taking place in NYC this weekend.

Not too long ago there was a debate in the Western bonsai community about whether bonsai should be recognized as an art. Fortunately, that debate has been put to rest (for most of us, at least). Bonsai at its best qualifies as art in every sense of the word.

Now to get the rest of the world and particularly the art world to recognize bonsai. In this light, there is an important exhibition happening at this very moment in NYC that takes a giant step the right direction (another important step, The Artisans Cup, is coming up this fall at the Portland Oregon Art Museum).

The following was lifted directly from Bjorn Bjorvala’s Bjorvala, Art, Nature, Design “Mastering Worlds; Exploring Space and Scale in Tribal and Asiatic Art” is the brainchild of Cole Harrell, president and CEO of his self-titled eponymous tribal art advisory firm (coleharrell.com), which focuses on arts of Africa and Oceania.  The exhibition features an intermingling of Tribal, Oceanic, and Asiatic art, exploring “how cultures condense and materialize concepts of faith, identity, and belief.”

For more on this ground breaking event you can visit Bjorvala, Art, Nature, Design. Bill Valavanis, who seldom misses a trick, also has an excellent post on the exhibition.











This and the other photos in this post were borrowed from either Bjorn Bjorvala or Bill Valavanis, or both.

Spring Flowers, Fleeting Bliss

azaleaSatsuki azalea displaying a perfect blend of white with a touch of pink and the soft green of the new leaves. The flowers dominate right now, but it's no accident that the color of the pot enhances the not-so-shabby trunk and nebari. An earlier shot of the same tree appears below.

On the road again so we’ll resort to our old tricks and plunder our endless archives (from May, 2011). Today it’s the Guggenheim (NYC) and then home to Vermont.

Mis Arboles by Andres Alvarez Iglesias
The first three photos in this post are part of a photo album by Andres Alvarez Iglesias that appears on facebook. The title of the photo album is ‘Mis Arboles’ (my trees). The forth photo appears on Andres’ website.

All too fleeting
It’s flower time here in northern Vermont. Azaleas, Rhodies, Lilacs, tulips, early lillies, crabapples, you name it, it’s either busy flowering, getting ready to flower, or just finished flowering. It’s a blissful time, but touched with sadness…. here today, gone tomorrow and before you know it, snow. And then there’s the real big picture…


azalea21Another azalea showing off. It's hard to tell the exact size of the tree, but judging by the flowers, I'd say it's a shohin bonsai.

crabThe fleeting flowers are gone. With a little luck (and diligence) the birds will spare the fruit. Looks like shohin Crab apple (the leaves have already taken a bit of a beating, not unusual for apples).


azalea1AHere's the same tree that's at the top of the post. A little earlier in the season, before the flowers completely take over. This one is from Andres' website.

B1SAT-C-2-234x300Have you seen our Satsuki Azalea book?

FREE Bonsai Fertilizer at Stone Lantern (just put FREE in the comments when you check out). But only until Sunday night. Here are the details.