A Sneak Preview of the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Album


We just got our advance copy of the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album. Like the last three, it's better than the one that came before. This speaks volumes (unintended) for North American Bonsai. It also speaks loud and clear of the tireless effort that Bill Valavanis and friends put into the Exhibitions and the albums.

Stay posted for the arrival of the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album. Meanwhile here’s a quick sneak preview of the cover and a couple shots from inside the album.



This Itoigawa shimpaku juniper won the finest medium size bonsai award. It belongs to Troy Schmidt of Asheville North Carolina. This and photo all the photos in the album are by Joseph Noga.



This ancient looking bent over Trident maple belongs to Bjorn Bjorholm of Knoxville Tennessee (and Keiichi Fujikawa’s Kouka-en Bonsai Nursery in Ikeda City, Japan, where Bjorn was a long term apprentice).

B1NAT3-2We still have some 3rd Exhibition Albums at Stone Lantern. This is good time to get yours during our 20% to 25% off Site Wide Sale. 

Win Our $50 Japanese Red Pine Bonsai Contest & Wire All the Way Out to the Tips

redpineA mystery tree and a little contest (below). This is the second time for this Japanese red pine, even though we still don't know who the artist is. The photo turned up on Michael Bonsai back in 2012. I'm guessing it lives in Japan, but I've searched Japanese red pine bonsai high and low and can't find it.

The contest: the first person to email me valid information on this tree that is not from Bonsai Bark or Michael Bonsai with a link as proof, will win a 25.00 gift certificate to Stone Lantern. If you include the name of the artist with proof, you will win a second 25.00 gift certificate.


Want to improve the quality of your bonsai? Try wiring all the way out to the tips of the smallest branches. You'll be astounded by the results.



Order your bonsai wire before we run out (see below).

While we’re on the topic of bonsai wire; you might want to order your bonsai wire now during our big 20% to 25% off Site Wide Sale and while we still have a lot in stock. The Bonsai Aesthetics wire factory suffered a setback and our next shipment is going to be late. Meanwhile, we are going to run out of most sizes over the next 2 or 3 weeks and the shipment won’t be here for 5 or 6 weeks anyway.

marcobaWhile we're on the topic of Red pines here's a Before and after by Marco Invernizzi. From Marco's website.

A Heat Story from Japan by a Natural Story Teller

vineI borrowed this Vine maple photo from Crataegus Bonsai's portfolio. If you'd like to see and read the story of this remarkably strange and wonderful bonsai, here's your link.

I never miss Michael Hagedorn’s posts on Crataegus Bonsai. He’s always got something useful to say and he’s a natural story teller. For evidence you can check out his eminently readable book, Post-Dated – The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk. There’s our last post too (Michael’s Spring Watering Tips).

Back in 2009 Michael put up two posts that were prompted by a heat wave out west. One is a very timely tip on spring watering and the other is a heat story from his time as a bonsai apprentice in Japan.

Here’s part of Michael’s apprentice heat story:

“Yesterday’s ‘HEAT’ post made me remember a story from Japan…

“My first year as an apprentice in Japan was a record setting heat wave. Temperatures reached into the low 100’s for weeks on end, and the humidity was wilting to those watering the trees…

“They covered the heat wave on the news at night. One week a young carpenter fell off a roof dead of heat exhaustion, and the following day my teacher, Shinji Suzuki, handed out sombrero type hats and white shirts and forbade us to die. We added to this towels soaked in water and wrapped them around our necks. Both Tachi, my sempai, and I made it through all right and so did our hundreds of trees. But we got little work done during the hot surges. Watering was nearly nonstop.

“One of the secondary effects of the extraordinary heat wave  of 2004 was that we got 4 times the number of typhoons that summer and fall….”

For a the rest of this story  and a wealth of tips on watering and everything else bonsai, visit Crataegus Bonsai.


bt90-p044-02A set up like this will come in handy if you live out west. Back here in the northeast, there are often long wet stretches were we barely have to uncoil ours. This image is from our Masters' Series Juniper book (due back in print in the late summer or early fall).
 TJWANDYou can visit Stone Lantern for this watering wand and the rest of our watering products.

Michael’s Spring Watering Tips


This old collected Rocky Mountain juniper is from Michael Hagedorn's Crataegus Bonsai portfolio.

What follows has been lifted word for word, photo for photo from Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai. We usually just borrow bits and pieces, so reprinting an entire borrowed post might be a first.

If you don’t know Crataegus Bonsai (or even if you do), I strongly encourage you to visit and spend some time there. Michael’s depth and breath of bonsai wisdom and his ability to communicate what he knows (with a light touch and sense of humor) will enhance your bonsai experience. I guarantee it.

Spring Watering Tip-
April 17, 2015 by Michael Hagedorn, Crataegus Bonsai (Michael’s text and captions are in italics).

“There are a lot of things we might say about watering bonsai. I’ve tried a few times on this blog to mention some of them. Some are hard to make sense of in words, but as ever I’m willing to try. This one is about watering recently repotted trees.

“At post-repotting time we need to be awake to one change-up, and that is that the interior soil mass (the part that was returned to the pot) may dry out much faster than you’d think.”

"If that interior area is full of fine roots, it will dry out fast after repotting."
"This pine is beginning to develop a solid mass of soil and roots, and this is the area that we’ll take our moisture ‘read’ from when deciding when to water. When dry, it will look very light colored compared to the surrounding new soil."

“If you cut all the fine roots off in repotting your tree, shame on you, but that’s a different issue. For the sake of this example, we’ll assume you have fine roots, and that we’re talking only about established trees with a solid mass of roots and soil. There are myriad other situations, such as proto-root balls with stringy roots that don’t yet hold soil together, but these photos show what we’re hoping for and working towards.”

"A deciduous tree with a very mature ‘loaf’ of roots and soil that is returned to the pot, to be surrounded with new soil."

“Especially with conifers, we usually don’t prune any branches at the same time as repotting. And so…

"In repotting refined bonsai, we’ve created a situation where fewer roots are going to be supplying the same upper water need."

“This interior mass we’re talking about, this is the area you should watch to determine when to water. Ignore, for a few weeks at least, taking your moisture reading from the new soil you’ve settled in around the original mass. There’s no active roots in the new soil yet and it won’t be drying out fast.”

"Another thing to keep in mind when repotting is to keep a portion of this old soil mass exposed, not covered with new soil, so that you can see when it’s drying out."
"Freshly repotted beech, showing the two zones of soil—the older soil that is a bit green and mossy near the roots, and the newer soil that is gray (sphagnum moss covering new soil, actually). The older soil will be our indicator when to water, and is not covered with new soil on top but is exposed."

“In many cases you’ll be watering when the new soil is still moist. So we ignore that area. Again, I’m only commenting on watering repotting bonsai with more mature root structures.

“To sum up, only read the moisture level where there are roots to determine when to water.
Wordy post. Hope some of that made sense!

“Here’s a previous post about watering that might spread a broader net around the issue of watering.”

All the above photos and all the text in captions are from Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai.


B1POST for web

I’ve said it before… Still the best bonsai read in the English language.

It’s About the Flowers (& More than Just the Flowers)


Haruyosi is at it again. This time it's a flowering Crab apple (Malus prunifolia) with a perfect little yellow pot. All the images in this post were borrowed from Haruyosi's facebook photos.

We can’t go too long without coming back to Haruyosi’s exquisite little trees. Once again it’s the delicate flowers that caught the eye. Crab apple and quince this time. Two of the very best when it comes to flowering trees and shrubs.

However, when we’re talking about accomplished bonsai artists, it’s always about more than just the flowers. There’s the simple beauty of the little trees themselves (with or without flowers). And of course, the all important choice of pots.

When it comes to pots, Haruyosi is (IMHO) one of the grand master bonsai potters. Combine this with his subtle grasp of the art of Shohin bonsai and you’ve got pure bonsai delight.



Crab apple flowers.



Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa). If there is a flower on earth with more purity of color than the Quince, I'm waiting to see it.





Haruyosi calls this planting a Kusamono. The flowering tree is a Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) this time. The other plant is an Azalea (back in my nursery days I knew the name, but now, fifteen years later it's gone).


Close up. Quince flowers and buds.



Just in case you think I've overstated Haruyosi's ceramic mastery, here's a little proof.

Suthin Is Coming to the Green Mountain State & There’s a Major Bonsai Event in Maryland Too

st1Perfection. The tree, the pot, the stand, the background and the quality of the photograph are all simply perfect. This and the other bonsai in this post are by Suthin Sukolsovisit. The photos are by Joe Noga.

When it comes to bonsai it seems that Vermont is a forgotten state. Well, almost forgotten. There is a friendly little bonsai nursery tucked away in the hills just east of Burlington. Outside a little town called Jericho.

It’s called Mill Brook Bonsai and this summer internationally renowned bonsai artist Suthin Sukolsovisit is coming to visit. Well, to visit and to conduct a critique in the morning (bring your bonsai, this is rare opportunity) and a demonstration in the afternoon. The date is July 8.

The day also features the Green Mountain Bonsai Society‘s Annual Member’s Show. For more information visit Mill Brook Bonsai’s website. I hope to see you there.

We haven’t been promoting bonsai events much for the last year or so. The exceptions being U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and the Artisans Cup. The reason being, no one is asking (except ABS, see below). So, if you want your event to show up here, just put it in the comments or email me (good graphics help).



Here's a Suthin bonsai that I'm pretty sure we haven't shown before. We feature Suthin so many times here on Bark, that it's easy to lose track.



Another big event (we'll put it here in the middle of our Suthin gallery, so you'll be sure to see it). It's what happens when you ask. Looks like a good one, with a whole slew of excellent bonsai teachers and some great workshops. Here's your live link.

st3Another Suthin bonsai that we haven't featured. This and the one above are both root-on-rock trees. I can't tell what the climbing ground cover is, but it provides a nice touch for a planting that is already amazing. 

st4One more dramatic Suthin bonsai. I don't have to tell you it's a Japanese maple in full fall color, and I probably don't have to tell you that it is brilliant (in at least two senses of the word).

While we're doing free ads for other people, we might as well do one for ourselves....
Tools - KoyoOur Koyo Bonsai Tool Sale and our 500 gram Bonsai Wire Sale end at 11:59pm EDT tonight. This is your opportunity to upgrade your tool box and beef up you wire supply. Visit Stone Lantern now for these and other great deals.  

Staying on Message: A Few More Tips on Defoliation

defoliationHere’s Juan Adrade’s English caption for this photo. “Partial defolation on one of the grandfather trees. Close to 100 yrs old." Here's his Spanish caption: "Defoliación de las ramas exteriores en uno de los tridentes del abuelo de mi maestro. Este arbol posiblemente se acerca a los 100 años." Here's our translation of the Spanish: "Defoliation of the exterior branches of one of my teacher's Trident maples. This tree is probably about 100 years old.” You might notice the part about exterior branches in the Spanish. This would indicate that Juan is trying to redirect energy away from the outer tips and down closer to the center of the tree. All the photos in this post are from a series of photos on Juan’s facebook feed.

The photo and part of the caption above are from a post we did last spring titled Defoliating Grandfather. The illustrations and text below are from a July 2009 post titled Energy Balancing #6: Defoliation Tips.

We’re not going to try to reproduce every post we’ve done on defoliation; just reintroduce the notion of defoliation and provide a few examples.



Use sharp scissors to defoliate. Cut in the center of the petiole (leaf stem). If you cut too close to the base of the leaf stem, you may damage the buds that form there.

…don’t pull
Don’t use you fingers to pinch or pull leaves off. This is a recipe for damage (the unreadable text with the illustration above says: Don’t pull, it could damage the buds).


bt3p20defol1bDefoliate, then prune
This illustrations go from right to left, Japanese style. Upper right is before. Lower right is next. It shows after defoliation, but before pruning. The message here is; if you are going to prune and defoliate, then defoliate before you prune so you can better see exactly where to prune (within reason; if you know you are going to remove a whole branch, no point in defoliating it). Bottom center is after pruning (the after pruning tag in the illustration is a little out of place).

Defoliation results in better ramification
The two on the left show what the branch might look like later if you hadn’t defoliated (top) and with defoliation (bottom).

All of the illustrations in this post are by Kyosuke Gun. They originally appeared in Bonsai Today issue #3.


p0 cover BT89 Our Bonsai Today back issues provide a wealth of information on a wide range of Bonsai topics. The good newws is that we still have about half of the original 108 issues published and that they are now on Special at Stone Lantern.

Defoliation & Energy Balancing for Strong Bonsai


This photo is the inspiration for starting a new series on defoliation. It's a Ficus and as you can see it's half defoliated. If you live in the tropics you can defoliate a tree like this any time of year. If you want to defoliate a Ficus or other tropical bonsai here in the north country, you need to wait until it's pretty warm (let's say until night temps are over 50F, 10C). If you defoliate too soon, cold nights could hamper recovery. Conversely you don't want to wait too long into the summer as you want full recovery before nights starting getting cold. The photo is originally from Eduardo Mourão Guedes's post in Indonesian Bonsai Society (couldn't find a live link for this). I found it in Tae kukiwon bonsai's facebook photos.

As mentioned above this post marks the beginning of a series on defoliation. We’ll start with defoliation for energy balancing. In general, whether discussing defoliation or other techniques, energy balancing is critical for successful bonsai.

Before you get too far into an article like this, the question of when to defoliate is bound to come up. We touch on it briefly under Timing below, but there’s much more that can be said. In a nutshell, when to defoliate depends upon where you live and the type tree. In warm climates people sometimes defoliate the same tree two or even three times in one growing season. In cold climates once is all we can squeeze out. This is because of the need for ample recovery time before the cold weather sets in.

For the rest of this post we’re going to borrow liberally from a defoliation post we put together way back in 2009.


bt3p19defol-1This Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) has been partially defoliated. The first branch is too small relative to the rest of the tree, so the purpose of the defoliation is to speed up the development of the first branch while slowing down the development of the rest of the tree. This works because energy flow decreases in areas that have been defoliated. Conversely, because the energy from the roots has to go somewhere, energy flow increases where leaves are left on. The photos in this post are from Bonsai Today issue 103. The article that the photos are taken from is by Hiroshi Takeyama.


bt3p19defol2-281x300Before defoliation. Too much energy is flowing to the upper reaches of the tree. Without redirecting this energy, the top will continue to strengthen, while the lower branch remains relatively weak. This occurs because most trees (including maples), are apically dominant, i.e. most of the energy flows up towards the tree's apex. Because of this disproportionate energy flow, it would be impossible to style most bonsai without some sort of energy balancing.

Defoliation Defined
Defoliation is simply cutting off foliage (leaves). Though the word defoliation is used outside of bonsai to describe conditions caused by chemicals or disease, it is distinctive to bonsai as a styling technique.

Three primary reasons to defoliate
For styling purposes, defoliation is commonly used for three purposes: reducing leaf size, increasing fine branching (ramification) and redirecting energy. This post is primarily concerned with the third purpose; redirecting energy.

Defoliating for health
Defoliation can also be used to remove diseased or insect infested leaves. Or leaves that have been damaged by sun, wind or other factors.

When wiring
It’s not unusual to remove some leaves when you wire just to get them out of the way.

When pruning
Sometimes it helps to remove some leaves on a branch before pruning so you can better see exactly where to cut.

If you plan on doing extensive defoliation, be sure to give the tree plenty of time to recover and develop strong new leaves before cold weather starts to set in. Here in Vermont this means we need to defoliate in the early summer. In warmer climes you can defoliate well into mid-summer.

How to defoliate; coming soon
Stay posted, we’ll cover the how-to next time. Meanwhile, if you insist on going ahead, by sure to use sharp shears and to cut the petioles (leaf stems) at the half way point.


bt3p22defol4-255x300Only the apex has been defoliated on this maple. Because maples and most trees are apically dominant, it is sometimes necessary to redirect energy downward. You could accomplish this by simply pruning off the top of the tree, but in this case, the artist wants to keep the top as it is (at least for now) while encouraging growth in the rest of the tree.

Stay posted for much more on defoliation and other energy balancing topics.



Japanese maples are prime candidates for defoliation. And even though the tree on the cover is a Trident maple, the majority of this book is devoted to Japanese maples. You can find it at Stone Lantern. On special.

NEW Bonsai Book: Literati Style Penjing


Penjing Master Zhao Qingquan's long awaited Literati Style Penjing, Chinese Bonsai Masterworks has arrived and is available at Stone Lantern. At a glance, we'll give it five stars. Upon further examination, we'll still give it five stars.

I haven’t been this excited about a new bonsai book for a long time. The problem is, we have been writing copy for so long that we’ve exhausted all the superlatives; sometimes on books that don’t begin to measure up to this one. So, instead of saying much more, we’ll just borrow from the publisher:

… the Japanese art of creating miniature trees, actually originated in China, where it’s called penjing. Penjing, meaning “tray scenery,” is a traditional Chinese art of creating miniature potted landscapes including trees and other plants. Brought from China to Japan in ancient times before spreading to the West, bonsai/penjing is now popular throughout the world.

“In China, the art of creating miniature landscapes has evolved in several different ways. Literati Style Penjing: Chinese Bonsai Masterworks focuses on a special category of penjing associated with traditional Chinese culture, such as the painting of the literati, or elite scholar-bureaucrats, of imperial China. Like literati ink paintings, this style of penjing has a subtle elegance distinguished by a lone, lean trunk with sparse foliage exhibiting distinct lines and simplicity….”(continued below)



This image and the two just below are from Zhao's Literati Style Penjing, Chinese Bonsai Masterworks.

“The term “literati style penjing” has been widely accepted by the bonsai community and is becoming more common within the bonsai world. It is well suited to melding concepts from Chinese painting, poetry and Zen into a stunning bonsai work, making it of interest to a wide variety of gardening styles.

Literati Style Penjing; Chinese Bonsai Masterworks explains the concept of penjing with a literati bent, exploring its rich history and aesthetics, as well as cultivation techniques, and care and maintenance. It includes 12 examples of literati style penjing creations, which incorporate a deep knowledge of the art form together with practical creativity and artistic beauty.”




“Lovers of bonsai will find much to inspire and delight within these pages.
Zhao Qingquan is a master of the Chinese art of penjing, a Senior Landscape Engineer, an International Bonsai Instructor at Bonsai Clubs International, and an International Consultant for the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. He is currently on the staff of the Penjing Museum of the Slender West Lake Garden.”

“Zhao’s passion for penjing began at an early age under the influence of his family, and he later received training under the penjing expert, Professor Xu Xiaobai. In Zhao’s four-decade long career, he has focused on the fusion of traditional Chinese culture and contemporary aesthetic sensibilities, and in the 1970s, he pioneered a new form known as the water-and-land penjing.”



Zhao Qingquan's other great Penjing book. On special at Stone Lantern

One Larch, Four Bonsai Pots (plus one)

which pot

One American larch, four pots (plus the original pot below). All this images in this post were borrowed from Boon Manakitivipart's facebook feed (the image above is a composite that we put together).

Boon is at it again. This time it’s our prized local larch (Larix laricina). Around here we call it Tamarack (the Algonquian name that means “wood used for snowshoes”). No matter what you call it, it is in my opinion, by far the best local wild species for bonsai. Bar none.

Which pot do you prefer? If you are ambitious, you might tell us why. (NOTE: So that everyone can benefit from your observations, please put your choice in the comments. Please DO NOT email me with your choice.)

BTW: the more I look at this tree, the more I think it is very possible that it was originally collected and styled by Nick Lenz (his book is below). I might be wrong, but…



Pot number 1



Pot number 2



Pot number 3



Pot number 4



The original pot.


B1LENZ-2While we are on the topic of Larches, it seems appropriate to mention Nick Lenz' benchmark collecting book. BTW; that's not a Larch on the cover (it's a Northern white cedar), but Larch Master Nick is still the man when it comes to Larches and the book devotes plenty to the species.