With Buttonwood Bonsai, Nature Does the Real Work


This powerfully compact Buttonwood belongs to Nacho Marin, as do all four Buttonwood bonsai shown here.

With Buttonwood bonsai it’s nature that does the real work. Humans find them, dig them, pot them and eliminate branches and other parts that distract from the natural beauty of the tree (ideally, at least). But nature does the twisting, turning and scouring by sand and wind that results in such unusual shapes and magnificent deadwood.

I’m told* that much of this shaping and scouring happens during hurricanes and tropical storms. I’ve even heard that Buttonwoods are sometimes violently uprooted and blown to new locations. When the storm settles they begin the process of reestablishing themselves. This could only happen in the tropics** where humidity is high enough to keep the exposed roots from dying out.

All four Buttonwoods shown here belong to Nacho Marin. We featured some of his trees (from facebook) a couple days ago. These are all from his website.



Nature’s twisted handiwork.



The tortured deadwood on the right was no doubt once a trunk. 



Saving the best for last. All scrunched and twisted at the bottom and elegantly soaring at the top (we’ll blame it on the coffee). Magnificent pot too.

* I think it was Mary Miller that told me the fascinating Buttonwood story, but I’m not certain.

** Buttonwoods (Cornocapus) are tropical trees that typically grow along coastlines. They are highly successful and have managed to spread throughout much of the tropical regions of the world: including southern Florida, the Caribbean, throughout the Central and South American coastal tropics, the Galapagos Islands, West Africa and Melanesia and Polynesia.


Our FREE Bonsai Wire giveaway ends tonight. Don’t forget to put FREE in the comments when you check out. Details are here.

What Do FREE Bonsai Wire & Football Have in Common?

superbowlfinalThis might pass as artistic to an unsophisticated viewer, but it’s really just a miserably failed photoshop effort. The bonsai drawing is by Rueben Roig.

FREE Bonsai Wire

Superbowl Weekend Special

With any Stone Lantern order

But only if
you write FREE in the comments box when you check out

Saturday and Superbowl Sunday only

Order now for you FREE wire
take advantage of a whole range of existing sales and discounted items

The Details…
You will receive your FREE wire if you write FREE in the comments when you check out*
Orders from 1 to 9.99 will receive 100 grams of FREE wire.
Orders from 10.00 to 19.99 will receive 200 grams
Orders from 20.00 to 29.99 will receive 300 grams….
…and so forth off into infinity
For small orders we will use 100 gram rolls
For large orders we may use 500 gram rolls unless you specify otherwise

If you want wire of specific sizes
, you must specify in the comments box (after you type FREE). If you don’t specify sizes, we’ll decide (don’t worry we’ll pick a range of sizes for orders that qualify)

Don’t forget to type FREE in the comments!

FREE wire giveaway ends Sunday, February 1st at 11:59pm EST. Don’t wait!



I wouldn’t waste my time reading the following if I were you…
If you disdain football but love bonsai, please forgive me. Long ago when I aspired to be a more civilized person, I tried to shake my football addiction, but the power and passion of the game won out and continues to hold me in its brutal grip – but only on Sundays from September until tomorrow – the rest of my life I’m free (well… baseball, but it’s not the same).

And I certainly wouldn’t waste my time reading this…
Did you know that most football fans and bonsai lovers share a single demographic? Men. Specifically, though far from exclusively, mature men
(don’t get too excited we’re dealing in very broad generalizations here).
To celebrate this powerful bonsai and the football connection (and football gods willing, a Patriots victory in the Superbowl), and in hopes of a great game that goes right down to the wire (sorry) we’re giving away a whole bunch of bonsai wire (but only if you wire FREE in the comments box).

*I was going to have you write GO PATS! but decided that was way overboard, as opposed to the idea of combining football and bonsai…

Un andante gracioso entre el Bonsai


It’s a bit of a long story, but Bonsai Do provides famous quotes in Spanish with photos of bonsai (on facebook). In this case Nacho Marin provided the bonsai and the photo. The quote (with my stab at translation) follows: El otoño es un andante melancólico y gracioso que prepara admirablemente el solemne adagio del invierno – Fall is a sad and graceful walk that admirably prepares for the solemn walk of winter. (George Sand).

All the bonsai shown here are by Nacho Marin, as are the photos (facebook). For some reason, we haven’t featured South American bonsai artists much here on Bark (one exception being Nacho). Maybe you have some suggestions to help us remedy the situation.

Nacho was already an accomplished artist when he came to bonsai; a not too common, but potentially fruitful marriage. In Nacho’s case, you could scratch the potentially and leave it at fruitful.



Nice tray. Great tree. Perfect planting. It looks a lot like a juniper variety, but I can’t be 100% sure. BTW: There are no junipers native to the Southern Hemisphere. This is surprising considering just how many types of junipers there are.



A potless pot? Or…?



A front and a back? Or just two fronts? 



It’s very helpful to be able to draw bonsai before you start styling. And though it’s nice to be able to draw as well as Nacho, even primitive drawings are better than no drawings at all.



Though powerful Ficus bonsai are not that unusual, this one really jumped out during my daily facebook scroll.



Here’s a brief Nacho-bio I lifted from his website:
Designer of civil works
Professional photographer and teacher in the Venezuelan Photographers Society, recognized by the Professional Photographers of America
Plastic artist
Student of master Salvatore Liporace (2009)

Bonsai Mirai, Yamadori & Why You Should Visit Portand this September


Only Mother Nature. There is no way anyone will ever grow a tree quite like this magnificently wild Rocky Mountain juniper. Taking this a step further, there is almost no way anyone will ever be able to collect and style a tree like this, though there are a handful of people who have the requisite skills and knowledge. In this case, it’s a combination of two who share the skills and knowledge: Randy Knight* found it, collected it and made sure it survived the trauma, and Ryan Neil styled it, potted it and currently keeps it alive and well at his Bonsai Mirai.

When you visit Portland Oregon in September (for the Artisans Cup at the Portland Art Museum), be sure to sign up for the Portland Bonsai Village tour. Portland is a lot about the future (and present) of American bonsai and the Bonsai Village is a big part of that.

Though I’m sure you can find other reasons, when it comes to bonsai, two things about the Portland area stand out: a number of Americans who apprenticed in Japan have settled (or plan on settling) in the Portland area (thus the Bonsai Village), and the Willamette Valley is perhaps the prime North American growing area for temperate zone plants (most of the world’s greatest bonsai are temperate zone trees; though our friends who live in the tropics might take issue).

All the trees in this post are from Ryan Neil’s Bonsai Mirai, the home of one of best collections of North American yamadori bonsai in the world (yamadori are trees collected from the wild).


If you took away the little deadwood hook on the right, this Sierra juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) would still be spectacular. With the hook, it’s tree you’ll never forget.



Ryan calls this a Colorado spruce (Picea pungens). You might know it as a Colorado blue spruce, or simply Blue spruce.



One fairly common yamadori feature is the unpredictable relationship of the roots to the trunk (and the rest of the tree). This can make potting a real challenge, with some pretty strange and often spectacular results. The tree is a Limber pine. Is that a dowel or rebar sticking up?



This California juniper reminds me of any number of Japanese Shimpaku yamadori. Compared to the other trees shown here, it’s quite staid and sober looking. But only compared the others.



See you there! September 26-28.
* Couldn’t find a direct link to Randy Knight or Oregon Bonsai, but here’s something from Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai.

Paying Another Visit to Super Mario, Plus One

marioHere’s a tree by Mario Komsta that we missed. With this exception and a reminder about Free Shipping and our current Book Sale, the rest of the post is the same as yesterday.


mario7Not so sure about the background color, but I really like the sparse simplicity and naturalness of this tree. This photo and the others shown here are from Mario Komsta’s facebook photos.

It’s Monday morning, I overslept and now I’m running behind, so we’ll make this post almost purely visual (trusting that you can live without my comments just this once).

All the photos shown here are from Mario Komsta’s facebook photos and as far as I know, all the trees belong to Mario. This is not the first time we’ve featured Mario’s trees (more like the tenth time) but I believe it is the first time for most of the trees shown here.

Here’s the link to our original Super Mario post from way back in 2010.











To enjoy more of Mario Komsta’s impressive bonsai collection, you can visit him on facebook.



Here’s a New Book Sale for you
this sale is even sweeter with your extra 10% off for orders 100.00 plus
and FREE Shipping for U.S. orders of 25.00 plus

Paying Another Visit to Super Mario


Not so sure about the background color, but I really like the sparse simplicity and naturalness of this tree. This photo and the others shown here are from Mario Komsta’s facebook photos.

It’s Monday morning, I overslept and now I’m running behind, so we’ll make this post almost purely visual (trusting that you can live without my comments just this once).

All the photos shown here are from Mario Komsta’s facebook photos and as far as I know, all the trees belong to Mario. This is not the first time we’ve featured Mario’s trees (more like the tenth time) but I believe it is the first time for most of the trees shown here.

Here’s the link to our original Super Mario post from way back in 2010.











To enjoy more of Mario Komsta’s impressive bonsai collection, you can visit him on facebook.

The Truth of Suffering – More Shattered Notions


It’s quite daring to create a bonsai exhibition full of surprising mixed media bonsai displays that introduce elements never before associated with bonsai (see our last post). It’s quite another thing to leap full force into social-political (even religious) commentary. Not something normally associated with bonsai and gratefully so for many I’m sure.

Still, whether you like this kind of meta-themed supercharged bonsai display or not, there it was for a short while last October, for all to see. And here are some, but by no means all, of the displays that venture into this very virgin territory (some may be more obvious than others, but all of these images struck me as pretty good examples).

All of the images shown here are from Robert Steven’s 2014 International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale.













A Revolutionary Tour de Force that Will Shatter Every Notion You Ever Had About Bonsai Display


Halloween (the show was in October)? At first glance you might just see the tree and the cobwebs and miss the hands clutching (persenting?) the sculpted wooden pot. All the photos in the post are from Robert Steven’s 2014 International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale.

Coming up with a title that captures the sheer creative energy of the bonsai displays shown here wasn’t easy (Messing with Bonsai Convention in a Very Big Way was my second choice). Nor is writing about them (way too many hyped up adjectives keep trying to force their way in). I even thought about just showing the photos and not writing anything, but then this is Bonsai Bark where brilliant bonsai photos and not-so-brilliant words have been co-existing for six years now.

Though I’m sure some people will disagreed with my excitement about these images, it’s hard for me to imagine not being blown away (or at least impressed) by what Robert Steven and friends pulled off in Indonesia last October.

Even if you are the ultimate bonsai arch-traditionalist and your emotional response to these images is somewhere between extreme discomfort and overwhelming bewilderment, you’d still have to admit to their raw power and innovation, especially considering their sheer volume (what’s presented here is the tip of iceberg) and the amount of work that must have gone into creating them.

All the photos are from Robert Steven’s first International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale that took place October 2014 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Stay posted for more photos, or visit Robert on facebook.



Halloween again (though I suspect there’s much more going on here than that). There’s something about those ‘severed’ arms that’s just a little ominous.  Is this where the recent ‘Black Scissors’ fad started?



Nice sculpture and great tree make for a sweet display that provides a little relief from the intensity of the first two photos.



One corner of one of many rooms at the Biennale (there were also outdoor displays and live theater as well). 



It’s the bonsai, not the display, that’s mind bending in this case. Though I guess the unusual tree and the way it’s perched on an equally unusual rock, does make for an dramatic display.





Bonsai is in the eye of the beholder.



Sense of humor helps.












Your guess is as good as mine.



Robert’s famous book. Now on special at Stone Lantern.

Masters of Bonsai Technique

44When I first saw this tree I thought it might be a Yew. But, the bark isn’t right, and even the foliage, though close, isn’t quite right either. Fortunately, Peter Tea solved the problem in his 2011 Taikan-ten Exhibition post. Peter’s caption reads: “This Yew Hemlock caught many peoples attention. It made sense that it took the prize for medium conifer. We don’t have any Yews here at Aichien because they don’t do well in the hot weather that we have in Nagoya.”
As for the species, it turns out that there are two Hemlocks that are native to Japan (Tsuga sieboldii & Tsuga diversifolia). My guess is that this powerful and distinctive tree is one of these two. All the photos in this post are from Empire Bonsai.

Busy today, so we’ll dip into our archives once again. This post originally appeared almost two years ago (Febuary, 2013). I chose it because it leads with a Hemlock and our last post was about a Hemlock. Any other similarities are purely coincidental.

For now, it’s still Japan
In spite of reports to the contrary, Japan is still the world leader when it comes to bonsai (taking nothing away from Taiwan, Indonesia, Europe or the rest of the world). Not that the situation is not in flux, but all you need to do is take a look at a selection of trees from the major Japanese exhibitions (in the case it’s the 2011 Taikan-ten), and if your eyes are not clouded by chauvinism, you can see for yourself.

One of the raps on Japanese bonsai that you might hear is how it’s become too predictable, even conventional, and that the trees are overly stylized. The problem with this view is that it’s not true. When you look at the best of Japanese bonsai, what you see instead, is a diverse and exciting range of trees, some more stylized, some more traditional, some very innovative and daring, some all of the above, and all marked by a mastery of technique (more on technique at the bottom of this post).


92Trident maple. Among a thousand other things, I like that the lowest branch on the main trunk is in the front and is smaller than branches that are higher on the tree. How many of us would have cut this branch off because convention tells us to?


74I’m going to guess that this strange and wonderful tree is a Needle juniper (Juniperus rigida). Like all the tree in this post, it’s from the 2011 Taikan-ten.

63Something a little different. It’s mostly about the berries with this Firethorn (Pyracantha). When they’re gone, this rock planting will be consigned to a back bench.

53Looks like a Japanese beech (Fagus creanta). No need to say much more.


19Azalea’s are usually shown with flowers. However, with trees of this magnitude…

BTbanner3Want to learn how they do it? Some say that it’s 90% technique and 10% artistry. Bonsai Today magazine is filled with detailed instructions technique from the old masters. These benchmark back issues, are now 50% off at Stone Lantern.