Have There Ever Been So Many Great Boxwood Bonsai in One Place?


Aside from being a phenomenal tree and a phenomenal pot, there’s a relaxed in-synch feeling, like the pot and tree are old friends who have been together for a long time. This might have something to do with the color, texture, soft lines and aged look of each (and because they are both so phenomenal). The color and texture of the stand fits right in too, while a little contrast is provided by its sharp rectangular lines. All together a masterpiece. The artist is François Gau (pot by Greg Ceramics). All three photos in this post are from Parlons Bonsai (I took the liberty to crop all three to bring the trees closer).

The three trees shown here all have at least three things in common: They are all Boxwood bonsai (Buxus sempervirens). They all appeared in a 2013 bonsai show in Saulieu France (European Bonsai San Show). And, they are all remarkably powerful.

Aside from the remarkably powerful part, what caught my attention is the fact that these three trees and several others in the aforementioned show are Boxwoods. Have there ever been so many great boxwood bonsai in one place? If there have been, my guess would be in China or Taiwan. In fact, I would be surprised if these trees didn’t originally come from there.


box4This wild old tree is little more rugged and rough than the one above. That ruggedness and the long stretch of trunk without foliage, leans a little toward literati, though the lush foliage and deep pot betray that definition. If this were your tree, would you remove the strange branch on the left? Or maybe eliminate the inward growing foliage and create a jin? The artist is Raymond Claerr (pot by Isabelia).



When I first saw this tree, my eye went straight to the large hole at the base of the trunk and the jagged wood that frames it. It took a few moments and a more relaxed gaze to take in and appreciate the power of the whole tree. The pot is great though I wonder if it’s a little too strong. The artist is once again François Gau (the pot is Chinese and looks like it might be Yixing).



A few of our large selection of Yixing Bonsai Pots. All qualify for Free Shipping in the U.S.

North Country Blues – Freeze Damage in Woody Plants

NCsnow Roan Mountain landscape. We’ve shown this luscious planting before, but not when it looks like this. It resides at the North Carolina Arboretum. The photo was put up on the Internet Bonsai Club forum by Arthur Joura. The caption reads “This planting is one of a small handful in our bonsai collection that consists entirely of plant material that can tolerate the extremes of winter, and so it remains on the bench, on display in the Bonsai Exhibition Garden all through the year.”  The statement ‘can tolerate the extremes of winter’ makes sense if you live someplace like North Carolina, but not if you live someplace like Vermont (the spruce might do okay in a very well protected outdoor location here, but, barring a rare winter-long deep snow blanket, the Rukizon azaleas would be hard pressed to survive).

Thanks to a tip from Elandan Gardens, I recently came across an Evergreen Gardenworks’ article by Andy Walsh that was adapted from an Internet Bonsai Club post. It’s titled  ‘Freeze Damage in Woody Plants’ and if you are interested in digging into plant physiology, you might find it interesting. Or even enlightening. Or maybe plant physiology isn’t your cup of tea. If this is the case, I hope you enjoy the photos.

We’ll just show you the beginning of the article and encourage you to visit Evergreen Gardenworks for the rest.

Freeze Damage in Woody Plants
by Andy Walsh

Evergreen Gardenworks’ Introduction

This article is adapted from an Internet Bonsai Club post. In it, Andy discusses the physical and chemical changes involved when plant stems and roots freeze. This kind of information is crucial to constructing cold weather protection for many areas of the country. Some slight editing has been done to make it more readable in this context.

The Three Stages of Freezing

First off, several times here writers have stated that their trees are frozen in the winter and survive. It’s clear to me that there is great misunderstanding around what some people think when they say a plant is frozen. If a plant truly freezes it dies. The formation of ice within the cells of a plant is invariably fatal. What I think many people see in winter is the soil of their trees frozen and they equate this with the plant being frozen. This is not the case.
From my readings, there are basically three stages of freezing that can be observed with, and have significance to, a Bonsai:

The freezing of the water in the Bonsai’s soil.
The freezing of “inter”-cellular water in the plant’s tissues.
The freezing of “intra”-cellular water in the plant’s tissues.

Here’s your link to the rest of the article.



John Naka’s famous Goshin, fully adorned. The Needle junipers are plenty hardy in Washington DC where the tree resides (U.S. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum).



You can leave hardy bonsai out in the open here in northern Vermont for quite a while, but sooner or later they’ll need some serious protection.


NCRoan Mountain landscape again. Fortunately, winter will end someday.


b1satsukiSpeaking of Azaleas (the little flowering trees in the planting just above), this excellent definitive Satsuki Azalea book, along with our vast selection of other books, is now 20% off (along with Free Shipping on all U.S. orders of 25.00 or more).

It’s Later Now – More Taikan-ten Bonsai


A Shimpaku juniper from the 34th Taikan-ten Bonsai Exhibition. The photo is from Michael Bonsai (on facebook) as are all the photos shown here.

It’s later (than you think). A few days ago we put up a post titled Taiken-ten Bonsai, Some Pines First, More Later. Now it’s later. So here they are, as promised.

I’m going to go ahead and guess the varieties. Not because I’m brave (or foolish, though you could take issue) but because these look pretty easy.



Looks like a Japanese white pine.



Ume (AKA Prunus mume, AKA Japanese apricot). The bark is a dead giveaway.



A ferociously wild Shimpaku with a literati flare (using the word ‘literati’ when a tree has this much robust foliage, might be questionable, according to some people at least, but we’ll save that discussion for another time).



Shimpaku, like Japanese black and white pines, are very popular in Japan.



At a glance I though this was variety of dwarf Arborvitae (Thuja). Now I’m pretty sure it’s a Hinoki variety (Chamaecyparis obtusa).  I cropped vertically to remove something distracting. The photo below was cropped horizontally for the same reason. Between the two, you get the essentials from the original.





The foliage is a little indistinct, but the overall feel brings Needle juniper to mind. Maybe my ‘easy’ comment was premature.



A cropped version (of the photo at the top) for a closer look. 

Judging Bonsai – Just for the Fun of It


These seven bonsai were part of a recent contest. They are in no particular order here, just my attempt to randomize.

The challenge for you is to come up with your five best in order. Explanations with each pick are welcome, though not necessary.

The honor system. There is no reward for winning. In fact, we won’t choose winners. The reason for this is; the contest and results have been published elsewhere with some detailed explanations. We’ll post this information later, but for now it would be more fun to see your results, before you go looking for the original to see what others have to say.

The honor system part two. Put your results in the comments. However, don’t read the other comments before you do. Be brave and unafraid to be a fool!


















Taiken-ten – Some Pines First, More Later

Taikan12 Taikan12A

The top photo, with its rich deep colors, appears just the way we found it. I lightened up the bottom photo a bit to better show the details, especially the bark.

All the photos in this post are from the 34th Taikan-ten Bonsai Exhibition. Taikan-ten takes place once a year in Kyoto and is considered by most people to be the second most important bonsai exhibition in Japan if not in the world (Kokufu is the king of bonsai exhibitions). I found them on Michael Bonsai’s facebook feed. There are more, but I decided to feature some of the pines first and the rest later (the first three look like Japanese white pines and the last one looks like a Japanese black pine).

One thing you might notice about these photos in that none of them are conventional shots (front shots that simply shown the whole tree, pot, stand and all). Instead, the emphasis is more on features, or sometimes even abstract qualities of each tree. As much about texture, movement and color, as they are about bonsai.

You might recognize some of these trees (two of four shown here are familiar to me). It’s not usual for famous old trees to show up again and again at the big bonsai shows. Often in different pots and sometimes after serious restyling.

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All the photos shown here are from Michael Bonsai.



Our Pine book
You’ll find it & a large selection of other bonsai books at Stone Lantern.

There Are No Rules (but What About Guidelines?)

Juniperus-Sabina-Patrick-Cremers Same tree, better photo. The original caption from a post two years ago started with: “Snakes. From Estação Bonsai on Facebook. I couldn’t find any mention of the artist….” We were none the wiser until someone offered this in the comments: “The first sabina juniper you mention is from Patrick Cremers..” Once we had a name it was easy to find the new photo (the original is below). However, I can’t tell if Patrick is the artist, the photographer, or just someone who posted this photo (confused yet?). Here’s a link if you’d like to explore further.

We’re a little swamped right now so we’ll fall back into our archives once again. This one is from almost exactly two years ago to the day. One good reason for picking it, aside from the trees, is the comments. In fact, one comment resulted in the discovery of a new lead photo (see above).

The old rules of bonsai, if they ever really existed, were broken as soon as they were made and the trend only gets more outrageous (in whatever sense you prefer: out·ra·geous: shockingly bad or excessive, wildly exaggerated or improbable, very bold, unusual, and startling).


As you can see, this common Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) belongs to Harry Harrington (Harry on facebook and Harry’s famous website). It was developed from an old hedgerow tree collected in 2004. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s the way the pot (by Plilippe Torcatis by Victor Harris) and the base of tree play together that gives this one its cachet. BTW: there’s no sign of any live veins on the trunk. Must be hidden in back (We’ll not completely… see Andy Rutledge’s comment below)


This lonely persimmon is from the recent Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. I borrowed the photo from Bill Valavanis, who was there (Bill is everywhere) and who took the photo, along with a whole bunch of other photos. In any case, I’m scratching my head a bit about this one, though knowing how much Japanese people appreciate fruit and flowers on bonsai, I guess you could say it’s about being touched by fleeting beauty. Something like that.


This collected Norway spruce (Picea abies) belonged to Walter Pall when this photo was shot. I don’t think Walter considered it styled at this point, but there’s something about its flowing naturalness that I like. Walter traded it Mauro Stemberger who said, according to Walter, that “he wanted to ‘Italianize’ it and he did. Together with his friend he worked of three hours and the result (below) speaks for itself.” BTW: we featured Mauro’s bonsai just a few days ago.


The Spruce from just above, that belonged to Walter and now belongs to Mauro. Tamed a bit now.


Not a great photo, but a remarkably unusual tree. Like the one at the top of the post, it’s from Estação Bonsai and also unattributed.



The lead photo from the original post.

A Grand Leap Down the Bonsai Rabbit Hole

MHThis Mountain hemlock is one of the reasons I love Michael Hagedorn’s bonsai.  Simplicity (understatement), naturalness (respect for nature and for this particular tree), balance, vibrant health and all the rest that makes a bonsai sublime are here for all to see (there’s also the missing pot, but that’s for another time).

Now that I’ve waxed about the bonsai pictured above, I’ll go ahead and wax a bit about the level of insight over a range of topics you’ll find when you visit Crataegus Bonsai. Michael’s recent post on 0-10-10 fertilizer is a good example.

Here’s just a little about what Michael has to say about 0-10-10:
“This is one of our grand leaps down the rabbit hole…0-10-10 fertilizer for bonsai. It has very limited uses, and yet it’s often touted as THE fertilizer for all bonsai in the fall.

“The 0-10-10 fertilizer is essentially for maximizing blooms, or perhaps, when you plant a perennial, you might get its roots better established without much top growth. For a bonsai garden with many non-blooming species present, the recommendation to use it exclusively in fall is on very shaky ground….” (here’s the rest).



When I read what Michael has to say about 0-10-10 I felt a little chastened and immediately changed our Stone Lantern copy to: Nitrogen-free bonsai fertilizer works best to help set flower buds. Other claims for its uses are for manipulating growth: reducing needles, and increasing your bonsai tree’s winter hardiness, though many bonsai growers avoid fertilizers that do not contain nitrogen. If you do use 0-10-10 for flower bud boosting and perhaps for other reasons, we recommend using it sparing (Our original copy was: “Nitrogen-free bonsai tree fertilizer is recommended for manipulating growth: reducing needles, setting flower buds and increasing your bonsai tree’s winter hardiness.)



Another great potless tree from Michael portfolio. It’s an Ezo spruce and this is not the first or even second time we’ve shown it.


B1POST for web

I’ll say it again: Michael’s Post-Dated is still the best bonsai read.

The National Bonsai Museum, The Kaikou School of Bonsai & Other East Coast Bonsai Wonders


Foemina juniper planting that has that not-so-easy-to-accomplish ability to transport you to a natural mountain scene somewhere. The photo was taken at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum by Mike Wigginton.

I  recently had the good fortune to stumble upon Mike’s Bonsai Page, a blog by Mike Wigginton that’s well worth a visit, especially if you are interested in bonsai happenings in eastern North America. There’s more too, but Mike’s enthusiasm for traveling the East Coast (especially to New England Bonsai where he is student at The Kaikou School of Bonsai) and his personal touch in communicating his discoveries makes for a great blog.

Mike uses a much smaller image format than we do, so all three photos from the U.S. National Bonsai Museum has been blown up (cropped too in an attempt to get even closer to the trees). My apologies for any resultant fuzz.



Here’s another of Mike’s photos from the National Museum. He says he can’t remember, but he thinks the trees are Chinese elms. Based on what we can see of the leaves and trunks, it seems like a pretty good guess.



This one needs no introduction, at least for those of us who have been around the bonsai block a few times. But just in case, it’s John Naka’s famous Goshin. The thing I like about this photo is that it’s a recent update on a famous bonsai. It’s too bad about the top being cut off, but its beauty (if not not its tremendous size) comes through and Mike makes no claims about being a professional photographer.



The header from Mike’s Bonsai Page.



John Naka’s famous sketchbook. Now on special at Stone Lantern.

Luminous Leaves, Glowing Glazes & Contrasting Colors

haru9You don’t see that many bright yellow pots. The glaze is expensive and hard to come by and the brilliance of the color can be overwhelming. But in this case the little tree holds its own. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better choice of pots to set off the the richly hued Trident maple leaves. The photo, like all the rest in this post, is from Haruyosi’s facebook timeline.

I didn’t set off to talk about pot-tree color combinations, but that’s what happened anyway. I guess it’s pretty easy to tell why.

I think you could spend a lifetime browsing bonsai images and never find another bonsai artist that has a more sophisticated grasp of color combinations than Haruyosi. Not to offend other great bonsai artists, but just saying that the pot-tree choices that Haruyosi consistently comes up with are simply brilliant (in at least two senses of the word).

By the way…. Haruyosi makes his own pots. It’s one thing to be a highly talented bonsai artist and another thing to be a highly talented potter. And yet another thing to be both.


Here’s another Trident with some fall color. In this case, with more green and less brilliant red foliage (than the tree above), the more subdued yellowish pot works perfectly.



Another undeniably yellow pot. In this case, I think it’s the bright yellow-green moss along with the rich green, yellow-gold and reddish-rust hues of leaves (Pyracantha leaves) that allows for such a strong pot.



This sweet tiny pot and sweet tiny tree present a more subtle combination of colors. The three little berries along with the look of the leaves, leave no doubt that this is another Pyracantha.



Another daring choice. The absolutely luminous red leaves set off by the purple pot with strong red undertones, works its magic to perfection. The tree is an aptly named Burning bush euonymus (Euonymus alatus form ciliatodentatus).



A little change of pace. There’s a lot that could be said about this strikingly unique planting but I’ve said enough (accept that the tree is a wild rose). You can draw your own conclusions.

All the photos in this post are from Haruyoshi’s facebook photos.

A Propensity for Understatement


This powerful kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) won the Culture Minister’s Prize at the 20th Green Festa Kokubunji bonsai fair. It is 19″ (48cm) high and about 55 years old. It is owned by Toyoyuki Hamabata from Takamatsu’s Mure town in Shikoku. It appears at Bonsai World, an English language website from Shikoku Japan.

It’s the long Thanksgiving holiday here in the States so we’ll take the easy way out today and dig into our archives. The tree above is from a 2009 post titled Japanese Bonsai, Small is Powerful. The one below is from a January 2014 post titled Old Kuromatsu for a New Year.
Here’s what Bonsai World has to say about the tree at the top of the page: This kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) tree is relatively young. Its ”nebari” root spread is good and it stands up dynamically. Its trunk form clears the conditions for a good bonsai tree — the tree has a thick root and tapers off toward the top. The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 branches come out superbly. It is a promising kuromatsu tree.
It is well-potted, and attention has been paid even to minute details. The more the cultivator gives it care, the better it will be. As it is well qualified to be a bonsai tree, it should grow into a wonderful ”moyogi” tree with pronounced bends and curves.

Japanese sometimes have a propensity for understatement, so we’ll take that into consideration. But fifty five years is relatively young? It’s a promising tree? Makes you wonder why they gave it best in show or even honorable mention.


shikokuHere’s another black pine from our archives. The branches are still developing but the trunk is undeniably powerful and so heavy that you could imagine it supporting a huge mass of foliage. There’s a lot more that could be said about this great old tree, but I’ll stop at pointing out the luminous color and texture of the trunk (not that you could miss it). The tree is around 50-years-old and was grown from seed. It belongs to Kiyoshi Hiramatsu (great name for someone who grows pines) owner of the Hiramatsu Seijuen bonsai garden in Takamatsu’s Kokubunji area in Japan.



On topic. The book for anyone who’s into pine bonsai.