More Sacrificing – No Ceremonial Drums, Just Sharp Shears Required

bt61p42The styling on this Juniper is almost done (at least for now). The exception is the sacrifice branch on the top. The artist, Mr Toshinori Suzuki, has decided to leave it on to strengthen the tree's apex. When he is satisfied with the apex, he'll sacrifice the branch. No ceremonial drums, just sharp shears required.

Most trees are apically dominant (most of the tree’s energy and thus growth, tends to flow up into the apex). However, most junipers, including this one, are laterally dominant (most of the energy flows into lower lateral branches).

In order to develop a new apex on this laterally dominant tree, growth at the top needs to be encouraged. This is accomplished by allowing a branch at the apex to grow unimpeded. This unimpeded growth draws energy (water, gases and nutrients) upward. Especially if the tree’s lateral growth is impeded by trimming. Once the apex is fully developed the branch at the top is sacrificed. Thus the name.

Sacrifice branches can be used in a number of situations. Two common and almost synonymous uses are: to thicken a trunk or branch and to strengthen a section of a tree. If you look at the photo above, you can see that the apex is not as lush and well developed as the rest of the tree.  Thus the need for the sacrifice branch (if you look at the rest of the tree, you might notice three or four smaller sacrifice branches).



Before. Can you see how Mr Suzuki got from this to the tree in the photo above? If you're interested in seeing some of the steps and what Suzuki has to say about them, you can check the original article in Bonsai Today issue 61 (Japanese articles and photos are courtesy of Kindai Bonsai and Bonsai Focus).

One Brand New Sale & 2 Sales Ending
NEW 25% off 500 gram rolls Bonsai Aesthetics Wire
(only 9.40 each)
wire25% off Bonsai Book Sale
ends tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11:59pm EDT
B1-5BONSAIBOOKSOkatsune Tool sale also ends tomorrow

FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 49.00 or more
New lower shipping rates on all other orders

Sacrificing for Better Bonsai


The huge girth and dramatic taper on this powerful Satsuki azalea, were achieved primarily through the use of sacrifice branches. In fact, some are still being employed to help thicken the primary branches. This photo is from The Magician: The Bonsai Art of Kimura 2, by Stone Lantern Publishing.

I just received an email from Morten Albek about a new post on sacrifice branches on his Shohin Bonsai blog (I pity the poor English teacher reading this). NOTE: it was just pointed out to me that this reads as though I am mocking Morten’s English, but what I was trying to do is make fun of my string of 4 prepositional phrases. This got me thinking about this old post from 2009. It was titled Energy Balancing #4: Kimura’s Sacrifice Branches. I hope you find it helpful (even with fuzzy blown up photos).

In energy balancing #3 we showed a juniper with a single sacrifice branch at the top. Single sacrifice branches are often used, especially to thicken trunks, and they can work quite well. However, one problem with using single branches is that, in order to be effective, they can become quite thick and can leave an unsightly scar when removed.
One solution to the scarring problem is to use many small shoots as sacrifice branches. This technique works particularly well on azaleas and other types of trees that put out a profusion of buds on old wood.


A truly amazing transformation. This is what Master Kimura started with. Though you can see the beginnings of the powerful nebari and base of the trunk, the overall appearance isn't up to much. Kimura cut off almost all the foliage in order better see what he was dealing with. With azaleas and other prolific budders, this isn't a problem.


One year later. The profusion of shoots shows how easily azaleas bud on old wood. Kimura has already removed some shoots and left others as future branches and as sacrifice branches (sacrifice shoots might be a better term in this case). The little clumps of sacrifice shoots just above the soil, are being employed to thicken the base of the trunk.


Some time later (the original says one year after the photo just above, but I find that hard to believe; must be a translation error). Now that the trunk is where he wants it, Kimura leaves selective shoots; some as future branches and some to help heal some large scars (another use of sacrifice branches). Also, as you can see, Kimura has decided that it's time to start developing the apex.
B1KIM2-61-500x641If you want to see the entire process on the development of this old Satsuki azalea, you might want to consider this book. It is currently 25% off at Stone Lantern (only 12.70), as our all of our books.

25% off Book Sale
ends Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT
20% off Okatsune Took Sale
also ends Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT

Okatsune Banner

FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00+
NEW lower shipping rates on all other orders


Bonsai Wizardry in Portland (again)


Looking up from below. This is a cropped version of a photo taken by Greg Brenden at the opening of American Bonsai Mirai exhibit at the Wieden & Kennedy gallery in Portland Oregon. Greg's uncropped photo is below.

Another Bonsai Mirai groundbreaking public event. Greg Brenden attended the opening of American Bonsai MiraiWieden & Kennedy gallery in Portland Oregon and posted these photos. I’ve done a little cropping to bring the trees a little closer. Greg’s original photos are below (plus one from Ryan Neil that gives a unique view of the exhibit).


Greg Brenden's uncropped original. I like the way Greg's photos provide a window into the event. People enjoying bonsai in their individually designed environments (21st century tokonomas?).



This shot from Ryan Neil's facebook photos provides an excellent window into the creative wizardry behind the exhibit and its unique displays. I know Ryan provided the trees and my guess is he had something to do with how they are displayed. Not to call anyone names (creative wizard in this case) but based on a whole string of innovative bonsai displays (some examples from previous Bark posts), it's easy to see how one might get suspicious.


Cascading pine with an unidentified piece of clothing. How often do you get to look at a full cascade from below?



Goodwill. Uncropped with clothing now identified. 



Same tree, different shot. My apologies for the fuzz. I wanted to get closer to the tree.



The original. With footwear.



It seems most of the trees in the exhibit are pines.


GB2Same tree. Five sneakers


GB6See what I mean about pines...



Aha. Not a pine. Greg says Bald cypress, but the foliage looks like it might be a Pond cypress. A very close cousin that some people say is a sub-species of Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), while others say it is a distinct species (Taxodium ascendens).

Become an educated bonsai lover
but don’t wait
our Bonsai Book Sale ends soon


25% off our vast selection of already discounted Bonsai Books
sale ends Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT

as does our
Okatsune Bonsai & Garden Tool Sale
OKATSUNEset420% off Okatsune Tools
sale ends Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT

overseas & domestic

FREE SHIPPING for U.S. Orders 100.00 or more

Defoliation – Before & After


A Shohin Trident maple before & after defoliation by Harry Harrington. Just to give you some perspective, this sturdy little tree is only 8" (20cm) high.

It’s time to defoliate. Early summer heat is causing leaves to become oversized. With some deciduous bonsai (especially maples) defoliation works wonders. Not only are the new leaves smaller, but they tend to produce better fall color.

Most defoliation is a one-time-per-summer, per-tree occasion. If you live where the summers are very long, it’s possible to defoliate twice in one summer.* Be careful though. If there isn’t enough time to fully recover before cold weather sets in, you might endanger the health of you bonsai.

The photos shown here are from Harry Harrington’s facebook feed. If facebook isn’t your thing (or even if it is), you might want to visit Harry’s excellent website.



Before. Leaves are getting too large and dense. Time to defoliate. As you can see, this is a healthy and vigorous tree. A perfect candidate. Unhealthy trees, or trees just recovering from rootpruning should be given at least another season to recover full health.



After. Each leaf stem is cut well above its base to avoid damaging new buds. Thus all the little stems sticking up all over the place. Just leave them. Wind or a gentle brushing with fingers will cause them to fall off when the time is right.

*There are stories of trees being defoliated three times in one season, but that requires longer summers and more expertise than most of us posses.


All of our Books are now 25% off
including Peter Adam’s Bonsai with Japanese Maples
(with its ironic cover)


Bonsai with Japanese Maples
list price 34.95
our discounted price 29.95
Now Only 22.45 with your 25% off

Four other Great Sales
including 20% off Copper Bonsai Wire

NEW Lower Shipping Rates
for overseas and domestic orders

FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00+

Wiring Your Bonsai – Copper or Aluminum?

B1JUNHillLike most bonsai, this one has been wired (if you take a close look you'll see some wire). It's a collected California juniper by Warren Hill, from the gallery section of our Masters Series Juniper Book (now 25% off our already discounted prices).

It’s time to reach back into our archives once again (from May, 2013 with some changes).

Most bonsai are wired. In fact, bonsai that have been around for a long time may have been wired repeatedly. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is, it is often difficult to get decent results without wire.

Anodized aluminum wire is the most popular, at least here in the West (the other choice is copper, now 20% off). We offer both Japanese (Yoshiaki brand) and Chinese (Bonsai Aesthetics brand) anodized aluminum wire. Yoshiaki wire is a little stiffer than Bonsai Aesthetics wire. Stiffer means slightly more difficult to use, but better holding power.*

However, holding power* versus ease of use is not the whole story. There are at least two other things to consider: the price and the type of tree you are working on.

*Holding power general rules of thumb are: copper wire should be about 1/4th the diameter of the branch – aluminum should be 1/3 to 1/2 the diameter.. but as you know, general rules never apply to all cases, so some experimentation may be required.

Continued below…

bt77-p034-062Here's another one with visible wire. It's a Shimpaku that's from a chapter in our Masters' Series Juniper book, titled Keiko Tamaki's Deft Touch.

When it comes to price, Bonsai Aesthetics wire is hard to beat. It’s such a good deal that even though you have to use slightly heavier wire to get the same holding power, you still save money.

Types of trees can be broken down into four very general categories: conifers, deciduous trees, temperate zone broad leaf evergreens and tropicals. We’ll just skim the surface here and maybe dig a little deeper in future post.

Most conifers require stiffer wire than other trees, so copper works quite well (it’s the strongest and very good for heavy branches). However, many people eschew copper wire for the ease and lower cost of aluminum. If you use aluminum you’ll need a gauge that is much thicker than for copper.

Deciduous trees are usually wired with aluminum as are most temperate zone broad leaf evergreens (azaleas for example). Either Yoshi wire or Bonsai Aesthetics will work depending on the size of the branch and your preference.

Many types of tropicals are seldom wired, if at all. If you do have a tropical that you’d like to wire, we recommend Bonsai Aesthetics aluminum wire. Tropicals tend to grow so fast (especially in hot climates) that you’ll be taking it off not long after you put it on, so why spend the extra money?

At this point, I’d be well-served to borrow Michael Hagedorn’s disclaimer: “There are plenty of exceptions to everything I just said, which naturally makes blogging about bonsai a total disaster.”

Continued below…

B1JUNIPER770All the photos in this post are from our Masters Juniper book and like all the books on our site, it is now 25% off (of our already discounted prices).


 One good reason the best Japanese bonsai look more refined than most Western bonsai is because Japanese bonsai artists tend to wire all the way out to the tips of the smallest twigs.


Once the wire is on (copper in this case) it's time to bend. This photo and all the others in this post are from our Masters Series Juniper book.


Another good use for wire. If you want to prevent future mishaps, both small and large, it's an excellent idea to wire your tree into the pot.

3 Brand NEW Sales

20% off Copper Bonsai Wire
20% off Bonsai Embroidered Clothing
20% off Okatsune Bonsai & Garden Tools
plus our ongoing 25% off Book Sale

FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00+
NEW Reduced Shipping rates
on all orders, overseas and domestic

Still Bonsai Crazy


After Uchi-san's magic touch. Here's what Mark Fields has to say about this tree: "Uchi-San just finished up styling the big taxus. It took about 16 hours to complete. Ready for the big show now! We know the pot is too big for the tree. We will repot in spring."

This post originally appeared in October, 2014. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tree styled like this one. But then, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bonsai artist quite like Bonsai Crazy Uchi.

Mark Fields is an American bonsai artist and owner of Bonsai By Fields in Greenwood Indiana. Uchi-San is Bonsai Crazy Uchi. The show that Mark is referring to is the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.


I love these close-up deadwood shots that let you see every little scar and sliver. 



Before Uchi-san. I dug around Mark's facebook photos and found this before shot. You might imagine that's Mark in this hands-on profile and you'd be correct.


Bonsai Crazy Uchi. The name Crazy is his idea and there's a good reason he's wearing shades (stay posted).


3 Sales End Tonight

at 11:59pm EDT
Including 30% off Bonsai Today back issues
BT100coverBonsai Today provides the best how-to instructions
by the Greatest Bonsai Masters
each technique vividly illustrated


40% off Bonsai Aesthetics 100 gram Bonsai Wire
also ends tonight

New Lower Shipping Rates
FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00+

Before & After – Yearly Work on any Juniper


Before and after on cleanup day. It's a Tam juniper (Juniperus sabina ‘Tamariscifolia) that belongs to Michael Hagedorn.

Here’s copy about the tree shown above that I lifted from Michael Horndorn’s Crataegus Bonsai: “The day these photos were taken was a basic ‘clean up day’ for the juniper—no wire was applied, removing only old and dangling foliage and shortening shoots that were overlong, and also sanding the bark, cleaning deadwood, and applying lime sulfur. This is yearly work on any juniper.


TamIt's a little hard to fathom that the tree above is the exact same variety as this low growing clump... but it is.  Here's Michael's copy for this photo: "Tam Juniper, is a commonly planted conifer for foundations and gardens. The foliage grows upright from the branch, giving it a sprightly appearance."

We are extending our 25% off Book Sale for another week
this includes our Masters Series Juniper Book


A close-up of the after shot

3 Sales End Tomorrow
and one extended for another week
Masters' Series Books25% off Bonsai Book Sale extended one week
this includes our popular Juniper Book & The Magician
the 3rd printing of our Pine Book is due next month

3 other sales end tomorrow


40% off Bonsai Aesthetics 100 gram Wire
30% off Bonsai Today back issues
20% off Haws Watering Cans
these 3 sales end Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT

NEW Lower Shipping Rates
on all overseas & domestic orders
FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00 or more

An Independence Day History of Bonsai in the U.S.

wistThis wildly expressive Wisteria reminds me of exploding 4th of July fireworks. The photo is from Bill Valavanis‘ Classical Bonsai Art (out of print). The tree belongs to Robert Blankfield, who originally styled it at a workshop with Bill.

This post is resurrected from Independence Day, 2013, with a few additions and subtractions.

Tomorrow is Independence Day here in the USA. To help you celebrate, why not enjoy a sampling of home grown bonsai?

But first, because many of our readers are not U.S. citizens and because some U.S. folks don’t know much about history anyway, a quick American history lesson follows.

Two hundred and forty years ago, a bunch of unruly, but very smart male landowners declared independence from their British overlords – who had among other things, made it difficult to import bonsai from Asia – formed a rag-tag army and after much suffering on all sides, sent the Redcoats back to their often dreary island. Now everyone has kissed and made up, women and most people who don’t own land can vote and it’s still difficult to import bonsai from Asia.


DanHinoki1-1Picasso's (aka Dan Robinson's) now famous wild and wonderful Hinoki. It's from Will Hiltz' most excellent book, Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees, about Dan's life and work. BTW, it's back in print and available at Stone Lantern (by agreement with the publisher, sales do not apply to this book)

As long as we’re talking about sales, all of our current sales end this coming Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT. Including our 25% off Book Sale


This Hinoki is a contrast in types with the one just above. World-class Hinoki aren't very common, but this muscle-bound powerhouse by Suthin Sukosolvisit certainly rates

Michael Hagedorn (author of the now famous book, Post-Dated) reworked this magnificent collected Sierra juniper (grafted with Shimpaku) in a half-day refinement session at the Pacific Bonsai Museum, way back in 2009.


While we're in the Northwest, we might as well stay there long enough to feature a Ryan Neil bonsai. It's a collected Lodgepole pine.


This one's a Nia buxifolia that belongs to Michael Sullivan of Florida. It won the Finest Tropical Bonsai at the 2012 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.


Nick 'Larch Master' Lenz has collected and styled so many great Larches that it's easy to overlook the fact that he also has collected and styled so many great trees that aren't larches. This distinctive humpbacked apple is a pretty good example of one of those other trees. It's from Nick's Bonsai from the Wild (now out of print).


Time for an immigrant. This worthy old Korean yew (Taxus cuspidata, usually called Japanese yew) was donated to the Pacific Bonsai Museum by Mr. Su Hyung Yoo of Korea. It's one of 248 fine bonsai that are featured in the 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album and in my opinion, one of the best.


This rare beauty is the other immigrant. It’s a Nyohozan Satsuki Azalea that belongs to The Kennett Collection. It originally belonged to Kunio Kobayashi of Japan, one of the world's most renowned bonsai artists. Like many of the other trees in this post, it's featured in the 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album. It has also been featured here on Bark several times.
This sweet California native is the tree that graced the cover of the very last issue of Bonsai Today (issue 108). It's a Sierra juniper that belongs to Boon Manakitivipart one of North America’s most influential bonsai artists and teachers.

Speaking of Bonsai Today magazine, our 30% off back issue sale ends this coming Wednesday at 11:59pm EDT.

Sheer power displayed by another California native. This photo of a now famous California juniper (Juniperus californica) is originally from a chapter by Ernie Kuo in our Masters’ Series Juniper Bonsai book that’s titled ‘Two Studies.’



Our Masters Series Juniper Book is currently available at Stone Lantern for only 17.20 (list price 29.95, our discounted price 22.95 which comes to 17.20 with our 25% off book sale).



We've also got some tropicals here in the U.S. This colorful full bloom Bougainvillea belongs to Rick Jeffery. The photo was taken at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.


4 Big Sales End Soon


the following sales end at 11:59pm, Wednesday, July 6th
25% off Bonsai Books
(25% off Japanese Garden Book too)
30% off Bonsai Today back issues
40% off 100 gram Bonsai Aesthetics Wire
20% off Haws Watering Cans

FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00 or more
reduced shipping rates for all orders
overseas and domestic

Solid Gold Money Tree & Two Big Bonsai Events


A little tacky for sure. But how often do you see a 'solid gold' money tree? It's from Bill Valavanis' bonsai blog. He discovered at a Chinese restaurant while in the Philippines in March.

Bill Valavanis has two exciting bonsai events coming up. First and foremost is his 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition in September. Second is his tour of the 2017 8th WBFF Bonsai Convention in Saitama (Omiya) Japan. Details and links for both are below.

In addition to Bill’s big bonsai events, you might like to know that we have 4 New Sales at Stone Lantern, including 25% off our vast bonsai book selection. These sales, like the two events shown here can enhance your bonsai experience. After all, who doesn’t like good products at great prices?


This is an event that all of us here in North America (and beyond) should put on our calendars. If you've never been to an major bonsai exhibition like this, prepare to be blown away. Here's your link to learn more and sign up. See you there.


Can you imagine? Can you go? Here's your link

4 NEW Sales at Stone Lantern
including 40% off 100 gram Bonsai Aesthetics Wire
wire30% off back issues of Bonsai Today magazine
25% off Bonsai Books
25% off Japanese Gardening Books
20% off Haws Watering Cans

NEW Lower Shipping Prices
FREE Shipping on U.S. orders 100.00 or more