Hands Down – Our New National Bonsai Website


How many trees do you know of that have been in trianing since 1625? It’s a famous Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) that was donated to the U.S. National Bonsai and Penjing Museum by Masaru Yamaki.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and the National Bonsai Foundation have a new and much improved website. If you don’t get any further than this, just do yourself a favor and pay a visit. I think you’ll like what you see.

I’ve long had a soft spot for our National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. After all, it belongs to us and like everything that we do collectively, it’s a reflection of who we are. For better or worse.

In this case better wins hand down. The good people at the National Bonsai Foundation have worked diligently in putting together, promoting and maintaining our world class collection. If I had a hat, it would be off.

Continued below…

northamericanA few of the many great trees in the North American collection. All laid out and ready to be clicked for larger views. The Japanese and Chinese collections are laid out the same way.


John Naka’s illustriously famous Goshin. From the North American Collection.

The following is from an email I sent to Felix Laughlin (a dedicated bonsai enthusiast and President of the National Bonsai Foundation) as part of a discussion we were having about the new website:

First: what an improvement! Of course there was a lot to improve, but still, the homepage immediately tells you where you are and where you can go. For such a large and well-detailed site, it’s a delight to navigate. I’m impressed.

For me, the most important part is the bonsai images. Again, access and layout are fantastic. All the trees are right at your fingertips and descriptions are just the right amount of information.

As you probably noticed, the images themselves are a mixed bag. Some are very good and some aren’t so good. I was just a little disappointed that they were expanded to only 544 pixels (not bad, but even bigger is better). Much of this has to do with the limitations of the originals.

Rephotographing all the trees with better lighting and a larger crisper format is a huge job. Still, something to consider for the best bonsai collection in north America.

To repeat myself, I’m impressed (My hat would still be off)


japaneseA colorful selection from the Japanese collection.


A Trident maple from the Japanese collection. In training since 1856. Just a baby when compared to the tree at the top.

Since I wrote that email last week I’ve spent more time on the site and have discovered more that I like – the bios in the community section are very well done and a great personal touch, and the attractive Spanish language section was a very pleasant surprise (there’s a Vietnamese language section also) to name just a couple. There are also a few more things that I think could be a little better – for example some pieces from the old site that have been patched in turn out to be dead ends (these are the exception, most of the navigation is excellent).

Enough said. On balance I’m delighted and in awe of Felix, Jack, Johann,  the rest of the dedicated staff and the people who have been diligently working to improve the website. We are fortunate to have them.

chineseA few trees from the Chinese collection.


A Sageretia thea and musician from the Chinese collection. You’ll know you’re in the Chinese pavilion when you see the little figurines.

An Impressive List of Famous Bonsai Artists


Zuiou 1996 Kokufu prize winner, Japanese Black Pine. From Peter Tea Bonsai (Peter is one of the headliners at the upcoming Bonsai Visions of the West). Here’s some of what Peter wrote about this famous tree: “A few months ago I was fortunate enough to work on this large Japanese Black Pine.  The work wasn’t major and involved thinning and pulling needles; standard stuff for Black Pines in the Winter.  Just getting a chance to work on this tree was an amazing feeling for me because it tied my past bonsai career to my ending apprenticeship…” (for more visit Peter’s blog).



The Golden State Bonsai Federation with ABS presents Bonsai Visions of the West. October 30th – November 2nd, 2014.

As long as we’re on the West Coast (Rim Shots), The Golden State Bonsai Federation along with the American Bonsai Society is sponsoring Bonsai Visions of the West (October 30th – November 2nd, 2014). The GSBF and the ABS are two of the strongest and most venerable Bonsai societies in North America with long histories of first rate bonsai programs, and this one promises to continue in that tradition.

The list of bonsai artists and teachers reinforces this promise. The headliners are Peter Tea, Kathy Shaner and David De Groot (Rim Shots again). But the names don’t stop there; an impressive list of other well known bonsai people are involve in the seminars and workshops (rather than list them all, you can see for yourself).

There’s still time to make arrangements and the weather in Sacramento at the end of October might just be perfect (they do need rain however, and plenty of it – maybe the deluge will start the day after the program ends).



Juniper procumbens ‘nana’ styled by Kathy Shaner. Most pro-nanas don’t have such well developed trunks. The foliage looks a lot like the ‘Green mound’ cultivar that you sometimes find in Southern California (and elsewhere).



Kathy Shaner and friend working on another Procumbens ‘nana’ (root-on-rock this time).


As long as we’re discussing Juniper and Pine bonsai, these two benchmark Masters Series bonsai books are on sale at Stone Lantern along with everything else at our New Site Wide Sale. 20% to 30% off everything.

Rim Shots, New and Improved


This striking formal uprignt Hinoki Cypress is the feature tree on the Pacific Rim’s new website (new to me at least). At a glance it brings to mind the Sierra’s towering Giant Sequoias. A great choice for a west coast bonsai site.

First, a disclaimer. I’ve never been to the Pacific Rim Bonsai Museum. We’ve featured it several time here on Bark and have extolled its virtues based on bits and pieces we have been able to pick up on its historically woefully inadequate website and elsewhere.

Now, at first glance at least, the ‘woefully inadequate’ piece has changed with the Rim’s new and improved website. I say at first glance because, though the new site is much better and much more attractive too, it still isn’t nearly all it could be. BTW, I don’t fault Dave DeGroot the Rim’s curator. His job is taking care of the bonsai collection not designing websites.

My biggest complaint is that there are no live links on the five bonsai that come up when you go to the gallery. The small photos of these quality trees invite you to click and enjoy full size (or at least larger) photos, but no such luck. It turns out that there are a few larger bonsai photos on the site, but finding them happens more by accident than intent.

My other complaint is that I could find no mention of Dave DeGroot, even on the about us link. Dave is a well known bonsai artist, teacher and author and most certainly a big reason why the collection is so healthy and beautiful. I don’t know if you’d say indispensable (there are others that might be able to pull off the job) but close enough.

Still, it is heartening to see and enjoy their new improved website. It’s a big step in the right direction.

galleryThis is what comes up when visit the online gallery. Alas, there are no live links to larger photos.



Here’s a larger photo of one of the gallery trees that I stumbled upon somewhat by accident (on the resources page). I blew it up further to fit our format without sacrificing too much sharpness.



A cropped piece of the Rim’s homepage.

“When I go home at the end of the day, I do bonsai. It’s my hobby,” said De Groot, who still gets a kick out of seeing delighted visitors. “There aren’t too many jobs where you get 100 percent positive feedback.” From the Federal Way Mirror newspaper.


Roshi BannerBetter tools make for better bonsai. Our Big Roshi Bonsai Tool Sale ends tonight (Sunday, September 28th) at 11:59pm EDT. Don’t miss this great opportunity to improve your tool collection. Up to 30% off our already discounted prices.

An Unusual Bonsai by An Unusually Gifted Bonsai Artist

kimyeweccent_correctedThough it’s not as powerful as many other Kimura trees (see below), nor is it considered one of his classics, still… there’s that unusual trunk that give pause for thought. It’s a Japanese Yew that appears in The Bonsai Art of Kimura (long out of print). There is no explanation given for how the trunk was formed. Is it possible that Kimura split the original trunk and doubled it back on itself?

It’s Saturday morning, the leaves are turning and it’s a beautiful day. Time to dig into our archives and then get outside and enjoy Vermont at its best.

This post originally appeared in February 2010. It was titled ‘Eccentric Bonsai: Fearless Master Kimura Again’. I’ve added some copy and killed some of the original copy in an attempt to reduce the wince factor.

The following is from The Bonsai Art of Kimura (still out of print) in a section titled ‘Some future bonsai masterpieces.’

“…this Yew was a favorite tree in the artist’s collection. He sold it once only to buy it back again.

“In the summer of 1984 the back branch died because the wire Kimura put on originally had not been removed (this no doubt happened during the time when someone else owned it). Although it was an important branch that provided balance, it was compensated for by changing positions of other branches. The tree’s height is 26″ (66 cm).”



Same species but very different tree. This powerful and famous Yew by Master Kimura is, though unusual in its own right, a more classic bonsai. It’s from The Magician (below). It also appears in Bonsai Today issue 56.



Dig in and let yourself be inspired by the bonsai brilliance of the The Magician. On special at Stone Lantern.

Slow Learners and the Gradual Path


It has been a while since we’ve shown this familiar wood paneling from Michael Hagedorn’s workshop. BTW: the tree is a Limber pine styled by Michael and friends.

Whenever I visit Michael Hagedorn’s Crataegus Bonsai Blog I’m impressed with Michael’s knack for simplicity (this view was reinforced when I studied with him for a few days last year). An important part of this simplicity is less concern with earth shaking transformations and more inclination to the long view with slower more natural development (you can visit Crataegus Bonsai and see if you agree).

This long view is especially good for us slow learners. There is a time for decisive action, but for those of us who haven’t mastered the basics, the gradual path is invaluable.

It’s not that you don’t do anything. You need to develop and refine your skills by studying and working on your trees. But this process works best when it unfolds slowly, allowing time to develop appreciation for each tree’s potential and what makes each tree unique. I think Michael would agree.





helix‘Helix’ roots. For more photos of this and other remarkable trees, visit Crateagus Bonsai.


B1POST for web

Michael’s Post Dated. Still the best bonsai read around.

An Act of Daring Departure

IBCBA once in a life time bonsai event. The deadline for registration for the International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale 2014 is the 30th of September.

I know that not everyone can make it to Indonesia for Robert Steven’s International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale, but some of you can. And it’s not too late to register and go. A little spontaneity may be required, but what’s life without occasional daring departures from routine?


Maybe you can catch this plane to the Biennale.



This is one of my favorite Robert Steven bonsai (one of many favorites). It’s a famous tree, so you may have seen before (here on Bark for example) but it’s always worth another look.



Bonsai in the eye of the camera. Nice tree. Nice shot. It’s one of many creative images for what promises to be a most creative bonsai and cultural event



Another delicious bonsai by Robert.


B1MISSIONRobert’s Mission of Transformation is a completely unique and compelling bonsai book.

The Next Best Thing…


This photo from the 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album is a good example of the quality photos you’ll find in all of the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Albums. The tree is an old Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) from the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection. It’s one of 248 fine bonsai that are featured in the 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album.

The photos that we’ve been featuring from last weekend’s 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition are not the final ones. The official high quality professional photos will appear in 4th Exhibition Album and nowhere else (stay posted). Enjoying the photos in the Exhibition Albums is the next best thing to actually showing up and viewing the trees live.

As long as we’re on the topic of Exhibition Albums, we still have some from the 3rd Exhibition left. The price is right and we just happen to be running a Bonsai Book Sale that ends tonight (11:59pm EDT).



The 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album is available at Stone Lantern and at International Bonsai.



The 2nd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album is available at International Bonsai.


B1NAT1Alas, the The 1st U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album is out of print.



As long as were talking about Bill Valavanis’ books, this sublime shot of a radiant Golden Full Moon maple by Bill is one of 281 brilliant full-page photos that appear in the exceptionally beautiful Fine Bonsai, Art and Nature.

Winners! Part 2


ABS North American Award. Finest North American Native Species Bonsai. Rocky Mountain Juniper. Brian Hollowell. There were lots of great native North American trees at the show, but this dynamic beauty with its snaky swirls of dead and live wood stood out. 

Yesterday we posted some of the winners from the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. Now we’ve got the rest for you (all the photos are borrowed from Bill Valavanis’ excellent blog).

Once again, kudos to Bill and his crew for a great show. While we’re at it, just a reminder that photographs, though valuable, are mere shadows of the real thing. If photos provide most of your exposure to specimen bonsai you’re missing a lot (see you in 2016!).


Evergreen Bonsai Award. Finest Evergreen Bonsai. Wild Olive. Frank Cucchiara. What a great choice! This distinctive old tree would more than hold its own with the best of the gnarly old Olive bonsai that you find in Europe.



Bonsai Travel Award. Finest Bonsai & Companion Combination. Mixed Species. Marc Arpag. I don’t remember what kind of tree this is and can’t be sure from the photo. I do know that Marc specializes in our native Cedars (Thuja occidentalis), but neither the bark nor the foliage look like Cedar (could it be a Larch?). In any case it’s a a very good tree and a great display. You might notice the massive size of the magnificent pot. My guess is the roots of this tree, which was almost certainly collected in the wild, demanded such a large pot.



Here’s Marc’s companion. A great slab doesn’t hurt, but the vibrant little planting could easily stand on its own.



All American Award. Finest American Species in an American Container shown on an American Display Table. Buttonwood. Paul Pikel. Buttonwoods are found on Florida’s southern shores and have become a signature American tropical bonsai, so this tree (pot and stand too) is a very good choice for this particular award. It doesn’t hurt that of the several notable Buttonwoods at the show, this one more than holds its own.


Deciduous Bonsai Award. Finest Deciduous Bonsai. Sharps Pygmy Japanese Maple. Sergio Cuan. Japanese maples hold a spot in the hearts and minds of bonsai lovers around the world and this lush beauty with its perfectly upright trunk and top, and understated nebari, doesn’t disappoint. As an aside, the overall shape mirrors many of the large Sugar maples you find here in Vermont.



One of the many rows full of magnificent bonsai.

Thanks again to Bill Valavanis for providing these and other great photos from the 4th U.S National Bonsai Exhibition. And for his tireless and ongoing efforts to promote the astonishing art of bonsai.


Winners! Part 1

national The National Award, Finest Bonsai Masterpiece. American Elm. Suthin Sukolosovisit. We might as well start at the top. Not only is it a great broom style bonsai and the award couldn’t have gone to a more accomplished bonsai artist, but it’s the leaf size that must have caused a double take by anyone who knows American elms (see below).

Bill Valavanis has posted all the winning bonsai from the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, so there’s really no need stay here unless you want to suffer through my remarks (and view photos that were slightly enlarged to fit our format). We’ll show about half of the winners today and the rest tomorrow.

Before we go on, a little more enthusiastic applause for Bill (and his intrepid crew) for putting on a great bonsai show. Really! I’m still excited and I’m old and a little jaded, so you can imagine.

If you weren’t there at least you have the photos and though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; photos are mere shadows of the real thing. Still, they’re much better than nothing at all.


ho-yokuHo Yoku Award, Finest Innovative Bonsai Design. Sargent Juniper. Colin Lewis. This was one of the trees among an ocean of powerful bonsai, that immediately jumped out at me. It’s hard to tell just how large this remarkable and undeniably distinctive bonsai is, but if you could see it up close, you might marvel at the challenge it presents when it’s time to move it from one place to another (large bonsai with rocks add a little spice to the aging process).


Medium Size Bonsai Award. Finest Medium Size Bonsai. Sargent Juniper. Troy Schmidt. I wanted to steal this tree but it’s way too big to fit in my pocket. Aside from the lush and luminous Shimpaku foliage, you might marvel at the combination of almost chaotic undulating wildness and perfect balance.


Puerto Rico Bonsai Federation Award. Finest Tropical Bonsai. Willow Leaf Fig. Aaron Buchler. I remember stopping at this one and marveling at just how compact and powerful it is. So compact that you can’t tell where the massive and very impressive nebari ends and the trunk begins.


Custom Oriental Woodcraft Award– Bonsai Display Tables. Finest Shohin Bonsai Display. Mixed Species. Gary Andes. A very worthy winner among a host of exceptional Shohin displays. It would be nice to know what the individual trees are (especially the one with the red berries) but we’ll save that for another time.

nippon-award1Nippon Bonsai Association Award. Finest Japanese Style Display. Japanese Black Pine. Brussel Martin. Here’s another one that jumps out at you. It’s the power that grabs your attention. Then once it has your attention you might appreciate how well refined it is. No mean feat with a Japanese black pine.

nippon-award1cuI cropped the photo above so you could get an idea of the magnitude of this tree and also the way the bark speaks of great age. Still, the awesome power of a bonsai like this can never be fully captured in a photo. A good reason to visit a top-notch bonsai show from time to time.



Yoshimura Award. Finest Classical Bonsai. Japanese Black Pine. Louise Leister. Everything about this display is great. The way the scroll reflects the linear and free quality of the tree, the unusual little accent, the luscious free flowing stand and the perfectly chosen pot. No wonder it won this prestigious award (Yugi Yoshimura was a great American bonsai pioneer and Bill’s Bonsai teacher).



That’s about half of the winners. Well put the rest up tomorrow. Meanwhile here’s what a full-sized American elm leaf looks like.


Gentle Reminders – Lower Prices – New Sale

TM-Roshi Banner

We just started a NEW Sale
Roshi Bonsai Tools – Up to 30% off

I just got back from the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. I was quite inspired (to say the least) by the powerful trees displayed, the good people I met and the overall feeling of the whole event (tomorrow I’ll show you some of the winners).

In fact, I was so inspired that I got all soft and decided to sharpen my pencil (unintended!). I’d been thinking I needed to revisit our prices for a while now and just didn’t get around to it (better exchange rates and we’re buying certain things in higher volume). The result is good news for you. About half of our items have been reduced. Some a little, some way more than a little.

Best of all are Roshi Bonsai Tools. Again, because of higher volume, I was able to reduce almost all of them. Especially the stainless Roshi Tools, but others too.

That’s not all. I decided to go all in and run a Sale on Roshi Tools. In addition to lower prices all Roshi Tools are 10% to 30% off (1 tool -10%, 2-3 tools -20%, 4 or more -30%). Plus you get an additional 5% off on all orders of 100.00 or more.

This Sale won’t last very long, so don’t wait…

 Roshi2Roshi Stainless Concave Branch Cutters
Now only 44.00
plus your 10% to 30% off