A Steady Stream of Excellent and Often Unusual Bonsai


An impressively complex cascading juniper by Isao Omachi. Is it too busy, or would it diminish the tree's magic if you tried to simplify it?

We can count on Isao Omachi for a steady stream of excellent and often  unusual bonsai. As a result of this steady stream, we’ve featured his trees well over a dozen times here on Bonsai Bark and I suspect we’ll continue to feature them for as long as we keep posting (going on eight years and still counting).

This time it’s three trees from Isao’s recent facebook photos. Two of them are full cascade junipers and the third is an almost cascade (also a juniper). Though given the camera angle, it’s not that easy to tell just how far down the tip actually goes.


Simple, clean and powerful, with an impressive amount of deadwood.

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An almost cascade with dominant deadwood. Given the camera angle, it's difficult to tell just how far down it goes.

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Dramatic Bonsai & Mixed Media Presentations from Lithuania


Though there are ample shots of unusual bonsai and mixed media presentations from the recent 2016 Lithuania - International Black Scissors Bonsai Convention, this wonderfully eccentric bonsai jumped out at me. I cropped the photo to bring us in a little closer. The original photo is below.

The photos shown here are from the recent 2016 Lithuania – International Black Scissors Bonsai Convention that was held in Alytus, Lithuania September 2-4. It was presented in collaboration with the 5th Japanese Culture Festival.

Thanks to our old friend and business associate, Robert Steven for providing the link and encouragement to visit Komunitas Seniman Bonsai Indonesia our source for the photos* shown hereStay posted for more on this major bonsai event.



An unusual undulating pine. It would be nice to see it well-lit. The uncropped original is below.

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I don’t know very much about Black Scissors so rather than speculating, I’ll post the following quote from Black Scissors facebook. “Black Scissors is a symbol of the new worldwide bonsai culture movement. The mission is to promote the spirit of respectful bonsai sisterhood, the spirit of enthusiasm to explore new ideas, the spirit of freedom to create and to express,the spirit of motivation to encourage and to share creativity of bonsai art to lift bonsai art to a higher level and to give it a new perspective.”

“Two fingers pointing downwards or forwards is the Black Scissors greeting sign.

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A very textural close up of a Trident maple root-over-rock (root-swallowing-rock) bonsai. The uncropped photo is below.

“A total of 21 international bonsai organizations from 15 countries have joined the mission of Black Scissors Community through its Bonsai Sister Community program to strengthen the sisterhood collaboration with intensive interactions between members of all level in bonsai activities and programs.

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Onward and upward

This event is the first step of our long journey to promote a new perspective of bonsai art. Through our concept, we believe, a new culture of world bonsai community is born with sisterhood atmosphere, creative inspiration and motivation, expressing new spirit… and new bonsai fun!”








*No artists, owners or varieties are listed on our source for the photos

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Johnny’s Stellar Saikei


This stellar Saikei by Johnny Uchida was sent to us by Noah (no last name). Johnny Uchida is the owner of Grove Way Nursery in Hayward, California.

Still recovering from my all too short (one week) vacation, so we’ll dig back into our archives. This one is from all the way back to 2010.

Here what Noah (see caption above) has to say about this planting: “This saikei was done by Johnny Uchida of Grove Way Bonsai as an example for beginning students. Mr. Uchida is the sensei of Yamato Bonsai Kai in Northern California. The trees are cryptomeria and hinoki cypress and the composition is made with locally sourced rocks, gravel, moss, lichen and various accent plants.”

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I visited Grove Way about twenty years ago (closer to 30 years now). I was struck mostly by Johnny Uchida’s Japanese black pines. At the time, I think it was the best collection of black pine bonsai I had ever seen (it still stands as one of the best). Unfortunately, Johnny wasn’t home when I visited (his wife showed me around), so I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him.


You can see the hidden 5th tree in this bird's eye view. The three trees on the left are cryptomeria and the two on the right are hinoki cypress (Cham. obtusa) though they appear to be two different varieties. The the one in front looks like Kosteri. I'm not sure about the other one. 

A Great Bonsai Story & the Tree Isn’t Half Bad Either

shimpakupetercropped770Shimpaku juniper from a Peter Tea post, titled Shimpaku, The Unexpected Surprise. My apologies to Peter for cropping the bottom of the pot to get rid of a distracting white band that appears in the the original (it’s below so you can decide for yourself if my pickiness has gotten out of control).

Just back from a total non-working vacation/ retreat. I usually work some during so called vacations, but this time I went whole hog and almost completely avoided work. I mention this as an excuse for resurrecting this old Bark post from 2013.

If you’re not familiar with Peter Tea and his bonsai blog, please allow me to introduce him (once again). Peter’s work with bonsai is inspiring, and his writing about his experience as an bonsai apprentice is generous, funny, insightful and just plain fun to read.

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Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a little teaser from Peter’s latest story about the tree pictured here: “It was just another work day at Mr. Moriyama’s garden in early December… With us was Mr. Tohru Suzuki and his apprentice Mr. Takuya Suzuki of Daiju-en…. After we finished our work that morning, I wondered around the garden admiring many of the trees. Mr. Tohru Suzuki was looking around as well. I stopped to look at a large bushy Shimpaku that’s I’ve cleaned in the past a few times and Mr. Tohru Suzuki walks up to me and point at the tree. “You wire, okay?” he says to my surprise. I didn’t get my hopes up too quickly because I thought he was joking around with me since he’s done that many times in the past. I quickly said, “no problem, easy work!” Mr. Tohru Suzuki looks at me and laughs and said, “for Kokufu?.”I said, “yes, no problem,” playing along and laughing myself. He smiles and walks away looking at the other trees and my mind went to other things.”

I’ll leave rest to you, except to say that  Kokufu is Japan’s most prestigious bonsai show and there are at least two very good reasons for you to check out Peter’s post: first it’s a great story that’s very well told, and second, Peter provides a way beyond the-call-of-duty, thorough (to say the least) step-by-step series of photos (70 in all!!!) and text on the tree’s development.


Here’s the tree and the whole pot.


One of the seventy photos that Peter provides on the development of this one tree. Have you ever seen seventy photos on the development of one tree?

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What Do Shohin Bonsai & Suiseki Have in Common?


The 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Finest Shohin Bonsai Display by Melvyn Goldstein. The varieties are: Japanese Five-Needle Pine, Dwarf Hinoki Cypress, Trident Maple, Zelkova and Sargent Juniper. Unfortunately given that some of the individual trees were less well lit than others, the photo isn't as good we'd like (Oscar worked with what he had). You can expect a better shot when the album comes out.

One answer to the question above – What Do Shohin Bonsai & Suiseki Have in Common? – is they were both on display at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and a prize winner from each was chosen.

There were quite a few (I didn’t count) excellent Shohin displays at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, so winning the prize for the best was no mean feat. Unfortunately, and through no fault of Oscar’s, some of the details don’t show very well in the shot above. This will be remedied when the album comes out.

suisekicu-2Here's a close up of the Finest Suiseki (Viewing Stone) prize winner. It's a Plateau stone from the Seta river in Japan. It belongs to Michael Sullivan. In addition to being a very powerful and handsome stone, it reminds me of a space vehicle or a supersonic race car.

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A closeup of Melvin Goldstein's Japanese Five-Needle Pine from his prize winning Shohin display. A little fuzzy due to my questionable effort to bring it closer...

We only have one more prize winner from the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition after these two. If you haven’t seen our previous posts on this great event, you might want to scroll through. And thanks again to Oscar Jonker for all the photos in this series.



Suiseki with stand. Oscar's original photo of Michael Sullivan's prize winning suiseki

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Before & After – from Wild to Wild


Before and after. This distinctive European spruce, aka Norway spruce (Picea abies) was collected in Switzerland in 1993. It's now 25cm high and around 100 years old. The pot (on the right) is by Mateusz Grobeiny. The artist and owner of the tree is Walter Pall.

The before shot is actually an intermediate shot, taken well after the tree was collected and had been styled some. Now, though you can tell it’s the same tree, the transformation is radical and far from a highly stylized bonsai.

Often with before and after shots, the progression is from wild with potential to styled and sophisticated. Walter Pall’s trees often progress from wild with potential to still wild but transformed into compelling natural looking bonsai.

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After. A closer look

There used to be a bit of debate about naturalistic vs more stylized bonsai, but that was long ago. Now that our bonsai tastes are maturing, it seems that trees are evaluated individually, rather than in relation to other trees. Or in relation to manufactured notions of style.

All the images featured in this post are from Walter Pall’s facebook photos.


Before. A closer look


An intermediate stage

Three Shots Lifted from Oscar’s Exhibition Video


This wild and wonderful Western yamadori wasn't a winner at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, but it was a feature tree. I think it belongs to Randy Knight, but if I'm mistaken, my apologies to the owner (we'll blame all mistakes on age and a fading memory). This shot and the others shown here were lifted from Oscar Jonker's excellent Exhibition video.

I’m copping out a bit this morning. I wanted to continue our series on winners at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and give you a heads up on the last day of our Site Wide Sale. But there’s not enough time this morning to do justice to winners, so I’m going show you three shots I lifted from Oscar Jonkers wonderful Exhibition video and encourage you to visit Stone Lantern before our Big Site Wide Sale ends tonight (at 11:59pm EDT).

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5th3I don't remember the details (type and owner) of this tree but it's a great close up of a gnarled old trunk.

Stay posted for more on the Exhibition this coming week. Including the rest of the prize winners and some amazing trees that weren’t picked for a prize.

5thThere were dozens, if not hundreds of trees at the Exhibiton, that were worthy of winning something. Here are a couple. Again from Oscar Jonkers excellent video.

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Ed Trout’s Contorted Buttonwood Beast


I couldn't pass on this contorted, writhing beast of a Buttonwood any longer. It belongs to Ed Trout, a long time, highly respected Florida bonsai artist and teacher.

Gonna take a break from the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition bonsai today. The sun is shinning and I need to do something quick and easy so I can get outside and do some digging and transplanting before it’s too late.

I love Ed Trout’s Buttonwood and I also like the pot. It’s easy to see how they share a wild untamed feeling. My only question is, does such a dramatic tree need such a dramatic pot? Does the pot distract from the tree or enhance it? I don’t have an answer but maybe you do. You can comment on facebook if you’d like but don’t bother with the comments below. I may never have the time to wade through the spam to find it.

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Here’s part of what Ed has to say about the remarkable tree above… “All of my bonsai creations over the years are special to me. Each has a meaning….as it should be. This tree is no different, maybe even more special. It’s roots, though still holding strong, are starting to wither. It’s trunk shows the ups and downs, ins and outs, back and forth of it’s life journey. The many scars along the way show it’s battles, and the terrible losses, and how difficult it must have been to continue that journey. But in the end there is still life….tenuous though it may be….life does go on…….

Visit Ed on facebook and in about a dozen Bonsai Bark posts

Free, Unconstrained, Witty, Clever, Humorous & Unconventional

naturalThis elegant Bunjin style Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) won Finest Natural Bonsai award at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It belongs to John Jaramillo.

With Bunjin (Literati) style bonsai a certain sensitivity is required. Anything even a little forced or overdone or unnatural in any way, just won’t do. Thus, in the case of this tree, the award for the Finest Natural Bonsai is spot on.

Here’s a quote on Bunjin by the illustrious John Naka (from a 2015 Bark post) “… Its appearance should not be too serious nor easy, it should be free, unconstrained, witty, clever, humorous and unconventional. A good example for this is a study of any of nature’s tree that has survived some sort of problem or disaster.

More photos below…

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natoriginalThanks to Oscar Jonker for this original photo (the others are just my crops).



A cropped attempt to show you a closeup of the suiseki companion

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