High on the Bonsai & Penjing Pantheons

penjing copy

This remarkable planting belongs somewhere near the top of the Penjing pantheon. I'd love to have close-ups of this brilliant landscape by Kuanghua Hsiao, so we could see the details, but we'll take what we can get. I found the photo here.

Just two remarkable photos today. It’s not that often you see two bonsai by the same person, each so completely different from the other and each among the best you’ll see anywhere.

Kuanghua Hsiao

Speaking of pantheons, this one has to be somewhere near the top of great deciduous bonsai. It was posted on facebook by the same Kuanghua Hsiao (above), but no indication of the type tree or other details.


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Nipping & Snapping at Noelanders – Part 2


This one has that wild, almost untouched look, that takes you straight to a rocky ledge off in the mountains somewhere. I don't know what it is but I like it and its pot. This photo and the others shown here (and in yesterday's post) were taken by Graham Potter at last weekend's Noelanders Trophy.

Yesterday I wrote “There’s a long discussion on facebook about Noelanders Trophy and some ‘haters’ (an overused word that some people use just because someone else expresses a dislike or a contrary opinion), but I’ve decided that this is a part one post, so we’ll save my commentary for part two.” Now I’m not so sure I want to open this can of worms, but a promise is a promise, so here goes…

…In most art forms, when an art piece is displayed, the artist’s name, (when known) is prominent, with the owner’s name secondary (on loan from so and so, for example).

When it comes to bonsai the convention is to simply list the owner. There are good reasons for this. One is tradition (that’s the way it’s done in Japan). Another is that it’s not always clear who the artist is and many trees have had several artists (this no doubt is part of the reason the tradition developed). And of course, the owner is the one who puts up the money…

I am at peace with this tradition. However, knowing the history of a tree is a real plus. When you see a painting you might want to know who the artist is (is that a Klee, a Miro, a Kandinsky, or…?). This inquisitiveness and ability to see similarities and patterns often causes a second or third look and can deepen appreciation. It’s not that different with bonsai (there’s more that could be said, but you probably stopped reading at least two paragraphs ago anyway).

I borrowed all the photos is this post from Graham Potter of Kaizen Bonsai.

kaizan12Even though this one looks a lot like a few hundred other quality Shimpaku bonsai we've seen lately (a wild, undulating, deadwood dominated trunk with a single living vein, more crazy deadwood up top and a nicely balanced crown for contrast)... still, it's a beautiful tree.



Two headed beauty in naked winter display.



Is this an oak? We showed a couple yesterday that share a look with this one. Perhaps related to Walter Pall's fairy tale bonsai, though somewhat tamer.



This yamadori (Norway spruce?) with its bonsai S curve, deadwood base and perfect little jin up top is one of my favorites. And the pot works to perfection.



I've said enough. We'll let this one speak for itself.


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Nipping Around & Snapping at Noelanders Trophy


Though every one of Graham Potter's snaps of trees he liked, also struck my fancy, this one really got me. The gnarly ancient looking little tree with its smattering of red flowers and buds (I'll take it to be a quince), all the action on the surface of the soil which reinforces the feeling of age (and naturalness) and of course, the pot (all those words and it's not even a proper sentence).

Here’s part of what Graham Potter of Kaizen Bonsai had to say about last weekends Noelanders Trophy:
We were so busy over the weekend I barely got chance to walk around. However early Sunday morning before anyone was about I got ten minutes to nip around the show benches. I do not know who won what but did take a few snaps of trees I personally liked so, in no particular order, here are those snaps.” For more of Graham’s comments and great photos visit his Kaizen Bonsai Blog.

There’s a long discussion on facebook about Noelanders Trophy and some ‘haters’ (an overused word that some people use just because someone else expresses a dislike or a contrary opinion), but I’ve decided that this is a part one post, so we’ll save my commentary for part two.

BTW: Graham doesn’t list the type trees or the exhibitors’ names so we’ll have to do without (unless someone is willing to fill us in).


Graham provided photos of so many unique looking trees (our tastes seem to run in the same vein), but this one really jumped out at me. Partly just because of its outrageous top-knots, and partly because of the way the deadwood has been left to rot naturally (at least that's the way it looks) rather than all dressed up and lime-sulphured.



Graham's favorite and it's not a stretch to see why (though most of the pot is missing). Is it a variety of holly (Ilex)? Wrong again; it's a Holm oak.



When I first glimpsed this one, I thought it looks something Graham would do (check out his videos). And sure enough... "Privet supplied by us a couple of years ago."



Looks like one of those Taiwanese (or maybe Japanese) field-grown Shimpakus that are popping up all over the place these days.



I don't know what this wild looked triple-trunked decidous bonsai with its gaping mouth is, but I like it. Not only is the base full of character, but the detailed ramification is pretty impressive too.

Stay posted. We’ll show more of Graham’s Noelanders photos tomorrow.


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Redwood Bonsai & a Sense of Mystery


This ancient looking tree is a Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). It was displayed at the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society’s 27th annual show (2010). This, and all but the last photo in this post, were originally borrowed from Bonsai Tonight. 

Superior bonsai photography. My hat is off to Jonas Dupuich and his consistently superior photographs (you can view them all at Bonsai Tonight). If you can’t see a top quality bonsai in person, the next best thing is a top quality photo.


There's nothing quite like a hollow trunk to add a feeling of age, depth and character to a tree. A sense of mystery too. 



Detail from another trunk (Jonas thinks it's a Chinese elm).






Cork oak.



This one looks a bit more like a towering full-sized redwood. The tree lives at the Pacific Bonsai Museum. The  photo was taken by Greg Brenden (brendenstudio).

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Tropical Bonsai Monster & the Crespi Bonsai Museum

crespi@wbffTropical monster. From the Crespi Museum of Bonsai in Parabiago, Milan. The photo is from World Bonsai Friendship Federation delegation’s visit to Europe in April 2010.

Before you ask if we’ve dug out yet, we haven’t. There’s not one flake to dig out from. The entire storm was way south of us. If anything, we’d like to see a little more snow. For me, it’s about a deep warm blanket for landscape plant protection. For our friends who make their living off winter sports, it’s about paying the bills.

The more or less random selection of photos you see here are borrowed from a post we did way back in 2010.

bonsai-journey-min-hsuan-lo-cover1-300x426I just received (this was written in 2010) a kind message from Min, Hsuan Lo. If you don't know who Mr Min is, it's time to learn. To get you started, here's the cover of his book and a link to a review at ofBonsai Magazine.


BonsaiVirtualTour_221The entrance to the Japanese Stroll Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum.


boonbonsaitonightThis amazing tree is one of many world-class bonsai at the Shinpukuji Temple bonsai museum. It's from Boon Manakitivipart's excellent Japan adventure (way back in 2010). You can enjoy more photos from Boon's trip and much more at Bonsai Tonight.


FUCHI2011I just discovered that our friend Morten Albek (Shohin Bonsai: Majesty in Miniature) and two of his bonsai buddies have a website called Fuchi Bonsai. The photo above is from their 2010 Autumn Exhibition.

B1CRESPI-2TSpeaking of the Crespi Bonsai Museum
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Old Bonsai Tell Stories


I like this little tree. It tells a story - any tree that grow to over 250 feet (see below) in optimal conditions and yet looks like this, has a story. It's a Poderosa pine. I don't know who collected it, but it belongs to Colin Lewis (unless he sold it).

Yesterday was Ponderosa pines, so we’ll continue on that track today. BTW: I didn’t set out to make this post about rare cork bark Ponderosa, but it has headed in that direction, at least in part. This is because some of the photos and text here are from a Bark post about corky Ponderosa.

The title, Old Bonsai Tell Stories, is a theme that keeps coming to mind whenever I see old Yamadori (bonsai collected from the wild). The themes are almost always deprivation caused my poor soil, harsh weather and other sorts of trauma. Living at the edge of what’s possible and for a long time.

Speaking of stories, 268 feet is a very tall tree. “A Pacific ponderosa pine in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon was climbed on October 13, 2011, by Ascending The Giants (a tree-climbing company) and directly measured at 268.29 ft (81.77 m) high. This is now the tallest known pine. The previous tallest known pine was a sugar pine.” For the whole story visit Wikipedia.


This one looks suspiciously corky. Eric Schrader's caption for this photo reads: "At Ryan Neil’s place the Ponderosa were all about the twists and deadwood." Ryan Neil is the artist behind the wonders of Bonsai Mirai and Eric Schrader is a five star bonsai blogger.


ponmiraiHere's another that we borrowed directly from Ryan Neil's Mirai, American Bonsai. There are signs of what some people might call corking, but I don't think it qualifies as a cork bark Ponderosa.


ponbc3This Backcountry Bonsai photo of a wild uncollected Ponderosa pine shows what real cork bark looks like. There's even a very prominent wing sticking out on the left (opposite the hand). A sure sign of a cork bark.


danpinejonasImpressive nebari (surface roots flaring at the base of the trunk) aren't that common on pines, though this one is certainly an exception. It's one of Dan’s Robinson's many ancient Ponderosa pines. This photo was taken at Elandan Gardens by Jonas Dupuich (Bonsai Tonight).



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I like this photo by Morton Albek (Shohin Bonsai, Majesty in Miniature), even though it shows copper wire rather than annodized aluminum.


A towering Ponderosa with its signature reddish bark


I found this image here


Ponderosa and other trees that grow in open fields often spread rather than tower. I've seen ones that look exactly like this at about 8,500 feet in the Rockies, so we'll guess this photo is of a scopulorum, the Rocky mountain subspecies.

Bonsai & Magnificently Beautiful Towering Trees

pinus_ponderosaWalter Pall and Mother Nature conspired and came up with something really good. It's a Ponderosa pine that was originally collected in the Rockies.

Got a couple Ponderosa pine Yamadori today (Yamadori is the Japanese word for bonsai that were collected from the wild).

Just in case you never been to the mountains of the western U.S., Ponderosa pine are magnificently beautiful towering trees (obviously they don’t all tower, but in optimal conditions that’s what they do) with distinctive reddish bark.

Unfortunately millions of acres of Poderosa have been wiped out by an ongoing Mountain pine beetle infestation. Previously these virulent pests were kept in check by cold winters. Not so anymore.


This is the third time we've shown this sweet little Pondersa, but it's been two years and I like it, so why not? The tree is a Yamadori that was collected and styled by Andy Smith. The pot is by Sara Rayner.



Two excellent DVDs by Andy Smith.



THE book on Ponderosa bonsai


Bonsai Zen – Circles & Curves


Zen pine. In some types of art (calligraphy comes to mind) shapes are often suggested rather than completed. The mind of the viewer does the rest. In the case of this pine, it's a circle (the way the raw power of the deadwood demands your attention cinches it). The tree and the photo belong to Mauro Stemberger. You can see more of Mauro's bonsai here, here and here.

Circles, semi circles and curves are today’s theme.


Bonsai with long slow curves like this one tend to be out of favor, at least with some people, who might refer to this type curve to as a pigeon breast. In the case of this pine I think the deadwood that mirrors the curve creates interest and perhaps even make the pigeon breast more acceptable. The artist is Wlodzimierz Pietraszko. I believe we've featured this tree before but a quick Bark search comes up zero.



Full circle. I don't know what kind of tree this is, but I'll bet you'll remember it if you ever see it again. I found it here.



A snake about to strike. I'm not so sure this one fits our unusual curves theme, but if you follow the line from the base of the trunk to the tip of the deadwood, it's close enough. Once again (like the pine above), the artist is Wlodzimierz Pietraszko and this is at least the second time we've shown this tree. 

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Bonsai Shohin Passion


Shohin Japanese maple in early spring. Among other things that make this an outstanding bonsai is the way the shallow pot accentuates the trunk's impressive girth. The photo is from Roland Schatzer's new book, Bonsai Shohin Passion, as are all the photos in this post.

A while back we got an email from Bill Valavanis recommending we take a look at Roland Schatzer’s new book, Bonsai Shohin Passion. Soon after that Bill sent an introductory email to Roland and to us. The rest, as they say, is history.

Just in case you are new to bonsai, Shohin is ‘small thing’ in Japanese. Though there are no precise rules about what constitutes a shohin bonsai, 10″ (25cm) tall, or less, is a general rule of thumb.


Shohin crabapple in bloom. As always the pot plays its part; this time it's the way the pot's color and texture play off the color and texture of the base of trunk and even the soil.


This time the pot is more elegant; perfect for a tree with such elegant flowing deadwood.


Bonsai Shohin Passion. Nice trees on the cover too.

Here’s an excellent video on how Bonsai Shohin Passion came into existence.

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