Artisans Cup – Two Years Late & Right on Time


Good news! The Cup is coming. Those of us who kept the faith when the Artisans Cup was postponed are officially vindicated. You may remember that the Artisans Cup was originally scheduled for October 2013. Until events conspired to cause it to be postponed until 2015. Now that 2015 is preparing its arrival, the excitement that we all experienced two years ago is coming back. Time to start making plans.

Michael Hagedorn, an indispensable half of the Artisans Cup original brain trust and major American bonsai artist, teacher and author, just posted this on Crateagus Bonsai.“One of the major events in North American bonsai is only 10 months away! The long awaited Artisans Cup bonsai exhibition will be held at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, USA on September 26-28, 2015. Our five international judges will be David DeGroot, Colin Lewis, Boon Manakitivipart, Walter Pall, and Peter Warren, choosing awards for trees selected by Ryan Neil and I. And quite shortly, in a few days, a new Artisans Cup website will be up to give you details.” There’s more here.


The Portland Art Museum. The venue for the 2015 Artisans Cup.



As long as we’re talking about 2015 we might as well remind you that without a beautiful Japanese bonsai calendar or Japanese garden calendar (or both) you’re bound to be date challenged next year.

And while we’re at it… our Big Site Wide 20% to 30% off Absolutely Everything Sale ends tonight at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time. Don’t wait.

Out of the Bonsai Mainstream


This stately distinctive Hinoki is from Michael Pollock’s blog Bonsai Shinshei as are the other two bonsai shown here. Here’s Michael’s caption: “One of my lone Hinoli cypress after a quick fall cleanup. Falling deeper in love with this pot that Ron Lang and I collaborated on.”

I was going to feature the tree above in our last post until I got interested in the pot and one thing led to another. So, we’ll pick up where we left off.

There was a time not too long ago when most of the bonsai you saw conformed to Japanese standards. True, there has long been a wealth of bonsai in other east Asian countries, but it was mostly Japanese bonsai that first found its way West (this is especially true in North America).

Now, since bonsai has caught fire around the world, there’s a creative revolution taking place. Bonsai artists and enthusiasts are feeding off of each other and experimentation has become the norm. The results are often trees that amaze and inspire. And, as in the case of the Hinoki above (and its pot), trees that are so distinctive that they stick in your mind long after you see them.

I started this yesterday and now 24 hours later it looks like it’s evolving into a post on Michael Pollack’s bonsai. The two below are both from his Bonsai Shinshei blog. They don’t stray that far from our ‘out of the mainstream‘ theme, so I think it’s okay.



I’m not sure this tree is as distinctive as the Hinoki above, but it’s a very good bonsai and distinctive enough. And it’s our local Northern white cedar no less. A variety that is just becoming acquainted with bonsai (or is it the other way around?). Like the other two trees shown here, it belongs to Michael Pollock who had just wired it when he posted it, so it has a bit of that waiting-for-the-foliage-to-fill-in look. He also mentioned that it needed a new pot. Still, freshly wired and in need of a new pot or not, I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want this bonsai in their collection.



Unfinished, but still a sweet bonsai and though I’ve seen other bonsai more or less along the same lines, it’s distinctive enough. It’s a Juniper procumbens (looks like a ‘nana’) from nursery stock. I’ll take it that I don’t need to mention the pot (by Dale Cochoy).

All the bonsai in this post are from Michael Pollock’s Bonsai Shinshei blog.

Experimental Forms & Other Ingenious Bonsai Ceramics


This highly textural pot is but one of a whole range of ingenious and original bonsai pots and sculptures at Lang Bonsai Containers (no one pays for content on Bonsai Bark – it’s just an accident due to time pressure or maybe lack of imagination, that this post read like an ad). 

Today and tomorrow have been set aside to move bonsai into winter storage and to finish wrapping some deliciously edible landscape plants with deer netting. So we’ll try to keep this short and to the point.

I was a little miffed to discover that we have never featured Ron Lang’s and Sharon Edwards Russell’s bonsai containers. Time to remedy this oversight.

The pots shown here give you some idea of the highly innovative and altogether remarkable range of shapes, styles, glazes and other ceramic variables you’ll find when you visit Lang Bonsai Containers. It’s a click well worth making.







This innovative bonsai sculpture is from a page titled Experimental forms.

A Remarkable Bonsai, Two Questions & the Boreal Forest


The inspiration for this post arouse when I stumbled upon this remarkable tree on facebook. It belongs to Colin Lewis. Here’s his caption: “Colorado blue spruce, acquired 2008 from Harold Sasaki. Styled 2011-2012. Pot custom made by my old friend Dan Barton, 2013. I’m letting it grow this year to refresh some old congested areas. Maybe I’ll show it in 2016…”

Le raison d’être for this post is the tree above. More accurately, the tree and the pot. Both are delightful and together, even more delightful.

However, and in spite of the magic of the bonsai above, two questions arise. Does the turquoise glaze (where the rim of the pot peels open to accommodate the dragon-like jin) enhance the overall effect or distract from it? To clarify, I love the opening in the pot, it’s color I’m curious about.

The second question is; without knowing how it came into existence (only Colin or Harold know), would the trunk be better off without the shari? Would the age and character of the tree be better expressed if we could see more of the old bark? And, is it one too many elements in a tree that already has so much going on? Or does it provide balance for the powerful jin?

I don’t have answers, just questions. But I do believe that Colin is one of those people who is interested in exploring and pushing bonsai boundaries. Maybe that’s the answer.

Below are a couple more of Colin’s trees that you might enjoy.


Colin’s caption: “Oh what a tangled web we weave…. Crazy Ponderosa pine from Andy Smith 2005.” We’ve shown this one before, but it’s always worth another look (unquestionably). Colin posted it on facebook with the tree above and you can find it on his website as well.



This Tamarack forest is from Colin’s website. I have a big soft spot for Tamarack (Larch: Larix laricina). It’s one of several sub-arctic trees that reaches down into northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (a little further south at higher elevations) and runs northwest through Canada’s great Boreal forest and all the way into Alaska (if you’ve been following the debate on the Keystone XL pipeline, you might have heard something about the Boreal forest).


Ho Yoku

Colin Lewis’ excellent Ho Yoku Bonsai Care Products are all available at Stone Lantern. Now’s a good time to stock up, everything is 20% to 30% off


Finally, An Undisputed Winner


Contest or no contest, this powerful European olive by Luis Vallejo is an exceptional tree.

Okay. That whole prove us wrong thing from last week was a bust. Absolutely no dissenting views.  Looking on the bright side, I guess that means we got it right.

Best of all, we finally have an undisputed winner for our  Bonsai Detective contest. Congratulations to Dorothy Schmitz. She wasn’t one of the first entries, but she kept plugging away until she got it right (if you happen to be Dorothy, your $100 gift certificate will be emailed to you on Monday).

Thanks to all of you who entered and especially the handful of you who got six out of seven correct.


A. Gabriel Romero Aguade. Almost everyone got this one.



B. Luis Vallejo. Almost everyone got this one too. Most agreed that it involves an assumption.



C. Antonio Payeras. Almost everyone got this one right.



D. Manuel Medina. This one proved to be the trickiest. Only two of you got it.



E. Stefano Defraia. Another easy one that almost everyone got.



F. Another tricky one. Luis Vallejo, German Gomez and Carlos Huerta were all given as answers. Our winner said Gomez and Huerta and we accepted that answer as correct (trees sometimes change hands).



G. Melba Tucker. Another easy one that people found in several different places.

A Beautiful New Bonsai Book


Ginkgo. A close up of the cover tree from the new Crespi Bonsai Museum gallery book.

We only occasionally devote a whole post to advertising and then only when we think what we are selling is newsworthy or warrants some special attention.

It has been a long time since we’ve seen such an exceptional new bonsai book. Quality photography, materials and production combine with fifty blue chip bonsai that have been shot over time and from different perspectives in a way that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable bonsai experience.

This excellent new book allows you a taste of the world famous Crespi Bonsai Museum (Milan, Italy) without suffering a trace of jet lag (not that Italy isn’t a trip worth taking if you have the time and means). Speaking of means, this superb hardcover is a remarkably good deal at 45.00 US dollars (especially when you consider our current 20% to 30% sale). Timing is good too (gift hint for those of us who need all the help we can get).

The images shown here are all scans from our ancient scanner and photos from my not so ancient iPhone. Neither do a whit of justice to the real thing.


I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Japanese maple with such amazing cork bark. The variety is called Arakawa.



Swirling Shimpaku.


English hawthorn. What might be considered serious design flaws in other trees are overlooked with flowering tree in full bloom.



Another Japanese maple. Cascade this time. It’s hard to get the full effect with this hastily shoot iPhone photo, but you can use your imagination.


B1CRESPIshimAnother Simpaku. Our scanner isn’t big enough to get the largest images.



The cover. My apologies for the fuzz. I couldn’t scan the full cover without losing part of it, so I lifted and enlarged (thus the fuzz) this photo from the publisher’s website.

The Crespi Bonsai Museum’s new Bonsai Gallery book is available at Stone Lantern.

Majesty in Miniature


Winter or early spring (it looks like there might be some leaves starting to push, but it’s hard to tell). Two things that jumped out when I first saw this photo are, the rather unusual shape of the stand and the shear number of trees in the display. No companions, no figurines, no stones (well, maybe one small one in the middle) and not much internal space either (though there is plenty of space around the whole display). Just nine mini bonsai and one very well chosen larger tree.

The photos shown here were taken by Morten Albek at the 2nd Mini-bonsai Exhibition at the Changzhou Qinxin Garden in China.

In case you don’t know him, Morten is the author of Shohin, Majesty in Miniature. He is also a Shohin bonsai artist, teacher, blogger and shohin spokesperson, as well as a top notch photographer.

Here’s some of what Morten has to say about this trip: “The 2nd Mini-bonsai exhibition September 2014 in Changzhou Qinxin Garden was an experience and a surprise to me. I had not expected something like this when I was invited to China to be part of this event….

Mini-bonsai has a different perspective than normal larger bonsai. Where large bonsai are displayed by themselves to show the beauty, strength and elegance of the tree, Mini-bonsai are focused on showing the beauty of the season too. This is done by displaying two or several trees together in a harmonious display, where flowering trees are important in summer, fruit bearing trees in autumn…” You can read the rest and see all of Morten’s photos on his blog.



 This sweet little tree just standing alone looks like late summer with some fruit still to ripen. At first I thought this might be a Kumquat tree, but now I’m leaning toward dwarf Persimmon. 



Late spring or summer. Another somewhat crowded but quite striking ten tree display. No concern about even numbers here (or is the little figurine in the middle the 11th element?).



Summer? You’ll find this kind of unusual perspective and rich tones in many of Morten’s photos.



Spring or summer? Seven little trees plus one larger tree (plus one companion, three figurines and one stone).



Late summer or fall. It’s the single large fruit that gives it away. It looks like it might be a pomegranate and the tree looks like a Ficus neriifolia. I must be missing something.



Spring? Looks like maybe the leaves are still coming out. Another unusual stand with some unusual elements as well.



Late summer or fall again. Pyracantha’s are native to Asia and Europe, though due to the beauty of their berries and their hardiness, you see them all over North America (except here in northern Vermont, where winters are just a little too cold).

Bonsai Art: Running Out of Superlatives

art5The day has barely started and I’m already running out of superlatives. I guess ‘spectacular’ will do in this case. It’s a Korean hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii) by Ian Stewartson. The photo is from Bonsai Art’s website.

Getting ready for another cross country hop (west to east this time), so to save time we’ll pull something out of our archival hat once again. This one originally appeared March 2013.

Bonsai Art magazine is very well named. As bonsai magazines go, it is as well-done, beautiful and professional as they come (taking nothing away from International Bonsai Magazine and several other good ones). The problem, for most of us at least, is that it’s in German. But really, the photos and overall presentation are so good that maybe the language isn’t as important as you might think. And then there’s always, though repeated copying and pasting or worse, typing German text and then getting bad machine translations might not be your thing. But anyway, it’s a beautiful magazine and I’m always delighted when mine arrives.


art8It has been a while since we’ve featured kusamono (companion plantings, or herbaceous plants in bonsai containers when they stand alone). This Thalictrum (Meadow-rue), also from Bonsai Art’s website, belongs to Wolfgang Putz.


art7Okay, the trunk is massive for sure, but there’s much to this tree (think ramification, among other things). It’s another Korean hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii). This one belongs to Mario Komsta and the photo like the others shown here is from Bonsai Art’s website. The smaller bonsai looks like a Shimpaku.

art41Learning from the Master (Masahiko Kimura). This is a pretty good example of what a spread in Bonsai Art might look like.


art6-500x696Bonsai Art’s cover. The tree, a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), won a special prize at the 2013 Noelander’s Exhibition. It resides at the Bonsai Museum in Dusseldorf. The artist is David Benavente.


Tool Sale & our Masters Sword shears. This phenomenal tool is now only 92.16 (124.00 special price plus 20% off tool discount plus another 10% off for orders 100.00 or more). It is especially useful if you have a lot of deciduous or tropical bonsai. If you want more info on one of its uses, check out this post by Walter Pall.

Prove Us Wrong & Win a $50 Gift Certificate


This is the one that caused the most trouble (see D below).

Our Bonsai Detective contest (from three weeks ago) turned out to be the most difficult one to judge yet. Remind me next time to be sure we have an ironclad grip on all the answers before we start.

Not only were there lots of entries, but most were very good with only one or two misses. But what really made it difficult is conflicting, vague and otherwise unreliable information on the internet (surprise!). Especially on facebook (another surprise no doubt).

The upshot is that after spending hours pouring through the entries and checking all the links, I’m still not 100% sure that we got them all right. Still, at some point it’s time to leave research behind and take the leap. We’ll, a sort of leap. We’re going to delay naming our provisional winner (the only person to get them all right?) and issue a challenge at the same time.

Okay, this is a little complicated, so pay attention: The challenge is: prove us wrong on any tree (it’s all about links). To this end we are offering another Stone Lantern gift certificate. This one for $50.If no one proves us wrong, then the only prize awarded will be $100 gift certificate to the winner of the original contest.

If more than one person proves us wrong, the $50 prize will be divided accordingly (I will be the sole arbiter of what constitutes proof) and of course someone will still get the original $100 certificate either way.

No entries will accepted after Nov 15th. Do not put your challenge in the comments. Email me instead: Put ‘challenge’ in the subject line.

Below, we’ll identify who we believe is the artist for each tree. We won’t provide the links just yet, in case anyone wants to do their own research and try to win the new gift certificate.


A. Gabriel Romero Aguade. Almost everyone got this one.



B. Luis Vallejo. Almost everyone got this one too. Most agreed that it involves an assumption. We’ll leave that to you.



C. Antonio Payeras. Almost everyone got this one right.



D. Manuel Medina. This one proved to be the trickiest. Only two of you got it.



E. Stefano Defraia. Another easy one that almost everyone got.



F. Another tricky one. Luis Vallejo, German Gomez and  Carlos Huerta were all given as answers. Our provisional winner said Gomez and Huerta and we accepted that answer as correct (trees sometimes change hands).



G. Melba Tucker. Another easy one that people found in several different places.

New Name, New Curator, Same Great Bonsai Collection


Simplicity. Elegance. Balance. Perfection. However you say it, this tree has it. The only thing that breaks up the perfect balance is the irregular nebari. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a Japanese beech (Fagus crenata). The artist is Yasuo Mitsuya of Toyochasi, Japan. This masterpiece and the rest of the trees shown here reside at the Pacific Bonsai Museum. The bonsai photos are all by Hoe Chuah. From the Bonsai, Penjing & More blog.

We’ve mentioned that the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection has a new  improved website. What we haven’t mentioned is they also have a new name and a new curator. The new name is the Pacific Bonsai Museum and the new curator is Aarin Packard. Aarin’s previous incarnation was as the assistant curator of the National Bonsai & Penjing collection and the creator of the Capital Bonsai blog.

Aarin is replacing David DeGroot, who is retiring. Dave is an accomplished bonsai artist, teacher and author whose long time service was of great benefit to the collection and to all of us who have enjoyed it over the years. Based on what I’ve heard about Aarin and seen on his Capital Bonsai blog, I expect he will build on Dave’s success.



Short, stocky and full of character. It’s a Korean Hornbeam (Carpinus turzczaninovii) by Sae Won Kim of Korea.


trident Root-over-Rock Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum). If you look very closely, you’ll see a lot of great detail in the trunk and rock.



 Close up of a famous Tamarack (Larch) by Nick Lenz. A shot of the whole tree is just below.



This Larch (Larix laricina) is featured in Nick Lenz’ Bonsai from the Wild.



Vaughn Banting’s flat-top Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).

Thanks to the Bonsai, Penjing & More blog and Hoe Chuah for the photos from the Pacific Bonsai Museum that are featured above.



Dave DeGroot.


Aarin Packard. From the National Bonsai Foundation.


Nick Lenz’ classic on North American bonsai varieties
and the art of collecting from the wild.
On special at Stone Lantern.