Late Summer Beauty At The International Bonsai Arboretum

Late Summer Beauty At International Bonsai Arboretum

This Saturday, September 23, 2023 will officially begin the Autumn season in the northern hemisphere. The weather is beautiful, sunny and warm. As I was strolling though my garden several views look good so am sharing them with you.

Winter is coming, time to get overwintering white poly to cover four houses. I felt luck to find the right sizes, but not happy about the double price increase, over $750!

More photos as my garden colors up, hopefully.

2023 8th US National Bonsai Exhibition

THE exhibition has come and gone, and it’s taken me personally one week to recover. Well over 1,000 paying visitors from Australia, Italy, England, Mexico, Colombia traveled to Rochester, New York to see and study over 300 bonsai from throughout the United States and Canada.The vendors and staff added over 100 people.

People enjoyed the exhibition, and many needed to wait about an hour to get in because of fire code capacity regulations. Diane even needed to stop selling tickets so we would not overpopulate the 50,000 sq ft venue which consists of two indoor soccer fields.

Over 109 different species and cultivars were on display for viewers to enjoy. There were 122 individual shohin bonsai for those who appreciate small bonsai. Some said this year’s exhibition was the finest and largest in the United States…ever!

Throughout the two day exhibition, professional bonsai artists donated their time to conduct tours and critiques of the bonsai. They included David Easterbrook, Boon, Suthin, Sean Smith, Bjorn Bjorholm and Kora Dalager.

Additionally, our three foreign judges, Koji Hiramatsu (Japan), Gerald Rainville (Canada) and Corin Tomlinson (England) selected the best and most beautiful bonsai to receive over $7,000 in cash awards. Each judge and Sean Smith presented demonstrations to a packed house. All 300 chairs were occupied.

Over 45 vendors from the United States, Canada and Colombia brought their finest ware for sale. Two vendors sold out on the first day and returned home early.

All this time, in a hidden room was Joe Noga carefully capturing the beauty of each bonsai for the upcoming Commemorative Album. The photos are superb, sharp and took considerable time to light each tree. Joe spent four days photographing and actually finished up so he could enjoy the exhibition on Sunday afternoon.

This was a tremendous amount of work and energy my crew and friends donated so others could appreciate the bonsai beauty. This year was special for me, personally, as it marked the 100th bonsai exhibition, symposium, colloquium and convention I have organized with the help with my friends, of course.

Be on the watch for the 2025 9th US National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, New York on September 13-14, 2025. And please order your tickets early, before making your hotel and travel plans so you will not be disappointed.

Experience Japanese Culture, Gardens & Bonsai In A Small Group

Have you ever considered to visit the Japan bonsai community and to experience Japanese culture?

Here is your opportunity to experience the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition, visit private bonsai collections, and Kyoto gardens. A visit to Tokoname to purchase bonsai containers is also available too!

In November Kora Dalager and I will be leading another one of our popular value-priced trips to Japan. Only a small number of members will be accepted for this tour so we will have ample time to fully appreciate the beauty and culture of Japan. Because of the timing of the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in Kyoto.

Omiya Bonsai Village, the mecca of bonsai, will be experienced, where you will see the top bonsai gardens where many of the famous masterpiece bonsai have been created and are maintained. You will have the opportunity to meet the top bonsai artists and see their trees, both outdoors and in small indoor displays. The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, near the village will be on the tour where formal instructive displays, in English, can be seen as well as formal bonsai alcove displays. You can then stroll through a large outdoor garden with masterpieces displayed throughout. Directly across the street we will experience a delicious traditional Japanese luncheon.

Bonsai artist Masahiko Kimura will be visited and here you can see many of the top evergreen bonsai in his small, intimate garden. He always has time for us and answers your questions as well.

A visit to Seiji Morimai’s nearby S-Cube bonsai garden is always a highlight because of friendly hospitality while seeing thousands of bonsai and suiseki. He also accepts credit cards as well…. Bonsai containers, at great prices as well as display tables and art are always popular with our groups.

Kiunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Art Museum in Tokyo is a visit you will not forget. Here ten indoor formal bonsai displays will feature some of the finest, and most expensive bonsai in Japan. Outdoors a small koi pond is surrounded with other masterpieces. Having run out of room, another area has been constructed on top of the building holding antique containers and more suiseki. Truly a breathtaking experience!

A bullet train ride will bring you nearby views of famed Mt. Fuji on our way to Kyoto. November is the peak season for enjoying the red colorful Japanese maple leaves. They are featured in all the historical and famous gardens we will tour. Additionally we will visit Mr. Morimai’s new bonsai garden display in a 800 year old temple complex.

 Of course, one of the main highlights of this special tour includes visits to the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition, one of the largest in Japan with nearly 300 bonsai formally displayed with scrolls, accessories and suiseki. The sales area is one of the largest in Japan.

 Following the Kyoto visit we will travel to the Nagoya area for a special visit to a temple complex in the middle of a bamboo grove. After seeing a superb private bonsai collection we will have a traditional vegetarian lunch with a bamboo theme.

Finally we will make a stop to Tokoname, an ancient pottery town. Although most famous for toilet bowls, they are now well known for high quality bonsai containers. You will meet some of the top bonsai potters and also have the opportunity to watch them hand build bonsai containers in their factories. All the containers are offered at special discounted prices for our tour.

 Join Kora Dalager and me for a special tour to experience Japanese culture and bonsai. Please contact Kora at for additional information. She can arrange special visits if you like.

A tour flyer is available

I look forward to exploring the Japanese bonsai world and celebrating Thanksgiving in Kyoto.

Advanced Container Selection… What The Books Don’t Tell You

Which is the most important element when selecting a bonsai container? Size, shape, color or quality. Although varying according to the tree, I generally rank the elements by size, shape, color and quality. Personal taste is also a deciding factor based on your bonsai study through the decades, understanding of the art and level of bonsai you appreciate.

       Yesterday we transplanted an unusual Satsuki cultivar, Senbazuru, which has GREEN flowers, once placed in the shade. It’s been in full sun until today. It continuously flowers from May to September. The current color shown here is not the final color. A photo taken in late July clearly illustrates the true color. 

Senbazuru Satsuki Azalea, late July. No Photoshop tricks or filters, true coloring!

Which container is best? Which container did I use?

       I first posted this question on my Facebook post and received over 35 responses. When writing my thoughts on container selection, I wrote too much for my Facebook post, so am explaining here, where I am not limited space. ALL four of these containers are suitable for this bonsai.

A-  Chinese production quality. Workmanship not up to my standards for this container. But when the azalea whip arrived from Japan eight years ago I quickly wanted to pot it and get it established and healthy. I thought the green flowers would contrast with the bright orange-red glaze, which it did. However, the container was cheap and now the bonsai deserved a better container. Quality was the most important factor in this instance.

B- US, Red Tail Pottery, handmade by Mike Hennigan. I purchased this fine-quality container from Mike last week because of the unusual, contemporary design and superb workmanship. The cream color is quite subtle, and I wanted to present a quiet refined image. Normally, if possible, I try to use contrasting colors, like orange-red with green flowers. But I liked the unique design and thought the size was a bit too small. However, after wiring a few branches, the tree appeared larger than before shaping. So, not considering the new size I initially potted it in pot B. After studying the photo, the tree looked a bit too large in the cream glazed container. So I repotted it after studying photos. Photos present elements as they actually are; they do not hide anything. So after studying the photos further the bonsai it was transplanted. Again. So in this case the size was the deciding factor.

C- Japan, Yamaaki, aged with patina. I liked the color contrast with the green flowers and the depth because Azaleas tend to grow better in cold climates in deeper containers, plus they like water and don’t like drying out. The size was about right, but the strong formal appearance was a bit too much for this informal bonsai for my taste. The quality and patina were great, but here the match was better in the other shapes. So the container design was most important factor.

D- Japan, handmade by Gyozan. He is currently considered one of the finest potters in Japan because of his large size containers, craftmanship, clay body use, design and recently unusual glaze colors. He has customed made two containers for me specifically for a couple of bonsai. I really like, appreciate and admire his artistry and would use more of his containers, if I could afford them. I purchased this container from him several years ago when he first began to use glaze. Initially, I felt this container was a bit to large for my proportional taste and used the American container by Mike Hennigan. However, after a bit of wiring and a few guy wires the bonsai had more mass, and appeared too small for the tree after careful study. The quality was superb, perhaps a bit too good for this young developing bonsai. So the final selection was the Japanese container by Gyozan, based on the elements explained here.                          

First potting, Friday

Second and final container selection, Saturday

Now, should Mike Hennigan make a larger container of the same design, perhaps in a blue-green glaze my bonsai might be again transplanted, should I still own the tree….

International Bonsai Spring 2023 Open House & Sale

The International Bonsai Arboretum will be hosting the Spring 2023 Bonsai Open House & Sale on May 20-21, 2023 in Rochester, New York.

The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York will be having the 50th Anniversary one day exhibition on Sunday, May 21 from 9am to 5pm at the Golosano Autism Center. The exhibition is about a 10-15 minute drive to the International Bonsai Open House. It is also the last day of the famous Lilac Festival, just down the road from the exhibition. Make a weekend of it and visit all!

Our members are thrilled to be able to have our bonsai exhibition again to promote bonsai to the area and nearby bonsai organizations. A warm welcome to anyone who would like to join us for this special Bonsai Exhibition & Sale. A suiseki exhibit will be hosted by the Suiseki Study Group of Upstate New Work. Bonsai demonstration on Sunday at 2pm.

2023 Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Societies Spring Festival Club Exhibition

The 39th Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Festival was held on March 31-April 2, 2023 in Parsippany, New Jersey. This year there were many beautiful bonsai displayed by the 10 member clubs of the Mid-Atlantic Bonsai Societies. Each club displayed three or four bonsai. There were a total of 44 bonsai and several suiseki to delight the participants and public.

During the past year we lost three bonsai artists who significantly influenced and shared their skills with others: Nick Lenz, Pauline Muth and Marty Schmalberg. There were several of their bonsai on display the respect and tribute they deserved.

I was personally impressed by the high quality of the bonsai and also for the artistic effort put into the display compositions.  Although there were many bonsai which could be displayed in the 2023 8th US National Bonsai Exhibition, to a few were selected for the exhibition. Please join us in September 9-10 2023 to see which bonsai will be on display.

It’s always great when begin introducing bonsai to young people

Oribe Glazes

The color “Oribe” is a type of Japanese ceramic glaze in blue and/or green. It first appeared during the Keicho and Genna Eras (1596-1624). The name Oribe is derived from Furuta Oribe, a pupil of Sen no Rikyu, under whose guidance it was first produced. The color was originally used for serving food and drinking tea objects.

Oribe glazed Koyo water basins, Koyo Collection

Oribe glaze test tiles from the Koyo Kiln

Glazed container from the private Koyo Collection

Small glazed containers from the Koyo showroom

Most ceramic bonsai container artists in Japan, have their own distinctive variation of the Oribe glaze. One of my favorite ceramic artists is Kouichirou Aiba who specializes in Oribe glazed bonsai containers. His grandfather established a kiln specializing in pots for plants and tableware and Aiba established his Koyo To-en Kiln in 1969 in Tokoname Japan. Kouichirou Aiba’s (1944-2021) son Kuniaki Aiba continues with his father’s excellence under the name Koyo Juko. Kouso Aiba, Kouichiro’s wife also makes smaller containers for bonsai and kusamono.

Name card of Juko Koyo featuring oribe glaze

Mr. Kouichirou Aiba

Many Oribe glazed containers can be seen in my bonsai collection, since I specialize in deciduous, forest and unusual bonsai. Many different artists are represented in my bonsai collection. I personally like how the bright blue/green colors contrast well with spring, autumn and summer foliage. Some have asked me if I’m tired of Oribe containers. But I see something different in each containers because each glaze is unique. However, it is sometimes difficult to compose a bonsai display with many of the same colors. This is especially difficult when creating a shohin bonsai composition. But I have several different color containers for the same tree. I have 12 containers all of different colors for one Maple, some, however are unglazed for winter display.

Washington hawthorn, Koyo container

Deshojo Japanese maple, Koyo container

Koto Hime Japanese maple, Koyo container

Shishigashira Japanese maple, Koyo container

Shishigashira Japanese maple, Reiho container

Dwarf contort Bradford pear, Reiho container

Kiyo Hime Japanese maple, Reiho container

Full Moon maple, Reiho container

Full Moon maple, Suishouen Heikisui container

Yesterday, Diane and I were furniture shopping to fill our empty home which suffered another house fire on September 24, 2022. Having lived in hotels since September, we are anxious to return to a more normal life. As we were walking around I noticed a large painting which reminded me of the Oribe glaze created by the Koyo Kiln. The large painting will be hung behind a sofa, whenever we can move back home.

Painting for new Valavanis home

Toshio (Norio) Kobayashi

I’m always learning something new.

Last week I visited the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and enjoyed a special exhibit on Bonsai Chronicles curated by Dr. Fumio Taguchi. There were large images and even accompanied with English translations. I was surprised that Norio Kobayashi’s first name was mentioned as “Toshio.” For over 60 years I have known this bonsai pioneer as “Norio.” He even wrote one of the first books in English with the name Norio in 1951. Mr. Kobayashi was instrumental with the founding of the Kokufu Bonsai Club which sponsored the first Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in 1934. In the 1960s the Kokufu Bonsai Club reorganized to become the Nippon Bonsai Association, current sponsor of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions. He is not related to Kunio Kobayashi.

1927 Bonsai Exhibition

Mr. Kobayashi first published and edited the monthly magazine “Bonsai” beginning in 1931. This was the third bonsai magazine published in Japan and became the most influential magazine for over half a century. He published and edited 518 consecutive issues, with the final issue in October 1967.

The last issue of Bonsai Magazine, No. 518 was published i n October 1967

While at the museum, one of the curators Dr. Fumio Taguchi approached and gave me a few copies of the English commemorative album from the special exhibition on Yuji Yoshimura where I presented a program on Yuji Yoshimura in November 2019. While chatting with Dr. Taguchi, I asked about Mr. Kobayashi’s first name, which I thought was Norio. He said that I’m wrong. The correct translation of his first name is Toshio! For decades we have been using his incorrect first name!

Mr. Kobayashi with the 518 issues of Bonsai Magazines

On the same topic, Yuji Yoshimura’s younger brother’s name was Kanekazu, and his family knew him as such. But, about 20 years ago I learned that the correct pronunciation of his name is Kinichi. Even Mr. Yoshimura’s two daughters did not know their uncle’s correct name. The Japanese language, especially names, is difficult. But at least we can now begin using the correct pronunciations. 

Kinichi (Kanekazu) Yoshimura

Photos courtesy of Dr. Taguchi and the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.

There is always new for me to learn and share with the global bonsai community.

2023 97th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition- Part 5

This year, Part 2 of the 97th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held on February 15-18, 2023 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan.

I’m not quite certain what the exhibitor was featuring here, the container or Gardenia

My “guess” the 400 year old antique Chinese container, valued at US $350,000 was being shown. The quality of this unique container overpowers the Gardenia, but it did have a few fruit.

An elegant Japanese hemlock forest

Hard to beat this Shishigashira Japanese maple. It has trunk movement, taper, surface root display, asymmetrical silhouette and evenly distributed fine twigs throughout the tree. Fine, delicate twigs on a Shishigashira Japanese maple are rare. And, it even looks comfortable in the antique Chinese container which is matched with the quality of the bonsai. One of my favorite bonsai, even though it looks like needing a repotting in my learned eye….

2023 10th Japan Suiseki Exhibition

The 10th Japan Suiseki Exhibition was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, on February 14-18, 2023. This is the same venue as the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, but in a different gallery on the 2nd floor. Kunio Kobayashi and Seiji Morimae head up the Nippon Suiseki Association.

It was Toshio’s (Norio) Kobayashi’s (no relation to Kunio Kobayashi,) dream to elevate the art of bonsai by having an exhibition in an art museum. He succeeded, and in 1934, with the assistance of Count Matsudaira, a now annual exhibition of miniature trees can be enjoyed. Toshio Kobayashi was a pioneer in bonsai promotion and published the monthly Bonsai magazine for 518 issues. This year marks the 97TH edition of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. For a couple of decades, the exhibition was held twice a year, but changed to an annual event in 1960.

Exhibited by Ronald C. Maggio III

Displayed by Ronald C. Maggio

I found it interesting that in 1934 museum officials did not originally want to display bonsai because they were “dirty” with soil and “smelly” from organic fertilizers. That was the main reason soil needed to be 100% covered in green moss. The bonsai exhibition is now held on the bottom levels of the current art museum with ceramic floor tiles. The suiseki exhibition is held in a 2nd floor gallery which is carpet covered. No water is allowed in this exhibition room which is the reason why water is not included in the water basin displays of suiseki, the traditional and formal way of appreciating suiseki. Also, that’s why there are no accessory plantings displayed with the stones.

2023 10th Japan Suiseki Exhibition Statistics

8 Featured Entries

32 Alcove Displays

1 Guest Entry- Hosokawa School of Bonseki “Surging Sea”

78 General Exhibits

22 International General Exhibits from:

United States








Kunio Kobayashi and Seiji Morimae both have fine taste and the drive to promote and elevate both the arts of suiseki and bonsai. They have dedicated their lives to these arts and endlessly work year around and all day long for their passion.

Hosokawa School of Bonkei “Surging Sea”