2019 Autumn Beauty At The International Bonsai Arboretum





The “official” 2019 growing season has now ended, despite the lack of a killing frost, yet. We do expect some cold days later this week in the mid-20F range, and perhaps two inches of snow. That’s actually what I’m waiting for, so the bonsai in the main display area can be protected for the winter. All the bonsai in training, sales bonsai and nursery stock was put away yesterday by my Monday Senior Crew. They are a great group of hard working friends who help me with the bonsai and my bonsai activities to promote, expand and improve the bonsai community.



However, I try NOT to protect my better bonsai until a hard frost and preferably after a light snowfall. As the gritty snow melts it tends to clean the bark and foliage. Hopefully, this weekend or early next week we can move the bonsai before I head off to Japan for our autumn annual bonsai tour where I’m presenting a lecture on my teacher Yuji Yoshimura at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum on November 19th. Then, two days later I’ve been invited, again, to be a judge for the 39thTaikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto.

JAPANESE MAPLE.JPG Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

This autumn has brought some magnificent colors to my garden and I’d like to share some photos with you. A few of the trees have older developmental photos too.


SHISHIGASHIRA FOREST.JPG Shishigashira Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’


GINKGO.JPGChichi Ginko Maiden Hair Tree, Ginkgo biloba ‘Chichi’


ZELKOVA.JPGJapanese Zelkova,Zelkova serrata


SHISHIGASHIRA SHOHIN..JPGShishigashira Japanese Maple,Acer palmatum ‘Shisshigashira’    Shohin bonsai


DWARF MAPLE BONSAI FRONT.jpgMikawa Yastsubusa Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’


HORNBEAM FRONT.jpegAmerican Hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana



EUONYMUS.JPGSpindle Tree Euonymus, Euonymus sieboldiana  (Euonymus hamiltonianus sub. Sieboldianus)



TRIDENT LEAVES.JPGTrident Maple, Acer buergerianum

Root-over-rock style, yes, there is rock in there….


BURNING BUSH.JPG Burning Bush Euonymus, Euonymus alatus


GOLDEN FULL MOON AUTUMN.jpgGolden Full Moon Maple, Acer japonicum ‘Aurea’


BEFORE.JPGBefore shaping– April 2018


AFTER.JPGAfter shaping– April 2018



Washington Hawthorn, Crataegus phaenopyrum

October 2019

HAWTHORN 2012.JPGApril 2012 Before shaping


HAWTHORN 2012.jpegApril 2012 After shaping


HAWTHORN 2014.JPGOctober 2012



BUTTERFLY.JPGButterfly Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’

October 2019


BUTTERFLY 2013 .jpgApril 2013


BUTTERFLY 2015.jpegMay 2015

BUTTERFLY 2016.jpegWinter 2016


BUTTERFLY 2018.jpgSummer 2018


BUTTERFLY DISPLAY.JPGDisplay September 2018








TRIDENT 1.JPGTrident Maple, Acer buergerianum

Interesting story. Yuji Yoshimura originally created this clinging-to-a-rock style bonsai several decades ago on a piece of granite. It came to my garden over 25 years ago and just sat in a large tray with pebbles. And when I say, sat, it really remained there without much attention. The roots became one solid mass and pushed away from the rock. It was just sitting on the stone. We lifted it to water and occasionally dunked it in a pail of water. All the trees died but four. In June, over ten years ago I decided to do something with the rock planting. Remember, this is June and the tree is in full leaf. My friends Doug McDade and Doug Taylor helped me to cut the root ball flat using a Sawzall. We actually peeled the roots apart. Then I teased the edge of the root ball and planted it as a group planting bonsai. Yes, with only four trees! The bonsai police were not there so I did it. Tree survived and actually looks good from both sides. Looks good in winter as well as autumn. Usually it turns orange or red, but this year it became yellow.








Oh, by the way, there are still about a half dozen of my better Japanese maple bonsai which show promise of good autumn color. It’s amazing what color differences can make with only a few hours from morning to late afternoon. I’ve even enjoyed seeing bonsai completely change color overnight! I remember Suthin bringing a large multiple trunk Japanese maple to our 2008 1st US National Bonsai Exhibition from the Boston, MA area. He loaded it in his van in the morning when it was still green and changing color. When he unloaded it in Rochester, NY in the late afternoon it was unbelievably red, orange and yellow and became one of the focal points to the exhibition.




KASHIMA.JPG Should they change color, I’ll share the photos with you, either in full autumn glory…. or covered with snow.


Although magnificent, truth be told, last season produced brighter colors. Check out the same view from last year and last week. Quite a difference the weather plays in the autumn coloring.



ENTRANCE 2.JPGOctober 2018




The 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition – Part 3



E.jpgThere were many larger bonsai on display outdoors in the entrance way greeting the visitors to the 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition in Nanging, China. A few smaller, but still large size specimens were displayed indoors in the demo room. All of these were very large and impressive.




















EE.jpgThe entire exhibition was held at a working private nursery and greenhouse. Everything had to be moved and cleaned. Floors were covered in red felt and large walls were constructed as backgrounds in the entrance way. Approximately US$150,000 was spent on the exhibition. And, unlike other Chinese exhibitions this was NOT paid for by the government. The generous nursery owner along with a couple bonsai organizations funded the entire excellent event. I felt so honored to be invited to demonstrate and attend this special exhibition.


The 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition – Part 2

22 2.jpg







Today I spent the morning studying and photographing the shohin bonsai exhibition. The trees are superb, equal in quality to the huge specimens displayed outdoors. Shohin bonsai do not present the heavy and powerful feeling of the larger specimens. It appeared as though each artist had about 5-6 feet of display space. They were all filled, mostly in good taste too.




I was told there were over 300 display areas, I did not count the spaces, but did count the trees and stones with a total of 1,593! I may be off by a couple of dozen, as I stopped to see trees I missed during my first trip. I walked 2.4 miles, not bad with two broken feet.


There was an abundance of Firethorn, Princess persimmon and Cotoneaster displayed, most likely because of the season of the year and they were in full colorful fruit. Lots of unusual species were exhibited, and you can see them in the next issue of International BONSAI 2019/NO. 4, which is in production. The 2019/NO. 3 issue is at the printer now and will be mailed shortly.114.jpg













25.jpgThere was a very unusual Chinese quince with only one fruit, the size of a quarter! Although one can see trees in all styles, it seemed that literati and cascade styles were favorites. Three shohin bonsai compositions were interesting to me because each only featured Sargent juniper, Japanese black pine and Japanese five-needle pine. Yes, the tree species were duplicated and presented a monochromatic feeling. Generally, the current refined Japanese taste tends to avoid duplication. But, you know what? This is in China, where they invented artistically shaped dwarf potted trees. Just because the Japanese have a refined and rigid taste does not necessarily make it the only option.goyo.jpg

All Japanese five-needle pine



goyo 2.jpg

All Japanese five-needle pine


All Sargent juniper




5.jpgThere were some unusual compositions with artists trying something different. I was impressed with the numerous’ styles of box stand tables. I’ve seen many various styles in my previous teaching trips in China, but there were many more different ones here.














24.jpgThis was the place to visit if you want to see a great number of shohin bonsai. But, if you missed this exhibition, we still have room for three more people in our new Shohin Bonsai Tour, coming up in mid-January. This small group will visit the popular bonsai gardens highlighted by attending the Gafu Shohin Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto and also Taisho-en Bonsai Garden of Mr. Urushibata  and his son Taiga. He recently won the top Prime Minister Award in the Creator’s Bonsai Exhibition, which is limited to professional bonsai artists. Contact me if you have questions. Here is the link: http://www.internationalbonsai.com/files/1708315/uploaded/2020%20SHOHIN%20BONSAI%20TOUR.pdf



2019 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition– Part 1


The 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition is being held this weekend on October 19-21, 2019 in Nanjing, China, a short 4 HOUR bus trip from the Shanghai Airport, after traveling over 18 hours from home.



The exhibition is huge and I did not get an opportunity to study the layout and trees, yet, that’s for tomorrow’s activity. I was told there are over 300 shohin bonsai compositions, each with at least 5-7 individual trees. Remember this is China, not Japan, and often more is better.




Before starting the Opening Ceremony several collage photos from the organization’s past exhibitions were projected on a huge LED screen. I was surprised to see they captured two photos of me, in my foot boot and with my scooter from 2013! NO scooter for me this year, but I do have TWO foot boots for my broken feet…. They did not stop me, only slowed me down a bit.



Today was dedicated to 18 demonstrations with artists from China, Japan, Germany, Argentina, Malyasia, Puerto Rico and me from the United States. There were five or six demos on the stage at each time. The helpers, called the Crew, were quite helpful, especially when moving the demo trees, and providing tools, sissy wire, wooden blocks and water. The demo tree next to me took five strong young men to move.


The demos were in a large scorching hot greenhouse, even though it was shaded. Behind the stage was a LED screen projecting huge images of the artists working away. Very distracting, I kept thinking someone was walking behind me, and the demos and trees were difficult to photograph until they turned the LEDs off. Check out the image of me working. I’m actually on the bottom, while the huge projection of me on the top. Looks like I had two hands, which I do, but not two left hands.




Pedro did an excellent job with a collected Japanese black pine, especially since he is not familiar with this species. He asked for any tips and I told him we generally defoliate pines before wiring. Fortunately for the tree, Pedro has good sense and styled a beautiful smaller bonsai with dead wood highlights.




I selected an ancient collected Japanese red pine with aged bark to work on, but was quickly corrected that it was a “Chinese red pine.” Pinus densiflora, also called Japanese or Korean red pine, has a natural distribution in Japan, China, Korea and southern Russia.


I was extremely fortunate to get Chen Yan, a lovely and skilled young Chinese lady for an assistant. She has been studying bonsai at the Seiko-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan for three years with Tomio Yamada. Mr. Yamada is one of my favorite Japanese bonsai artists with a beautiful garden. He excels in fine quality style bonsai, especially literati style. I have known his family since I began commuting to Japan in 1970. Next March the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum will be featuring his work in the “Contemporary Japanese Bonsai Artist Series,” following Masahiko Kimura and Hiroshi Takeyama. His father created great rock plantings, while his daughter, a fifth-generation bonsai artist has invented “saika bonsai,” a modern style featuring flowering plants, like flower arrangements.


Since my Chinese linguistic skills are non-existent, Chen and I simply communicated in Japanese, with no problems at all since she must be fluent in Japanese to study with Mr. Yamada. She really did a super job wiring, thinning and helping me with several guy wires. After removing the old dead needles, we did a light trimming then wired the main branches to establish the basic shape. Then we began to do the fine wiring as I figured out where to position the guy wires. She has strong hands which is a requirement for fastening guy wires and knew exactly how to tie the ends. Yes, my first guy wire snapped because I was provided with sissy wire rather than the proper annealed copper. If the wire were copper rather than aluminum, it would not have broken. I did use the right gauge, just not the correct material. By the way, her hands were just as dirty as mine. I was very pleased with the final styling of the JAPANESE red pine bonsai.





21 HANDS.jpgTomorrow I plan to visit the shohin bonsai exhibition and will report what I discover. This is the entrance to that display house, just to tease you.


An Advance Open Bonsai Workshop



IMG_0144.JPGThis afternoon I had another Open Workshop for my advance students to style and refine their bonsai. There were a few interesting bonsai which were brought into the studio.

Alan continued to work on my formal upright RAF Dwarf Scots pine removing old needles and excess buds in preparation for future display.
Brian brought in a most unusual species, Toxicodendron radicans, to wire and had to wear rubber gloves to avoid contact with the poison urushiol. I did NOT help him wire the Poison Ivy.
Bob brought in a large Japanese Yew he rescued from the roadside many years ago. He has been refining it in preparation for the 2020 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition.
Bob also brought in a good size Crabapple to discuss the container selection. It has some dead wood areas. A couple of years ago Marc air layered the top of Bob’s tree to create a cascade style Crabapple bonsai.
Tom brought in a heavy trunk Japanese Five-needle Pine bonsai which needs a few more years to develop vigor so it can be styled.
Marc brought in an historic Japanese Deciduous Holly which originally came from my teacher, Kyuzo Murata, Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village Japan.
We all enjoyed beautiful weather working indoors on our bonsai while I slowly went around helping my friends…

Bonsai, Beyond the Border:  Yuji Yoshimura, a Bonsai Artist Across the Ocean Exhibition



Coming up soon the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum (Saitama, Japan) has organized an Autumn Special Exhibition Commemorating their 10th Anniversary and Sister Partnership with the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC.

Bonsai, Beyond the Border: Yuji Yoshimura, a Bonsai Artist Across the Ocean Exhibition commemorates and highlights the life of a Japanese bonsai artist who spread bonsai to the United States. The exhibition will feature historical photographs, documents and other items illuminating the lifetime work and passion of Yuji Yoshimura and his 37 year career in the United States and abroad. His life’s goal was to introduce the appreciation, artistry and practice of elegant classical bonsai art.


His father, Toshiji Yoshimura, Kofu-en Bonsai Garden in Tokyo, was a leader of the Japanese bonsai and suiseki communities who helped to establish the arts in the modern world. His first son, Yuji Yoshimura, a second generation bonsai artist studied with his father and graduated from the Tokyo Horticultural School in 1938. He continued his goal for expanding bonsai outside Japan, beginning by co-authoring The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapespublished in 1957, which is considered to be the “Bonsai Bible” and first authoritative bonsai book in English. In June 2015 Yuji Yoshimura was the second person inducted into the Bonsai Hall of Fame at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the US National Arboretum, in Washington, DC. For more information see:


The Bonsai, Beyond the Border Exhibition about Yuji Yoshimura will be held from October 12 to November 24, 2019 at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. A special free program “Memories of Japanese Father, Mr. Y” will be presented by Wm. N. Valavanis on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 2 pm. This will be my first program to be presented in Japan. I feel very honored to be able to share my thoughts about the artist who shaped my life and passion of classical bonsai art and encouraged me to share the art internationally.

I’m quite pleased that the Japanese bonsai community has now, 60 years later, recognized the contributions Yuji Yoshimura has made to expand the Japanese art of bonsai across the ocean.


Attached are posters and the October issue of Jin Shari Newsletter from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.












A Visit To The Pacific Bonsai Museum



The Pacific Bonsai Museum, nestled within towering conifers is a unique collection of bonsai from countries bordering the Pacific Rim. The peaceful atmosphere of the displays and well maintained areas draws one into a special world to quietly experience the beauty of bonsai. The museum is located in Federal Way, Washington, near Seattle on the Weyerhauser Campus.



Weyerhaeuser Company opened the bonsai collection in 1989, in conjunction with the Washington State Centennial celebration. The bonsai collection was established to symbolize Weyerhaeuser’s long-term commitments to its customers, its community and its forest resources. At the end of 2013 the corporation gifted the entire collection to a new non-profit, The George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection, known as the Pacific Bonsai Museum.



Bonsai artist David DeGroot was the curator for the  first 25 years and did a remarkable task of establishing a collection of over 150 trees from Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Canada and the United States. He organized special exhibits as well as introduced bonsai to the public emphasizing youth. The current curator, Aarin Packard is continuing David’s excellence in promoting bonsai and introducing new exciting, innovative educational exhibits often thinking out of the box. There are special exhibits year around featuring suiseki, design elements, native displays as well as unique bonsai artists and pioneers.


The beautiful outdoor museum is open year around and heated clear display cubes protect bonsai which require a bit of extra protection during the winter. Meandering through the museum displays is a calming and moving experience, especially since every bonsai is labeled with the names and history. Important and celebrated bonsai artists from around the Pacific Rim are represented with some of their finest works. Several historically important bonsai are included in the well maintained collection.



I had a wonderful visit guided by Executive Director Kathy McCabe and Curator Aarin Packard on Saturday. They pointed out special trees and answered all of my questions, some difficult. I was fortunate to visit and enjoy the “Elements of Design” exhibit organized by Aarin Packard. I believe this is the first exhibit of bonsai which clearly defined and emphasized elements and principles of visual art applying to bonsai. These are used to create as well as to appreciate bonsai. Large signs, well designed and illustrated defined each principle and how they apply in art, in trees and in bonsai. I learned a lot through this special exhibit which I will share to others in my educational activities. The principles defined, each accompanied with an appropriate bonsai included: line, movement, shape, rhythm, form, proportion, texture, unity, color, contrast, space, balance as well as asymmetrical balance. Aarin gave me a copy of the Exhibit Guide so I can study his excellent educational exhibit in depth.










Another special exhibit featured masterworks from bonsai pioneer Dan Robinson. They were uniquely displayed with old dead wood which Dan appreciates and respects.





Visit the Pacific Bonsai Museum to experience and appreciate fine quality bonsai from around the Pacific Rim as well as to increase your knowledge and understanding of bonsai art.




Pacific Bonsai Museum

2515 S 336th Street

Federal Way, WA 98001


(253) 353-7345