A Summer Bonsai Display


In May 2014 I was picking up Pro-Mix at a feed store and looked around in their nursery yard. I was not looking for anything in particular, just looking, and my eye was caught by a couple of new hydrangeas. Note I was looking at shapes, not species. Two specimens had beautiful natural untouched cascade shapes and I purchased the most interesting plant.




The new plant, Great Star Panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Le Vasterival,’ was growing in a two gallon can. After purchasing the Hydrangea it was potted in an expensive Japanese container and shaped into a cascade style bonsai.

Only a few branches were pruned and a couple pulled down with guy wires. I designed the bonsai so it could be viewed from several sides. This spring a larger container was required and the bonsai was planted in an old blue glazed Chinese container.

In 2014 the Hydrangea was displayed in my alcove in the left to right direction. This year the bonsai was displayed from the other side presenting a right to left eye movement.


2014 Display left to right eye movement

The eye movement of a bonsai is important when designing a display in an alcove or exhibit. Sometimes a left to right design is needed for the exhibit and often a right to left design is required for better balance of the entire display or exhibition.


Two different companion plants of Chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata, were selected. This herbaceous perennial is invasive and can easily take over a garden. In Asia the Chameleon plant has medicinal uses and is also used for salads or garnish. The stems are aromatic when crushed. It requires quite a bit of water and my companion plants are always sitting in a shallow basin of water. Both plantings are in unglazed round shallow containers.


Two Chameleon plants, suiseki and water basin for companions



Two different colored bamboo rafts were selected for the companion planting. The yellow bamboo seemed a bit bright and the brown raft looked better.


A coastal stone suiseki was also used to present a cool feeling with the delicate white flowers of the Great Star Panicle hydrangea. I selected an unglazed oval water basin to contrast with the round glazed container of the bonsai. A Chinese quince burl flat slab was used to contrast with the water basin. A bamboo raft was also tried and seemed to fit the summer dispay.


Next one of the Chameleon plants was removed from the container and placed on the sand in the water basin to present a different feeling of the cool foliage against the water.


The Great Star Panical hydrangea tends to dry out quite quickly and it now sits in a shallow basin of water, thus the name “Hydrangea.” I’ve been watching and studying this plant waiting for the delicate white flowers to open again this season. It’s interesting that last year the Hydrangea opened on July 18th and this year on the 15th.


Also included in my collection is a Climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea petiolaris, with exfoliating reddish bark and white flowers. This specimen is approximately three feet tall and is developing nicely as a literati style bonsai.


When this Hydrangea display was arranged, some people did not understand or appreciate the subtle beauty of the naturalistic composition. Out of state visitors will be arriving tomorrow and I hope they take a few moments rest their eyes and think about this display in my studio.


I enjoyed composing this Great Star Panical hydrangea display and hope others might like it as well. Enjoy this summer display in my studio alcove.

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