Beech Winter Image










Trident Autumn Colours


China National Penjing Exhibition– Part 1

Not many Shohin 🙂 but impressive all the same!

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


The China Zuni– 2014 (Yoyo) National Exhibition of Collections of Chinese Penjing Collectors will be held on October 31- November 2, 2014 in Yoyo City, near Shanghai, China. I was honored to be invited to attend and help with the complicated judging of the most important penjing exhibition in China for 2014.






The exhibition opens to the public on Friday while the complicated and detailed judging began on Wednesday morning at 8am. There were a total of ten judges, eight from China and Taiwan and two foreigners, Tony Tickle from England and me representing the United States. We were bused to the event and had a meeting to explain the complicated process. Fortunately, the 14 page “Evaluation Scheme” was in both Chinese and English, but we still had questions which needed to be answered. Lots of regulations, no discussing penjing with other judges and more.



There were supervisors watching us…

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The Hype over 0-10-10

Michael Hagedorn

This is one of our grand leaps down the rabbit hole…0-10-10 fertilizer for bonsai. It has very limited uses, and yet it’s often touted as THE fertilizer for all bonsai in the fall.

The 0-10-10 fertilizer is essentially for maximizing blooms, or perhaps, when you plant a perennial, you might get its roots better established without much top growth. For a bonsai garden with many non-blooming species present, the recommendation to use it exclusively in fall is on very shaky ground.

291784b8-2c7e-40bd-b15c-5daed9fcafa1_400 One of many 0-10-10 fertilizers, which do have their uses, but is NOT the bonsai fertilizer for fall.

The urge to outthink how a plant works is fairly common to most who grow plants. We all do it. Certainly this is where the mis-use of 0-10-10 for bonsai started.

0-10-10 has no nitrogen in it (nitrogen is the first number of the three).

  • And yet every cell process, even…

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Display aesthetics – a practical discussion

British Shohin Bonsai

A few years ago I did an article in the BSA Newsletter about  a display that had been put together by Hans Vleugels and subsequently commented on by Morten Albek.  With the permission of those two august gentlemen, I thought it might be a good idea to open the article up to the wider audience that we now have to see what others think.  Here goes.

When Hans Vleugels posted this shohin display on the Internet Bonsai Club many people would have thought that it was already a fine offering. The trees were individually superb, and together they seemed to create a restful and unified

Hans' original display Hans’ original display

The display was created as part of a photo session at Hans’ bonsai club Eda Uchi Kai where members were asked to bring some trees for a professional photo shoot by Jan Dieryck. The trees in the shohin display are a Juniperus chinensis, an Acer buergerianum…

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And Now for Something Completely Different..

I have been working my way through a few Scots Pines in the last few weeks giving them an initial styling. They were collected from a bog a few years back and have grown well.

As with most bog pines they are tall and straight with not much as the bottom to work with. This one however had an unusual lower branch which I wanted to retain. We often are too quick to remove what we deem as a ‘fault’ when it can actually make the main feature of the tree. Who wants to look at the same boring tree images again and again? Indeed, who wants to style the same boring tree images again and again?

This was it before I started.


And this is it after some wiring. As usual the photo doesn’t show the back to front trunk and branch movement. Some branches need to extend and as it fills I can create a more convincing image, but for a first styling I am happy with the result.




Autumn Beauty In Rochester, New York

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


I returned home from Japan and Indonesia on late Thursday evening to find my main display garden ablaze in color, what a nice welcome home! Although the colors are beautiful, they are not quite at their peak… yet. Probably next week or the week after they should be even better.

10-2014 GARDEN VIEW 5

Most people think the cold temperatures bring on the autumn colors of deciduous species. However, the onset of dormancy actually begins on June 21st when the daylight decreases. Although the diminishing light is not immediately apparent to humans, the plants can detect the reduced light. This stimulates the onset of dormancy, but the cooler weather in September is more apparent to people. Sometimes after a hard frost or freeze colors intensify.


It’s interesting that some species always turn a certain color in autumn, like the Ginkgo which always turns clear yellow. Burning bush, Euonymus alatus, always turns red to…

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Esprit Bonsai -English

Thought I’d try out the new English version of the French magazine Esprit Bonsai. I must admit I’m pleased with the issue, especially as it even covers accents 🙂



What to do with an ordinary Yew..?

Chris V bonsaiblog

I once met an older man around 75 years old that had amazing trees. One of them a Juniper he showed at a clubmeeting I had also seen on shows earlier. When I looked closer I saw no wires and that it was really refined. The beautiful part was that it didn’t have a front and was attractive from all angles. I asked him were he bought the tree and he told me he bought it many years ago in a gardencenter. Hearing that it inspired me even more to see if I could grow such trees for myself from ordinary gardencenter stock.

We have a little flower shop around the corner here, bit shabby and full of cheap plants. Mostly indoor, but sometimes some outdoor plants too. The reason they are very cheap is that every morning they go to the flower auction and buy the left overs that wouldn’t…

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British Shohin Bonsai (BSB)


As a BSA now BSB member, I just wanted to share the information  below with you.

Last Saturday saw the official “launch” of British Shohin Bonsai and interest in the group is already  taking off well. 

We have used “launch” in inverted commas as it is more a case of revamping of an older familiar face.  BSB has arisen from the British Shohin Association which was the first and only Shohin and small sized bonsai society in the UK for nearly eight years. Sadly, as with many clubs and societies, the BSA was finding it difficult to get people to take on the administrative functions necessary to run an organisation.

But rather than let the momentum of the BSA fizzle out,  a group of members took it upon themselves to progress the group in a manner that involved an entirely new way of doing things.  

Accepting that a sizeably large number of people wish to source their bonsai knowledge and indulge their bonsai passion online, the BSB decided that  they would relaunch using  an internet presence as the main method of reaching the bonsai public.  A new Facebook group has been established to front this process, along with a new website. 

As with the BSA, the aim of the new group is to promote the smaller sizes of bonsai, and while the online presence allows us to this through discussion, we will also be retaining the best bits of the BSA – namely the Exhibition and the Journal. These, along with occasional workshops and demonstrations, will allow us to develop people’s practical skills.

The name change is simply because we felt that a slight change of  “branding” was needed. This is mostly to give due respect to the sterling work done by the officers of the previous incarnation.  It is truly good that most of them are coming with us on our new journey and we hope that freeing them up from the shackles of a committee position will allow them more freedom.

Although there is no formal membership for BSB, we will be introducing a Supporters set-up whereby in return for a small one-off donation, you get access to the Journals and reduced price entry to BSB events. 

Shohin bonsai has certainly taken off in the past few years and the former BSA was instrumental in that happening.  We hope to continue that momentum and to take smaller sized bonsai to even greater , erm… heights.

To see more please use the links below: