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Dispelling bonsai myths and exposing frauds!
October 17, 2018

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Dispelling Bonsai Myths
and Exposing Frauds!

Any bonsai teacher will tell you these efforts are all part of the job. Bonsai has been my passion for over 40 years. After all this time, I'm still surprised at some of the bonsai misconceptions.

I've recently begun answering questions on Quora. "... a place to gain and share knowledge. It's a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers".

Many times questions are about how to save a bonsai, or what kinds of trees to use. More often, they are are about misconceptions. This week, I was a bit shocked to read this misconception!

"When we Americans raise bonsai and they don't look like the Japanese bonsai, what are we missing? It is an aesthetic component, a cultural component, a natural component, or is it something else?"

My Response:

Wow! I am so sorry you have not been exposed to quality bonsai created by Americans in the United States.

After WWII, Americans by the thousands, including service members, spent time in Japan and were exposed to the many Oriental art forms. That stimulated an interest in bonsai. The art of bonsai has been seriously studied in the States since its introduction by Japanese Americans in the 1950s.

John Naka and Yugi Yoshimura are considered the first masters to share their knowledge. (Both, now deceased.) Bonsai in the United States today is an art form and is recognized in many amazing Bonsai Gardens throughout the Country.

The best known collection is located in Washington, DC, please view these bonsai, some are actually gifts from Japan and China, however, many have been created by Americans: National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

The trees below are not in the museum, these beautiful bonsai trees created by American artists.

I did not include the following link in my response, but thought you may like to know more about this tree. This Juniper by Michael Levin is considered an American classic, and you can read the story here.

More 'American' Bonsai

In addition to the bonsai I showed on Quora, I would like to include these:

Ficus nerifolia Willow Leaf Fig by Ernie Fernandez

Bougainvillea by Eric Wigert

Conocarpus erectus, 'Buttonwood' by Ed Trout

This Maple bonsai was created by William Valavanis.
It's in its prime fall colors.

New Free eBook

After my Quora response, I realized it's no wonder people may have that misconception.

The public is constantly exposed to little plants in bonsai pots, being called bonsai ... that are not. Being in a bonsai pot, does not make it a bonsai.

Let's spread the word.

Share my free eBook with a friend ...

Phony Bonsai

Fall in the Northern Hemisphere

Not everyone has the amazing indoor bonsai facility like the one Jerry Meislik built. He has a unique situation. Jerry lives in a very cold climate and he grows his tropicals indoors year round!

For those of you who are not so fortunate, every year at this time I post this bit of advice. If you're growing tropical bonsai, outside of the tropics, I'm sure you will be happy with the results.

A Little Trick - Lots of folks wait until the last minute to get tropical plants ready for the shock of going indoors. If you haven’t moved your tropical bonsai indoors yet, try this … 2-3 weeks before going indoors or into a greenhouse, put your tropical bonsai in the deep shade outdoors. Give them a taste of what’s coming.

Then, hopefully your light indoors will be brighter than the shade outdoors.

You may be surprised at how much more plants will be more receptive to being indoors by using this little trick!

In Appreciation

Chuck Iker is an amazing potter and long time supporter of my site. One of his specialties is "crackle" pots.

Go to this page and watch him create one. Bonsai Pots

Chuck's web page has more of a selection than ever, and believe me, these are not your "everyday" bonsai pots. I'm especially in love with his Unglazed Primitive pot! Take a look Iker Bonsai Pots.

Zach from Bonsai South specializes in collected and field-grown plant material. The bald cypress trees show here are examples of the quality of trees Zack begins with.

But, don't worry, he takes the risks, these are not for sale ... yet. You purchase only established and more developed trees.

And to be honest you may have to wait, because Smith "sells no tree before its time."

If you're looking for a head start to a quality bonsai collection, Zach's are some of the best available anywhere.

Advertising Information for Your Bonsai Businesses

Winter Sillouette

It's that time of year, when leaves fall and cold weather arrives, perfect to display bonsai silhouettes.

This year's exquisite exhibit in Kannapolis, North Carolina is scheduled for

December 1 and 2 FREE Admission to exhibition, bonsai demos and vendors.

Winter Silhouette 2018

Bonsai Mary Gets Mail

Paul B.
Ashby de la Zouch, United Kingdom

RE: Tanuki - " I have always thought that this form of Bonsai was cheating, but now I think it’s a way of preserving a dead tree?

I started carving some years ago and produced a tree from an overgrown Elder, which I know is not a common Bonsai species, but couldn’t resist the incredible base and nebari!

Unfortunately, it didn’t survive the very cold winter we had and now I have a carved piece of deadwood, which is still impressive. I have grown some Elder sapling with the aim of using them with the dead wood and would appreciate some advice on how to use them together without the deadwood rotting? Would it be best to treat the dead wood with Lime Sulphur (or some other wood preservative) allowing it to fully dry before starting?"

Response: Paul, I asked a friend who has a bonsai nursery about current thoughts on the subject. David VanBuskirk at D&L Nursery replied: "Lime sulphur is good for harder woods like Junipers and Buttonwoods. I use 'Minwax wood hardener' or 'Elmers wood hardener' for more porous wood and for hollow trunks. I always allow projects to thoroughly dry before continuing a project."

Hope that helps.

Kev K.
Staten Island, NY

"I enjoyed read your latest issue re: reducing leaves. Looking at the image of the giant leaf next to the shohin, reminded me of an experiment I did with a London Plane tree. Then as if reading my mind I see you mention of the London Plane.

Firstly I'd like to mention that London Plan and Sycamore is not the same tree. Call them "cousins" if you like and for lack of a better term. London Plane is Platanus × acerifolia, while Sycamore is Platanus orientalis. Both trees have exfoliating bark, and can be told apart by looking at that bark. The London Planes barks is mottled with green, brown and a sort of dark tan color, while the Sycamore's bark the dark tan is replaced by a cream - or almost an ivory color.

The London Plane is a typical street tree here in parts of NYC, and my Avenue has a long line of them down the road. Because of this I often find seedlings quite often in my front yard. But to the crux of my story, I kept a London Plane for years as a shohin.

And although I couldn't get much ramification from it, I decided to concentrate on reducing the leave size. The leaves can get up to the size of your palm, but I would leaf prune in June and would get some of them to come back as small as a US quarter. Then for giggles I leaf pruned the largest new leaves again right away, and those would be replaced by leaves the size of a US nickel!
Since it didn't ramify well (for me) it was never even considered for a show, but every few years I'd play Dr. Frankenstein and do the double prune and had fun with my little London Plane."

Response:Thanks for your clarification and story Kev. I call plants like that "bonsai toys." They can be fun, and sometimes a learning experience!

Until Next Month

Keep your eye on the Weather Forecast, don't be caught off-guard. I know I repeat this often, however ... If you care whether it lives or dies, be sure your bonsai in a safe place!


Mary Miller

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