Back to Back Issues Page
Bonsai Banter Issue #72 Bonsai, Suiseki, Bonseki and more
February 25, 2016

Thank You for Subscribing

If someone sent you this issue of Bonsai Banter, it's a monthly newsletter. If you like what you see, please sign up!

Subscription Form in Right Column of Home Page

If you wish to remove your name, please see the link at the bottom of this page.


This uniquely modern looking display of stones with sand, was recently presented in a Japanese Suiseki (stone appreciation) exhibit. I didn't recognize the composition style as being Japanese. I asked Tom Elias, a knowledgeable collector of suiseki, about it.

"This is not a modern suiseki, but a form of bonseki, where different size stones, gravel and sand are arranged on a black tray to form a scene. The stones are often cut on the bottom to facilitate sitting on a flat tray.

"Bonseki was popular in Japan in the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods and up until the beginning of the WWII. It was more popular than suiseki at this time. Then, after the war, it lost much of its popularity, possibly due to the fact that it is temporary. Suiseki became popular in the 1960s-1980s and replaced bonseki as a hobby for many people.

"A small number of people still practice bonseki today, and the photograph you saw is a modern example of this type of stone and sand display. They can be very pretty and even modern.

For more about stone appreciation visit the Viewing Stone Association of North America

ShanChuan Islands

Speaking of stone appreciation, Jim Mueller is a longtime enthusiast of Far East arts such as hon non bo, karesansui, penjing, suiseki, and tieu canh.

"Jim is also a specialist in design for people of all ages and abilities, often called “inclusive” or “universal” design. His ShanChuan Islands are among the few art forms accessible to people of all ages and abilities ... "

His modern interpretations of an old art form - ShanChuan Islands - “mountains and streams,” are created from volcanic rock, various other stones, plants, figures and in some (as shown here) are wallscapes.

Be sure to see the portfolio on Jim's ShanChaun website

"Silent Bonsai"

I've mentioned Mark Reed's hobby before. This is his recent update.

"I currently have some of my 'The American Bonsai Collection' displayed at one of the local public libraries for the month of February."

Mark is a man of many talents. In addition to his artificial bonsai, (Mark refers to them as "Silent Bonsai,") his home in Park Forest IL, is known as the 'Chinese House.'

Yes, the outside is amazing, but it would take more space than this newsletter can accommodate to describe the fascinating international themes of the interior rooms! Click here to go inside his fascinating home and see for yourself the Chinese House of Mark Reed

Bonsai for Kids

The Bonsai Societies of Florida recently announced a special event for youngsters trying their hand at the practice of bonsai.

The "Youth Exhibit and Styling Competition is open to young people who are between the ages of 10 and 18 who are accompanied by an adult who is registered for the 2016 Convention. Participants will receive free convention registration."

If you know of a youngster excited about bonsai, contact a club near you. Many groups have similar encouraging programs.

Ants in Your Plants?

I frequently get emails about ants.

"There's just a few ants, is that bad?"

"Do you consider ants to be a problem? or are they beneficial?"

"I have not tried to vacate the ants, as they do not seem to be causing any damage."

"Should I get rid of the ants in my bonsai trees

Yes, ants in bonsai are a problem, and no, they are not beneficial! The answer is more complicated than most people expect.

Most likely ants are not the biggest problem. They don't come just to visit. There is something there to attract them. That "something" is often aphids. The simplest explanation of their relationship is, ants "milk" aphids.

Weird but true.

Read about the The Ant-Aphid Connection

The aphids especially like new growth and can cause distorted shapes and damaged leaves and/or flowers. The ants, meantime are burrowing in the soil, often creating air pockets!

If you see ants in the soil and you want to get rid of them quickly (and you should) place your bonsai in a container (or sink) with water up to the lip of the pot (not over the top.) In a very short time, the ants will come to the top of the soil, because they will drown otherwise.

As they come to the top of the soil, I recommend spraying with Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap (or your choice of houseplant Ready-to-Use-Bug-Spray.) This is a project for outdoors, when possible.

Bonsai Researcher: Robert Baran

The Phoenix Arizona Bonsai Society has the privilege of claiming Robert J. Baran as their Newsletter Editor. However, he is so much more. If you want to research bonsai history, Robert is the source! Today, most historians agree bonsai began in China and was later developed in Japan.

Proof of this is shown on a lengthy page Robert created of early Chinese portrayals of bonsai (beginning in the mid 7th century.)

On a day when you have lots of spare time, enjoy the research and writings of Robert Baran. Graphics like this from the early 14th century will keep you intrigued.

Click here for many more old Chinese graphics from Robert Baran

If you missed last month's issue of Bonsai Banter, Robert Baran's Coloring book was featured.

Bonsai Mary gets Mail

Sometimes it's Appreciative

Edward W. wrote "Thanks for turning me on to the museum in Washington! Can't wait to go there."

Sometimes It's Desperate and Appreciative!

Otto from St. Louis, MO sent this: "My european olive tree (10 years old) suffered major - I think - frost damage about 2 weeks ago. It was exposed overnight to 5-10F. At this point it is indoors and all leaves are on but brittle (i.e. dead). I do not know if the rest of the tree is 'salvageable'. Any, ANY, advise would be greatly appreciated."

Since I've never owned a European olive, I decided to check with Ted Matson in California, just to be sure I gave the best advice. Between us, we didn't think it would survive. After some back and forth emails including scratching the trunk to see if it was green and if so, how to care for it. I received another note from Otto.

"You are both caring souls! ... Please send Ted my regards and tell him that this one olive bonsai seems to be quite resilient."

Yes, there was green!

Sometimes Apologetic

Reverend Shelly wrote: "I wanted to reply, and let you know that your newsletters are awesome, really. I unsubscribed because I can't get a Bonsai tree to live for anything. I've read everything, tried everything, and they die. The only one that is surviving is a desert rose, but nothing else lives :(

So, at this time I've cancelled all my "Bonsai newsletters", sadly. Ugh. But you have put out some really great newsletters. Thank you so much.

I congratulated Reverend Shelly on her desert rose.

With Appreciation

With an average of 20,000 unique visitors a month to my website, I continue to "meet" many interesting people. If you have a question, an answer or a story to share, please

Contact Me

Many thanks to all my subscribers who do continue to share bonsai thoughts, questions and pictures.

A special thank you to the BonsaiMary site sponsors.

Supporting these advertisers, helps keep the BonsaiMary site alive and well.

Most Sincerely,

Mary Miller

P.S. If you have a bonsai business, consider sharing it with my visitors.

Advertising rates

Leave this issue of BonsaiBanter and go to Home Page

Back to Back Issues Page