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Favorite Bonsai Books

"I think I've read all the bonsai books printed in English."  That's a quote from the 1970s!  Today it's a whole new bonsai world! There are more and more legitimate bonsai artists, more techniques and overall better bonsai exposure around the world.  

My first bonsai book was the Sunset paperback publication Bonsai. It's an inexpensive, but thorough introduction to the art and it's still a beginner favorite today.

Other Beginner Recommendations

Bonsai Techniques I - by John Naka is considered by many to be the 'bonsai bible.' John's own drawings diagram his techniques. This is the perfect book for the serious beginner student of the art.

I know this book is expensive, but you will use it way beyond your beginning years!


Bonsai: a beginners guide - Published by Bonsai Empire is a more basic introductory book, and has fun how-to graphics.

A More Advanced Book

If you have Bonsai Techniques I, you may ask yourself "How much more could there be?"   The answer is ... plenty!  

In John Naka's second book, he covers such subjects as how to improve faulty rootage, inarch grafting to improve trunk, adjusting space through optical illusion to the different types of apex. 

All of that and more is in the first 200 of over 400 pages!  Photos and/or illustrations are on every page! 

Perfect Gifts

Giving a bonsai tree (even to a bonsai person) may not be a good idea. However, a good book, that's a great idea!

The World of Bonsai

is not a how-to book.  The photographs of bonsai, people and places are unbelievably powerful and wording is beautifully done.  Highly recommended as a gift for anyone who enjoys the visual arts.  Available in soft cover and hardback.

Thoughts on Used Bonsai Books

When you see a book that seems too pricey, there may be a used copy available!  Used books can be terrific bargains ... if you don’t mind a spot on the cover, a couple of turned down pages or just a “little worn” look.

Reference Sources

"Hortus Third"

The Complete name is Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada

These are probably the most important plant reference books I own. Originally these books were published as hard back and ran about $100.  Today, they are a bargain and often available "used."   If you are a garden writer (including bonsai) Hortus is a must.    

Don't miss the 'Index of Common Names' consisting of over 10,000 entries and the Glossary of Botanical Terms including a page of leaf illustrations. No excuse not to know what a connate-perfoliate leaf looks like! (Just in case you would ever need to know.)

Note to Tropical Bonsai Growers

"The Biology of Trees Native to Tropical Florida"   If tropical plants are your interest, the botanical illustrations by Priscilla Fawcett are clear and close-up!  The title is a bit of a misnomer because there are more than 'natives' included, which is a good thing.  Click on picture.

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