A Visit To Shinji Suzuki’s Bonsai Garden, Obuse, Japan

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


Our tour was fortunate to visit the bonsai garden and studio of Shinji Suzuki, one of Japan’s premier creative award winning bonsai artists. His garden is full of masterpiece and important bonsai, many which have never been seen before.


His garden design is superb and the beauty of each bonsai can be enjoyed. Small sectional displays have been set up to feature one or a group of beautiful bonsai. The entire pristine garden was clean and neat as well as his working areas.



Obuse is located near Nagago, Japan, host for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games. This is a cold region which was so beautiful with the fresh young green foliage. Since Mr. Suzuki lives in a cold region, mostly narrow-leaf evergreen species are featured including Sargent juniper, Japanese black and five-needle pines, Needle juniper, Japanese hemlock and Ezo spruce bonsai. Deciduous bonsai are well represented with Trident and Japanese…

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8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama City, Japan– Part 2

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


The 8th World Bonsai Convention is now history and could probably be never repeated again! Especially in Japan. I asked numerous officials of the Nippon Bonsai Association if they can do it again…. next year. EVERY one of them burst out laughing, loud and said “I’m tired.” The were wrong with the estimated number of visitors too. They expected 20,000 visitors for the four day event, but ended up with OVER 40,000 people. Even on Sunday noontime people were waiting in line.


This morning Kora Dalager’s and my tour of 26 people from Australia, England, Switzerland and the United States begin a week traveling around the country visiting private and public bonsai collections, the Tokoname bonsai kilns as well as other scenic and Japanese gardens in the country.


One thousand bonsai in training by elementary students in the area display


Spring is the worst season to display bonsai indoors…

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Japanese Black Pine PW

Nebari Bonsai

I nickname a few trees after the pros who have worked on them. I have a Ben Oki azalea, and a Peter Warren Black Pine. This is how it looked a year after I bought it from Brussel’s in 2010.

And during the initial styling; where my daughter was a lovely and able assistant:

Taming a big bushy black pine is more than should be tackled in a single workshop, so Peter made some decisions on the front, moved some primary branches, and we made a plan for the future.

Little did we know he would have an opportunity to return in 6 months and revisit the tree, which now looked like this:

And we advanced the design a bit to this:

Skip forward 5 years to fall 2016, and I’ve continually pushed growth back toward the trunk, and replaced big branches with finer ones. I’ve had several failed graft…

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#2 Trident Maple Project (con’t)

Peter Tea Bonsai

#2 Trident Maple Project (cont)

Trident Maple Project #2 (July 2012)

As promised, here is an update of my other Trident Maple project.  The last post I wrote about this tree was in June of 2012.  Please click here if you would like to see what I did back then.  I’ve worked on this tree twice during the Summer in July and August, but due to the busy schedule I hadn’t gotten a chance to write about it.  Instead of writing two post about this tree, I will put the two Summer visits into this one post.  Now that it’s Fall and the leaves are starting to change on the deciduous trees here, we will be working on this tree one last time to wrap up the year.  That post should be out in December.  But enough about the future, lets take a look into the past and see what…

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The Trident Maple Project and Summer Maple Work

Peter Tea Bonsai

The Trident Maple Project and Summer Maple Work

After a long day of De-candling and pulling needles, it was good to get back to the leafy trees.  The hours after dinner are considered my free time and I took that opportunity to revisit this Trident Maple Project!  Normally, I would have gotten to work on this tree earlier but I decided to allow some branches to extend to strengthen the tree.  After all, I did cut off a bunch of branches and repotted it a little late in the season.  If you would like to read about the cut back and repotting of this tree last April, you can visit that post by clicking here.  The early Summer evenings are cool now and it is a good time to get some work done.  I grabbed my camera and got right to it.  In this post, I am going to…

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Fat Little Trident Maple 2

Nebari Bonsai

Here is the previous post on this one…and here is the update!
It was dug in March and root pruned:





Then some tidying up…
Reopening the callus to keep the cambium moving. Maybe this cut will close in my lifetime…?


This little hole in the back had a softer center; and a chopstick routed it out quickly…down into the soil under the trunk. I used some epoxy putty to fill the hole, and will scuff the bark to expose cambium and get it to crawl across the putty.


A little selection pruning, then waiting until the first shoots begin to lignify!

Growing out in Spring:


It was pinched back in May and then allowed to grow on.
June. Time to defoliate and put a little movement in primary branches:


Emmett approves (of the fertilizer cakes, more likely):

The shortened sacrifice leader will be removed when new growth resumes below it.

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Building ramification

Nebari Bonsai

Trees grow from the tips, gaining mass behind them. In bonsai the goal is to control how the tips grow (shape and balance) and manage how they gain the mass along the way. We use that growth in many ways; building mass to make branches bigger, to make entire parts of the tree bigger, or to put the finishing touches in the form of ramification.

The “clip and grow” term is used to describe letting a branch grow until it has 5 or more leaves, then trimming it back to one or two. This is performed during the growing season. Each node has a dormant bud where the leaf stem attaches to the branch, which can be signaled to grow when the branch is trimmed back. A dormant bud is circled in red below:

Grow the branch to 5 or more nodes (leaves):

Trim it back to 2:

Dormant buds…

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First Steps with No Bai De ~ Backyard updates

California Bonsai Art

These are a few projects that carried over from last year that started as new projects.

These are the shohin pines I started this year from Ed Clark stock. I started the move forward at the Ted Matson workshop at Ed’s in March. This is what they look like since the cut back.

At the workshop

DSC_00820082 (2)



At the Workshop




The elm cuttings as planted


Today and after pruning.









This small trident at the beginning of the season with a layer mark at the bottom of the trunk. the tree was ground layered there and prepared for growing roots.




The spahgnum moss used to keep the roots cool just below the soil.


Some pictures around the tree. I have pretty even rootage around the tree, but I also have even spaced holes with no roots around the tree. I can see where roots are starting to emerge so…

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