Bonsai blog Morten Albek

Larrys bonsai visit

Yesterday we had visitors from over there. Larry and Rose Benjamin made a stop at Kisetsu-en, making a bonsai visit before continuing their Scandinavian round tour. Always a great pleasure having people around and making new friends.

Larry Benjamin talking with Johnny Eslykke.

Larry and Rose

We had a great time strolling around the garden talking bonsai. Rose joined my wife and talked gardening and art. Meanwhile Larry and I videotaped a presentation of the garden for the local bonsai club.

As usual I make a presentation at the garden Tokonoma, as well as in the house. Respecting and celebrating guests.

Trident maple, Acer buergerianum.

Afterwards we moved on making a visit at my friend Johnny Eslykkes garden.

In the afternoon Rose and Larry returned for dinner and much more talking. Until they both were too tired and needed a nap before they continued their holiday tour. Maybe we will meet again in the US later on. A nice day with some great people.

Kisetsu-en garden, Morten Albek.

Two galleries below. First one is from my garden, Kisetsu-en. Second gallery is from the garden of Johnny Eslykke.

Gallery – Kisetsu-en, Morten Albek

Gallery – Johnny Eslykke

Bonsai hedge pruning

Having a little fun yesterday, showing how NOT to prune your bonsai. Could be tempting to use an electric trimmer to shape the foliage pads. But it is not how bonsai is done. No shortcuts.

Johnny Eslykke shows the delicate trimming of a 30 year old boxwood and each small twig is trimmed by cutting between leaf pairs, to make the cut invisible. Clipping it like a hedge will just leave ruined leafs with brown edges, and not be the aesthetic appearance as it should be.

Azalea from cutting

Great weather for a sunday meeting at the Fuchi Bonsai workgroup in the garden of Torben Pedersen. Trees trimmed as it is the time for trimming early summer, early June, around  here.

I worked on several shohin that sunny day. One of them was a gift from Johnny, who grown an Azalea from a cutting started around five years ago. Today I took it one step further by cutting it back, restarting new growth with a future semi-cascade in mind. Lets see what happens later on.

Annual bonsai event in Denmark

The annual bonsai event at the Danish Bonsai Society took place with Samba rhythms outside. More quit inside among bonsai in a rustique environment, at the cultural center Nordkraft in Aalborg. A great event with a lot of enthusiasm.

Yannick Kiggen

Yannick Kiggen from Belgium, giving lectures and a workshop with a lot of valuable information for the participants. Great value for everybody. A big thank you to Yannick for friendly and supporting spirit.

The exhibition improves every year, and showed a lot of new great bonsai.

Morten Albek confirmed as new Chairman

I was elected as the new Chairman of the Danish Bonsai Society, and I will do my very best to bring us forward. There are a lot of things to do, and I believe we, the board and I, can improve and serve our dedicated members improving the association. I hope we will receive more new members and recognition for the long time dedicated work on which we are founded.

Bonsai has a long tradition in our country. In 2021 we will celebrate our 40 year jubilee, and I look forward to prepare this and much more. Although in Danish, you might want to check out our website at

Age pays off

Bonsai is age, and long time dedicated work. One of our local long time members have grown a small leafed Elm for thirty years. Started from a small cutting Johan Bentsen have grow a beautiful bonsai with love and care. Well deserved first prize and public prize for this majestic bonsai.



Preparing for the annual exhibition

One of the top priorities of the year, is preparing for the annual exhibition in Denmark. Preparing bonsai starts much earlier than the two weeks ahead before the exhibition opens. Cleaning pots and making small adjustments can be done right before the exhibition. Adjusting mosses too. But everything else needs careful planning weeks or months before.

Long time planning

Already during winter I start the thought process about what to bring. How will the weather behave during spring? This being a late spring exhibition brings some challenges. Conifers will not be influenced much by the spring weather, that might jump from cold, to warm, and back to chilly periods ongoing. Deciduous and especially flowering trees, can be heavily influenced by the unpredictable weather we are always experiencing around this region.

Deutzia gracilis.

Shohin bonsai display is absolutely a challenge to time right during this period of the growing season. Shohin displays are focused on the seasonal changes, and trees needs to be right there when displayed. Flowers ideally are showing both young and mature stages. Leafs on Japanese maples shows mature and new leaves at the same time (ideally), to make this speciel sense of spring growth. Will the flowering trees loose their flowers from the first growth, or is it the new flowers on the summer flowering trees I can use? Sudden weather changes can change this in a short time.

The main tree

Months ago I prepared some of the trees, including my European Yew, Taxus baccata. My favourite main tree at the moment.

European Yew, Taxus baccata.

It needed some rearrangements of branches, which I did in late autumn. Six months later it is time to remove some wires, and make final adjustments. During winter the bark was brushed and cleaned. Jin and Shari (deadwood) painted with lime sulfur, both for preservation and to add this delicate contrast between deadwood and live wood. Adding age and a bit of drama. This has to be done ahead for more reasons. Both because it needs to settle and not look too fresh, and because time is limited during spring; having to do all the repotting and spring work taking a lot of time and doesn’t leave much time for anything else.


Before this ends, I am already thinking ahead for the winter shows. The preparation begins now, because timing and development have to be focused on getting the trees looking their best at that time. Avoiding making big changes that won’t be fulfilled and  ready to show within the season. Working on developing finer branch structures and details instead.

That’s why it is necessary to have a good amount of small Shohin trees at hand. Some trees being in development or redesign stage. Other focused on exhibition quality at the show I want to enter.

I hope I will time it right and enter one or two nice displays for the Dansk Bonsai Selskab exhibition May 25. – 26. It takes place in Aalborg at the cultural center Nordkraft.


Burning bonsai

Kill your darlings is an old saying, when you have to discard something you love.

I had to kill my old established award-winning Juniper, Juniperus procumbens. I have grown it from an ordinary nursery stock for more than 17 years.

It became heavily infected by the Cedar-Hawthorn Rust Gall fungus years ago. Unfortunately impossible to cure when first infected as much as this tree. You might be lucky at very early stages removing the infected branches. Cleaning the tools with spirit and destroying the branches by burning them, is essential to avoid spreading the fungus further.

Fatal fungal attack

The Juniper do not suffer much from the fungal attack, but branches do swell up around the area where the fungus grows. It is hidden most of the year underneath the bark, and shows up when spring temperatures increases and in rainy weather. If removed quickly the damages can be reduced some, but not fully. It might even not be visible for a long period if foliage can hide the attacked area. Or it might ruin the design totally.

I tried to remove all possible attacked branches last year and jinned those. A new design was necessary to develop a future bonsai.

What happened was, that the fungus, obviously at sleep at other part of the tree, just popped up at new places.

It smashed all my plans of recovery and a new design. Only one way to go now for more reasons.

I also didn’t want to risk the fungus spreading to my other Juniper bonsai. And I most certainly did not want to spread the fungus to other peoples bonsai. The risk is minimal when the fungus is asleep, but you might carry on some spores. One or the other way. Having workshops in my garden also would endanger students trees getting infected.

The bon(sai)fire

The design and future of the tree was ruined, so I decided to burn the tree to get rid of the problem. A necessary sacrifice.

Burning is the only way to be one hundred percent sure, that the fungus is gone. Putting the tree at the compost is no go. The fungus can be asleep for years and turn up again, spreading it spores, finding new hosts for its life. Also do not put it in the garbage bin, or at the junkyard. It doesn’t remove the fungus, just relocates it.

Well. Shit happens. Kill your darlings, and move on. Other trees are now safe and sound.

I used the rest of the fire, to put in two fresh rolls of copper wire needing to be annealed. Making use of what was gone.


Private bonsai visits

One of my favourite things to do, is paying private bonsai visits at friends. Without needing to do anything else than relax and do some bonsai talk among other things.

Crataegus, Hawthorn.

Yesterday I had two hours spare time in between actions, and called Martin Nielsen who lived nearby. I am not that often in the area, but luckily he was home and had a little time. I enjoy these private conversations and strolling around the garden, picking up tips and stories about trees. Martin has a great collection of trees, and a lot of good material in development. He enjoys bringing simple garden and Yamadori material to a high quality. With long termed planning and patient steady work stunning results are achieved.

The only thing that stopped the talk after two hours time, was a car with new summer tires and me going back to an art exhibition where my wife have a vernissage (today). Here some snapshots from the short but very nice visit.


Spring maple leafs

Always a treat to watch the new tender spring maple leafs open. Changing colour from reddish green to clearer green, showing subtle changes almost daily.

Shohin bonsai. Japanese maple, Acer palmatum.


There can be some days or even weeks between pieces of the same specie starts the seasonal growth. Most is controlled by light and temperature. Or simply due to different locations within the garden, letting one tree being exposed for more light. Also the strength and health of the tree will have its influence on how strong and how early the new growth appears. The rest depends on the genetic code stored in each tree, which both will show differences in leaf size, and when the tree leafs out. All in all complex patterns influencing on spring growth.

Trident maple, Acer buergerianum. Shohin bonsai.

The Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, normally shows the first signs of growth. Followed by Trident maples, Acer buergerianum, having a need of warmer temperatures to thrive.

Mistakes are the key to success

The past weekend I enjoyed doing Shohin workshops and a bonsai demo in Poland.

Teaching brings great joy when students are engaged and wants to learn. Bringing forward the level of bonsai relies on good students asking lots of questions. I have now gathered knowledge through 25 years of mistakes growing bonsai. And mistakes are one of the keys to learn.

Without mistakes no progress.

And I am still eager to learn more. Every year adds new layers of knowledge and new directions. With time errors are less.

Mistakes are the key to success

If we don’t fail we do not know the limits. Growing bonsai very much has to do with knowing the limitations of techniques different species can take, and when to apply them. How hard can a branch be bent on a Junipers or a Hawthorn? When to do it?What time of the year is it appropriate to repot? And so on.

Some of this is learned through books, videos or by teachers at workshops. At the end of the day there is only one way of learning the last bit. By practising by trial and error. Naturally always trying to limit failures as much as possible.

Keep on trying and learning brings joy when I see the results of my efforts improving my trees. Little by little.


The most valuable lesson I have learned up till now is patience. Throughout the past 25 years I have learned all kinds of styling and growing techniques. But time is what really builds a beautiful bonsai. The obvious part of time is of course the slow development of branches over the years, finally reaching a stage where detailed ramification is the result of patient work and techniques applied. But time also matters in other aspects of bonsai growing.

The aging of bark at trunks, and even at thinner branches, is part of time just passing by. Aged surface roots making these look old and sturdy takes time. Same with the aging of deadwood. No matter how clever one is with powertools or carving by hand, the last detailed aging and naturalness is only created by time passing. The fine fissures and cracks developed by deadwood heated up by the sun, frozen wood during winter, wetted by rain, and drying up again is what really matters. And here you can only wait. Letting time do its work.

Marek Gajda (left) and Mark Moreland at the studio of Ogrody Bonsai.

At the workshop a lot of new material was started, and established trees improved. As with the demonstration trees, they have all just started their journey. Many years of reworking and changes will happen. Thank you all who took part, asked and listened. It was a great joy being with you.

Below some very nice pictures from the demo and workshop in Ogrody Green Day´s in Poland. Send to me by the very kind Ming and Mark Moreland from the UK, who visited the event. 

Photos: Ming and Mark Moreland.


Bonsai Green day´s

Four days in Poland at Bonsai green day´s takes an end. The PAB, Marek Gajda and all his helpers have done a great job including attracting a lot of visitors. Meeting old friends and making new may sound like a cliché. But this is how it works and makes it worthwhile traveling around the world with bonsai.

The Grand Prix winning tree. Juniper by Jan Novotny from Czech.

Glad to be invited back by Marek Gajda doing Shohin workshops, judging the show, and doing a demo on a larger Juniper.

Grand prix winning tree, Juniper, by Jan Novotny, Czech republic. Best European native bonsai, Common Myrtle, Myrtus communis, by Herbert Obermeyer from Germany.

The exhibition shows that quality have raised quite a bit since my last visit here. Great material with a lot of potential for the coming years. Congratulations on bringing the level up to this standard. The European bonsai scene develops all the time.

Myrtle communis. Best European native tree in show. Herbert Obermeyer, Germany.

Also a more simple and version of Shohin display was presented.

The show had a great number of visitors, and I made a short video from the event. Watch video below, and all photos at the photo gallery.

Shohin Juniper article

Recently the Bonsai Focus magazine published the article of the Juniper chinensis styled for Bonsai Empire online Shohin course. I am really looking forward to develop this tree for the future. Normally I have a little resistance against these very uniform on a row developed bonsai imported in stacks. This one found it owns spirit by having some special features. Now I will move on to another one. Exiting to do some styling looking ahead and imagine the result as it will be (hopefully) within a few years.



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