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Japan bonsai

Developing and correcting a Shohin bonsai

Patience with bonsai is a well known subject. Developing a Shohin bonsai through 14 years pays off when the plan is right. I always lowed the rough bark at the Cork bark elm, Ulmus parvifolia Corticosa.  It was mainly because of this feature I back in 2005 bought this small tree. Since then I carefully developed it.

Originally I just wanted to make a better ramification and add a more interesting feature to the tree. Changing it from a mass produced broom style tree, to a tree with its own characteristics.

2005. The pre-bonsai material as it looked when I purchased it.

Changing style and opinion

The first long time project was to thicken up some of the lower branches especially. To add the aged appearance of a tree with thick lower branches, tapering towards the top of the tree. As well as tapering at each branch. Always having in mind that a branch is thickest at the base and slowly tapers towards the end. Adding a natural appearance.

In 2006. One year after the first initial styling.

Correcting a fault

At the first stages I created the tree as informal upright tree. At that time a lower first branch was right and an important feature of the tree.

After some time I decided to change the tree into a more leaning positing, giving it more interest. Keeping the lower branch in the new position proved to be a mistake. I fell in love with the lower branch dropping down created at the earlier stages of the training. I always fancied this feature at another three. At a Juniperus chinensis where I developed the same key feature. Working very well at that specimen.


2010. After five years training, developing the main branch at the left.

The fault at the Cork bark elm, is that it simply isn’t a realistic feature. A low branch beneath the canopy will be shaded out and die eventually. Maybe not at a bonsai where the light reaches the inside, but we have to keep in mind that it is resembling a large tree in nature. In nature such a branch will rarely survive. Therefore its doesnt work and I decided to remove it after some considerations.

2018. Ulmus parvifolia `Corticosa` with the lower branch still in place.

Achieving a simplified and much more harmonic result. Shohin bonsai is, due to their small size, always presenting the tree in a more simplified and suggestive manner, than when designing larger bonsai. Still it is of importance to keep the natural large tree in mind when styling the bonsai.

Bonsai is an ongoing learning experience, and trees develops and changes constantly. Mostly for the better. 🙂


New bonsai book. Shohin – Through the seasons.

The English and french version of the new book “Shohin – Through the Seasons” is now ready for preorders for the English and French language. The book is launched in February 2020.

It has been a great pleasure writing a new book, after my first Shohin – Majesty in miniature was sold out a long time ago.

Four chapters

The book has four main chapters, each dealing with the seasons; spring, summer, winter and autumn. Taking care of the trees, techniques and styling. Each chapter ends with the the display of the season, and how to display Shohin bonsai.

The book is now ready for pre orders in English and French language. 

Order your book today and save 30%

English edition can be ordered here: https://www.esprit-bonsai.com/A-18531-shohin-through-the-seasons.aspx 

French language – Language francaise: https://www.esprit-bonsai.com/A-18515-le-shohin-au-fil-des-saisons.aspx


Private Japanese bonsai collections

Private Japanese bonsai collections may not look like how you expect them to look like. Always we watch photos showing great bonsai at Japanese exhibitions, and from professional nurseries. I think many enthusiasts have a belief that all bonsai in Japan are that great. They are not.

Private bonsai collection in Matsuyama.

The level of bonsai

Walking the streets of Japan exposes ordinary enthusiasts collections being far more average than one might think. Why is that important to tell? Because it is important to know that the small bonsai hobbyist at home is not that far behind the Japanese hobbyist, that doesn’t have her/his trees taken care of at a pro nursery. Or do not have the money to spend at expensive material.

Bonsai have value at all levels. We seek, of course, to do the best possible and strive for excellence. The enthusiast who just wants to spend time and joy on their bonsai, and do not have the money for expensive trees, probably have the same joy as the one who invests in prestige and prices.

Private bonsai in front of a house, along a small river in Hiroshima.

The money

I have always enjoyed bringing up bonsai from good, but not expensive material. I find great pleasure in developing trees from quality material I find in nurseries. Or buying less expensive pre-bonsai, and taking them the next steps. It takes a lot of time of course, but the journey and fun doing it, makes it worthwhile.

Bonsai at the entrance to a house in Matsuyama.

Would I throw in money and buy expensive trees if I could? Of course. But I may not have the same relationship with my trees, lacking the history and satisfaction of doing the job myself. It is great pleasure to walk in the bonsai garden, knowing the history and development of every tree.

Below a gallery showing ordinary bonsai seen of the streets of Japan.






Never sell your bonsai

  You see these beautiful aged bonsai set for sale by private bonsai enthusiasts from time to time. For bonsai pros it is naturally a part of the business. But for private collectors I find it disturbing to see a personal tree set for sale. There can of course be a number of very good …

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The story of the Shimpaku juniper

It´s Secret History (English Translation © WBFF 2003; Original Japanese Text and Photos © Kindai Shuppan Co. 2003). Brought at Shohin-Bonsai Europe with permission. It is astonishing to realize that the Shimpaku juniper so beloved for bonsai culture was first found only a little more than a century ago in Japan. But in that short time, …

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The fifth of five bonsai

The fifth of five bonsai is chosen without shaking on my hands. In this small fun series were I have chosen the five bonsai species among my favourites, the choice is Pine. it also i one of the most difficult trees to succeed as bonsai I find. There is numerous techniques to control the tree …

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Times changes

Times changes refers to the time of year changing, from warmer – colder back to warmer weather again. Confused? So am I 🙂 But typical April behaviour around here.

The spring started very mild and a lovely period of warm weather have been present for some weeks. Now it has changed to the somewhat cooler weather for a period, before it again changes to warmer temperatures. These large shifts in temperatures, even with a few freezing nights around, demands careful moving of trees in and out of shelter to protect from cold nights.

I newer let my trees stay too long in the garage or greenhouse, because I think they are better off being hardened and developing their new leaves in open air. Having them bursting new leafs under roof in a garage or greenhouse develops elongated and fragile leafs, so I always bring out the trees early in spring.

I have to protect some specimens though already folding out leafs, or flowering specimens to avoid damage of this fragile growth. Some moving in and out the protected storage room is demanded these days, but soon real spring is here evident on the pictures showing new growth for the coming season.

No 411/1755

Behind this not so exiting headline hides a wonderful book, The Collectors Island No 1. The book is printed “Fondazione Cologni Dei Mestieri DÁrte”, an Italian foundation of arts started by a watchmaker. The book is one of a kind (and the first edition) collecting a series of articles about world collectors of art pieces. …

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Kinbon Magazine interview

In the October issue of the Japanese bonsai magazine, Kinbon Magazine, a large article featured Shohin-bonsai expert Tomohiro Masumi  at his tour in Denmark and Russia earlier this summer. Interviews with Morten Albek was a part of the  four pages article covering the Danish Bonsai Society 30 years anniversary exhibition, and personal interview. A big …

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Bonsai Focus with Tomohiro Masumi

In the November/December 2011 issue  of the international  Bonsai Focus magazine, articles with Japanese Shohin-bonsai expert Tomohiro Masumi will be published.I have produced the articles at my latest trip to Japan, and hope you will like the result. Tomohiro Masumi at the Koju-en nursery in Kyoto, Japan.

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