Repotting season has started

The repotting season has started. Deciduous Shohin bonsai are lined up. Where repotting is needed it is executed now.  It is time just before the leafs opens, showing full activity in the tree. Only trees that have a rootball making a health problem are repotted. Or when a new pot is a priority because of aesthetical reasons. As long as any corrections of the rootball isn’t necessary, as it shouldn’t be at established bonsai, there are no need for regular repottings. The longer the roots can be left undisturbed and healthy, the better the tree will be in good health and growth.

There are no rigid rules that can tell when repotting is needed.

Shohin bonsai Acer palmatum, Japanese maple, fixed in the new pot. Pot is from Takao-Koyo, Japan.

It has much to do with observing the trees. Knowing their growth pattern and health.

Also a conifer is on the worktable for a repotting. In opposition to many other conifers preferring a later repotting, the needle juniper, Juniperus rigida, reacts better on early repotting.

Shohin height

A small correction of the height of the tree was done, so it fits the Shohin category that allows trees at a maximum around 20cm (give and take). A few small branches were removed, and the top lowered by simple wiring and repositioning them slightly. After that repotting into a bonsai pot. With such a small work it is not a problem to repot a healthy growing bonsai, that also shows a very healthy rootball. If the rootball shows signs of weakness with dead roots, then make just a secure repotting in the original or a slightly larger training pot to better the condition and growth. (Pictures in the gallery below the article).

Lowering the height of the tree from app. 22 cm to 19 cm making it fit the Shohin bonsai category.

Horsetail Kusamono

The Kusamono Dwarf Horsetail, Equisetum scirpoides, is a gift from a good bonsai friend. He didn’t remember the name, so I had to research a bit to find the correct name of it. I like the elegant structure with the tiny dark knees dividing each of the stems. Also it`s black, pointy cone is distinctive.

Dwarf Horsetail, Equisetum scirpoides.

Growing together

Placed in a pot by Eimei,Youzan Tokoname, Japan, underlines the elegant small plant. Actually a pot I found difficult to use, but now it shines with its new guest. Planted this spring, and developed nicely through the season. Dwarf Horsetail, needs a moist environment, and is therefore placed on top of a water tray, to keep humidity high.

Time will add a more established expression and age to the Kusamono. When the plant begins to fill the pot, it will look more aged and with a timeless feeling. As with bonsai age and harmony is important. Not achieved at day one.

Equisetum scirpoides, Dwarf Horsetail.

The pot

The pot I have had for some time, trying different plants in it. None with a good result so far. Not before now. Sometimes it is about trying different solutions, and some day it turns out just right.

The pot was bought only because I really liked it. Not because I had any plans with a tree or accent to go in it. So we do. Get lost in the beauty, finding out later, that there was no idea at the moment the money were spent. Now I am just glad I did it.

Finding the right bonsai pot

One of the fun things about repotting bonsai in spring, is the possibility to select a new pot for a tree. You can change pots during the season if roots are left undisturbed an it is a necessity for an exhibition. But then you can’t adjust the position of the tree much or prune any roots.

Ulmus corticosa, Chinese cork bark elm. 2018.

Therefore the repotting season (later winter / spring) is a good time to check up on a possible new pot and adjustment of the position in the pot, as well as the angle the tree is set in. The Chinese Cork bark Elm, Ulmus corticosa, at the pictures I have been growing in different training pots during the 13 years I have had this in my collection. I have searched for the right pot for some time and tried different solutions without finding the one and only match. But now it is there.

It is a high quality Japanese pot, and the soft lines and the feets support the tree very well I think. Also the subtle creamed yellow colour supports the green of the leaves. If exhibited in winter I will change the pot to a blue glaze so it fits better with the time of the year. In winter I think the present colour of the chosen pot will look to warm and having a different feeling and expression. The creamed yellow colour enhances the summer time image. All a matter of taste and individuality in the end.

As the tree looks at present trunk size and pot harmonize. As do the overall balance of tree and pot. Leaves has just begun to open. Looking forward to the coming growing season. Bonsai are repotted in the workshop these days, and the second part of the bonsai and shohin-bonsai repotting video guide is online at the Bonsai Video Studio.

Watch a total of 110 minutes in-depth information with step-by-step examples about repotting bonsai. For subscribers. You can sign up for a free one month trial period and take a look.

Shimpaku upside down

For a number of years I have been growing a small Juniperus Shimpaku, and followed the original position until now. The tree was purchased as a semi-finished piece at the Mansei-en nursery in Omiya, Japan, of late Saburo Kato in 2005, and mainly bought as a memory of the time spent with this most respected bonsai artist. One of a few I could afford.

2005. Original bonsai after purchase at Mansei-en.
2005. Original bonsai after purchase at Mansei-en.

I named the tree “Kato” for the very same reason. To remember a personality and respected artist who as one of a few, deserved to be entitled master. A misused phrase put on too many people nowadays who still needs to deserve this predicate after proving years of dedicated high quality work.

Back to the tree. After a few years of training, a tree in this size usually needs some restoration, some work that brings it back in shape. I originally had to reduce the slightly overgrown canopy after the purchase, and after that I managed to keep it in it`s form for some time. The shari (trunk deadwood) was only worked on sparsely, and I enhanced the deadwood some years ago to add some interest to it. I also extended it a little to make it better.

2005. Working the deadwood to bring in more age and interest.
2005. Working the deadwood to bring in more age and interest.

Time gone, and the tree needed to be reduced a little again in 2017. New growth was developed further back, so I now had the opportunity to reduce the length and keep the size limited. This made me think of a new possible style of the tree. A simple change with a huge effect, with little effort done.

Trying out the new position.
Trying out the new positions.

Where growth was removed new jins (deadwood branches) have been created, and this opened for a new vision of the tree. Same pot, but new position changes the view and expression of the tree. Only rearranging the left part of some roots was necessary. I was able to tilt the tree, so it performs much better now to my taste.


The repotting was done carefully, not disturbing the roots much. The new inclining position also lifted some older roots to the surface, that in future will be a good visual nebari adding strength to the image when the soil carefully is removed little by little over time.

Mind the gap. When positioning a cascade or semi-cascade bonsai it is of great importance to leave air between the trunk and the pot. A convincing cascade bonsai shows it`s strength only if it is able to hold it self and not supporting it by resting at the edge of the pot. Keeping air between the pot and trunk is therefore an important detail.

Click the gallery below for larger pictures.

Shohin displays at Noelanders

As promised in an earlier post, I will take a little time going through some of the shohin displays at Noelanders this year. Not to judge them (judges already did their job), but to put some words on the way of displaying shohin-bonsai the classical way at a exhibition. The obvious to put forward, is the …

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Gafu-ten book 38

The book from the 38th Gafu-ten exhibition in Japan (the largest Shohin exhibition taking place every January in Japan), just landed on my desk. And ohhh how happy a boy I am. Not only by watching the marvellous photos of fantastic Shohin-displays,  buts also the great improvement of having a part of the texts in …

Gafu-ten book 38 Read More »

The shohin pot from Bálint Tirpák Mafia

A very kind gesture has been made from Hungarian shohin `Mafia´ member Bálint Tirpák. So he made his own pot for me, and it arrived today as gesture of gratitude for inspiration through this blog and websites throughout the years. Nicely wrapped in a box and clothing, the pot inside is a modern styled shohin pot with Japanese styled patterns, and it has its own unique expression which I like very much. There are more pots at their website (link further down this article). A pot in my collection that also will be treasured because it was given as a sign of the friendships that are passed on through bonsai. Thank you, and I owe you a beer at least .-)

You may be wondering why I wrote Mafia at the top, but the explanation is simple. Budapest resident and shohin lover Bálint Tirpák and frinds have their own little shohin Mafia study group, and you can see more of them and their work at their blog  – just use a translating web tool to read it if you, like me, are not so good in the Hungarian language 😉

The blog you find here: http://www.shohinmaffia.blogspot.com/

Flowers and leaves

Spring brings flowers and leaves. The delicate new maple leaves and the potent flower buds of the Japanese Quince now shows in all their beauty.

This is spring. Every day a little new development and flowers that opens suddenly. Every day is a joy.

Shohin-bonsai pots by Elsebeth Ludvigsen

I am fortunate to have the excellent Danish shohin and kusamono potter Elsebeth Ludvigsen around. Elsebeth delivers from time to time some very good pots with her own unique style. Danish clay crafts have a good reputation in Europe and the traditions are shown in bonsai pots all over Europe from especially English, German, Danish …

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Shohin pot fashion today

Bonsai fashion shifts from time to time. Sometimes it changes due to new taste and influences by leading artists. Some time out of need. The later is the case with coloured pots for shohin-bonsai. Shohin-bonsai has been developed the past 40 to 50 years in Japan, and now some trees are outgrowing their containers. This …

Shohin pot fashion today Read More »

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