Tag Archives: books

Bonsai Inspiration

When it comes to bonsai books I am a great fan of practicalities and inspiring ideas. Their is nothing as bad as buying a book that you don’t feel like lifting up, one that gathers dust and ends up in the collection of possible recyclables. Yes I have bought those books… and no I won’t name them, well not yet! As a bonsai freakcollector in these recessionary times money well spent is a must, so having come across Harry Harrington’s book ‘Bonsai Inspiration’ was refreshing at a practical level.

The book starts out as most books with an introduction to Bonsai, its history and growing challenges for the beginner. This section is only two pages and then it gets into the good stuff.

Developing your own Bonsai.

The book explains in a series of chapters called the ‘Progression Series’, how a tree is designed, cared for and styled into a finished product. This is different from most bonsai books in that it explains from day one ‘How to Bonsai’.

bonsai privet
(c) Harry Harrington

Take the example…’Using material from the garden for bonsai’. The elements of this section explain that over-time your garden shrubs or trees (if your a good gardener) have been pruned every year or so and now exist with the desired height that you require. So transforming these from the ground to a pot is easier to achieve. Yes their are challenges in this transformation, but these are well explained by Harry. Take the example of the Common Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) progression series. In this, Harry explains from day one in August 2004, how this garden hedge tree was plucked from the ground, trained in its staging area for a number of years, how the deadwood was treated and like the inevitable masterpiece you come to expect it was transformed into beautiful piece of art. This is explained in a stage by stage practical and is photo documented to make it easier to understand.

Another example of this practical application can be found in ‘Developing Bonsai from Airlayering’. Airlayering is a great technique for growing your collection. It is a technique that has been used for generations by gardeners. With Bonsai their is a degree of difficulty as you are dealing with not just propagation, but styling. Where is the best place to make your cut, what is the best type of tree to use and how to develop your little stump, eh tree. Harry gives an excellent instruction in the pre and post creation phases, thereby guiding you into great possibilities.

(c) Harry Harrington

Is this book aimed at the beginner, possibly not the absolute beginner, but more the advanced one. It does not go into detail for anyone starting out as most beginners can be afraid to touch their prized tree. It does offer great advice if you want to make that transition from advanced beginner to an inspiring artist.

Other sections:

  • Creating Bonsai from field grown material.
  • Developing ready grown or ‘Finished’ Bonsai.
  • Developing Bonsai from nursery stock.
  • Developing Bonsai from air-layering.
  • Creating Bonsai from trees collected in the wild

Book Name: Bonsai Inspiration

Author: Harry Harrington

ISBN: 978-953-56515-0-5

Number of Pages: 272 (Full Colour)

Price: £24.95

Link to purchase. Click here.

Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees

(c) Dan Robinson
(c) Dan Robinson

As you read this book you can feel the emotion of understanding, an understanding that bonds the ‘Author to the Artist‘.
From the moment that Will and Dan first met, when Dan explained to Will the true pronunciation of the word
Bonsai, as Bone-sigh and not Bonzai (The karate kid yelled voice with a chop to match), this friendship was moulded.

This book is more than a story of a life enriched by trees. It is a descriptive piece that leads you the reader into an understanding of this great American pioneer, a depiction that details the challenges in Dan’s life in more than just creating ’Gnarly’ masterpieces.

The main character, the artist, the champ as we used to say for our favourite western flicks is known to his peers as the ’Picasso of Bonsai’, a pioneer who coined the phrase ’Phoenix Grafts’. A ‘Phoenix Graft’ is a technique were you bond a dead tree with a younger tree using various techniques.

Dan is also known as the man who changed the traditional styling of Bonsai to new techniques back in 78’. Very much a western style, a controversial technique using power tools for designing and crafting his trees, it is a technique that has been adopted globally since.

The imaginary in this book is awe inspiring, it is an inspirational piece of work that will bring you through the journey of this great man’s life.

(c) Craig Coussins
(c) Craig Coussins
There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.
What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.
I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.
When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.
That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’

Article by Craig Coussins on Dan Robinson.

There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.

What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.

I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.

When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.

That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’  (By Craig Coussins)

(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers
(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers

In Hawaii they call it “mana.” In Japan it is known as “ki.” This is the life force contained within man, animals and the plant world. It is the reason why the power of touch is healing. Those who possess such a touch along with an artistic bent and an innate respect for the natural world have the ability to create great beauty.

Dan Robinson is such a person. His gentle hands sculpt, nurture, caress and coax tiny and sometimes wizened bonsai trees into delicate works of art. His life force connects with the trees and they respond.  Now, with his new book “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” Dan is sharing his creations, and a good portion of his life, with the world. Follow the pages as the “Tree Guy” reminisces about his early days when his life force was new, but untrained. Discover the artist behind the art, the philosophies of a man arguably more in tune with trees than with fellow humans. Follow him as he searches for new trees in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and brings them back to be part of his seven acre Elanden Gardens.

Dan views each of his bonsai trees as an independent spirit. He respects the mana of the tree and understands that by caring for and respecting that tree, it will return the favor by putting it best “trunk” forward. Proper bonsai form is sometimes trumped by a tree’s penchant to grow a certain way, creating something more beautiful than the artist might imagine. Sometimes the tree knows best.

Within the pages of “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” are stunning photographs of bonsai trees that have been nurtured to perfection. Some are older than the artist, but in a tree’s world, that is still young. At times it might be hard to tell whether Dan or the trees take center stage in the book. Since they have shared their life force to create such beauty, there really is no difference. This is not only a charmingly told tale about a man and his trees and the ancient art of bonsai, it is a love story. (Review by Monica Wachmann)

This above pre-release reviews were based on limited information received from the Publishers ‘Nara Press’. We have been invited to do a full review after the book is published in early October. We would like to thank Will Hiltz, The Author, Chief Photographer and Publisher of ‘Gnarley Branches, Ancient Trees’ for permission to use these images.

So as they say ‘Watch this space” for more book reviews.


Bonsai Beautiful Journey

Have you ever wondered what went into creating that piece of living art known as a bonsai? How the precise cutting and trimming and tying kept a tiny tree, just that, tiny?

Craig Coussins has travelled to many countries teaching the art of bonsai. In between these journeys he has managed to find time to write a series of practical books, among them “Bonsai for Beginners”, “Bonsai Master Class”, “Bonsai School and the “Practical Guide to Growing Bonsai: A Guide to the Art of Shaping, Growing and Caring for Miniature Trees and Shrubs”.

Bonsai for Beginners
Bonsai for Beginners

Combining photos and text, Mr. Coussins covers such topics as proper watering, soil requirements, how to repot bonsai trees and how to prune both the branches and the in some cases delicate root structure.

In “Bonsai for Beginners” there is also a step by step section, including photos, on how to turn a cascade style bonsai, where the branches and leaves grow down and below the lip of the pot, into an upright tree by carefully turning the tree upside down. This is more for advanced growers, but it is something to work up to. Other parts of the book focus on the more elementary steps of bonsai. This particular book has over 450 photos throughout its pages, covering a variety of plant species. Some are inspirational photographs of finished bonsais; others are to lead you in your step by step journey through the process.
“Bonsai School” is equally endowed with hundreds of photos along with instructions and a calendar to help you keep track of what needs done when on your bonsai. Various bonsai tree artists from around the world are included in the book, each sharing techniques and pointers of the craft.

Whether you choose “Bonsai for Beginners” or “Bonsai School”, or any of Craig Coussins’ other books, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of the elegantly fascinating art of bonsai gardening. Through his photos and his novel like, easy flowing text, you just might find that trying to turn a tiny tree into a living, breathing, sculptured work of art is something you just can’t wait to try. Go for it, and bring a little bit of cultivated Mother Nature into your world.