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I haven’t been posting much lately as I have been flat-out with work, life and bonsai. The work and life parts are not that interesting to write about but some of the bonsai things are!

Like their beer or not, Queensland is a fun place with some great bonsai and bonsai people!

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the Bonsai Society of Queensland to conduct some workshops and do a demonstration up in Brisbane. I headed up for a couple of days and was kindly hosted by Tony (have a look at his blog: A Bonsai Journey). Before the demo day he kindly showed me some of the bonsai sights around Brissy.

One of the stops was the botanic gardens where they have an exceptional Japanese garden.

The very well maintained Japanese garden

I was surprised at just how ‘Japanese’ this garden looked. If I had seen photos alone I would have guessed it was in Japan. In Australia we have a number of Japanese Gardens but often they are maintained to take on a western look some how. Not the case in Brisbane.

Something you don’t see in every Japanese garden, Water Dragons.

One thing you dont often see in Japanese gardens are Water Dragons. There were hundreds of them. Around every bend you would either find one sun-baking or rustling in the undergrowth.

A view across the lake.

The gardens were built by a Japanese Landscape Architect for the 1988 world Expo and were later moved to this location. An amazing feat because the gardens look as if they have always been there and really fit the surrounding landscape well.

One of the only pines in the garden.

Probably the only hint that this garden was not in Japan was the pines. They were a little under manicured compared to most of those I have seen in Japan.

Another view across the lake.

Once we had strolled through the garden the real destination of our visit revealed itself, the bonsai collection.

Under construction.

Unfortunately the bonsai collection was undergoing some renovations when we arrived so we had to sneak to the back of house area for a peak at the collection of bonsai.

All locked up.

A shot through the fence.

Unfortunately the collection was well locked up which prevented us from doing much more than looking through the cyclone fencing. The collection consisted mainly of old figs that perhaps could have done with a little of the maintenance that the garden next door received.  Hopefully the renovation of the collection building will generate some new interest in the bonsai which may get them some more love so that they really shine against the new walls.

I look forward to visiting again some time in the future and seeing how they look against the revamped building.

For anyone traveling through Brisbane the botanic gardens are well worth a look. The Japanese Garden is fantastic and once the bonsai house is finished the collection will also be worth a visit, not to mention the Water Dragons and rest of the gardens.



Just a quick post with some pictures from this years Bonsai Society Victoria show. Unfortunately the lighting was hard to take photos under so only a select few of my pics were good enough to upload. I will have to try to remember to bring a tripod next year.  Anyway, i hope you enjoy the trees.

I have just got back from a weekend at a friends place, Shibui Bonsai.  Shibui Bonsai is located in North east victoria about 3 and a bit hours from Melbourne and specialise in ground grown stock. I try to head up each year to help Neil (the owner) dig a few rows of tree out of the ground. Neil grows a range of species and this year we dug Tridents, Chinese Elm, Japanese black Pine, and Japanese Maple. In some of the other rows Neil had Chinese Quince, Shimpaku and a range of other desirable bonsai species that will probably come out after another season.

Matt swinging a shovel while Neil prunes the dug trees.

Having been up over a number of years now it has been great to see how trees develop over time. As trees are dug and pruned, they are sorted into those that might need to go back in the ground for another year and those that are ready to begin their life as bonsai. The digging went quickly this year as the trees had only been in the ground for a season and as a result didn’t have many large roots. The trident maples had really nice compact root-balls and as did the black pines which was a nice result and should make for them establishing into training pots much more quickly.

A batch of root over rock tridents, root and top pruned waiting to be potted up.

At this time of year Neil likes to dig the trees, prune them and then heal them back into a growing trench where they will happily sit dormant until they are potted up in a few weeks time.

Once potted up they spend around a year re-establishing themselves in the new pot before becoming available for sale.

Last years Tridents on the sale benches.

Some larger tridents.

Once we had finished the day’s digging we went for a drive into the local forest to have a look at a few things of interest. We checked out the old gold diggings while looking for native orchids in amongst the leaf litter. I think some of the native orchids would make excellent accents. Neil pointed out a few of the colony forming species as the most suitable and easy to grow. It is illegal to collect them from the wild but luckily they are available from local growers if you can hunt them down. I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for a few in the future.

The beautiful white trunks of the Brittle Gum.

I always enjoy heading up to Neil’s place. It’s a beautiful part of the country and it just happens to have an excellent grower there as well.

If you are interested in visiting Neil’s Nursery I believe you can via prior arrangement. His details are found on his website: For those that can’t make the drive to his place, he does also sell regularly as local club shows and will be at the Bonsai society of victoria’s show this October.




The Display

At the recent AABC convention I displayed two trees. One was a Chinese Elm and the other a Trident Maple.

To get these two trees to this state actually took a whole lot of work and time. I didn’t think it would take so long but it took me roughly 2 weekends to prepare these two trees.

Chinese Elm Pre-work

The Chinese Elm had the following done to it:

  • First, I defoliated. This took a long time. there are A LOT of small leaves on this small tree and they are all difficult to get at with a pair of scissors.
  • Next I cleaned up the trunk and did a basic pruning to refine the outline of the silhouette.
  • Then I had to select a pot for the tree (in this case an old Yamaaki pot) and re-pot the tree.
  • Then I mossed the tree
  • Then oiled the pot.

Chinese Elm as displayed.

The tree came up nicely. It improves each year as it’s canopy becomes denser. I think the new pot is a big improvement over its old container. Looking at the above image, it makes me wish I had a more delicate stand for it, but that can wait.

Trident Maple pre-work

Next came the trident Maple. It under went pretty much the same process as the Elm although it was not re-potted. I had considered changing into an antique chinese container but in the end I thought the blue pot was a good match.

This tree took most of a day to moss. The mossing was the easy part and only took a few hours. It was the finding of the moss that took the time. I had to hunt all over the neighborhood to find enough moss. No gutter was spared. Every time I thought I had enough I would go home to start applying it only to find the moss was either not good enough quality of that after trimming out the bad parts I didn’t have near enough to finish the job, so back out onto the streets I would go. I repeated this process several times, each time heading out to further gutters in search of the perfect moss patch. I didn’t find it, instead I had to collect many small pieces from many gutters.


Trident maple as displayed

I finally got the tree mossed and selected the only stand I had that came close to suiting it.

All in all I was pretty happy with how the display ended up but of course like many things in bonsai I saw many areas in which I could improve it.Both trees will look better in a few more years, but when is that not the case?

I guess that is part of the draw of growing bonsai, they are ever-growing, changing and shifting and you are forever adjusting to match the tree’s changing form. Some times you get it right and sometimes you don’t but always if you think about the decisions you are making along the way you will learn something new.


While I am going through my photos from the convention I thought I might share a few of the bonsai that were on display. The below pics are only a selection of the trees that were on display as I didn’t have the time I thought I might to take photos of the full exhibition. Enjoy.

This is the final post about the Korean Bunjae Museum in Seoul (Part 1) (Part 2). The following photos are from the largest green house on the site which was mainly filled with the trees belonging to the owner of the Nursery.

There were literally thousands and thousands of bonsai inside the huge green house.

A glimpse at some of the trees.

All the trees were sheltering out the winter under cover due to the low temperatures the area experiences. As a result the green house was quite cramped, In a strange way this was quite good as you really had to hunt around to look at all the tree.

One of the wings full of bonsai.

Throughout the collection there were many trees that were a little unusual. Some of these unusual characteristics were due to the fact that they were collected trees and others were grown in ways I was un familiar with.

An exposed root forest.

One such tree was this exposed root forest. I can’t remember seeing a tree like this before and as a result I spent a good amount of time in front of it soaking it up.

Some of the other trees were unusual due to their size, which in some cases was outright huge!

A massive hornbeam.

I couldn’t help but wonder how much time it must take to maintain a collection of this size.

A few pics of some more of the tree are below.

For those travelling through Seoul or thinking of visiting i can thoroughly recommend it. I would actually love to come back some time not in the heart of winter to see the trees in leaf and outside the green houses on display. The day we visited the owner of the nursery was not around but instead his daughter was looking after things.

She had just graduated from a Bonsai University degree and spoke near perfect english. She had many ideas for how she would like to promote bonsai within Korea in the future and I am sure she will achieve them.

So if you are ever in Korea I think a trip to the Korean Bunjae Museum is well worth the effort.

It’s been a busy few weeks so I apologise for the lack of posts. Hopefully I can post a bit more regularly now.

This post I will share a few more photos from the Korean Bunjae Museum. You can see in my earlier post, some of the amazing man-made stones that were on the outside of the massive green houses in which the bonsai were sheltering from the sub-zero winter chill. In this post we will explore one of those green houses.

Inside the green house.

What was interesting about this nursery was how it was run. In the Japanese nurseries I have visited the trees that were living within the nursery either belonged to the nurseryman or a customer but nearly all the work was done on the trees by the professional nurseryman.

Here in the Korean Bunjae Museum, hobby growers could rent bench space and grow their trees as they liked while enjoying the luxuries of a nursery such as misted green houses, regular watering, and a professional grower on site to call on for advice and or lessons etc. It seemed like a really good system and one I could see working well at other places. To imagine the ease at which you could take holidays without having to organise someone to water or without having to move the collection to a friends backyard makes this nurseries system seem like a great idea.

Now just because the growers in this green house were hobby growers it didn’t mean the trees were of a sub standard level. In fact there was a whole range of standards of trees many of which were very high leveled.

Some amazing Nebari!

The tree above was one of the first to catch my eye with its excellent root spread. I am sure that most of those roots will fuse into a solid plate at some stage but for now the individual roots look amazing!

Thee tree in the round.

And I guess I couldn’t make post about a Korean bonsai nursery without having a picture of a Korean Hornbeam.

A nice hornbeam.

A more feminine hornbeam.

There was also no shortage of junipers.


What was particularly interesting was all the raw material that was growing between the more finished bonsai.

My wife posing with a large hornbeam in-the-making

A trident maple (I think, maybe a korean maple of some type?) with a thread graft.

A few more pics and in the gallery below.

The next post will be on the second, larger green house which is where the Korean Bunjae Museum collection was sheltering out the winter. It was a huge space, packed with trees so stay tuned.

During our recent stay in Japan we managed to get a couple of cheap flight / accomodation packages so we could spend a few days in Seoul. The purpose of the trip was for my wife to stock up on Korean cosmetics  (Korea is a shopping mecca for the Japanese) but I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to one of the local nurseries, The Korean Bunjae Museum.

The Korean Bunjae Museum

This visit was my first experience with korean bonsai so I wasnt sure what to expect. What I will be covering in this post is what initially grabbed my attention.

We visited in the middle of winter. Most of the lakes in the surrounding parks had frozen and the top daytime temperatures were not even making it above freezing. When we first entered the nursery I wasn’t sure we were at the right place. I could hardly see any bonsai! We soon learnt that the whole collection was sheltering in huge greenhouses for the winter but that’s a whole other post.

What caught my eye was some huge rocks with trees planted upon them that were assumingly too big to be moved inside for the winter.

One of the massive rocks.

After spending some time with the owners daughter she explained that the rocks were actually all man-made by a close friend of her fathers. Now I don’t know about you but I think these are some of the best fake rocks I have ever seen! Even up close I couldn’t tell they were not natural.

Another rock and planting.

An upright rock with a small pine perched a top.

This last rock was my favorite. It was large rock that had a great little hornbeam forest on top of it. It made me wonder just how difficult it must be to trim it and keep it looking so good.

A small forest on top of one of the rocks.

A close up of the forest.

I will have a few more posts from this nursery as it was full of interesting trees and was run quite differently to the Japanese nurseries I was familiar with so stay tuned.

It is well worth a visit if you are ever in Korea. Their web page can be found HERE and their facebook page can be found HERE


On the last day of our recent Japan trip we managed to make a last-minute stop in at Gafu-ten while on the way to the airport at Kansai.

Gafu-ten is held in early January at the Miyako-messe building in Kyoto, Japan. The exhibit showcases some of the best shohin bonsai in Japan and the sales area attached to the exhibition has equally impressive shohin related trees, pots and goods.

This is my second time visiting Gafu-ten. I was at the exhibition last year (See HERE) and after seeing the trees on display and those for sale i was keen to get back.

This years show lived up to expectations with many high quality displays (unfortunately photos were prohibited).

A bonsai for sale at Gafu-ten.

In Japanese exhibition you can only exhibit individual trees once every 4 years. That means that every year you are guaranteed to see different trees. This years mix of bonsai had quite a different feel to those of last year with some quite unusual stylings exhibited. As we couldn’t take photos of the exhibition those wishing to see the trees might like to purchase a copy of the exhibition album.

We had a great time filtering our way through the displays and then moved into the sales area.

Some of the offerings.

For those of you that havent been to a sales area in a japanese show let me try to explain it. It is like walking into bonsai heaven. Trees, pots, stands, suiseki, tools, books, and almost anything else bonsai related you can think of can be found in the sales areas. Gafu-ten’s sales area is almost the same size as the exhibition and from the look of the people shopping there it gets the same if not more attention than the show itself.

Shoseki pots for sale.

We spent a good amount of time catching up with some vendors we knew, shopping and dreaming of trees we’d like to take home before we finally had to head off to catch our flight at Kansai.

For those interested, the full collection of photos can be found HERE.

Following on from part 1, I thought I would share a few more bonsai from Collectors Corner. If you happen to find your self in the area it is well worth a visit. Their website is found HERE.

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