Top 5 bonsai – Cotoneaster

In some of the next posts i will show my personal top 5 hit list of bonsai subjects. It will be in random order, because I can’t choose one for another.

A small Cotoneaster Shohin bonsai measuring 11 cm in height. Still got around two seasons more left before it is exhibition ready.
A small Cotoneaster Shohin bonsai measuring 11 cm in height. Still got around two seasons more left before it is exhibition ready.

The first choice is the Cotoneaster. Among its many advantages is the small leaves, flowers and autumn berries. Most are deciduous but specimens that keeps foliage through the winter are also available. It comes with different size of leaves in the more than 50 varieties, and with variation in colours among flowers and berries. It it’s found all over Europe down to western China. For some reason I have not found many as bonsai in Japan, although I find it one of the best varieties for bonsai. Especially for Shohin.


The cotoneaster show great tolerance towards hard pruning, and reacts by a flush of new growth after hard pruning if the specimen is healthy. Also new growth emerges from the roots and even at the old base of the trunk. A few negative remarks to come up with, is that it is a little difficult to find specimens with a decent trunk size. The Cotoneaster is a low growing shrub that thrives best in a very well draining soil. They tolerate moderate desiccation, and the only pest I have noticed is a few Scale insects. One last remark on the negative list, is the missing ability to make callus and healing wounds after cutting bigger branches. The cut will be visible forever, as on junipers, after pruning large branches, and therefore you have to pay attention to where the cut is made in order to hide it on the backside or hidden by branches. Another way is to hollow out bigger scars, so it looks natural.

Early stages of a Cotoneaster. The long branches is let to grow freely for some time to thicken the branches. Afterwards these sacrifice branches are cut back when the effect wanted is achieved.
Early stages of a Cotoneaster. The long branches is let to grow freely for some time to thicken the branches. Afterwards these sacrifice branches are cut back when the effect wanted is achieved.

It is the perfect subject for Shohin and Mame bonsai, due to the qualities mentioned. It will be useful all year around, and not only have a few months where it is at its best. A few specimens can be used as medium sized bonsai if you have the luck to dig up a piece with a large trunk. That is often a specimen where more trunks have fused together over time as shown in the Cotoneaster below, that still is in the very early training stages.

A larger piece of a newly collected garden material. This cotoneaster will have a promising future due to its large trunk, probably consisting of more trunks fused together during the years.
A larger piece of a newly collected garden material. This cotoneaster will have a promising future due to its large trunk, probably consisting of more trunks fused together during the years.



Tokonoma night lights


Tokonoma version 2.0 Now light is installed in the outdoor Tokonoma, finished this summer for enjoying bonsai viewing. This makes it possible to make a display in the evenings during the darker periods of autumn. Displayed is a not yet finished Japanese maple, but chosen for the autumn leaves change.

Autumn arrives a little late

It has been an unusual hot start on this years autumn season. Finally the colder weather has found its way and nature do as nature must do. Leaves slowly changes their colours, and begins preparation for winter.

Video – passion for bonsai

Photographer and video journalist Nicolai Brix from has shot a beautiful 2. min. piece about my passion for bonsai. (With English subtitles).

Beneath the video a few photos from the recordings in the garden, and the finished bonsai I worked on during the movie.



Feel feel the love for bonsai

In Japan is this year a very special bonsai art exhibition and performance taking place. Different artist, photographers, graphic designers i.e. are together with bonsai artist Masashi Hirao displaying bonsai in very refreshing new way during the Feel Feel Bonsai event.

Feel feel the love for bonsai when you watch the pictures very kindly brought here with permission of the Feel Feel Bonsai project.


All Photos are courtesy of Feel Feel Bonsai,  Setouchi Cogeiz, a group of creators comprised primarily of alumni from Kagawa Prefectural Takamatsu-Kougei High School.

There are 13 members who are Graphic designers, photographer, architect, and garden designers to form the team who create this exhibition venue with Bonsai artist, Masashi Hirao.  The exhibition which continues till the end of October will change time to time so visitors can still feel the seasonal changes throughout the year.


Bonsai art may seem very related to the past in the modern world, due to its very long history in the east, clinging to traditions.  But the art of bonsai is not an art form that is not moving just because it have deep roots in the past. Just see what happens when traditional art is modernised without taking its heart out, but done with love and the courage of expanding borders and artistic people translating it.


I feel personally very inspired by the art created in this venue, which appeals deeply to my senses.

The event takes place in the Kagawa prefecture, in the wonderful surroundings of the Japanese Garden “Ritsurin Kouen”. Next event takes place August 12th, so if you by any chance are nearby, read more about it at the Facebook page. A web site is also set up at Tumblr with great photos and video presentations of the event.


New Tokonoma

Just finished building a new Tokonoma in my bonsai garden. A place for relaxing and enjoying the beauty of bonsai. The Tokonoma (床の間, toko-no-ma), or just toko (床), is a special niche used to set up items to appreciate. Seen in Japanese reception rooms, at temples, and at bonsai gardens. In a private house, the Tokonoma may be used for decorations when celebrating New Year and other occassions, as well as a welcome gesture to visitors.


In the world of bonsai the size often is the size of a tatami mat. 90 X 180 cm, but this varies depending on design. My Tokonoma is build as a center point in the bonsai garden, and can be watched from inside the house as well.

I will use it on a daily basis, but especially for visitors, who can enjoy the beauty of bonsai when visiting our garden. Using the Tokonoma also sharpens my senses of appreciating the beauty of bonsai art.

The landscape painting references

The way bonsai are displayed in a Tokonoma / alcove, is also closely related to the landscape paintings. Therefore the expression and the mood of a bonsai display is always is some extend related to the landscape painting, and time of year. Even the time of the day may be considered. An evening mood with a low sun at a scroll painting can suggest this, or the moon in the night gives the feeling of the cool night e.g.

Having the landscape painting in mind when setting up a bonsai display makes it easier to arrange, read and understand. Referring to the landscape painting, is not only the way trees, grasses, flowers, mountains i.e. can be used as elements through the use of bonsai, accent plantings, Suiseki (viewing stones), scroll painting or accessories, but also the empty space is an important feature. The empty space is that extra element of the untold that is both present in the painting and the bonsai display. The empty space expands the untold part of the story and the imagination fills in the rest and adds the important peacefulness to the picture.

This can all be done in a very modest and simple way, like it can be done with a fuller image with more elements, but always with the lightness and simplicity of the open spaces and landscape paintings elements in mind.

Now this area with bonsai Tokonoma may be were it will be easy to find me in future.

Sweet sixteen Shohin

All through af Danish bonsai.

Today it is sixteen years ago, that I started up a Prunus avium bought at a local garden nursery in Denmark. Prunus avium is a classic native Danish plum tree, also seen in the wild in between. At this moment it is placed in a pot by Per Toxvaerd, and being a native tree, it can´t become more Danish.


July, 2016 in a pot by Per Toxværd. Height: 20 cm.

One of my favourite techniques developing a deciduous Shohin bonsai, is to cut back already developed trees or bushes with a good trunk size. The advantage of this method, is that you skip years of development from seeds or cuttings. It is not so far from the Japanese method of developing bonsai letting them grow in the ground for some years, using sacrifice branches to speed up trunk growth, just to cut them off later. My method is less controlled though, because I have no control of the branch development up to this point when I take over the raw nursery tree. But searching for good material will make this issue a smaller problem.


An important aspect of the development, is not to let it flower when in training. Flowers replaces new growth, so it will slow down or almost stop the growth for a longer period of the season, if not removed early. Later on when the bonsai has reached maturity and a satisfying branch development is reached, it is time to let it flower and even bear fruits.

In between also mature and well developed flowering and fruit bearing bonsai has to skip a flowering to succeed being healthy growing.

Next year I will give my Prunus a pause, letting it grow new foliage and branches in a bigger amount.

In the picture series below, the development from 2000 – 2016 is shown. I do not have pictures of the raw plant i purchased, but it is still clear to see how much more mature the tree is today. Only time will add the wanted patina and aging bark, from trunk out to the branches.

Sweet sixteen is not a blessing of youth, but appreciating the age of a bonsai developing through time.

Late July the the fruits ripened and are ready to eat. If you have the heart to pluck them.

Bonsai and pots in the heat

These warm summer days (that we are not blessed with too often this summer), it is important to provide some partial shade for especially smaller bonsai. Small shohin bonsai are easily dried out during a warm day, and partial shade in the middle of the day is essential in midd summer. Use a net for the purpose, or place the bonsai under partial shade from large garden trees for example.


Check regularly for watering needs during the day when possible. Bonsai do not dry out at the same time, just because they have the same size. Different leaf amounts and different types of foliage decides how much each plant evaporates. Weaker trees with less roots have to be shaded more, because the fewer roots may not be able to take up enough water to follow the speed of evaporation.

Please also take in mind the importance of the pot quality. The classic Japanese and Chinese pots are made especially to fulfill the purpose of being able to keep the roots cooler. Some western pots are made of heavier clay, and build with thicker walls, not having the ability to keep the temperatures low in the pot on a hot day with sun heating up pot, soil and roots. It is essential to keep the trees healthy avoiding an overheated pot. In nature the roots of the trees are always deep in the soil and kept in a natural steady temperature. Bonsai lives a more dangerous life, where soil temperatures vary when heated by the sun and  cooled by watering. Good bonsai pots build with the right clay and thinner walls helps keeping the soil temperature variations as small as possible.

Finally. Do not wait to the afternoon to water your trees if they are dry. Water immediately and when needed. Harmed roots dried out and overheated may damage the health of the tree severely.