0. Bonsai

A bonsai (singular same as plural, like the words "sheep" or "species") is a miniaturized tree growing in a pot. It is not just any planting (sai). And most pots are not trays (bon). How is it that words so often do not say what they mean?

The word "bonsai" is pronounced like "bone-sigh"; it is definitely not the word "banzai" which is a battle cry like "Geronimo" or "Cruachan" (a mountain in Scotland).

The word "bonsai" is also used to refer to the entire art form, and as an adjective in such expressions as "bonsai tools" or "the bonsai spirit."

1. The (Bonsai) Eye

When is a bonsai good? The simplest answer: when viewing it gives pleasure. Some may glance briefly, but we should give the tree a chance. Look longer. Can you revisualize the tree if you turn away momentarily? Can you see how it would look if some branch were removed? Or if it were in a different pot? Are you looking at the front? Ordinarily, the top of the tree tilts toward the front. Occasionally the persons who arrange a show, the trees having been dropped off by the owners, orient them incorrectly. Sometimes a particularly fine tree looks good from more than one side; is this one of those?

2. A Tree

The formal upright (chokkan) with straight trunk tapering smoothly to an apex centered over a well-rooted base, branches side, side, back (and higher up, in front) is the simplest, the basic bonsai form. It can also be the hardest to perfect. It has been said that bonsai lessons begin with chokkan, and bonsai masters end with chokkan. And, so it is with bonsai philosophy, which begins simply enough: it should look like a large, old tree. But, as in the game of Go whose rules seem simple as tic-tac-toe, the ramifications and subtleties of bonsai expand without limit.

3. Three Aspects

Horticulture: for a tree to be healthy in a small pot needs a chemist! No bonsai is good if sick; maybe later (if it doesn't die first). Unusual or hard to nurture species are of interest, but only when possessing the other virtues.

Miniaturization: we learn some thousands of skills to make small look big, convincingly. Of the thousands, many are devoted to having a tapered trunk, of which more later.

Esthetics: all of those criteria of composition applicable to any art form apply here. This living sculpture needs balance without symmetry, spaces in their places, strength with softness, grace along with the appearance of great age, and more.

4. Roots

When, after an overall first impression, we begin a piecewise analysis of a tree, it is customary to start with the roots. They look better when half submerged (rather than floating above the soil) and half angled (rather than coming straight at the viewer). When choosing raw stock, we look hardest at the roots. Branches, even the trunk, can be changed later. But it is not easy to change roots, or to grow new ones. A mistake I have made twice is to cut off a large, old root on the back side of a tree, hoping to encourage the other roots--and then subsequently deciding the back was the front (for other reasons) and then kicking myself.

5. Origins

The roots of bonsai history probably extend to the Asian caravans carrying potted plants to afford fresh greens. Meanwhile, according to Wu, artificial rock gardens were constructed as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to 221 A.D.) and were being miniaturized in the Tang (618-907). Paintings from the Sung dynasty (960-1280) include potted trees. The culture of miniature trees was introduced to Japan (Wu says) during the Yuan (1280-1368) where, we can surmise, it was increasingly refined and systematized. According to Johnson (who relied heavily on the book Bonsai bunka-shi by Iwasa) bonsai became popular during the Kamakura (Minamoto and Hojo) shogunates (1185-1333) called "the last great age of Japanese sculpture" by Swann. Bonsai flowered, along with literature and Zen painting during the Ashikaga Period (1338-1573) noted for the emergence of the ronin or masterless samurai, the mercenaries of that age (and movie heroes of ours). Bonsai acquired status when adopted by the Tokugawa shoguns (1600-1868) and the buying and selling of bonsai became a significant business, remaining so to this day.

Is it a coincidence that the bonsaist's resolute infusion of peculiarly human values into the representation of nature appeared, grew and became standardized in parallel with the emergence, extension and systematization of shogunism? Whatever its source, bonsai culture has persisted into quite different times and places, reminiscent of the world-wide spread of jazz music whose time and surroundings of origin are long gone.

6. Books

Some scholar who was inventing characters evidently considered books to be the origin (root) of knowledge; he was only half right. Books are made from paper made from trees; a lot of nature (and of reality) is lost in the process! Helpful books can be, but no substitute for experience, or a good teacher. And books often conflict. The #2 problem in life is: whom to believe? The #1 problem is: does it matter what we do? If so, go on to #2.

The sources, including books, for some of what I say in this booklet can be found in the Notes toward the end of the booklet.

7. Groves and Forests

A bonsai can consist of two, three or more trees. Hopi consider four (seasons, directions, corn colors) sacred. But both occidentals and orientals find four too square. Some bonsaists point out that the sound "SHI" means in Japanese both "four" and "death," a rather fanciful reason to avoid four trunks or four fruits hanging on a tree or four items in a display. Actually, the sound "SHI" applies to at least 46 different characters (p. 305) many with multiple meanings. [The sound "SHO" is the reading of at least 69 characters, and "KO," 83]. But maybe this is not entirely fanciful; what probably counts is not how many meanings a sound has, but which meanings first come to mind. We usually avoid nine trees in a forest; for one thing, the Japanese word for nine is "KU," which also means pain or suffering. ["KU" is the reading of over a dozen characters.] Moreover, three groups of three trees each is not considered interesting (John 1:220; this means page 220 in John Naka's Bonsai Techniques, volume 1).

8. Strength

Among ecologists the usual expressions are: shade tolerant (like oak and hemlock but not most pines), cold hardy (like most conifers but not semi-tropicals), and drought resistant (like Arizona cypress but not Hinoki cypress). Important to bonsaists is "manipulation tough." Chinese elms, including Catlin's small leaf mutant, are tougher than rats. Almost as tough is the prostrate juniper (J. horizontalis prostrata) which tolerates shade (although better in sun), enjoys frost, withstands the heat, survives transient forgetfulness, lives happily even with alkaline soil in a shallow tray, survives when bent past breaking, and pops out proximally even when old. But a good flare at the base and big roots which forcefully grasp the ground are rare, and the foliage is coarse compared to some others. Tough, tolerant, hardy and resistant prostrata is, perfect it is not. Beginning classes in bonsai often use prostrata; so do the most experienced bonsaists if they find a special specimen.

9. Knives

Bonsaists need several knives: a long, thin one (soon dull) for separating root balls from the insides of pots, a small one for many uses, special ones for grafting, and an adze-shaped knife for scraping. These, like other cutting tools are best sharpened often, using a fine stone, at an angle (about 30o) resembling the prow of a racing boat knifing through the water.

10. A Partial Thought

An old saying is: bonsaists begin with chokkan and end with chokkan, returning often to try again. Children ask the most basic questions; do we not need to return often to the basics, to ask some simple, childlike questions from time to time?

11. Rules

Held down too hard by rules, partial thoughts cannot blossom. Rules without ideas is prison. Ideas without rules is chaos. Bonsai teaches us balance.

Balancing rules against innovation is a pervasive problem in all of life. I once saw a play entitled "The Game of Life." The message was that one is often asked to play the game for high stakes before anybody has explained the rules. Moreover, it's not so easy to tell if you are winning.

It often seems that beginners (and young people generally) need rules or broad theories for guidance. Then, as experience accumulates, the many exceptions and variations gradually invalidate the rules at the same time that the rules become less needed. A great advantage of bonsai over Life is that one can learn from fatal mistakes.

12. Public

Is having your tree in a show necessary? No matter how sure we may be of ourselves, or how happy with our work, we almost all need, some time or other, approval from those we admire. The judges at competitive bonsai shows usually go by the bonsai rules. For example: do not have a "pocket-branch," one which arises on the concave side of a curved trunk. If it appears to a sophisticated judge that you have knowingly and deliberately broken this or some other rule for a special effect, you may be admired for it--but don't depend on it! A blue ribbon tree for some judges will be shrugged off by others-- another rule of Life.

13. Private

Charles Loloma, the Hotevilla Bean Chief (at Hopi), revolutionized American jewelry in various ways, including gold bracelets with precious stones set inside. "Others do not see, but you feel it there," he said. Such secrets strengthen one. What if casual viewers miss the subtlety of your styling? When looking at the bonsai of another, do you seach for subleties?

14. Sun

Our sun is the source of all life. It gives light to make chlorophyll, minifies leaves, shortens internodes, stops fungus and warms roots. Perhaps the most common mistake of beginners, including those who receive bonsai as gifts, is to suppose that the tree will be less stressed if it is kept in the shade. A few bonsai (e.g., Serrissa) prefer some shade; knowing which ones comes slowly after many mistakes.

15. Water

Two gases, oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2) join to make the main ingredient of all (but bone) that lives; is this the first miracle?

People often ask, "how often must one water bonsai?" The standard answer is, "Every day, if the soil is not already damp." And more often if the pots are small or the day very hot! Over-watering is no worry if your trees have GOOD DRAINAGE, the first fundamental of bonsai horticulture.

One hot, windy April afternoon the new growth on a maple (A. palmatum), a red leaf plum (P. c. atropurpurea), and on a gingko, all in small (less than l gal.) pots, was sadly drooping. After I thoroughly watered them, all of the nodding heads began to rise in 30 minutes. By 60 minutes (gingko, in partial shade) and 75 minutes (plum, in full shade at the time) and 2-l/2 hours (maple, in full sun), all were again erect. This fairly rapid flow of water up the phloem seems an exception to the general rule that trees react slowly; for example, a Christmas tree with all roots off by a cut through the trunk may remain fresh looking for a couple of weeks. In this connection, if you wish to talk to a tree, talk very slowly, perhaps one word every ten minutes, otherwise your tree will not follow your rapid (for it) speech. Trees also listen better if they are properly fed and watered.

16. Ice

17. Soil

Soil holds the tree in place, holds water and affords nutrients. It must have GOOD DRAINAGE. It is part mineral and part vegetal (see page 100 for more on this). The less vegetal the "leaner" and vice versa the "richer." When in doubt, go lean.

John compared soil to a cup and plate. He meant that the soil should not be depended upon for nutrients but should be fed by us. But not too much!

When we get close to the soil, it reawakens the heritage of mankind's special step, the domestication of plants. Few activities, if any, are more therapeutic than gardening, even when done for an arduous living. For the city dweller, bonsai provides this opportunity in a minimum of space.

18. Big

If a potted tree is over 48" (122 cm.) from soil to apex it is usually considered hachi-uye ("planting in a bowl") rather than bonsai (John I, 121). A bonsai forest four foot high could be in a pot so large that three or four people are needed to move it. Medium size (one person or two-hand) bonsai are often the most impressive in shows. One-hand bonsai (usually 12"-24" high) are also a common size.

If one follows the oft-quoted (and oft-ignored) rule that the height should be six times the diameter of the trunk, then a 24" bonsai would have a 4" trunk. If the pot is 2/3 as long as the tree is high, 3/2 as deep as the trunk diameter and 3/4 as wide as it is long, it would hold 16x6x12 cubic inches; this is about 1000 cc., since the soil level should be below the rim. This is 3.3 qts. (3.2 liters). This amount of wet soil plus pot and tree can easily weigh at least 16 lbs. (7 kgm.). This weight is not too safely handled with one hand, especially if you have an arthritic thumb (if you do, it helps to clench your teeth). Of course, it weighs less if the pot depth equals the trunk diameter, if the pot is thin or if the soil is dry and contains a lot of pumice (this is one of the advantages of using pumice).

A 4" trunk might well involve 12 ft. or higher raw stock. Taking off the top 85% of the tree and not having it look like a post is an artful move. Shortening a trained tree is also tricky. In class one day John asked, "How high is your tallest tree?" "About 4 ft.," I answered, thinking of my best bunjin, a blue ribbon winner in past shows. "Bring it in," he said with a gleam in his eye, "I'll shorten it for you."

19. Persons

Do you think of your tree as a person? Martin Buber was a Jewish philosopher (some would say a poet) who felt the fundamental problem of human relations was in thinking of people as things (to be used) rather than as reciprocal partners. Swanson, in his book, Persons, suggested that we could tell when we did this by whether we used such words as "it" instead of "she" or "he." Or is this just a peculiarity of certain languages? One is sometimes impressed to see that grief is greater for some people if they lose a tree than if they lose a relative.

20. Vacations

Some ancient scholar (Li Si?) seems to have believed that the best vacation was for a person to get close to trees. It is especially appropriate for one who cares for or simply enjoys viewing bonsai. Pictures or even bonsai styled by masters cannot teach what can be learned from the real things. The Persian philosopher Rumi wrote, "Look at the moon in the sky, not the moon in the water." The truth of this is tempered by our feeling that we also benefit from observing the reflection. Probably best to go back and forth.

A collection of bonsai can considerably curb one's willingness to leave home. Many a tree has been lost by asking inexperienced although otherwise trustworthy friends to help. If (like Jim) you set up an automatic watering system, have it checked every few days by a bonsai buddy. George Sabin's faithful, daily appearances when I was ill for a month saved me from starting (as have some of our acquaintances) from the beginning.

21. Mouth

An acquaintance of mine, applying for a job, asked for a recommendation. I answered that I would be pleased to compliment his conversational eloquence and writing expertise, which I knew firsthand. He asked, how else can you judge a person? Well, in my profession (surgery) there is no necessary relation between what somebody can do and how well he can discuss it. Indeed, it sometimes seems the relationship is inverse. The indispensable criterion for judging a bonsaist is his trees, assuming they are actually his rather than recently purchased for a competitive show--a not unknown offense to the bonsai spirit!

No one to my knowledge objects to the purchase of a lovely bonsai; what is at issue is how one speaks of it, whether as one's own or as the treasured art work of some master. Suppose, after a time, you change it--is it then your tree? One criterion is that if the person who had it before you no longer recognizes it, then you should indeed call it your tree.

21A. Expression

The best bonsai teachers have both a mastery of the reality and an ability not only to explain but to inspire. John once said, "Jin this part and wire it so it will dry with a nice shape." "What shape?" I asked. "You decide," he replied, "it's not for me to sing your song for you!"

22. Ancient

When a tree is young its roots are below the surface, the trunk is cylindrical, the bark is smooth, the primary branches reach up toward the sun and the secondary branching is sparse. But when the tree is old the roots grasp the ground with a gnarly grip, the trunk tapers evenly toward the top, the bark is rough, the branches droop with their own weight and the weight of many snows, and the tertiary branches show fine detail. Feeding on the surface favors enlargement of the surface roots, twisting the lower trunk thickens it (this works particularly well with elms) and the branches can be wired down. But the twiggyness so appealing in the long-trained tree just takes time.

The actual age of the tree is less important than how old it looks. Of course, a good way to get the look of age is for the tree to be old!

23. Pain

24. To Prosper

Bonsai shows us many ways to prosper. How appropriate that the character should embrace a tree!

25. Spirit

Horticultural knowledge, chemical sophistication, skilled hands and eyes, artistic sensibility and philosophic profundity all contribute to the spirit of bonsai.

26. Friends

Among its virtues, bonsai bonds together folks of many different countries, religions and social strata.

27. To Love

"Love" has many meanings. Above all it means concern for the well-being of another. When asked for advice, Kyozo Murata said, "The secret of bonsai is to look at the tree lovingly every day."

28. An Idea

Searching for an idea to transform a good piece of bonsai material into a styled bonsai? Dick advised gazing at it during breakfast for as many days (and from as many viewing angles) as needed.

After observing my best tree for several years I realized one day that it might be better if a low part of the trunk were painted with lime-sulfur (CaS) so it would turn white. Before doing this, I put it in a show unchanged. Ben Oki passed by, looked for only a minute and pointed, "Make it white right there."

Masters may see immediately what beginners can never see, and what we intermediates may see only with prolonged contemplation.

29. Field

Field-grown stock can be super, if the grower understood a fundamental maneuver of bonsai training--to keep pinching around the top to cause the lower branches to grow more than the top. This rule applies as well to potted trees; keep pinching!

30. KO

        What the English word "bark" means depends on whether we are
talking about sailing ships, dogs or trees.  The character       can

mean tortoise shell, back of a hand, or something previous. And it can mean first rate, A-OK. Read on.

31. matsu

The family Pinaceae includes spruce, larch, hemlock and (most widely useful) the true pines (genus Pinus). Spruce is often used for bonsai in Japan. but in the hot, low altitude Southwest, spruce, larch and hemlock do poorly. Our best bet among Pinaceae is the genus Pinus. There are about 100 species in the genus Pinus (see Appendix B). Some (most yellow pines) have long needles even when they are rootbound, kept in full sun and wind, and are pruned late (July). Some (most white or 5 needle pines) do poorly at low altitudes and dry climates. Some (like P. radiata, the Monterey pine) are short-lived in captivity. Red pines (like P. densiflora) and pinons are s-l-o-w growing. Black pines more often look (and live) the best, at least in Southern California.

32. kuro

Pine trees are often named for either the color of the wood or of the trunk. This includes the Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii). It eventually developes strikingly black bark.

33. Kuro-Matsu

Beginners prefer fast growers, prospering if pruned often. Examples are elms, olives, Juniperus procumbens nana.

Further along, try slower growers benefiting from occasional training and withstanding neglect: J. h. prostrata, J. chin. foemina and Japanese Black Pine.

John said of J. californicus, "tough as cactus." But he also said, "This is advanced material." Kuro-matsu can also be advanced material.

Busy? Some trees need pruning or wiring only twice or so a year like Black Pine or Atlas blue cedar.

If you are old (or feel so, sometimes) deciduous trees, especially flowering or fruiting, come beautifully alive each spring. And Black Pines are reassuringly green all winter.

                1.  Acquire a variety of species.       
                2.  You can't have too many Black Pines.

        Kuromatsu needs first of all (you guessed it) GOOD DRAINAGE.  Do

not be misled by the fact that, in Japan, Kuro-matsu commonly grows at the sea's edge. And it needs fertilizing and pruning; the difficulties of learning how best to do these tasks exemplify the charms of bonsai.

Dick said: feed monthly from March through September.

John wrote: feed monthly, April through October, when young. When the tree is mature, 3-4/year.

Richard Ota, the Kuro-matsu expert, said, "twice, spring and fall."

Ryozo Nomura told me, "Never in spring--wait until August, or else they grow too fast."

Shig Nagatoshi told me: "Never feed Black Pine--it makes the needles long!"

Is a puzzlement!

34. The Hidden Variable

My impression is that John uses very lean soil ("cup and plate"- -with fast drainage). The Black Pines I purchased from Shig were in rather rich soil.


  1. There is more than one way to scale a fish (or feed a tree).
  2. Can we find the missing variables to reconcile other conflicting advice from masters?
  3. Pruning Kuro-matsu

John advised pruning kuro-matsu twice a year: remove entirely the spring candles around Memorial Day and shorten the summer growth around Thanksgiving.

Dick taught that one could prune either in late spring or in the fall but doing both is dangerous.

Ben Oki told a group of eager visitors that he removes all candles once a year, in July.

Jim recently wrote an article favoring the method of starting in April or May by removing the shortest candles, removing more at two week intervals, and then ending with removal of the longest (hence most vigorous) candles in late June. This results (sometimes!) in all candles being of equal length by the next winter.

Richard Ota recommended in a lecture some years ago four methods: for a thicker, tapered trunk on a young tree, only around the top; for clusters of branchlets in the future, all candles off in May and shorten the summer candles in October; to get short needles on a mature, fully styled tree, only once/year in June or early July; and for New Year's Day beauty in a fully mature tree, in early September.

When Gary Castagnola (more experienced than I) asked me when and how I prune black pine, he was indicating the complexity of the problem. My best answer was, "Individualize--for size, age, stage of training--every tree is different."

"Is that," he asked, "much different from 'haphazardly'?"

40. Death

In my notebook each tree, whether bonsai or in the yard, has a page. When a tree died, I made a note of the likely cause and removed the page to a bundle. As of 1986 (13 years after I started bonsai and 21 years after I started the notebook) there were 221 deaths. Most of the yard trees were killed by gophers, or by disease in trees weakened by insufficient water--my microclimate is an arid, windy hill with a hot southern exposure--California junipers and black pines do well here but I have maintained only one maple; it gets as much daily babying as any animal pet. Even so, it usually starts looking ragged some time in August.

The 56 bonsai died from a great variety of causes including infestations (I now spray more often); overfertilizing (see Chap. 10); superphosphate on three trees (I now apply, at most, a few tiny beads per year); salt accumulation (I now use deionized water for potted deciduous trees and some others, and I irrigate vigorously when using Colorado River water); over-aggressive pruning (no simple answer for that, but only two trees died from this); ill-timed re-potting (often forced by wind, cats or people breaking pots); going on vacation (my children are now grown, nearby and reliable); and trying inappropriate species--no more Melaleuca wilsonii, P. aristata, P. mughus, manzanita, Picea conica, etc., for me.

My biggest mistake in the past, evident not only in fewer deaths in more recent years but also healthier, faster growing trees, was not using enough water. Of course, if your trees don't drain very well, are in the shade and out of the wind, you can kill with too much water; I've done that too.

Since 1986 I have had a few more deaths, several from insufficient attention but mainly from deliberately pushing the limits in various directions--taking a chance in bonsai is a bit like taking a chance with love; the best outcome requires risky exposure to being hurt and no guarantee of success.

41. Sky

Bonsai can beautify the home. But most of the time they must be out-of-doors. Kept inside for more than a few days, bonsai slowly die. They need to see the sky. The alternation of sunlight and dark, and of heat and cold, are possibly why.

45. Bad (AKU)

53. Juices

54. Currents

        According to Walsh, some early Chinese considered water    
to come from pinching a flowing river     .  When H20 is used as a
radical in a Chinese character it is abbreviated      .  Strung

together with a little imagination, they flow. There are H20 currents, electrical currents and, for bonsaists, two main currents, both known as sap.

Knowing sap's paths is crucial: girdling a trunk is asking for disaster. Branches broken downward (in growing season) do well, but broken upwards often die. Elliptical scars should have the longer axis vertical. And shari (debarked strips) need to follow the cambium channels immediately under the bark. The dry wood in the center can be hollowed out with impunity if the cambium is respected.

It is truly amazing what this living being can tolerate, even thrive on, if its needs are known and honored.

55. Driftwood

In the driftwood (current-wood) style of bonsai, the dead wood is massive (maybe most of the tree), smoothly sculptured and bleached. This is not unlike the surfaces of wind-blasted-andpolished trunks of high mountain trees. Applying lime-sulphur to prevent rotting of the dead wood also bleaches it. Since the dead wood of lower altitude trees is usually gray rather than white, it is sometimes more realistic if one adds a drop or two of india ink to the CaS. But how much? As is so often the case, adding this extra degree of freedom gives more problem choices, when we already have enough. On the bright side, it is an opportunity for some experimenting with quickly apparent results.

56. Trunk

Whether given the Chinese pronunciation KAN (as in Chokkan) or the Japanese reading miki (as in sabamiki; see p. 80), the trunk often catches the viewer's eye first. Gnarlyness is nice, helping the tree to look old. Taper lends the look of age, especially if there is a prominent, solid flare (tachiagari) at the base.

I asked a visiting Japanese college student (who knew nothing useful of bonsai) the literal meaning of tachiagari. He replied, "pushing up against, like two Sumo wrestler." What an evocative description!

57. Middle

Does it not say something about human nature that the golden mean of ancient Greece (about 8/13 of the way from one end) is also the usual placement arrived at by centuries of bonsaists? Even in a round pot, an asymmetric trunk may look better if judiciously offcenter. Could it be that the Chinese name for China (middle kingdom) was meant to mean "inside" rather than "exactly in the middle"?

58. Center

59. Names

Shakespeare's Juliet asked (in Act II), "What's in a name?" Frequently, misinformation! One often hears the words pine, spruce, cedar, juniper, etc. used loosely: this problem is not always solved by using scientific (Latin) names. A striking example is the genus Pseudotsuga which supplies some 20% of the U.S. commercial tree harvest. It is most often called "Douglas fir." It is also called "red fir" or "yellow fir" because of the color of the wood and because it has flat needles like true fir (genus Abies). But the needles stick out all around the twig, not on two sides to form a flat plane like Abies. It has also been called "Long Leaf Yew"; but yew (genus Taxus) has pointed needles like spruce and a ridge on the top of the leaf instead of a groove like Pseudotsuga and Abies. The Southern California species of Pseudotsuga is called "Big Cone Spruce"; it is not a spruce (genus Picea). Douglas Fir has even been called "Western Larch" (the genus Larix is deciduous) and "Oregon Pine", whereas a pine (genus Pinus) it is certainly not!

Nowadays, botanists consider both Douglas Fir and Big Cone Spruce to be false hemlocks (genus Pseudotsuga) in spite of the fact that true hemlocks (genus Tsuga) are not even in the same family as all the other trees named above (the family Pinaceae).

Douglas Fir grows rapidly in rich soil and wet weather. It often has both small needles and a thick trunk. But neither I nor any one I know has ever seen a Douglas Fir bonsai. Someone should give it a try, since Douglas Fir is shipped to big cities by the ton at Christmas time.

59A. Viewing Stones

It seems paradoxical that bonsaists regularly enjoy owning, displaying and looking at rocks, often those worn smooth by water, or otherwise naturally eroded. Bonsai are meticulously groomed for display, after having been carefully shaped to satisfy human criteria. But the ideal viewing stone has had none of the shaping and polishing so dear to rockhounds (which some of us once were). Have you noticed that persons known for trees which have been extremely styled (some, as has been said, suggesting "an arts-and-crafts project with a tree attached") will also devote innumerable weekends searching in riverbeds for rocks no one can improve?

Bonsai is the product of planning and artifice, whereas the ideal rock is unmarred by human intent. Perhaps the answer lies precisely in the contrast, especially when the two are displayed together.

60. Paku

The family cupressaceae has worldwide 15 genera and about 130 species. Included are Cedrus (the true cedars), Libocedrus (including the Incense cedar now classified as Calocedrus), Cupressus (the true cypresses), Chamaecyparis (spreading cypresses), Thuja, and that favorite genus of most bonsaists both old and new: Junipe