New 2020 catalogues

In order to get you the best start for future bonsai Shibui Bonsai trees are root pruned quite hard when they are dug from the grow beds. This hard root prune promotes much better nebari and lots of new fine feeder roots so the trees will transition into bonsai pots far better when the time comes.

Japanese maple after root pruning
Trident maple after root pruning – winter 2020

Most Shibui Bonsai deciduous trees are dug and root pruned in mid winter – July and August here – and then potted into orchid pots ready for sale. Such hard root pruning is stressful on the trees. They have very few active roots when first potted up so I do not offer these trees until I am confident they have begun to grow healthy new roots. It takes a couple of months for these trees to recover. By November most have produced lots of healthy new feeder roots and are now ready to cope with packing and shipping to new owners.

Please note that the photos for the catalogues were taken in October. The trees have grown considerably since then and will continue to do so. Some have even had their first haircut to allow some sun to penetrate into lower parts. Look how much this Chinese elm has grown in just a few weeks.

Chinese elm 20-3 as shown in the catalogue. Photo taken October 2020

Chinese elm 20-3 as at November 1st 2020

Catalogues can be found on the Shibui Bonsai catalogue page. Just click on the blue links to access any of the files.

Conifers are generally much slower to re-establish after transplant so these won’t be offered until 6 months after the winter transplant. Look for the Shibui Bonsai shimpaku and Japanese Black pines catalogues some time in January.

one of the 2020 Shibui Japanese black pines in a 30 cm orchid pot

Flowering bonsai

Spring is when the deciduous trees start to emerge from winter dormancy. Spring is also peak flowering time and it is great to have some flowering species in a bonsai collection to add variety at this time of year.

Flowering species suitable for bonsai include:

Crab apple. There are many different species and varieties of crab apple. many have been selected for the great flowering, others have been bred for the lovely little apples the develop. This is my oldest crab apple.

I believe it is a variety from the floribunda group of ornamental crab apples. The pink buds contrast well with the white flowers which are followed by tiny yellow apples about 5mm diameter so they really fit in well with a miniature tree.

There are many other crab apple varieties that you can grow for bonsai. Shibui bonsai can supply smallish starters of the same variety pictured above or a variety called ‘profusion’ which has reddish leaves and pink flowers followed by deep red apples.

Azalea: Azaleas have a reputation as being temperamental but when conditions suit them they grow very well and adapt really well to bonsai culture

Varieties like the Kurume group with smaller flowers help to give a better scale to bonsai but even the larger flowered types look magnificent when they are covered in flowers, even if the trunk and branch structure is not yet fully formed.

This azalea bonsai was rescued from a garden earmarked for renovation.

Flowering is a bit sparse after a massive effort last spring. More TLC this summer should see another great display next year.

I have a number of starter sized azaleas ready now. Some smaller flowered types like those pictured above, larger flowered ‘Indica’ types and a couple of the much sought after Japanese ‘Satsuki’ azaleas that flower later in spring.

Prunus is a large genus with a great many different flowering and fruiting trees including plums, apricots and the much loved cherries.

Prunus ‘Elvins’ is an ornamental plum variety that produces masses of flowers each spring and also has the plum hardiness and quick growth. We currently have Prunus ‘Elvins’ in a range of sizes.

Prunus glanduligera is sometimes known as dwarf Russian almond. It normally grows as a small multi stemmed shrub. The lovely small flowers emerge before any leaves and can be white or pink according to the variety. These are slow growing so it will take time to develop an impressive trunk but still a great variety to grow as a flowering bonsai.

Japanese flowering quince or Chaenomeles is another plant that grows naturally as a clump of stems. Flowers appear from mid winter so provide color at a time when not much else is happening. This one is a double red flower variety but Chaenomeles also come in white and various shades of pink. There’s also the much dwarf chaenomeles called ‘Chojubai’ which flowers sporadically all year round. Chojubai is much sought after as a flowering bonsai species but Shibui Bonsai can supply orange flower Chojubai as smaller starter cuttings.

There are many more flowering species that can make great bonsai and I have not even started listing any flowering natives – that might be a future post.

Final picture for today is forsythia. Not often seen as bonsai because it is a bit difficult to build and maintain a real trunk but the bright yellow flowers make a statement from late winter on bare stems.

For more information on flowering bonsai or to enquire about what’s available please email

Repotting 2020

Spring is well under way a bit earlier than usual at Shibui Bonsai. The Chinese elms are always the first to shoot and some have had green buds since July. Now many trident maples have joined in pushing out their tiny red buds.

All that movement means it is time to get on with repotting any trees that need it this season. I usually start with the smaller shohin sized bonsai. I have found from experience that these little trees do not do well over summer if they start with a pot full of roots. Repotting every spring has meant they stay healthy and alive.

Seiju elm
trident maple
seiju elm
Japanese maple
trident maple

Each of these trees had around half the roots removed, most of the old potting mix removed and then replaced in the same pot with fresh mix.


It has been a busy winter at Shibui Bonsai. Lots of seedlings have been posted off for you to start your own bonsai projects. The tridents have started to shoot now so seedlings will only be available for another week or so.

In between packing and posting seedlings I have been digging the grow beds. This is an annual winter task I usually start in July. This year I got started a couple of weeks early and that turned out to be a good move as spring has come earlier than usual this year and many of the trees have already started to grow.

The trees I have selected as ready for sale are now potted up and on the nursery bench settling in. Below ground tiny new roots will already be emerging but these trees will not be ready for you until November.

This year I harvested a number of shimpaku junipers and a couple of Japanese black pines. These conifers grow far slower than the maples and are not usually stable in the pots until mid summer. Fingers crossed that they survive the trauma of transplant because there will be some really nice workshop trees among that lot – assuming we ever get to have workshops again.

Tridents for root over rock bonsai

Trident maples make some of the best root over rock bonsai. The roots grow and thicken quite fast so we can get a good result in less time than most species.

Many of you will already be familiar with the Shibui Bonsai method to create root over rock bonsai. For those who would like to review and those who have not seen this check this post –

You might also be interested in the development of these over the first few years –

You can find more posts by searching Root over Rock here.

The bare root seedlings we get from the garden here rarely have suitable roots for starting a root over rock bonsai. They will need a good root prune and another year of growth to develop good long, lateral roots first.

Trees that grow in rocky areas rarely have straight trunks so I feel that root over rock bonsai look best with short, twisted trunks. That means starting with a seedling that already has some good bends or adding some with wire or pruning.

I noticed the nice bends in this one as I was selecting the trees for the group planting shown a couple of days ago. I think it has potential for root over rock so I have pruned the roots quite hard. Thick roots make it really difficult to sit the tree on the rock properly.

I then selected a taller pot to encourage longer roots through this summer.

It helps to have some choices when fitting a tree on a rock so don’t just start one of these. Get a few started and hopefully one will match your rock well. Even better, start a few more and have at least a couple of suitable rocks for an even better chance of a winning combination in a few years.

Bare root trident maple seedlings available from Shibui Bonsai until spring growth starts.

Fused tridents

Many of us want thick trunks as quick as possible. Fusing tridents together is one way to achieve trunk girth.

Trees that are held tightly together while they grow will eventually fuse and merge together as the cambium layers unite. Eventually they will be grafted so well it can be hard to tell the trunk was once separate trees.

There are a number of different variations on fused trunks. Here I will look at just a couple that I have played with.

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Better trident nebari

I have posted this technique before but to save you searching through old posts here it is again.

The principles of this technique are that most trees have the ability to grow new roots when circulation of sap is restricted. When the new roots emerge above the plate they are forced to grow out horizontally to the edges before diving deeper into the soil. This gives us a great start to a shallow, spreading nebari much prized in bonsai. As an added benefit, when trees rely solely on lateral roots the base of the trunk expands to give a buttressed trunk base which in turn gives your tree much better trunk taper. 2 great bonsai assets for the one simple technique.

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