Before that magical bonsai tree of yours reaches the refinement stage, focus should be on growth and development. A shallow ceramic pot looks great, but may not be ideal for optimum growth. Wooden training boxes allow for bespoke dimensions to accommodate any size of tree. By allowing your tree to build up it’s resources and develop a strong(compact) root system, you propel it’s rate of growth, moving the tree ahead. There is good reason why bonsai professionals use boxes. Here are some benefits of using training crates.


1. Build to size, any size. Finding the perfect dimensions in a training pot for your tree can be challenging. Make your box to any specs.

2. Inexpensive. Buy affordable planks of wood. Use wood you find or already have.

3. Easy to customize. Attach handles for large heavy trees. Fasten screws in the wood for guide-wire mounting points or tie-down wires to secure on the bench or railing.


Here are 10 helpful tips on how to begin.

1. Determine the space or area you have for your tree(s). What is the light level like? Full sun, a few hours of sun, or bright shade? Heavily shaded or dark areas are not ideal for growing healthy bonsai.

2. Research tree species. Figure out which tree types will thrive in the space you have available. For example, Pines do best in sunny locations. Japanese Maples do best in part sun or bright shade.

3. When starting out, aim for specific species that are commonly used for bonsai. This ensures that you can find plenty of information on your tree. Plus you have a higher chance for success when developing your bonsai. Some plant material may be very appealing, but will not tolerate bonsai development techniques like root pruning or won’t reduce in twig and leaf size. This can cause some frustration… or just lead to a nice garden plant.


Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown is beautiful. One side is open to the public with no admission fee. It’s a calming oasis right in Vancouver. The other side which holds tours is open to garden members and the general public for a fee. If you haven’t seen either side of the garden yet, go, go!

The garden hosted a tour, demo and workshop on Saturday September 16th. Mr. Pin Lee was the penjing master on hand. He and another host took us on a quick tour around the garden. We saw penjing on display and heard some history of the ancient Chinese art form. Pin Lee was a delight to listen to. His warm energy was great to be around and his enthusiasm for penjing was as contagious as his smile.


One highlight of my recent visit to Japan was a day trip to Tokoname where a group of us visited several well-known kilns. Our first stop – the Koyo kiln. Koyo – the kiln established in 1970 by Kouichirou Aiba, is best known for its glazed pots. Today the kiln is run by Aiba’s son,…

via A visit to the Koyo kiln — Bonsai Tonight


Bonsai Mirai’s Ryan Neil has been doing a lot for Bonsai in North America. Most of us are no stranger to his work. Mirai Live is an online learning tool which streams live bonsai videos weekly. The archive is accessible for subscribers to watch again and again to hone their skills. Thus far, two of the archive videos are free for viewing. The Beech Forest and Spring Fundamentals videos are incredible. Watching them myself has quickly expanded my own knowledge which made subscribing to Mirai Live an easy decision. Check it out for yourself.




Mirai Live is worth a look see. The video of this Beech Forest is well done. It’s especially informative for anyone planning their own forest planting. I myself am developing a group of Styrax(Japanese Snowbell) which I just re-potted. My trees require more time for root ball development and better branch structure, but are on their way. Anyway, check out Bonsai Mirai’s free video in the link below. If you’re also interested in a great book to pick up; Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai by Saburo Kato is available from multiple sources.





Below is a list of book recommendations which are certainly worth picking up for yourself. These titles are both inspiring and informative. Some are easier to come by than others, but all are great additions to any bonsai lovers library.

Bonsai Techniques 1, John Naka. – This book has been long out of print, but is still considered one of the best titles out there. John Naka did a lot for bonsai in North America. If you can find a copy of this book, expect to pay over $100. They have been spotted on ABE books online.

Principles Of Bonsai Design, David De Groot. – Arguably the most relevant book available today. This is a must have for anyone getting serious about bonsai. It covers the design of bonsai in great detail. If I could only keep one book in my library, it would be this one. Much of the understanding I have on bonsai development has come from this book.

Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai, Saburo Kato. – Master Saburo Kato created many bonsai masterpieces including some famous Ezo Spruce bonsai and beautiful forest plantings. The book touches on his story, features some wonderful images of bonsai and goes in to detail on creating a variety of forest plantings.

Literati Style Penjing(Chinese Bonsai Masterworks), Zhao Qingquan. – This is a newer book. The size and quality of the images make it very enjoyable as a coffee table book. It is however, much more than that. Featuring dozens of literati trees by a variety of artists and progression articles showing the evolution and how-to for many of Qingquan’s bonsai/penjing. This book is a favourite of mine which has fueled my appreciation for literati and bunjin style.

Trees In Canada, John Laird Farrar. – Published in part by the Canadian Forestry Service, this updated 500 page book is something of a field guide. This book features all of the trees which grow in Canada. Each species/sub-species page features photos of the tree and it’s features, diagrams and info on every detail including Leaves, Buds, Twigs, Seed Cones, Seeds, Seedlings, Bark, Wood, Size and Form, Habitat, Notes and Recognition Guide. Also a visual map of where the tree naturally occurs in North America. Crazy right? It’s like the tree bible. I got my copy from Lee Valley.