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h. Mini Book Reviews: Part II Intermediate/Advanced - Mini Bonsai - Indoor Bonsai - ETC.

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h. Mini Book Reviews: Part II Intermediate/Advanced - Mini Bonsai - Indoor Bonsai - ETC. Empty h. Mini Book Reviews: Part II Intermediate/Advanced - Mini Bonsai - Indoor Bonsai - ETC.

Post  JimLewis Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:34 pm

NOTE:  Please read the introductory paragraphs in the "Beginner's" post.


Note: These were difficult to rank in any order. They're all very much worth having.

* *

Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History & Philosophy (Deborah Koreshoff) Boolarong Publishing 1984. Paperback, 255 pages, U.S. $35.00. Contains 10 chapters: an Introduction to the Art of bonsai, Shaping Techniques, a Symposium on the Soil, Root Pruning, Potting and Repotting Techniques, the Care and Maintenance of bonsai, Seasonal Color Changes in Trees, the Art of bonsai Styling, the Art of Saikei, bonsai Classification by Size, and Exhibiting and Judging Quality in bonsai.  Extensive detailed text heavily illustrated by the author. Chapters are heavily referenced. Many nice color photos of the author's collection.

Some very nice bonsai shown. Techniques are well illustrated by the author who is an artist. Extensive text, very well illustrated. Includes a section on plant physiology missing in most bonsai books. This is another book that should be in every grower's library. (Reviewer unknown) (One of the best modern bonsai books, but may be out of print. JKL)

Basic Bonsai Design (David DeGroot) American Bonsai Society, pub. 1995. 102 pages. U.S. $13.00. Everyone should read this book. Often.

It is the book on the art and design of bonsai. There is nothing here on the how-to of wiring, root pruning, or branch and leaf pruning, but there is everything here about designing a bonsai from basic visual elements,balance and unity, to selection of the right style and color of pot for various trees, and the basic factor of choosing what will be the front of the tree. The final chapter -- Putting Theory into Practice – may be the least useful in the book, but still is worth reviewing. The book's real value is to provide its readers -- beginners as well as the most advanced bonsaiests, who may have been designing trees by instinct until now -- with some real guidelines for what a good bonsai should look like. The illustrations -- black and white line drawings – are informative and useful. Get this one! And if you join the ABS, it is cheaper.- JKL (Out of print in 2011, but rumor has it that a new edition is being prepared.)


Books by Peter Adams

The Art of Bonsai
(Peter D. Adams) Ward Lock Ltd. 1981. Hard Cover,
160 pages. Comprised of 6 chapters all primarily devoted to styles,
growing material, and styling technique. Chapter 5 is solely on the
Scots Pine; a favorite of the author. Detailed information on how to
style & develop a design; good drawings & photos, some color and some
Black and white. Adams places more stress on the "art" than most books.
Advanced book on design; beginners may be lost. No species specific
advice. Styling and pruning advice is general in nature. No information
on plant physiology or science including the all important information
on soil composition. Out of print.

Successful Bonsai Shaping (Peter D. Adams) Trafalgar Square
Publishers 1993. Paperback, 144 pages, U.S. $14.95. Comprised of 3
sections: Basic Horticultural Technique, The Basic Styles, and
Cultivation and Shaping of Specific Species. A very brief guide
especially the 3rd section. A good guide to basic design and development
with many line drawings. However, it is not a complete guide; rather it
is a good supplement to a beginners text. A few color photos. Very
little discussion on cultivation in general. Out of print.

Successful Bonsai Growing (Peter D. Adams) Ward Lock Ltd 1987.
Paperback, 95 pages, U.S. $8.95. Comprised of 5 sections: Basic Styles,
Sources of Bonsai, The Bonsai Process, bonsai Data, and a Conclusion.
Brief discussions of each topic. Data section is a very brief species to
species guide. Inexpensive. Some good line drawings. Not a stand-alone
help at all. Money would be better put toward a more complete text. Out
of print.

Bonsai Design: Japanese Maples (Peter D. Adams) Sterling Publishing
Co. 1988. Soft Cover, 128 pages, U.S. $17.95. Text focuses on the
Japanese Maples, horticulture, growing techniques, and styling. There
are 13 examples of Trident and Japanese Mountain maple bonsai with
discussions of their development. Highly specific information on the
growth and design of the Japanese maples. Out of print, but reissued
and revised (see below).

Bonsai Design: Deciduous and Coniferous (Peter D. Adams) Sterling
Publishing Co. 1988. Hardcover, 140 pages, U.S. $24.95. The book is
broken into 2 parts: The Profiles provides horticultural information on
3 tree "groups"; Beech and Hornbeam, Elm and Zelkova, and Mixed Juniper
species, and Cryptomeria. Part 2, The Case Histories outlines the
development of 16 bonsai belonging to the author. Profiles are detailed
but some of the information seems strictly limited to the U.K. Case
histories are informative and enlightening on the development of bonsai
over 5-20 year periods. Some interesting information on the tree
"groups". Good presentation of bonsai development over the years. Good
photos. Most case histories are on trees imported from Japan and already
far along in development. Information on earlier development would be
helpful. All in all, a very useful book -- but unfortunately it too is
out of print.

The Art of Flowering Bonsai (Peter D. Adams) Ward Lock. 1998. A
40-page Part I gives the basics of bonsai, followed by detailed and very
useful guides on 10 flowering and fruiting plants suitable for bonsai:
The Japanese flowering apricot, Satsuki and Kurume azalea, cotoneaster,
crab apple, firethorn (Pyracantha), hawthorn, deciduous holly,
pomegranate, quince, and wisteria. Each chapter gives details on bonsai
techniques for the species and varieties, and ends with a brief
discussion of the 're-creation' of a tree. An excellent book, but
unfortunately already out of print. - JKL

Bonsai Landscapes (Peter Adams) Ward Lock 1999. 128 pages. U.S.
$28.00. I have just thumbed through this book, but it seemed to me that
this was the least successful of Adams' books. At best, the landscapes
looked 'unfinished' and there isn't the feeling of progression from a
new tree to a finished bonsai that his other books all have.  I invite a more
detailed review. - JKL

Bonsai with Japanese Maples (Peter Adams)Timber Press 2006. 156 pages.
U.S $34.00 This book uses pretty much the same format as the other Peter
Adams books. It is an expansion of his earlier book on Japanese maples and
is a significant improvement. It contains a great deal of useful cultural information
on Japanese and trident maples. Its details on the styling of bonsai from nursery
and field-grown stock are excellent. Illustrations are clear and informative.
If you do Japanese maples (including the trident maple) you need this book. JKL


Bonsai Techniques I and II (John Naka) Bonsai Institute of Calif.
1973. Soft Cover, 267 pages, U.S. $35.00 (each - approximate). A
collection of bonsai class notes from John Naka's workshops. Not
particularly organized but related topics are grouped together. Bonsai
Techniques II is a continuation of these notes, and includes some detail
on pots. A few color plates of Naka's collection. Detailed advice on
specific aspects of bonsai care. The notes of a master. No coherent flow
to books. Intermediate level. Not a good beginner's book.

The Art of Bonsai Design (Colin Lewis) Sterling Publishing 2001. 160 pages. U.S. $28.00. This is a very personal book. It is filled with mini-essays on his philosophy of bonsai, asides describing little bonsai techniques that make doing bonsai easier, or better, or more fun (I particularly like the 'sphagnum wrap technique' for aging bark, though I haven't tried it yet); discussions on how specific trees grow, and -- of course -- the case histories of how he developed these trees. There's nothing of the 'basic' bonsai book here. You are guided through what he managed to do with these trees, then are challenged to adapt what he's done to some tree that you might have. In short, you are asked to think about your trees and to produce what is in the tree, rather than a run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter bonsai. This is NOT the book you buy to get Aunt Tillie interested in bonsai, but once she has mastered the basics, she can have a lot of fun here. - JKL

The Bonsai Book (Dan Barton) Blitz pub. 1989. 160 pages. Hardcover. Out of print. Common as used, but often pricey. One of the early books by a British author and published in Great Britain. The nine chapters encompass the usual beginner how-to section, but with a bit more detail on training techniques than many show. They go into some detail on bonsai styles, but the chapter on several case histories may be the most useful. Other chapters deal with making a tanuki, making slabs and other containers from fiberglass, and display. Appendices cover bonsai species and a unique system of bonsai care in 5 annual cycles. A good book to have. JKL

NEWBonsai from the Wild: Collecting, Styling & Caring for Bonsai  (Nick Lenz) Stone Lantern, pub. Second Edition.  2006.  185 pages.  The First edition of this book in 1997 quickly became a classic and supplies were exhausted.  The second edition is larger, with more pictures and an an expanded coverage of more species in 24 chapters.  As might be expected, by far the most detailed coverage is given to the northern species Mr. Lenz knows best.  The Larch and White Cedar are covered in considerable detail from collection to the final stages of the bonsai.  To those who can grow these species these may be the most important chapters in the book.  Other chapters range from Juniperus horizontalis and J. communis through deciduous trees like wild apple, honeysuckle, blueberry, and many more.  Each chapter covers a single species and provides information collecting, early care and bonsai styling.  The book is well illustrated in color, including many of Mr. Lenz's more innovative trees.  In addition to the Chapteron Whie Cedar, I found chapters of the blueberry and Eastern Red Cedar (j. virginiana) quite useful.  A classic, very good book, especially for those in the northern half of the USA and in Canada.  jkl

Satsuki (Alexander Kennedy) Splatt Press. 1995. U.S. $16.00. Anyone who wants to grow a Satsuki azalea bonsai needs this little book. In 126 pages Kennedy takes you from the origins and history of the Satsuki azalea, through the various colors and types, propagation and genetics, cultural requirements, techniques for making bonsai from Satsuki azalea, and details on the care and feeding of your bonsai once you have it going. It is sparsely but well illustrated with line drawings and color photos. Armed with this book and Peter Adams' The Art of Flowering Bonsai you will be ready to tackle this not-so-easy plant. - JKL

Satsuki Aazaleas for bonsai and azalea enthusiasts (Robert Z. Callaham) Stone Lantern Press. 2006. $39.95. This is the new "must have" azalea book. It covers Satsuki cultivars in more depth than any other English-language bonsai book I know of. In addition to some basic bonsai techniques, there are details of "Seasonal Treatments" of Satsuki, a calandar for care, Diascussion of preparations for shows, and means of displaying trees. If you do azaleas -- get it! JKL

Penjing: The Chinese Art of Miniature Gardens (Hu Yunhua) Timber Press. 1982. 166 pages. This nicely illustrated book is a good introduction to the Chinese art of /penjing/, which can be both
individual trees (as in the Japanese bonsai) and tray landscapes with trees, other plants, and figurines. The illustrations consist of a number of very good color plates of Chinese style bonsai and penjing landscapes, and several very nice ink and brush sketches of the many styles of penjing. The text appears to have been originally written for a Chinese audience, and while interesting contains little that any standard book on bonsai design doesn't have. The benefit of this book is in the illustrations and the discussions of the philosophy behind penjing -- especially the landscape penjing. Out of Print, but worth searching for. - JKL

Penjing: Worlds of Wonderment (Qingquan Zhao) Venus Communications, 1997, 140 pages, U.S. $39.95. Penjing is the Chinese art of miniature landscapes. Rather than creating the appearance of a single old tree, Zhao creates entire scenes - sometimes with mudmen and huts. For the Bonsai enthusiast, this book describes how to make landscapes built on shallow trays rather than trees in pots. The book is more of an introduction to all aspects of the art and does not repeat the care detail found in other bonsai texts yet does give general attention to how one would water and pot such a thin tray planting. Over 200 color photos with dozens of inspirational full-page photos of completed Penjing. The author uses many different materials, discusses the different types of rocks one could use and how to fit them into the display, and shows successful examples with plants ranging from apples to bamboo and most trees in between. A very useful and inspirational Chinese text nice enough to put out on the coffee table. More on the book here: */*.- John T. Jarrett

Bonsai Life Histories (Martin Treasure) Firefly Books. 2002. 144 pages. U.S. $35.00. Before even opening the book the title made me curious. Was this yet another book with just pictures and description of 50 bonsai or was there perhaps more? It was a pleasant surprise once I started reading. It contained so much more then the title promised. This really was a treasury of information. The author had succeeded in writing not just a pleasant readable and very detailed description of every single tree, making no secret of the amount of time this would take to achieve but had this also accompanied by beautiful clear pictures of the various stages of the tree's development. By showing what also could be achieved with the use of material, not too hard to find in neighbor's garden or in a garden center, many a one will be tempted to have a try at this for themselves. Complemented with chapters on material, various techniques and how to perform them, styles, pruning, and trimming, displaying and so much more make this book into a lot more than just "life histories". Easy to find information on the various subjects together with a lot of tips and tricks on how-to, make this book a definite wanna have. - Elize-Marie Mann


Every tree is described on two pages with 4-5 pictures from its very beginning with a bigger last one. Like in Colin Lewis' /Art of Bonsai Design/ there are short training tips here and there. There is no special or expensive raw material, but trees and shrubs from resources everybody can
get. - Anja Meyer


This book covers the traditional bonsai book areas such as styles, care, potting, wiring, pests, displays, etc., but most of the book focuses on the lives of 50 (even though I could only count 47 histories) of the author's trees. The text, written in a conversational style covers the tree's development and includes several pictures at various stages of development over a 6-12 year periods. The pictures are clear, sharp and well done. The importance of planting the trees in growing beds or large growing pots for trunk development is emphasized. This book's strength is showing the time involved in growing and developing bonsai. - Bill Neff

Manual for Appreciating, Judging, and Buying Bonsai (Tom Zane, Vaughn Banting, David De Groot) American Bonsai Society. 1997. 65 pages. U.S. $6.00. Though this booklet is placed in the 'Intermediate-Advanced' section, it is a basic primer on how a well-groomed bonsai should look. It has a different categorization of bonsai based on the plant's place of origin -- seedlings, cuttings and nursery stock; collected trees, imported, tropical, etc. as well as the more traditional groupings by size or by style (upright, cascade, etc.). It goes into some detail on a point system for trees that may be judged at a show based on horticultural factors (roots, taper, leaf size, etc.), training factors (pruning, wiring, and position in container), grooming, and the containers themselves. It winds up with a possible point scale a judge might use in a competition. Illustrated with well-done line drawings. A useful, readable book. - JKL

The Spirit of Bonsai Design: Combining the power of Zen and nature (Chye Tan) Collins & Brown pub. 2003. 160 pages. Hard cover. Perhaps the best value of this somewhat odd book are the color photographs of magnificent bonsai that begin the book and are scattered throughout. That said, there's nothing wrong with the how-to sections. They are well illustrated and cover all the essential points. The back-of-the-book materials include a transplanting guide, a brief species guide, a list of bonsai gardens and displays from around the world, and a glossary. Students of Zen tell me that the tie in with Zen Buddhism here is rather tenuous at best. Well worth having. Available new and used. JKL

  A book review

Post  dick benbow Today at 6:26 pm
Methods of Bonsai Display, By Paul Goff

If you are expecting a coffee table book, hardcover, jacketed, leather etc, you might be discouraged with it's appearance. You won't, however be disappointed with it's price.

if you wanted strong knowledgeable content and graphics, you'd agree with me that this offering is "Small, But mighty"; value, not fluff.

Broken down by seasons, coverage of this book fits splendidly on pages that are 8 inches tall by 9 1/2 inches wide. 82 of them in all. Cover is soft but all pages on really nice strong stock.

Hats off the the author for an excellent read with great content and excellent pictorial coverage.

I usually like to read a new book just for the "read" initially and then go back to pick up certain details and contemplate them. HA! I'll be going back countless times. It's not a book to borrow from a friend as you'll want to be able to refer to the book time and time again.

Thank-you Paul, someone had to do it for us desiring to learn, and we're glad you did!


* *

Note: Many of the general bonsai books reviewed here have sections or a few pages devoted to miniatures. /These/ books are aimed exclusively at tiny trees. - JKL**

* *
Magesty in Miniature: Shohin Bonsai -- Unlocking the Secrets of Small Trees. (Morten Albek with Wayne Schoech). Stone Lantern Publishing. 2007. 188 pages. Paperback. U.S. $24.95. Chapters include: Introduction to Shohin Bonsai, Growing Techniques, Shaping and Styling Techniques, Shohin and Mame Pots, Accessories, Displaying Shohin Bonsai, Shohin Step-by-Step, Working Calendar (daily and seasonal), Aesthetics, and finally a Species Guide. The Chapters on pots, display, accessories, and the seasonal care guides are the most valuable parts of this valuable book. JKL

Bonsai Miniatures: Quick and Easy (Zeko Nakamura) Shufunotomo 1973. Pocket Book. 62 pages, U.S. $5.95. Miniature book on miniature bonsai (Mame bonsai) by a famous Japanese comedian. Compact, short, but surprisingly complete little book on growing "mame" style bonsai. Many very nice mame bonsai, including some surprising material as bonsai (such as the dandelion). Short but good text with good drawings and every other page a Mame bonsai example, many very nice. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but someone should revive it.

Miniature Bonsai: A Complete Guide to Cultivating Tiny Bonsai (Lin Kuo-cheng) Hilit Publishing, Taiwan. 1995. U.S. $15.00. This is an odd book. Many of the bonsai (or penjing) that are pictured are a bit odd, too. But the text comes fairly close to actually living up to the title. Chapters discuss the appreciation of bonsai, its history, the basics of cultivation, styles, shaping techniques for such small trees, pots, tools, buying bonsai, and a final section on creating bonsai, highlighting 16 kinds of trees. The book closes with a section on accessories and displaying bonsai, again from the Chinese perspective. The photography is excellent (despite the sometimes odd trees), and the text is clear and fairly concise. Unfortunately, the glued-together binding of the book is delicate. You may find yourself dismantling it, using a 3-hole punch, and keeping it in a ring binder. It may be out of print. - JKL

Miniature Bonsai (Herb L. Gustafson) Sterling Publishing 1994. 192 pages. U.S. $20. Photography by author, drawings by Sally Markos. There are few pages you can turn without Herb's photos as descriptive support for his guidance -- from the opening pages defining bonsai to the last pages discussing display. From planting the seeds to nursery purchase, cuttings, divisions, he covers acquiring material. Instructions are clear and cover pruning, wiring, shari and jin, including sabamiki (hollowing out trunk), pot selection, and group plantings. Miniature bonsai by Herb are given the attributes of larger bonsai, and his own involvement with miniature plant growing is inspiring. - Lynn Boyd

The Mini-Bonsai Hobby (Tei'ichi Katayama) Japan Publications, Inc. 1974. 95 pages. Paperback. While it purports to be about mame or shohin bonsai, this is mostly a basic book on bonsai, aimed at beginners. There is little here that wouldn't apply equally to full-size bonsai. The book is illustrated by well-done line drawings demonstrating the various bonsai techniques. There are four black and white photos of excellent mame bonsai. Growers of mame and shohin trees need this book, but it certainly could have been better (see below). It is out of print. - JKL

Miniature Bonsai (Tei'ichi Katayama) Publisher unknown, possibly Japan Publications, as above. 1974. 210 pages. Hard cover. In Japanese. Illustrated with 100 pages of excellent color (and a few black and white) photographs of superb mame bonsai. While the text is in Japanese, the line-drawings and how-to illustrations are very clean and easy to follow with a little study (and remembering that text and pictures flow from right to left!). This book would be a best seller if someone would translate it into English. Probably out of print. I bought mine used in Tokyo (2,100 Yen). - JKL

Mini-Bonsai (Kyosuke Gun) Japan Publications Trading Co., Inc. 1993. 170 pages. 1,500 yen (about U.S. $16.00). Paperback. In Japanese. Illustrated with black and white sketches describing
techniques and four pages of color photos, mostly of hundreds of mini bonsai set out on benches, all of them too small to see clearly. The line drawings do not flow as well as those in Katayama's book (above), and are more difficult to follow. Mr. Gun does very nice mame bonsai, but you will get more benefit from his website (, than from this book (though you also can order it -- and others -- there). Again, though, the book could stand translating into English. - JKL

Pop Bonsai (Lisa Tajima) Kodansha International Pub.New York, Tokyo. 2004. Paperback 95 pages. U.S. $19.95. This is an odd and fun little book. Its subtitle is "Fun with Arranging Small Trees and Plants." It begins with a several-page-long section "A Range of Possible Designs" which shows small trees and accent plants potted in slippers, teacups, in pots that have feet that are walking toward or away from you. One plant is planted in an old ukelele, another pot has a taffeta flounce around it. If whimsy is your thing and you like tiny bonsai, you will enjoy this book. If you are dead serious about traditional bonsai, don't even look. JKL


NOTE:  There are newer (and better) books on Indoor Bonsai.  I invite anyone with the interest to submit some reviews to me.

Ficus: The Exotic Bonsai (Jerry Meislik) Devonshire Gardens Pub. 2004. Hard cover/Paperback. 144 Pages. U.S. $27.95. The "Bible" for Ficus growers. Jerry discusses the Fig family in general, then gets down to discussions of "Figs indoors," Bonsai Aesthetics," "Techniques" (fig specific), and then adds detailed sections of F. microcarpa, F. Salicifolia, F. rubignosa, F. pumila, and F. benjamina. If you do trees indoors, you need this one and the next one. The others are just so-so.

Bonsai for Indoors: A Handbook (C. Derderian Ed.) Brooklyn Botanic
Record 1976. Paperback, 77 pages, U.S. $7.95. A compilation of 23
essays on various bonsai subjects by leading American growers of Indoor
bonsai (e.g. Derderian, Stowell, Alstadt, Okamura, Naka, Ballard).
Topics range from Mame bonsai, to wiring, Light Gardens, Kingsville Box,
Ficus, Myrtle, Camellias and Gardenias, and Herbs and Succulents. Has a
suggested list of plants suitable for Indoor bonsai. Inexpensive. Good
range of topics covered by leading American Indoor bonsai growers. Worth
having for Indoor bonsai fans. Essays are short but complete.

Indoor Bonsai (Paul Lesniewicz) Blandford Press 1985. Paperback,
208 pages. 14 chapters. U.S. $17.00. Concise, well written book on
Indoor bonsai. List of Indoor bonsai species gives 1-2 pages of cultural
information on 29 plants commonly grown as Indoor bonsai. Good color
photos of some nice Indoor bonsai. Some bonsai pictured are of inferior
quality. Short but clear sections on watering, potting, etc. Good
reference for Indoor bonsai species cultural information.

Indoor Bonsai For Beginners, Selection, Care, Training (Werner M
Busch) Ward Locke, 1998. 110 Pages, 94 Color Photos, 30 Color Drawings,
47 Pages of Training, Propagation and Care. 44 Species from A to Z.
Werner M Busch has written a book that compresses a large amount of data
into a small and comprehensive space. It will not be the last book you
buy on the subject but it will be one that you can refer to quickly for
basic tips on Bonsai care. It touches on all aspects of Bonsai training
and care, from prorogation to pest control. The later and larger part
of the book is devoted to 44 species of indoor Bonsai. Each one is
broken down into Position, Soil, Watering, Feeding, Training, Acquiring
a Plant and Pests. The part of the book I like most is the example
trees. They are truly trees within a beginner's reach. So many
beginner books show trees that are way beyond the normal beginner's
price and abilities. This book on the other hand is much more
realistic. If you're looking for a definitive, end all, book on Bonsai,
this is not it. If you looking for a neat compact reference with
beginners and intermediate Bonsai enthusiasts in mind, this book is for
you. -- Len Arzoomanian

The Art of Indoor Bonsai (J. Ainsworth) Trafalgar Square Publishing
1988. Hard Cover, 128 pages, U.S. $19.95. This book is in 2 parts.
Part I: Cultivation, Care, and Training has 8 chapters on the History,
Care, Propagation, Training, Repotting, Special Effects, and Pests and
Diseases. Part II: A - Z Selection of Tropical, Subtropical, and
Temperate bonsai species used as bonsai. Part I contains a guide to the
different cultural requirements of Tropical vs. Subtropical vs.
Temperate bonsai. Fairly well written and illustrated. Part II is a
species guide to plants grown indoors as Bonsai with a description of
the plant, a training guide, and watering, feeding, repotting, light
positioning, and disease and pest advice. Specific advice on the
cultural needs of some commonly grown Indoor bonsai. Some of the poorest
examples of any type of bonsai anywhere - many are badly wire scarred
and poorly pruned and potted. Should not be used as a design guide.

OF HISTORICAL INTEREST *(In /Chronological/ Order, oldest first)**

Bonsai -- Miniature Potted Trees (Norio Kobayashi) Japan Travel
Bureau 1951. 177 pages. This and other small books in the Japan
Tourist Library series (this is number 13) were the first introduction
to Japanese arts and culture for many Americans after World War II and
during the Korean conflict. The excellent if old-fashioned bonsai
pictured in this little book (it measures 5x7 inches) are all from the
prewar period. The text covers all the standard topics (which were
not standard at that date, of course). Hoping that the little book
may still be in print I checked with the Japan Tourist Bureau. No
luck. Nice to have, and available used. - JKL

Bonsai - Miniature Trees (Claude Chidamain) D. Van Nostrand, 1955.
Hardcover, 110 pages. Another excellent early book for western readers
by a Japanese master. At the time that Claude Chidamain wrote this
book, he had 20 years experience with bonsai across the 1930s, '40s and
'50s practicing the art of bonsai in Southern California. The author
states in his preface: "(this book) may deserve to be the first complete
book on the subject (bonsai) in English". "Complete" is an over
statement, in that the "complete" book is only 110 pages, including the
index, 16 black and white full page photographs of some very nice
bonsai, and illustrations (a full page comic strip style that really
does not contribute much to the book). It does very little along the
lines of "how to do" bonsai. When I finished reading Miniature Trees, I
fired up my time machine and traveled back to 1955. I found the author
and asked: "What book do I read now to learn 'how to do' bonsai?" His
response was: "It hasn't been written yet!" Miniature Trees is out of
print, but, if you are in to collecting bonsai books, and since is one
of the earliest, if not THE earliest, book(s) to attempt a "complete"
introduction to bonsai in English by an American writer, it's worth
having on your bookshelf if you can find it. Try Amazon (limited
availability the last time I looked). Pat Patterson

Bonsai: Japanese Miniature Trees -- Their style, Cultivation and
(Kan Yashiroda) Charles T Branford. 1960. 200 pages. Another
excellent early book for western readers by a Japanese master. The
thorough text is sparsely illustrated by black and white how-to
drawings, and there is a long section of black and white photos in the
back, picturing a number of nice bonsai and illustrating techniques
described in the text. An unusual feature of this book is the extensive
coverage of the Chrysanthemum as bonsai, including several impressive
photographs. Another out-of-print book that isn't easy to find and that
should be considered for revival. - JKL

Bonsai: Miniature Potted Trees (Kyuzo Murata) Shufunotomo Co. Ltd
1964 Soft Cover, 120 pages, U.S. $12.95. Unusual early (1964) book by a
great master. Amusing translations and unusual format. Has a Q&A section
that answers such questions as "What are the merits of bonsai?"
Extensive discussion from a true master's mouth on the care and training
of 17 bonsai species and brief descriptions of many more. A book worth
hunting down but may be hard to find. Unusual and a collectible for any
serious bonsai hobbyist. Out of print.

Dwarf Trees in the Japanese Mode (Phyllis Argall) The Citadel Press.
1964. 145 pages. This is a delightful, chatty little (odd-shaped) book,
written in a pleasant pseudo-Victorian style that is fun to read. Ms.
Argall appears to have spent some time in Japan in the years before
World War II and to have taken lessons while there. She also did the
excellent sketches that are scattered through the text. The black and
white photos were supplied by the Japan Cultural Society in Tokyo and
show some quite fine bonsai. One could learn the details of bonsai
from this book, but only by resolutely avoiding how much fun it is to
just read. Out of print. Alas. But findable. - JKL

Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants (Wu Yee Sun) Wing Lung Bank Ltd 1969.
Hard Cover, 385 pages. Unique book containing photos of the author's 355
Chinese bonsai, rocks, and rock gardens mostly in color. A scant 10
pages of text on bonsai. Some photos are captioned with plant cultural
information. Book is out of print. Photo guide to one of the most
prominent Chinese bonsai collections. A bonsai hobbyist's collector's
item. Very unusual book, worth having. Very inexpensive. Book reads
from right to left. Very little cultural information, but it has an
informative table in the 'back'. Out of print, but there is a new
edition available. See: */*.

Bonsai, Saikei & Bonkei (Robert Lee Behme) William Morrow & Co.
1969. Hard Cover, 255 pages. Early book with 14 chapters on the how-to
of bonsai. Some are only a few pages long. Only 4 pages of the book are
devoted to Saikei and Bonkei. Procedure are well illustrated for the
time. Easy reading basic text. Very little on Saikei and Bonkei
considering the title of the book. Out-of-date text and out of print.

Bonsai for Pleasure (Keiji Murata and Takema Takeuchi) Japan
Publications 1969. 144 pages. A detailed, exposition of the art and
horticulture of bonsai. The book provides detailed and complete explanations
of creating bonsai. The illustrations -- mostly black and white
photographs, but with 20 or so color plates -- are of fine bonsai. The book is
out of print and hard to find, but well worth seeking. It also is one of the few older book
that I would like to see reprinted so more people could get value out of
it. - JKL

Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Bonsai Trees (Joan Melville)
Hippocrene Books. 1973. 92 pages. An early British entry in the bonsai
publishing world. The book seems to be aimed at the gardener who might
like to try a bonsai or two. It covers the basic steps in creating a
bonsai, using a few line sketches to illustrate points. Sixteen black
and white photographs of some quite nice trees set off the text. Out of
print. - JKL

Bonsai Creation and Design using Propagation Techniques
(William N. Valavanis) Symmes Systems 1975. Paperback, 40 pages.
5 chapters on propagation: By Seed, By Cuttings, By Grafting, By Layering, and an
Introduction to bonsai Art. Short book on the 4 propagation techniques
commonly used for bonsai by a leading American grower. Species
information specific to bonsai concerning propagation. Short and out of
print and hard to find.

Bonsai with American Trees (Masakuni Kawasumi) Kodansha Int Ltd
1975. Hard Cover, 131 pages, U.S. $14.95. Comprised of 8 chapters. All
around good text with some color photos of some well known and excellent
bonsai. Although there are some photos of American trees there is no
discussion centering on them. Fairly complete text and some excellent
bonsai shown. Does not live up to its title at all unless it means: a
bonsai book with, by the way, some pictures of American bonsai. Out of

The Japanese Five Needle Pine (W. Valavanis) Symmes Systems 1976.
Soft Cover, 69 pages. Detailed text on the growth requirements and
bonsai techniques for the Japanese five needle Pine. Very interesting
information on Pines as grown in Japan as bonsai and in the garden.
Excellent resource for Pine lovers. Very specific to the 5 needle Pine.
Difficult to find. And expensive when you do.

The National Bonsai Collection Guidebook (J. Naka, Y. Yoshimura
Eds.) Symmes Systems 1977. Pocketbook, 72 pages. A pocket guide to the
National bonsai Collection in Washington DC donated by the Imperial
Household and citizens of Japan to America as a Bicentennial gift. 50
trees are pictured with a caption stating the size, age and donor. A
guide to the National bonsai Collection. No cultural information. Out of

The Beginner's Guide to American Bonsai (Jerald P. Stowell) Kodansha
Int Ltd 1978. Hard Cover, 140 pages. Comprised of 8 chapters. Well
written text and fairly complete. Extensive information on the American
Apple tree. Nine other trees mentioned briefly (1-2 sentences each) Nice
photos of author's collection. Many nice trees. Fairly complete text.
Little information on American trees other than the Apple. Out of print.

Bonsai Techniques for Satsuki (J. Y. Naka, Richard K Ota & Kenki
Rokkako) Ota Bonsai Nursery 1979. Soft Cover, 141 pages, U.S. $15.00.
Comprised of 2 sections; Basic Techniques and Bonsai Techniques.
Basic Techniques covers all the wiring, potting, pruning, etc. specific
to Satsuki (variety of azalea). Bonsai Techniques covers, step-by-step,
the creation of each style of Satsuki bonsai (cascade, raft, etc.).
Excellent source of information for Satsuki or Azalea as bonsai. Many
excellent photos of excellent Satsuki bonsai. Worthwhile addition to the
library. Out of print. (VERY hard to find -- and expensive. JKL)

The Essentials of Bonsai Eds. Shufunotomo 1982. Hard Cover, 108
pages. Comprised of 9 chapters. Book is based on over 50 Japanese books
published by Shufunotomo. The "Essentials" is the right title for this
book as its text is boiled down to the essence of growing bonsai.
No-nonsense text - a lot packed in to this short book. Color photos of
excellent bonsai. Truly a Best Buy. Good photos, good text. Out of print.

Bonsai: The Art & Technique (Dorothy Young) Prentice-Hall 1985.
Hard Cover, 423 pages. Comprised of 2 parts: I Design and Technique that
covers all aspects of growing and caring for bonsai, and bonsai by
Species, a guide to the requirements of all the important species of
bonsai including species specific information. Well organized, written,
and well referenced. The closest thing to a textbook on bonsai there is.
A must have for the library. No color photos. Some of the Black and
white are poor images. No guidance on how to style by pruning. No
examples of bonsai advancement except for Chinese grow and clip method.
Out of print and very hard to find.

MacMillan Book of Bonsai (Horst Daute) Collier Books 1986.
Paperback, 121 pages, U.S. $6.95. Surprising little book, some nice
color photos, well illustrated and clear text. A lot of bang for the
buck. Inexpensive and pretty complete. Too short, should be expanded
into a longer hard cover book. Some of the bonsai shown could be better.
Out of print.

Masterpieces of Bonsai (Yoshio Takayanagi Ed.) Shufunotomo 1986.
Hard Cover, 99 pages, U.S. $14.95. Contains a very brief introduction
to bonsai styles and appreciation and then 73 pages of Color photos of
some truly excellent bonsai from Japan. Photos captioned with size and
age information. An excellent book to derive inspiration and humility
from. Excellent photos of some real masterpieces. No cultural
information whatsoever. Out of print.

Bonsai (Susan M. Bachenheimer Resnick) Little, Brown & Co. 1991.
Hard Cover, 144 pages, U.S. $35.00. Consists of 8 chapters on care,
purchasing, maintenance, history, creation, specific techniques, indoor
bonsai, and an abbreviated guide to the popular bonsai species.
Excellent photos of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens bonsai collection
maintained by Frank Okamura for years. Text is well written but very
basic. Expensive at U.S. $35 US and U.S. $43 Canada. More a coffee
table book than a working text. Out of print.

Four Seasons of Bonsai (Kyuzo Murata) Kodansha International 1991
Hard Cover, 160 pages, U.S. $24.95. a pictorial essay on the appearance
of classic and not-so-classic bonsai and accessory plants as seen
against their best seasons. Broken into 4 sections: Spring, Summer,
Fall, and Winter. Excellent color photos of many outstanding bonsai.
Many nontraditional but interesting plants shown as well. No culture or
styling advice. Only pictures with short captions.


Chinese Bonsai: The Art of Penjing (Ilona Lesniewicz / Li Zhimin)
Blandford Press Hard Cover, 63 pages. A brief description of Chinese
style bonsai and a color pictorial of Chinese bonsai and scenes of
Chinese bonsai nurseries. Little cultural advice. The difference between
the Chinese and the Japanese attention to detail can be clearly seen.
Not a helpful guide for someone interested in starting to grow bonsai.
More like a "armchair-travel" type book. Out of print.

Saikei and Art: Miniature Landscapes (Lew Buller) Self Published. 2005 . U.S. $39.95. hard cover 138 pages. (Available at This book presents step-by-step discussion of several Saikei (landscape) creations Mr. Buller has worked on ver the years. If you are into penjing and min-landscaps, it is interesteing. JKL

Bonsai: The Art of Growing & Keeping Miniature Trees (Peter Chan)
Chartwell Books 1985. Hard Cover, 174 pages. U.S. $15.00. Contains
12 chapters. Some good photos of procedures. The section on suitable
trees gives very brief information on the various species. Chinese
stylist not up to Japanese standards. Good photographic illustrations
esp. techniques like potting.

The World of Bonsai (Paul Lesniewicz) Blandford Press 1990.
Oversized Hard Cover, 183 pages, U.S. $75.00. Coffee table book with an
essay on nature by Emanuel Eckhardt, a picture tour through the gardens
and nurseries of China and Japan and then a gallery of 62 bonsai. A very
brief discussion (4 pages) of bonsai culture follows. Also the use of
bonsai tools not normally found in other books. A very pretty book.
Large color photos of some very nice bonsai. Hard to find.

Native Treasures Vol. One: American Bonsai Photo Book/* (Edwin & Rhena Symmes) Symmes Systems 1973. Soft Cover, 97 pages. Compilation of lectures and photos of the bonsai Clubs 1973 meeting. Articles by many top American growers featured such as John Naka, Chase Rosade, Jerry Stowell, and Keith Scott. A lot of early information on the early work with American trees. Out of print and hard to find.

The Art of Growing Miniature Trees, Plants, and Landscapes (Tatsuo Ishimoto) Crown Publishers 1956. Hard Cover, 143 pages. Very early book on bonsai and Bonkei. Very poor and superficial advice given on training and repotting. Many Black and white photos of very poor bonsai
examples. Interesting as an example of what not to do in designing a bonsai. Out of print.

Introductory Bonsai and the Care and Use of Bonsai Tools (Masakuni
Kawasumi) Japan Publications 1971. Hard Cover, 84 pages. Comprised of
15 chapters. Disorganized collection of bonsai procedures mostly
displaying the use of various tools made by the author's company.
Handful of color photos of some nice bonsai thrown in. One chapter on
the care and use of bonsai tools not normally found in any other book. A
lot of advice on bonsai tool care. Many step by step instructions. Not a
complete text, no information on fertilizing, virtually none on
watering. Out of print.

Bonsai: A Wisley Handbook (Alan Roger) The Royal Horticultural
Society 1981. Paperback, 64 pages, U.S. $5.95. Has 8 chapters and 4
appendices. Text is very brief - some chapters are only 2 short
paragraphs. Some good photos of fair bonsai pictured. Inexpensive. Very
superficial treatment; money would be better spent on a better book.
Out of print.

An Introduction to Bonsai (Various). Gallery Books 1989. 89 pages.
With a sparse text and excellent pictures of very nice trees, this is
more of a bargain-basement coffee-table book than a textbook on bonsai.
The pictures are all of trees by British bonsaiests, members of the
'Bonsai Kai of the Japan Society, who are credited with the text.
Cultural information is basic. Out of print. - JKL

Bonsai & the Japanese Garden (Kaneji Domoto & George Kay)
Countryside Books 1974. Soft Cover, 74 pages. Short How-to book on
bonsai and Japanese gardens. Exceedingly basic. Out of print.

Yoshimura School of Bonsai Commemorative Album: The Muriel R. Leeds Collection #23 Yoshimura School of bonsai (pub) Symmes Systems 1977. Hard Cover, 64 pages. A Limited Edition (500 copies) of one of Yuji Yoshimura's student's collection and it's development over a 10 year period. Contains Black and white photos of bonsai at their creation and usually 10 years later. Some cultural information as well as historical information specific to that bonsai. Shows a bonsai as it appeared at creation and then up to 10 years later. A vanity publication. Bonsai shown are not exceptional in any way. Relatively unavailable.

The Complete Bonsai Handbook (Darlene Dunton) Stein & Day 1979.
Hard Cover, 208 pages, U.S. $17.95. Contains 20 chapters some only 2-3
pages long. Some chapters are not very useful such as "Photographing
bonsai". Many poor subjects are shown. Some photos are poor quality. The
only good bonsai shown were photographed at an exhibition and are not
the authors. Fertilizing directions are questionable and probably
untenable. Easy to read. Poor examples, weak text, photo quality very
uneven and poor. Like so many books with 'complete' in the title, it
isn't. Out of print.

The Art of Training Plants (Ernesta Drinker Ballard) Harper & Row
1962. Paperback, 122 pages. Short book of 4 parts: I Some Decorative
Plants, II Pruning and Shaping. III Root Pruning and Potting, and IV
Watering, Soils, Fertilizing, and Pest Control. Part I has short
discussions of bonsai, tropical bonsai, Herbaceous Plants, Succulents,
Epiphytes, Tray Plantings and Dish Gardens, and Potted Topiary. These
discussions are accompanied by a few Black and white photos of mostly
poor bonsai or potted plants. Two of the photos of bonsai are of a
famous Pine at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and 2 Hinoki Cypresses at the
Arnold Arboretum. But these photos do nothing to help this book. Parts
II, III, and IV have brief but fairly accurate descriptions of these
procedures. Procedures though are poorly illustrated or not at all. An
early book interesting from a historical perspective only. Poor Black
and white photos of mostly poor bonsai. Techniques are not illustrated.
Out of print.

Bonsai: The Art of Dwarfing Trees (Ann Kimball Pipe) Appleton
Century 1964. Hard Cover, 188 pages. Book has 2 parts: 1 The
Fundamentals of Growing Potted Trees, 2 The Art of Growing bonsai. Early
book by an early American amateur bonsai grower. Superficial treatment
of all subjects by today's bonsai book standards. Some of the text is
frivolous. Interesting for a historical comparison of the advances in
American bonsai growing. Text is not very helpful. All bonsai shown are
of poor design and training esp. compared to bonsai in America today.
Out of print.

Miniatures and Bonsai (Philip Pearl) Time-Life Books, 1979. Part of
the only slightly successful, multi-volume 'Time-Life Encyclopedia of
Gardening' the 4th chapter (30 pages) of this book is devoted to
bonsai. The brief essay covers basic bonsai shapes, wiring, pruning,
potting, and species for bonsai, illustrated by just adequate drawings
and diagrams. The section concludes with photos of a number of
excellent bonsai -- many of them from the National Arboretum collection, I think.
Out of print. This and other volumes in the Time-Life Encyclopedia can be picked
up very cheaply at most used book stores. The less you pay, the more it is
worth. - JKL


Two books by Leonard Webber are quite helpful. From
Rainforest to Bonsai published by Simon & Schuster Australia is good.
Also by the same author Bonsai for the Home and Garden published by
Cornstalk Publishing which is an imprint of Collin Angus & Robertson
Publishers deals with some exotic and some native trees.

Books by Dorothy & Vita Koreshoff and published by Boolarong
Publications are also helpful, especially Bonsai with Australian
Native Plants , and You Too Can Grow Bonsai: Bonsai in Australia,
although this book deals mostly with imported plants rather than
natives. All of these will give some information on the kind of growing
conditions experienced in this country.

Another book which does not talk about Bonsai but is an invaluable reference on our plants is Australian Native Plants by John W. Wrigley & Murray Fagg and published by Angus & Robertson with an ISBN of 0 207 16685 4. I don't think it is exhaustive but it gives a lot of helpful information about a lot of plants. I hope this information is helpful to some of you. -- Robert Stephens


Bonsai Styles of the World/, (Charles S. Ceronio), published by author, (Stone Lantern Press handles it in the USA) 229 pages, 1999, 154.00 Rand. Charles Ceronio, has grown bonsai in South Africa since 1968. He is a past president of the Pretoria Bonsai Kai and the South African Bonsai Association, and is president of a Regional Bonsai Association.

The book, which is not a "how-to-do-it" book, is a guide to worldwide styles of bonsai, and lists 89 styles, organized into 14 broad categories. It states that all of them are informed by the 5 basic
styles -- formal upright (Chokkan), informal upright (Moyo-gi), slanting (Shakan), semi-cascade (Han-kengai), and full cascade (Kengai).

Each basic style has a chapter to itself, divided as follows - a general description of the style, section on roots, trunk shapes, branch placement, variations on the style, containers to use and
suitable types of plant material. Descriptions of other styles also follow this format, but often only included a general description, variations on the style, containers and suitable plant material.

Bonsai Styles of the World is lavishly illustrated with hundreds drawings by the author, showing each style of tree and their variations (including famous bonsai of that style). These sketches are
immensely useful as they distill the essence of the style into an easily observable format and thus aid in styling decisions in way that photos sometimes can not. Sixteen color plates at the front of the book show famous or exemplary bonsai of various styles, and scattered throughout the text are black and white photos of other bonsai and shots showing trees in nature in 'bonsai styles' (a particularly useful feature when depicting the African styles).

A standout feature of the book is the depiction of African styles of bonsai (as developed by the author and others) and thus the use of trees native to Africa. These styles are the - baobab, Pierneef, flat top, Bushveld, wild fig and Wonderboom (or Elbow). Seeing these 'new' styles in the art of bonsai is a fascinating experience.

Overall, this book is an immensely useful resource on bonsai styling to any bonsaiest and offers great insight into the African bonsai styles.

Definitely recommended. -- Heidi Allen.

This text copyright 2009 – Jim Lewis-- Internet Bonsai Club (

Last edited by JimLewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:14 am; edited 1 time in total

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h. Mini Book Reviews: Part II Intermediate/Advanced - Mini Bonsai - Indoor Bonsai - ETC. Empty Re: h. Mini Book Reviews: Part II Intermediate/Advanced - Mini Bonsai - Indoor Bonsai - ETC.

Post  JimLewis Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:08 pm

Most (95%) of the books in these little reviews are from my own collection. However, there are bonsai books I haven't seen and purchased. I'm purchasing far fewer books these days. If there is a how-to book on bonsai that is not here (or in the Beginner's Books section), feel free to write a review. You can append it onto the end here. I'll move it to wherever is appropriate. Additions will be marked NEW, at least for a while. I'll also mention them in the Lounge.

Please try to follow the same format:

Title (author). Edition Number, if appropriate. Publisher. Date. No. of pages. If possible the review itself should be no more than a dozen lines. It's hard to do that but it is very good practice in concise writing. Please sign them.

We especially need European, South American, African or Australian/New Zealand books. English language books are preferred. No exclusively picture books -- like Kokufen catalogs, etc.


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