Fall Auction - A Novice Experience

by Cynthia Williams

Trees for Live Auction image by CW

The Minnesota Bonsai Society fall auction was held on Tuesday evening, October 4th this year (2011). I attended the auction in the spring and was looking forward to seeing how they would differ. I guess I expected that given it was a week night, during what would normally be our regular monthly meeting time; it might not be very well attended. Boy was I wrong! Not only were trees of all types and descriptions streaming in right up until auction time, but the place was packed. There was not an empty seat in the house!

Shimpaku juniper for sale image by CW

I volunteered to help with intake this time, so I was checking in members who wished to sell trees. What surprised me was the number of people who walked in with trees as donations, so that the entire proceeds of their sale would go to MBS. One man alone donated half a dozen trees or more! There was a flurry of activity as we got things ready, dragging out at least 3 more tables than we thought we would need. As the auction time grew near, the room was abuzz. The excitement was so palpable it was nearly electric.

The silent auction tables overflowed with trees and supplies with a steady stream of buyers circling them like sharks, myself included. Meanwhile, the live auction began. There were some amazing items; including a prize Shimpaku of considerable age and heft (ooohhh aaaaahh), as well as a full sized Japanese maple!

The auction item of the evening in my mind, however, was a single landscape or forest tray. Along with this tray, the bidder would receive a class with our master landscaper, Milo Mietzner. One had to envision the tiny trees that the tray would eventually hold, along with all the new knowledge to be gained. Clearly this was a VALUABLE item. While the bidding started out slowly, it built to frenzy and eventually came down to two bidders who bid and outbid one another, back and forth for some time. Ultimately one of the bidders could go no higher and the prize went to a new member who was thrilled. He was congratulated by his family and all those around him. The crowd exploded in applause!

Cascade juniper image by CW

What a great night. I was able to make off with a gorgeous cascading juniper, which is my favorite style, along with a tiny cotoneaster which I snagged for a co-worker who is new to the craft. By the end of the evening everybody was all smiles, packing up their winnings and anxiously looking forward to the next one!

I have now come a full growing season with MBS. I plan to put my plants to bed shortly, and sip my tea until spring comes again and they wake up from their nap. I have learned so much since April and know I still have a long way to go. I can’t wait until spring comes and I get to start again.


A Tree's Story

Spring Wonder, Sargeant Cherry Tree, Prunus sargentii, Hokkaido Normandale and the Normandale Japanese Garden

by Lynn Aaze

Spring Wonder cherry tree

Some of you may be familiar with this recently introduced tree, Spring Wonder. It is the first cherry tree that is hardy enough to withstand our long, cold winters.  The tree may be new to the market,  but I've known about this tree for years.  Its journey from seedling to production and distribution is one of luck, determination and appreciation.

Growing up as the daughter of one of the founding co-chairs of the Normandale Japanese Garden,  it has been a part of my family for almost fifty years. It started out as a Bloomington Affiliated Garden Club project to plant trees in Bloomington parks. The result was submitted to the Lady Bird Johnson "Beautify America" contest and was awarded $500.00. The Bloomington Garden Clubs wanted to do something special with the money and the state was developing a junior college in Bloomington. So the Garden Clubs approached the newly named president of the junior college with an idea. In the end they were given about two acres of mostly swamp land to create a Japanese garden. Only the hill to the south was solid ground.

Spring Wonder cherry tree

The newly formed committee now had the task of creating a Japanese garden. Several members of the Japanese American community joined the committee and in 1969 Takao Watanabe, a landscape architect for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, designed the garden. Soldiers, who had been stationed at Camp Savage during World War II, wanted to show their appreciation and made a significant donation in support of the garden. Then in 1981, Watanabe-san met Roland Jefferson, a botanist at the National Arboretum in Washington DC and encouraged him to visit Minnesota.   Mr. Jefferson loved the garden but thought that it should have cherry trees. (The original plan had called for cherry trees but they could not survive our cold climate.) As luck would have it, Mr. Jefferson was very good at plant exploration and he knew what to do.

With proper paperwork in hand Mr. Jefferson traveled to the Hokkaido region of Japan to collect a variety of cherry tree seeds. By 1984 the seeds had become seedlings and were given to several universities, arboretums, and nurseries in cold-climate  regions of the United States and Canada. He must have been impressed by what he saw because the little known Normandale Japanese Garden received 24 of the seedlings.

Now in the hands of the Normandale Community Jr. College  these seedlings were first kept in the biology department, then by a committee member and later moved again to another committee member. With each move a few would die and some just didn't weather the cold climate very well. Finally, when they were big enough, Arbor Day 1990, they were moved again to the Japanese Garden. Of the remaining trees, some had a bushy look and others looked okay but one was turning out to be a great specimen. This is the tree I would hear about, every spring my mother would say,“the tree is blooming, go look”.

L to R, Bernadine Bryant committee member and Vice President of Normandale Community College: Yvonne Bublitz – founding co-chair of the NJGC: Lynn Friefeld – committee member who strongly advocated the propagation of this tree:  Bunnie Aaze – founding co-chair of the NJGC

After several years Mr. Jefferson followed up on his brood of seedlings. Of those that had survived at the various universities, arboretums or nurseries none of them were as wonderful as the tree that grew at the little known Normandale Japanese Garden.  It had a cherry tree to be proud of.

The committee now had a new challenge on its hands, should it see if it could bring this tree to the public. It was an arduous process that took many years and many people. Mr. Jefferson, the University of Minnesota Arboretum, Bailey’s Nurseries all contributed but mostly it took the determination of committee member, Lynn Friefeld.  Finally in 2010, "Spring Wonder, Sargeant Cherry Tree, Prunus sargentii, Hokkaido Normandale" was introduced to the nursery market.  It is a wonderful ornamental tree that's made quite a journey.  Having traveled half-way around the world, it is finally available to more gardeners who are planting trees to improve parks.  Having been nurtured by people who wanted it to be part of a Japanese garden in Minnesota it will now continue its journey as a tree that can be planted in many more parks and gardens around the world.

On June 9, 2012 a Commendation Ceremony was held at the Normandale Japanese Garden.  Mr Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Deputy Consul General Hironori Sawada, Consulate General of Japan presented a commendation in recognition of the Normandale Japanese Garden Committee for it's dedication and work with cherry trees, a symbol of Japan.  "In Japan, cherry trees symbolize life's fleeting existence, the spectacular blossoms of delicate pink flowers is breathtaking but lasts only a few days.  When the cherry trees bloom, if you wait, you will miss it - for the winds may blow tomorrow and the blossoms will be gone forever.  A reminder of how short and fragile life is, so we should live life without regret, and make the most of every moment...from one seed, from one tree in Hokkaido, connects Japan with Minnesota."

For more information you can follow these links:

Normandale Japanese Garden

MMC at Como recently planted Spring Wonder in the redesign of their Japanese Garden.

Spring Wonder's Official Introduction To The Market

Roland Maurice Jefferson Collection

Takao Watanabe - Little information is available in English

A few local nurseries that carry Spring Wonder...

Linder's Garden Center

Lynde Greenhouse

Camp Savage, Fort Snelling and the MISL School...

Warmly Welcomed In Minnesota

Camp Savage

Military Intelligence Service Language School

A MISLS soldier

Advice from a Bonsai Tree

Deodore Cedar

Stand tall and Proud
Go out on a Limb
Remember your Roots
Plant Your feet in GOOD Soil
Eat Natural foods
Enjoy Rest and Sunny Days
Be content with your Natural Beauty, Enjoy Grooming
Enjoy the view of YOUR Friends
You are always on Display

by Randy Clark

This step-by-step pictorial is designed to guide beginners through the mechanical process of cutting, shaping and transplanting fairly simple bonsai material for the first time. It makes the assumption that the reader has already done some research and has a basic understanding of the fundamental shaping concepts used in the art of bonsai such as:

1. Triangulation and asymmetrical composition.

2. Primary, secondary and tertiary branch identification and placement.

3. Selection of primary viewing angle based on trunk movement and rootage.

If you do not understand the three concepts outlined above, you would be well advised to invest in a little more research time before beginning this exercise. This is because the single most difficult thing for beginners to master is the ability to “see” the bonsai hiding inside the mass of greenery from which they most often work. A firm grasp of the fundamentals is of paramount to enhancing your ability to identify usable and non-usable elements of the plant material. Once you have that, the ability to “see” becomes gradually clearer with more and more practice.

To see the entire article follow this link and download the pdf.

Best of Show - Shohin by Randy Davis

I first fell in love with the "tiny trees" at the Minnesota State Fair. A former co-worker from a hobby job, Terry Bishop, was into bonsai and suggested that I check out the Minnesota Bonsai Society.

Bonsai Art On Stamps

By Ken Goebel

USPS Bonsai Stamp

UNITED STATES  forever series issued January 13, 2012

For the first time the United States has joined other countries honoring the beauty of bonsai with a set of five bonsai images on postage stamps.  The USPS first issued these stamps on January 13, 2012.  They were issued as Forever® stamps, which are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.  First Day Covers with each of these stamps also is available from the USPS.

Art director and stamp designer Ethel Kessler worked with Hilo, Hawaii Artist John D. Dawson to create these stamps.  Dawson wanted to show popular trunk variations in the stamp illustrations, as well as portray different species of plants. He created rough sketches of four stamps on tissue paper, then started the back-and-forth exchange with Kessler and a number of consultants.  The fifth stamp, a trident maple was added later.

The first stamp is intended to depict a Sierra juniper in semi-cascade style, in which the tip projects over the pot rim but does not extend below the base.  Second is a trident maple in informal upright style, in which the trunk bends slightly to the right.  Third is a black pine in formal upright style, with the trunk straight and tapering evenly, and symmetrical branches, from base to apex.  Fourth is an azalea in multiple-trunk style, with several trunks emerging from one root system. The fifth and final stamp shows a banyan in cascade style, with the tip extending below the pot’s base.

The trees shown are roughly 15 to 20 inches tall in reality.

There are about 14 countries of the world that issue legitimate, usable postage stamps depicting bonsai art.  Most of these countries are in Asia.  By far, the most abundant issuers of these stamps include China, Vietnam and Philippines.  They also provide souvenir sheets, first day covers, commemoratives and cancellations for collectors.


CHINA first day cover issued April 18, 1996

China Bonsai Stamp










The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of China issued a set of six special bonsai stamps on April 18, 1996.  Three of the stamps are shown on this First Day Cover, featuring examples of Shan Shui Pen Jing or tray landscapes made from plants attached to rocks, with or without figurines.  The titles of the stamps are ‘Green Scenery of Lijiang’ (20 fen), ‘Melting Snow overflows the River’ (50 fen), and ‘Most Uncommon Years and Months of one’s Life’ (100 fen).  The designer of the cover and cancellation is Chen Jingyi.

VIETNAM souvenir sheet issued June 16, 1986

Vietnamese Bonsai Stamp











PHILIPPINES souvenir sheet of 4, issued July 27, 2004

Philippino Bonsai Stamp











Japan and some smaller countries and regions such as Monaco, San Marino and Maldive Islands occasionally have issued stamps to commemorate special bonsai conventions in Europe and Asia.

JAPAN (Left) Teruo Kurosu received the Prime Minister Award at the 30th Sakufu-Ten for this tree, a five-needle pine.  World Bonsai Convention, Omiya 1989, issued April 6, 1989.

MONACO (Middle) Japanese maple.  European Bonsai Congress in Monaco, 1995, issued April 3, 1995.

SAN MARINO (Right) 20th Convention of the European Bonsai Association, issued April 16, 2004.

Regional Bonsai Stamps









Of course there are the illegal or fraudulent philatelic activities as well.  The vast majority of countries issuing fraudulent stamps are in Africa; countries like Angola, Congo, Djibouti, Rwanda and Somalia.  Stamps probably are the main source of income for these countries.  These are "illegal  issues for territories which are not entitled to issue stamps and false stamps produced by fraudsters in the name of an issuing authority with the intent to defraud collectors”.

Perhaps the most notorious of these originated from ANGOLA.

Angola Stamp












Issued in 2000, these 3,500,000 Kz stamps are illegal per the Universal Postal Union International Bureau.  At least three dozen sets of various subjects with this denomination were issued by three companies located in Belgium, Great Britain and Lithuania.  The trees depicted here are kurume azalea, bald cypress, chinese wisteria, cork oak, pinus genus and olive.

DJIBOUTI  issued in 2007.

Djibouti Stamp

These four 800F bonsai stamps are not listed with The World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

Not all of my collection is shown here.  There are many more bonsai stamps, legitimate and fraudulent, that I am still looking for.  No doubt many more will be issued in the future.  My main source of collecting these stamps has been eBay auctions, and DelCampe auctions online.