Kate Bowditch and Max Braverman, joint proprietors of Pine Garden Bonsai Nursery, began writing book reviews for Bonsai , The Journal of The American Bonsai Society in 1981. Since then, with some lapses, they have jointly served as regular book reviewers for that publication.
Here is their selection of recommended books about bonsai. They make no claim to be exhaustive, but can strongly recommend the books here cited.
Bonsai, The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees
1989; The Wellfleet Press, Seacaucas, N.J.; 174 p.; 13 x 9 1/2; $24.95
Beginner ; Hardcover
Beginners need an exhaustive book that covers all phases of the art of bonsai: styles, suitable trees, basic horticultural principles, cultivation, esthetic. This is an excellent one with which to initiate a deeper involvement with bonsai.
Bonsai Basics A Step by Step Guide to Growing, Training and Displaying
Christian Pessey & Remy Samson
1992l Sterling Publishing Co.,NYC; 120 p.
Beginner ; Paperback
An excellent introductory book to the art of bonsai. This might be the first book one purchases. Chapters include: How Trees Grow, The Art of Bonsai, Obtaining Your Bonsai, Training Bonsai, Caring for Your Bonsai, Choosing a Bonsai, Healthy Bonsai, Bonsai Calendar.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing & Displaying Bonsai
1993, Smithmark Publishers, NYC, NY, 124 p. $14.00
Beginner ; Hardcover
This English first bonsai book is my favorite to recommend when people ask what book can they buy to learn more about bonsai, or what would be a good book to accompany a bonsai given as a present. The selection of subjects, illustrations, the writing style, all present the subject - -an introduction to bonsai -- in a clear and interesting fashion. Highly recommended.
Bonsai Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy
1984, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon; 254 p.
Hard cover ; Intermediate
When you've decided you're into bonsai for good, get a copy of Deborah Koreshoff's book. The ten chapters thoroughly cover everything you need to know about bonsai, from Soil Composition to Exhibiting, Display and Judging of Quality in Bonsai. We all have a book turn to first for bonsai information, this superbly illustrated book of Koreshoff's is Kate's.
Early American Bonsai
Peter Del Tredici
1989, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 40 pages
A charming view of bonsai around 1913, when retiring ambassador to Japan, Larz Anderson, brought back with him a number of examples of the Japanese Art. The profusion of very deep pots, which supports the supposition that bonsai in shallow containers is a fad of the most recent 50 years, is just one of the changes in bonsai that can be perceived by study of this nicely illustrated paperback.
The Unknown Craftsman
1972, Kodanha International, Tokyo and New York; 231 p.
For those who seek an understanding of Oriental esthetics, broadly perceived by a philosopher intimate with the art of both east and west, I recommend this wonderful book. It was the key I needed to make sense of a country where even the trivial items of everyday life are beautiful, where rough textures, and kiln accidents were thought to imbue beauty.
Bonsai Design I, (3 books)
Peter D. Adams
1985, Peter Admas, Surrey England; 112 p.
Advanced ; Paperback
These three books are what a grower would need to have in his library to deal with seedlings, or grafts, of a minimum of 100, transforming them into bonsai over a period of six years. Excellently illustrated a treasure trove of information for the advanced bonsai grower.
Bonsai Design Japanese Maples
Peter D. Adams
1988, Sterling Publishing Co, NY; 128 p.
Advanced ; Both
Bonsai Design: Deciduous and Coniferous trees
Peter D. Adams
1996, Ward Lock, London; US: Sterling Publishing, NY; 143 p.
Kiyoshi Seike, Masanobu Kudo, David Engel
A Japanese Touch for Your Garden
1992, Kodansha, Tokyo, New York, London; 80 p.
Beginner ; Paperback
Japanese gardens share with Japanese Bonsai the joy of an illusion that allows a 5 foot high rock to become a 5000 ft high mountain. Constructed of stones, trees water, bamboo, sand, fences and water basins the Japanese garden is a delight to the senses, a respite in a country where space is at a premium. This volume, as does the Unknown Craftsman provides insight into the culture patterns of Japan, an insight crucial to those seeking to understand the esthetic underlying traditional Japanese bonsai.
Bonsai: Trees and Shrubs; A guide to the Methods of Kyuzo Murata
Lynn R. Perry
1964, The Ronald Press Co., NY; 234 p.
Essentially an encyclopedia of bonsai, Lynn Perry's book is the one I turn to for information on how to grow any particular tree in the Japanese Bonsai repertoire. Clear writing, few frills. An excellent book.
Bonsai The Complete Guide to Art and Technique
1985 Sterling NY; 194 p.
Intermediate ; Hardcover
Paul Lesniewicz writes clearly, includes many little hints about caring for bonsai. The containers he uses, at least in the illustrations, are particularly distinguished. Once you've decided to go further in Bonsai, consider this volume as one of the steps on the pathway.
1986, Sterling Publishing Co.,NY; 208 p.
Intermediate ; Paperback
The best introduction to indoor bonsai. Excellent information about bonsai both indoor and out. Pocket book size, reasonable, concise information. My choice when I'm seeking information on indoor or tropical trees.
Bonsai, Miniature Potted Trees
1964, Shufunomoto Publishing Co., Lyd., Tokyo, 114p.
Intermediate ; Paperback
Kyuzo Murata was the curator of the emperors collection of bonsai trees. I understand too that he was most highly respected among Japanese bonsai people. This little book is still in print, although more than thirty years old. The major aspects of Japanese bonsai, so far as they affect the non expert American, have not changed. I like the directness and clarity of Murata's writing, yet he discourses with the reader on such subjects as bonsai height, like an equal.
Four Seasons of Bonsai
1984, Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York, London ;160 ; $24.95
Focusing on how the same trees look during the four seasons, and showcasing flowering plants of each of the seasons, Kyuzo Murata undertakes no less than a revolution in the focus of Japanese bonsai. He includes what can only be called horticultural ephemeridae among the bonsai repertoire introducing a freshness and spontaneity into bonsai that had not been there before. So unusual is his selection of containers, that when we reviewed this book for Bonsai Journal (of the ABS), Max reviewed the containers; Kate reviewed the bonsai.
1988, Sterling Publishers (US Dist);160 p.
Peter Chan , one of England's best known bonsai masters, uncovers, in this excellent book, a broad spectrum of bonsai methods, that you need to know. They include: growing from seed and seedling, collecting trees, air layering, growing from nursery stock and from hedges; forest plantings, planting on rocks, Chinese style bonsai, suiseki (stones) . An excellent book.
Create Your Own Bonsai
1989, Cavedish, Vancouver, B.C.; 128 p.
A fresh look at bonsai for the beginner, using the sort of stock that one can pick up reasonably at the local garden center. Step by step instructions show the neophyte how to grow from seeds, from cuttings she takes herself, from the can yard of the local nursery. Regarding this last Chan shows in detailed steps how to make Pyracantha, Potentilla, Dwarf Spruce, a rose plant, a Chinese juniper, a stone fruit, a common Juniper, and a Cotoneaster into respectable bonsai. Excellent beginners book.
The Book of Tea
1989, Kodansha International, Tokyo, New York, London;160 p.; $6.95
"Chado", the Way of Tea, and "chanoyu", the tea ceremony is recognized as the single cultural event responsible for the nature of Japanese art, culture and aesthetics. "The Book of Tea has served for nearly a century as one of the most perceptive introductions to Asian life and thought in English.", writes Soshitsu sen XV, fifteenth generation inheritor of Sen no Rikyu a famous tea master of the fourteenth century, in the introduction to this insight into Japanese art and culture. If books are part of your pathway, this one can open you to the culture underlying Japanese bonsai.
Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants
1974, Wing Lung Bank Limited; N.F.S.
This privately published volume displays Mr. Wu Yee-sun's collection of bonsai, a collection ranging from traditional Japanese pieces to characteristic lignan (cut and grow style) of southern China, to Pen jing, compositions of tree and stones. With more than 350 illustration, many in color, this volume is certainly worth the trouble, perhaps risk of sending $10.00 U.S. to the Office of Information, Hong Kong Baptist College, 224 Waterloo Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong. A wonderful book.
Penjing, The Chinese Art of Miniature Gardens
1982, Timber Press / Am Horticultural Soc.
There is a profound difference between the Chinese, Penjing, approach to bonsai, and that of the Japanese. Nowhere is this more clearly brought home than in The Shanghai Botanical Garden, which has a large section devoted to Bonsai, so large that one may wander and become lost. This volume by a curator of the garden, Mr. Hu, who has visited the U.S. frequently, presents many of the characteristic Chinese trees from The Shanghai Garden, and begins with a section in which Mr. Hu shows how it is done.
CHINESE PENJING, Miniature Trees and Landscapes
Hu Yunhua, Text translator: Karin Albert-Shue
1987, Timber Press, Portland, Or; $39.95
There's another world of bonsai out there, and Mr. Hu's book is a guide to it. Considerably more sophisticated in production than his earlier volume, each page gives views of trees or containers from a different bonsai world. The book consists of a well balanced mixture of how to and display of plants and styles and glorious containers.