Four Seasons of Modern Bonsai

by Kaori Yamada

by Cheryl Petty -- February 2, 2009

This small jewel of a book is unabashedly feminine, with hot pink front and back matter pages and is laid out Western style, left to right and front to back. Kaori Yamada presents five arrangements for Spring, five for Summer, six for Autumn and five for Winter, and every page is covered with gorgeous color photographs.

For spring, blooming branches of prunus mume and hydrangea are combined with small accent plants. Summer shows zelkova, hosta and succulents. A pine arrangement is paired with a Hokusai woodblock print of pines and another arrangement includes a whimsical Hawaiian hula figure and sea shells.

Fall color dominates with branches of elm and beech, ginkgo, berries and grasses, and equisetum (horsetail rush) is paired with curled pines. My favorite is callicarpa bodeneri (Beauty Berry) violet berries paired with a red berry companion with clip-on miniature birds—exquisite!

For winter we have little conifers of cryptomeria and chamaecyparis, with osmanthus, a variegated holly, bamboo, fruited citrus and cactus. Pictured on the cover is a windswept raft of contorted pines with dashes of fern and a red blooming twig in moss.

Six projects with detailed steps introduce basic pot preparation, accent plant material, acer palmatum and moss. Daily care with practical suggestions for watering small containers, wiring, storage and fertilization is presented with easy to understand photos. The lesson in pruning is more esoteric without being able to read the Japanese kanji, but careful study will reveal interesting examples of pruning and needle reduction basics.

Four Seasons of Modern Bonsai makes a good handbook for projects that anyone could undertake. The 99 page book, 7.5 “x 8.125” printed in Japanese language in 2008 can be previewed online and purchased for $29 from Miniature Dave Paris, a founding member of the American Shohin-Bonsai Association, runs this great website offering many goods and services to the bonsai community.

Kaori Yamada

Kaori Yamada


Kaori Yamada is an innovative Japanese woman who is fifth generation of a family who runs a bonsai nursery called Seiki-en in Omiya village, and she is a prolific book writer.

Conventional bonsai has so many rules, and you’re supposed to learn all of them. But that’s not much fun. The priority is to keep the plants alive and have fun growing them. I teach the minimum rules necessary for this. Many people try it just for fun, but they’re deeply moved when the plants bloom, says Yamada.

Published Golden Statements The Magazine of the Golden State Bonsai Federation Vol xxxii No.5 Sept/Oct 2009 Book Review p.10