5 min read


In November of 2017 I attended the BCI (Bonsai Clubs International) Convention held in Taiwan. I came with some very specific goals and one of them was to see some incredible Celtis sinensis, for which Taiwan is rather famous for. I was not disappointed, however aside from the Celtis, there are some amazing trees of many other species including Bougainvillea, Ficus, Murraya, Hibiscus and quite a good number more.

The following photos are but a few from a much larger gallery that I have amassed, however I am sure you will still enjoy them.


Podocarpus bonsai

Image caption. This was the tree at the entrance to the main exhibition. A podocarpus costalis species. I know our falcatus species has longer needles but surely we can do something which resembles this. What a stunning tree.

Juniper deadwood

Image caption. The junipers are really incredible in Taiwan, and especially considering as none of them are collected and are actually grown from cuttings.

juniper bonsai tree taiwan

Image caption. Juniper shimpaku on display, which was actually the "poster" tree for the convention also.

ficus bonsai tree taiwan

Image caption. A defoliated ficus (species is currently unknown as the name tag was only in Chinese)

Bougainvillea bonsai tree Taiwan

Image caption. A incredible Bougainvillea spectabilis in flower.

ficus bonsai tree taiwan

Image caption. Another wonderful ficus, defoliated to appreciate the incredible ramification. Of course it has a functional reason too.

pine tree bonsai taiwan

Image caption. The China Pine Association also had a display area in one of the gardens we visited. This very nice 3 point display of accent plant, scroll and pine tree (Pinus massoniana) caught my eye.

Hibiscus bonsai tree Taiwan

Image caption. For the final tree in this first part of the gallery I'd like to end with a bang. This is a Hibiscus tiliaceus. Would you like to grow one? If so you'd be glad to know its indigenous to South Africa and goes by the common names of wild cotton tree, coast hibiscus, lagoon hibiscus, tree hibiscus, wildekatoenboom or kusvuurblom.

As VIP guests, the participants of the post convention tour were treated to quite a number of special events, venues normally closed to the public and to trees not frequently displayed.

One such venue was the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum where we were privileged to see more amazing trees including shohin, which is not a size tree you often seem to see in Taiwan.

 Premna bonsai tree Taiwan

Image caption. Another gorgeous Premna, a tree which is also indigenous to South Africa yet very few are actually cultivating as bonsai.

Celtis bonsai taiwan

Image caption. The Celtis sinensis (Hackberry) are simply fantastic here and I cannot get enough of them!

Celtis bonsai tree Taiwan

Image caption. This is a Cork bark variety of Celtis sinensis which I have never seen before. The ramification is something I dream about achieving.

Root on rock bonsai

Image caption. I really liked this planting; the tension between the drooping branch and the container, the very interestingly shaped natural rock and of course the very interesting trunk of the juniper.

shohin olive taiwan

Image caption. I have not seen too many olives here, in fact I think this is the first one. A wonderful little shohin sized tree it is indeed.

portulacaria bonsai tree taiwan

Image caption. I am not a fan of Portulacaria, to be honest. However seeing trees of this standard is a good example of what is possible with them, and I might be converted yet.

shohin celtis bonsai taiwan

Image caption. This has gone to be one of the best shohin Celtis sinensis I have ever seen. What baffles my mind is the ability to grow these trees with such trunk girth but yet no visible scarring.

flowering shohin taiwan bonsai

Image caption. This lovely tree is a Malpighia pendiculata or weeping Barbados cherry (Identification credit: Sujata Bhat)

Premna shohin

Image caption. This is one of the many lovely Premna which were on display. Such a wonderful, lively combination of tree and container.

While still on the tour arranged by the Taiwan Bonsai Association we were granted access to a private bonsai collection. Apparanetly the owner is a very wealthy businessman who has amassed an incredible collection of Juniper which has actually now been recognized by the Guiness Book of Records as the largest collection of Juniper bonsai over a certain age. Nothing is for sale at this nursery yet it spans an immense area, filled with really amazing trees of all species.

Beefwood bonsai

Image caption. A very large and shapely Beefwood. These trees are considered invasive in South Africa as they propagate so easily from seed and they are also used as windbreaks on Cape wine-farms. Strange that nobody has taken the time to develop these trees back home.

Beefwood bonsai trees

Image caption. I am really not a fan of this approach to bonsai styling ie the clearly defined foliage pads with a upward tilt to them - it looks too much like topiary to me. However I put this image in as it is a magnificent tree nonetheless. For those of you who cannot get or cannot grow pines this tree might be considered a substitute.

moving large bonsai

Image caption. In this garden, as is the case of most Taiwanese bonsai in fact, you cannot move them by hand but need access to a crane.

brush cherry bonsai trees

Image caption. When one sees what the Taiwanese have done with the humble Eugenia or commonly known as Water berry or Brush cherry then I think we are missing out on an opportunity. Most of us only grow them as hedges!

Brush cherry bonsai tree

Image caption. Another example of the same species as mentioned before. One can create truly natural forms with these trees. Their new growth has a beautiful red or burgundy colour, they have white flowers and will bear fruit. Their bark has an interesting colour too. They grow quickly and break back easily on old wood. What more could one ask for in a species for bonsai cultivation?


Image caption. A Eugenia in a lovely open style, so natural.

Celtis sinensis

Image caption. A wonderful and powerful example of a Celtis sinensis. Apparently the majority of these trees are grown from air layering's and cuttings.

Celtis sinensis

Image caption. One would be forgiven if you thought the preceding photo and this one are of the same tree. In fact they are not. Which do you prefer; with or without leaf?

Semi cascade celtis bonsai

Image caption. I don't believe I have ever seen a Hackberry in a cascading style. This tree is magnificent. Its sheer size is enough to create immense presence, but the level of detail in the ramification is really pleasing also. Personally, I cannot stand the container but it does seem to be the preferred style here.

Hibiscus bonsai

Image caption. This is a very old Hibiscus tiliaceus. What's not to like! Did you know that this species is indigenous to South Africa, occurring along the coast from the Eastern Cape to Zululand? Do you have one in your collection?


Image caption. Yet another exquisite example of a Celtis. More specifically the species is Celtis nervosa, and to the best of my knowledge it is not available in South Africa.

Lagerstroemia bonsai

Image caption. I'm actually really surprised that we in South Africa do not grow more Lagerstroemia indica (Crepe-myrtle). The ones I have in my garden, despite the heat and drought are flowering and growing well. They have the most gorgeous coloured trunks when they age, they flower and their leaves provide a show in autumn. I am definitely going to look into them!

And finally!

I have put together a video clip of some of the best Hackberry I was privileged to see on this trip.

Tip! If your internet speed will allow, be sure to select the HD version of this video for the clearest picture. Do so by clicking on the gear-looking icon on the bottom right of the video controls. Click the box icon to the right of that to maximise the picture to fullscreen. Enjoy!

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