Juniper over rock in a vintage Hanmer (New Zealand) pot.






Red (Japonica) from Japan


White (Japonica), from Japan


Example of bonsai style


From the rose family, the chaen-omeles are a deciduous flowing shrub related to the quince and often referred to as “flowering quince.” They have serrated leaves and clustering 5-petal flowers that are about 4cm in diameter.

With their lush bulbous flowers, the chaen-omeles make a nice keshiki. Two are shown here from Ponsonby Plants, in hand-made New Zealand pots.

The lower photo shows an example of a chaen-omeles in full bonsai style.

Perhaps best known in the sansevieria genus is the common snake plant (or mother-in-law’s tongue). But a much finer specimen/species is the Sansevieria cylindrica (aka, African spear). No more tongue: these have beautiful cylindrical (spear-like) leaves, which the baboons of Angola have been known to impale themselves on.

The write-up on Wikipedia reads:

Sansevieria cylindrica, also known as the Cylindrical Snake Plant, African Spear or Spear Sansevieria, is a succulent plant native to Angola.

S. cylindrica has striped, round leaves that are smooth and a green-gray color. A single leaf is about 3 cm (1 in) thick and grows to a height between 1 m (3 ft) and 2 m (7 ft). The Spear Sansevieria grows fan-shaped, with its stiff leaves growing from a basal rosette. The species is interesting in having rounded instead of strap-shaped leaves caused by a failure to express genes which would cause the cylindrical bud to differentiate dorsoventrally or produce a distinctive and familiar top and bottom surface to the leaf blade. The 3 cm (1 in) greenish-white tubular flowers are tinged with pink. The species is drought-tolerant and in captivity needs water only about once every other week during the breeding season. The species was described by Wenceslas Bojer in 1837.

Here’s one, new on display in the shop (Ponsonby Plants)…








Cacti propagation


Some of the big guys

little cacti

Assorted goodies


Terrarium example


A wee cutie


Cacti in flower, from above




Some shots of the cacti room at Ponsonby Plants, a popular stop for cacti of all sizes, succulents too (of course).


The magazine Ceramics Quarterly has done a little piece on our Keshiki bonsai, featuring our use of hand-made vintage NZ pots. The two-page spread is shown below – the scan is not great and the type is hard to read, by the photos are clear enough.


Page 1


Page 2


terracotta treats



Some shots of tiny succulents in tiny terracotta pots. Smaller pots are 4cm in diameter.





Three smaller ficus lyratas in a ceramic pot


With vibrant, translucent green foliage that has both an interesting shape and texture, the ficus fiddle leaf is among the most popular houseplants. Many don’t realise there are two common varieties, the larger leaf original (ficus lyrata) and the smaller leaf variant called bambino (patent info here).


Adult lyrata leaf

These are a popular favourite on pinterest and the like, but these shots are from here at Ponsonby Plants. The first image shows three little lyratas in a medium-sized ceramic pot.

The lower images reveal the beauty of the leaf.


Close up


Saxifraga in small ceramic pots


Close up

Ground covers are among the most popular affordable outdoor plants, some even work indoors (such as ‘baby tears’). The Saxifraga (Peter Pan var.) offers a beautiful patch of flowers. Worth potting up.


Neon (via fence)

Shop at night- outside looking in

Young Japanese Yew in pot.


Hanmer Pot (NZ made)

The colour, shape and size of this vintage pot are a good match with the plant.


(Second View)

Took this shot the other day when at a nursery. Always looking at all the plants on offer, I never noticed this magnificent gum (Eucalyptus) tree before. When I finally did, I realised what a nice photo it would make. Great mammoth trees like this are always around us but we learn to ignore them.


Underwatering is key to getting this kind of colour, a product of stressing the plant.

Simple photo but wonderful colour and form.


Nature’s little sculpture, in a porcelain Chinese dish, about 8 cm diameter.

Underwatering is key to getting this kind of colour, a product of stressing the plant.

Ponsonby Plants is under new ownership. We’ll be posting some shots of the renovations, but best to come visit if you can… and have a look for  yourself.

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From the Keshiki gallery, a bonsai of the NZ native Kowhai (pronounced: co-fi)



The indoor, Keshiki gallery at PP.



Beautiful small orchids – documenting their first appearance in NZ



Photo taken from entrance of PP. Cactus room visible through door on the right


New windows offer an illuminated background for the indoor, Keshiki gallery, with its floating shelves made of solid Douglas Fir.




Keshiki means something like “landscape” in Japanese and is pronounced kesh-key. The term is used by Kenji Kobayashi in his book to refer to simple “landscape” bonsai that he creates.  

My keshiki come from the same idea.






Keshiki bonsai no. 102 is a Mexican red pine with loose stones.



In Context



A few weeks ago I was interviewed about keshiki bonsai for a short piece in NZ House and Garden. Thanks to the very nice folks there.

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article, NZ House and Garden

Here I thought I would expand a little on what I said, and include some of what did not appear in the piece, having to do with what I specifically like about ‘the potted plant.’

The potting of plants came about, no doubt, because of a desire to have plants somewhere where there is no earth to put them in. Indoors, for example, or on a deck or patio. For the same reason, it’s not a great look to have potted plants sitting on grass or other surfaces that look perfectly suitable for planting. It makes the pot look superfluous.

At the same time, there is an aesthetic to the potted plant that goes beyond this ‘out-of-the-ground’ functionality. I like pots because they frame a plant, whereas when in the ground, a plant loses some of its individuality – as it becomes part of the larger landscape.

Pots can be beautiful in their own right, but that is not the point here. Consider the example of bonsai. Here the emphasis is on trees (versus other plant types), usually placed in relatively small and shallow pots. The particulars of bonsai can overshadow a more general desire, which is to remove the plant from the wild or natural setting and place it in a controlled setting – again, to frame it  up.

When applied to the potting of plants generally, bonsai and related disciplines (like the Chinese penjing) remind us that we can made a composition out of ‘plant’ and ‘pot’, regardless of whether or not we prune the plant in some kind of ‘bonsai style.’

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Not a bonsai

In this sense, bonsais are not a closed off area of plant enthusiasm, and there is much to learn about styling our composition from the school of bonsai even if we don’t do ‘bonsai’ (more on this in a later post).

Of course there’s also more to plant life than trees. My interest is in potted plants of all sizes, and not just bonsais. I do lots with grasses (including bamboo), succulents, cacti, et cetera, with an emphasis on individual examples that have a unique appearance.

Often people who do ‘bonsai’ have little interest in plants otherwise, and vice-versa. This seems quite artificial to me. Bonsai are just a type of potted plant and we should not think of it as so specialised (and equally demanding). I don’t care too too much about the ‘rules’ of bonsai in part because I do plants for myself, but also because I want my plants to be enjoyed by people generally. Wouldn’t it be odd if a painter only exhibited his or her art to painters, yet that’s what bonsai enthusiasts typically do, especially in the west.

I particularly like the small ‘keshiki’ bonsai because they create a little landscape or scene all on their own. They can be a real eye-full for something so small. They require a bit of attention, but as they mature they change, and the experience of witnessing this is rewarding, even from week to week.

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