Ed Trout’s Contorted Buttonwood Beast

trout

I couldn't pass on this contorted, writhing beast of a Buttonwood any longer. It belongs to Ed Trout, a long time, highly respected Florida bonsai artist and teacher.

Gonna take a break from the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition bonsai today. The sun is shinning and I need to do something quick and easy so I can get outside and do some digging and transplanting before it’s too late.

I love Ed Trout’s Buttonwood and I also like the pot. It’s easy to see how they share a wild untamed feeling. My only question is, does such a dramatic tree need such a dramatic pot? Does the pot distract from the tree or enhance it? I don’t have an answer but maybe you do. You can comment on facebook if you’d like but don’t bother with the comments below. I may never have the time to wade through the spam to find it.

Continued below…

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Here’s part of what Ed has to say about the remarkable tree above… “All of my bonsai creations over the years are special to me. Each has a meaning….as it should be. This tree is no different, maybe even more special. It’s roots, though still holding strong, are starting to wither. It’s trunk shows the ups and downs, ins and outs, back and forth of it’s life journey. The many scars along the way show it’s battles, and the terrible losses, and how difficult it must have been to continue that journey. But in the end there is still life….tenuous though it may be….life does go on…….

Visit Ed on facebook and in about a dozen Bonsai Bark posts

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Free, Unconstrained, Witty, Clever, Humorous & Unconventional

naturalThis elegant Bunjin style Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) won Finest Natural Bonsai award at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It belongs to John Jaramillo.

With Bunjin (Literati) style bonsai a certain sensitivity is required. Anything even a little forced or overdone or unnatural in any way, just won’t do. Thus, in the case of this tree, the award for the Finest Natural Bonsai is spot on.

Here’s a quote on Bunjin by the illustrious John Naka (from a 2015 Bark post) “… Its appearance should not be too serious nor easy, it should be free, unconstrained, witty, clever, humorous and unconventional. A good example for this is a study of any of nature’s tree that has survived some sort of problem or disaster.

More photos below…

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natoriginalThanks to Oscar Jonker for this original photo (the others are just my crops).

 

natcu2

A cropped attempt to show you a closeup of the suiseki companion

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A Prize Winning Classically Styled Japanese Red Pine

slantscots

This slanting Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) won the Finest classical Bonsai award at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It belongs to Gary Gunrow. Oscar Jonker's original photo of the whole display is below.

Slanting bonsai aren’t all that common. Especially ones like this Japanese red pine, where the entire crown is so far from being centered over the pot. What often amazes me about this style, is how the good ones (like this one) maintain the feeling of balance. In this case, I think it’s the trunk’s heavy base and nebari that provide a sense of stability. The heavy feel of the solid, dark pot doesn’t hurt either.

In a more subtle way, the long top left branch reaching back toward the center of gravity further enhances the sense of balance. And even the way the tips of several other branches point back to the left contribute to the effect.

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redpine

Here it is with its companion and next door neighbor. All the original photos in our current series of prize winners at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition are by Oscar Jonker (Bonsai Empire).

Speaking of the 5th U.S. National, Hoe Chuah has some great photos and observations on his Bonsai Penjing & More blog.

 

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Michael Hagedorn’s Prize Winning Mountain Hemlock

hagportfolio

Michael Hagedorn's Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), winner of the Finest Evergreen Bonsai at the recent 5 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. You might notice the absence of a pot or even your basic bonsai slab (that's a thin synthetic sheet of some sort that it's sitting on). This photo is from Michael's website (see below for Oscar Jonker's Exhibition photo).

I’m a big fan of Michael Hagedorn’s bonsai. I think this comes from observing Michael at work (a couple years ago I spent five days studying with Michael) and from taking the time to look closely at his trees. If I had to say something about the way Michael works in just a few words, I’d say respectfully and with a light touch. No big mystery, but still, the results are often subtle and easy to miss. Especially if you’re in a hurry.

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hagoriginal

Oscar Jonker's photo of Michael's prize winning Mountain Hemlock. With an added bonus of some other notable bonsai in the background.

Here’s a link to over 100 Bark posts that feature Michael Hagedorn’s bonsai.

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Natural Simplicity – Prize Winning White Birch Bonsai

deccu

This European White Birch (Betula alba) in all its natural simplicity (and in its great pot) is the winner of the Finest deciduous Bonsai award at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exibition. It belongs to Dennis Vojtilla.

Though birch are ubiquitous in most cold climate regions of North America and the rest of the Northern Hemispere, you see surprisingly few birch bonsai. And even fewer good birch bonsai.

I think part of the problem is birch aren’t all that easy to collect and keep healthy. They are relative short lived and prone to insects and disease and though they have some resistance to common pests and diseases found in their natural habitat, when taken out of their habitat and placed in small containers, the stress combined with disease can be problematic (all this is somewhat speculative on my part, but I’ll stick with it until proven wrong).

Thanks again to Oscar Jonker (Bonsai Empire) for the photos in our posts from the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exibition.

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dec

I don't remember the companion from the show, but it looks a lot like a geranium from here.
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Another Great Bonsai Winner

abswardAmerican Bonsai Society Award winner. Another Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens). This one belongs to Todd Schlafer. Though it has several noteworthy features, one that might catch your eye is the piece of 'trunk' lying across the surface of the soil. I wonder if it was the original trunk that fell over and rooted long ago and that what is now the trunk started its life as a branch. This is of course speculation. What isn't speculation is the tree's age, as expressed by the bark and it's rugged natural beauty.

Continuing our journey through the winners of the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, I’ve noticed that some people have taken to calling Colorado blue spruce simply Colorado spruce. Both not so blue Colorado spruce winners at the Exhibition give credence to this shorter name.

sprucewith

Here's Oscar Jonker's original photo. With companion.

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companion

Close up of the companion. Looks like a mini-fern in a decaying log pot. I don't know what the draping vines are.

 

spruce

Here's the other Colorado 'blue' spruce. It won the prize for the Finest All American composition. We've already featured it, but I thought that given it's obviously green hue (almost yellow-green as is the one above), it provides further evidence that not all Colorado spruce are blue.

Thanks again to Oscar (Bonsai Empire) for providing the original photos in this series (some of which we’ve taken the liberty to crop).

*By agreement with the publisher, we do not discount the unique and beautiful book Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees and by agreement with the manufacturer, we do not discount our amazing Green T Turntable. Both are great value at full price and both qualify for Free Shipping in the U.S.

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A Regal Bonsai & a Simple Wonder of Subtle Complexity

hoeoscarcroppedFinest Tropical Bonsai & Finest Accent Plant. The tree is a Tiger bark Ficus (Ficus microcarpa) by Hoe Chuah. I've cropped this lead photo to show just the tree (a photo showing Soon Chuah's companion is just below and a photo of the tree with the companion is below that). The first three photos in this post are from Bonsai Empire.

A family that does bonsai (and companions) together, wins together. Hoe and Soon Chuah were double winners at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. Hoe’s Ficus is a strong and perfectly well-balanced, even regal bonsai, and Soon’s companion is a simple wonder of subtle complexity.

 

sooncuThis closeup shows Soon Chuah's prize winning companion (a photo of the whole display is below). This what can happen if you spend ten hours on one small companion planting (see Hoe's remarks below).
Though I wasn’t aware of Soon Chuah’s fine work with companion plants, I’ve long been a fan of Hoe Chuah’s bonsai (and his blog, Bonsai Penjing & More). I particularly liked this prize winning Tiger bark Ficus when I first saw it. Like several of the winning trees, it caught my eye on my first quick walk-though of the exhibit. Apparently the judges share my taste.
hoeoscarwith
The whole display. Two prize winners in one shot (shot by Oscar Jonker of Bonsai Empire)
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The following is what Hoe wrote to me about his tree and Soon’s companion. “This is my first time at the US National and entered a ficus display, which won the Best Tropical Bonsai category. And to my wife’s surprise and thrill, she won the Bonsai Travel award for best companion plant. Our first participation, two awards in one display! Way beyond our imaginations. Aattached are some photos I took when setting it up (one of these is below). I had written a blog about 6 months ago on the 19-year journey of this Tiger Bark ficus starting from an unassuming pre-bonsai.”

When I asked for the companion’s varieties I got more than I bargained for. Again here’s Hoe: “Soon gave me the list, there are 16 kinds of herbaceous plants and weeds planted on this 8″ wide lava rock.

Polka dot
Oxalis (Purple shamrock)
Australian violet
3 kinds of Sedum
Ilysanthes grandiflora
Pink knotweed
Pennywort
Mazus reptans
Wild strawberry
Angel plant
Portulaca
and 3 unidentified weeds.
Moss

 “These combinations allow the kusamono to show different colors and flowers for spring, summer and fall. Large leaves were trimmed regularly to reduce the size such as the purple oxalis from ~2” to nail size. I took her 4 months of constant pruning to reduce leave size to look like miniatures.
One more thing, all these plants were mixed to give it a “natural” wild meadow look. They look like random plantings but actually took her 10 hours to create the combination so that they blend in to look as wild and natural as possible.”
 
hoe
Here's a photo that Hoe sent me. It was shot by bonsai photographer par excellence, Joe Noga.  
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A Prize Winning Bonsai & a Superstar Bonsai Teacher

boon

Boon Manakitivipart's Itoigawa Sargent Juniper that won the Finest Medium Size Bonsai award at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition.

Here’s a tree you couldn’t miss. It stood as a lone bonsai at the edge of the suiseki section. A magnetizing presence, visible from a distance. A prime spot for a prime tree.

The more I look at this tree, the more I like it. But rather than go into specifics (we’ll leave that to you), I’ll just relate a quick story…. While I was admiring this tree, Boon, the artist himself, walked by. I said something like ‘great tree, but only one?’ (if you know who Boon is, you’ll know that he could show several trees if he wanted). His reply was… “Yes, but twenty of my students have trees here.

Continued below…

booncuThis close-up gives a pretty idea of just how much Boon let nature do the talking. This is easier said than done; only a skilled hand and eye can pull this off.

Think about it. Twenty of Boon’s students have progressed to the point where their trees were accepted into the premier bonsai exhibition in North America. And many, if not most of his foremost students are now recognized bonsai teachers themselves. Without getting too carried away, I think it’s safe to say that, when it comes to teaching bonsai, Boon is a superstar. And a very good bonsai artist to boot.

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boonwithOscar Jonker's uncropped original photo with its unique bird-in-nest companion and neighboring suseki.
boonwithbirdPardon the fuzz, but I wanted to show you Boon's distinctive and sweet little companion.

Thanks to Oscar of Bonsai Empire for the original photo in this post (all the others are cropped from the original).

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A Powerful Colorado Blue Spruce Bonsai & Its Story of Age & Hardship

spruceThis gnarled old Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) won the prize for the Finest All American composition at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It belongs to Jason Eider. I borrowed the photos shown here from Oscar of Bonsai Empire.

Moving along with our leisurely journey through the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition’s prize winning bonsai.

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sprucecu

The powerful old shari with its marks of age and abuse.

I almost walked by this old Colorado spruce after a cursory look (thinking I’d see more the second time around) when it’s powerful weather beaten old shari drew me in and held me for a long moment.

Given that this feature lends so much character to the tree, the thought occurred that maybe the upward thrusting jin on the left should be taken off. It seemed to pull the eye away from that old shari, the very feature that best tells the tree’s story of age and hardship.

However, if you take a look at the photo below you’ll see that the jin in question has also been deeply scarred by time, and that it’s an extension of the deadwood on the trunk and serves to reinforce and enhance the story of age and hardship.

sprucecu2

I think this closeup (my crop)clearly shows how much character and age the jin expresses, and how it's an extension of the shari.

Thanks again to Oscar (Bonsai Empire), for providing the photos.

*By agreement with the publisher, we do not discount the unique and beautiful book Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees and by agreement with the manufacturer, we do not discount our amazing Green T Turntable. Both are great value at full price and both quality for Free Shipping in the U.S.

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A Dynamic Masterpiece by a Great Bonsai Artist

suthincropped

Finest Japanese Bonsai display. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) by Suthin Sukolosovisit. I'm not sure what makes this rugged rock root-on-rock planting a Japanese Bonsai display. I am sure however, that it is a magnificent bonsai by one of our greatest bonsai artists. But then, those of us who have been paying attention, have come to expect masterpieces like this from Suthin.* I borrowed this photo from Oscar at Bonsai Empire.**

Today I’d like to show you the winner of the prize for the Finest Japanese Bonsai display at the just completed 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It belongs to Suthin Sukolosovisit, a great American bonsai artist and a good friend (everybody loves Suthin, so I’m not alone in this regard).

I’ll try not to spoil your appreciation by over-analyzing, but I just can’t resist saying how stuck I am by how every piece of this planting, large and small, moves so fluidly. There are no static lines that I can see anywhere. A dynamic masterpiece.

Yesterday, we featured the overall first prize bonsai at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and a tribute to Bill Valavanis. Today it’s Suthin’s winner. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you’d like to see all the winners, you can visit Oscar at Bonsai Empire.

suthincropped2

If you can stand a little blown-up-fuzz, you might be able to better see the details on the rock and pot. I recognize dwarf Mondo grass, dwarf ferns and some moss. Not sure about the rest.

suthincropped3

I can't tell if these two trunks share the same roots or if they are two distinct trees. The powerful downward jin provides counter balance to the upward thrust of the rock and the top trunk.
Continued below...
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ficus

Here's a sweet little Willow leaf ficus by Suthin that I picked up at the show. It's already precious to me and worth a lot more than I paid.

*A note on pronunciation: I’ve heard several people mispronounce Suthin at the show and elsewhere over the years… for us English speakers the ‘h’ is silent (though in the Thai language it might signify something), so it’s pronounced Su-tin (or at least a close approximation).

** Yesterday’s tree was also photographed by Oscar. I attributed it to Bill Valavanis (it was on his facebook feed) and though Bill is responsible for the whole show, Oscar took the photo.

***By agreement with the publisher, we do not discount the unique and beautiful book Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees and by agreement with the manufacturer, we do not discount our amazing Green T Turntable. Both are great value at full price and both quality for Free Shipping in the U.S.

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