Wild Apples & Other North American Natives

lenzappleThis humped back Wild apple appears on the back cover of Nick Lenz' Bonsai from the Wild (long out of print). In fact all of the photos shown here are from Nick's book.

I’m a little pressed for time, so we’ll use our old archives trick. The photos are from a June, 2011 post. The text is heavily edited. 

It’s no secret that Nick Lenz is a brilliant, innovative and daring bonsai artist. It’s also not much of a secret that Nick is a genuine holder of extensive bonsai (and horticultural) knowledge and wisdom, with perhaps more expertise when it comes to North American natives, than any other living bonsai artist.

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That's a ceramic tank bogged down in this old larch forest. A remnant of a WW2 battle somewhere in northern Europe? I imagine that Nick made the tank (he's a ceramic artist as well as bonsai artist), but I don't know for sure. 
Ground juniper (J. horizontalis). It's unusual to find this type juniper with such a well developed trunk.
Another ground juniper. A common plant elevated by Nick's uncommon touch.
Nick is famous for his larches

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The Smoke of the Volcano

Shim

The Smoke of the Volcano. This famous old collected Shimpaku juniper is called Noble Satake’s Shimpaku. When it was collected it was given the name The Smoke of the Volcano because of its unusual twisting trunk. The fuzzy photo is what happens when you blow an image up from 300 to 770 pixels (see below for the original).

I just discovered an excellent article on Morten Albek’s Shohin Bonsai blog (thanks to Bonsai Mary). It’s a history of a particular collected Shimpaku juniper and collecting Shimpaku juniper in general. This article was written by Kazuki Yamanaka and published in Japanese in the June 2003 issue of Kindai Bonsai Magazine.*

Here’s Morten’s introduction to the article: “It is astonishing to realize that the Shimpaku juniper so beloved for bonsai culture was first found only a little more than a century ago in Japan. But in that short time, due to over-collecting, Shimpaku growing in the wild have vanished!

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shim3

 

Here’s more from Morten Albek: “When and where were Shimpaku discovered? Who collected them from the mountain cliffs and how did they do it? What happened over those 100 years to these collected masterpieces? Do any Japanese bonsai nurseries still have collected Shimpaku for sale today?”

There’s much more to this fascinating (if somewhat disturbing) article, including the sad end to The Smoke of the Volcano, as well as the end of wild Shimpaku in Japan. I encourage you to visit Morten’s Shohin Bonsai Europe and take the time to read it all.

Shim300

The original 300 pixel photo is considerably less fuzzy. Sadly, this spectacular old tree died during the chaos that followed WW2.

*English Translation © WBFF 2003; Original Japanese Text and Photos © Kindai Shuppan Co. 2003

 

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More Bonsai by Harry & Our Big Book Sale Ends Tonight

harry5

I'm pretty sure I've never seen Privet bonsai quite as spectacular as Harry Harrington's. We've shown a number of Harry's over the years, including this one, but it's certainly worth another look. It's in a handmade pot that was designed and built by Swedish potter Thor Holvila.

Just wanted to give those of you who have pre-ordered Harry Harrington’s The Foundations of Bonsai a heads up. We expect it this coming week (but then we also expected it last week… international shipping has its quirks). By the way, we are still excepting pre-orders and now is the time… today is the last day of our 25% off Bonsai Book Sale.

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Here's a spread from Foundations. As you can see (if your eyes are young enough), the tree is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and the serious looking gentleman is Harry.

 

founddationscover

The European edition cover of The Foundations of Bonsai. Our North American edition is almost identical. This book is a great deal at 24.95 and is even better at 18.71 with your 25% off Book Sale, which happens to end tonight at 11:59pm EST.

Harry wrote to us that The Foundations of Bonsai is for beginning and intermediate bonsai enthusiasts. However, many of us who have been kicking around bonsai for a while know from experience that almost all of us are beginning to intermediate students (including your truly). Only a very small number of diligently persevering bonsai lovers ever advance beyond the intermediate stages.

Speaking of Bonsai books; many beginning to intermediate bonsai books cover only the beginning stages. Harry’s Foundations goes into considerable depth on bonsai topics you won’t find in other books.

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A Bonsai Pot that Set the Armies Marching

tree4

This powerful little Trident maple with its massive trunk and distinctive mottled soft blue pot deserves top billing. The photo is from a section on Takao Koyo in the Japanese Bonsai Pots Blog.

This all started with a couple pots by Takao Koyo on Morten Albek’s Shohin Bonsai Blog. A quick search lead to a Takao Koyo jackpot at Ryan Bell’s Japanese Bonsai Pots blog, and from there a link to Takao Koyo’s blog, where you can enjoy an abundance of great pots and trees.

This post originally appeared two years ago (Jan, 2015). I’ve done some editing but the photos are just as they were.

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tree2

Another Trident. The tree isn't quite up to the one above. But the pot speaks loud and clear. Photo from Japanese Bonsai Pots Blog.

 

potmThe pot that set the armies marching. From Morten Albek's Shohin Bonsai blog.

 

potm2Another Takao Koyo pot from Morten's blog.

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pot2

Another devastatingly unique and beautiful glaze (we'll blame it on the coffee). From Ryan's blog.

 

pot

This change of pace gives you some idea of Takao's wide-ranging mastery. From Ryan's blog.

 

pink

When was the last time you saw a pink bonsai pot? This photo is straight from the Master's blog. The substantial little tree is another maple; but this time it's Japanese (Acer palmatum).

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Don’t Starve Your Bonsai!

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This radiantly healthy, well-fed Japanese black pine is from our Masters Series Pine Book.

Spring is coming. For many of you it will arrive over the next few weeks. For those of us in northern Vermont and other such brutal locations, it’s still about 12-14 weeks away. For most of you, it’s somewhere in between. Time to start fertilizing isn’t that far off.

Many people underfeed their bonsai. Sometimes the mistaken notion that starvation is essential to keep trees small, wins out over the common sense understanding that regular nutrition is essential for health. In the case of bonsai (and other container grown plants), regular nutrition is completely up to you.

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 acerThis well fed, healthy Lace leaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum) is from the cover of Bonsai Today issue number 84.

There are three numbers on all fertilizer packages—for example 7-9-5 or 15-30-15. These numbers represent the strength and ratios of the three major nutrients (also called macro nutrients). The three nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium or potash (K). They are critical to any plant’s health.

ORBONSAIThe NPK on this Bonsai Pro liquid is 7-9-5. The ratio is: 7 parts nitrogen, 9 parts phosphorous, and 5 parts potassium.

There is no perfect N-P-K for all bonsai varieties in all situations. However, if you want to be safe, use a fertilizer with a fairly balanced N-P-K. As mentioned above, we like Green Dream organic pellets, which has an N-P-K of 7-5-5. When it comes to liquids, we use Bonsai Pro 7-9-5. These are only two examples; ones that we use and sell. There are numerous other fertilizers that work quite well.

When it comes to slow release pellets versus liquid, there are advantages to both. Many growers prefer slow release to avoid feast and famine, but others like liquid, which isn’t problem if you use one with a fairly mild and balanced NPK and you control the dosage. I like using liquid as an complement to slow release pellets during periods of peak growth.

Be careful with unbalanced fertilizers. You will sometimes see fertilizers with N-P-Ks like 0-10-10, or 30-10-10. Some people use these for specific purposes, but plenty of successful bonsai growers never use unbalanced or high N-P-K fertilizers.

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Bonsai on the Rocks

rocks

It would be nice to know the size of this powerful Penjing. Experience teaches that these type plantings are often much bigger and more impressive than you can tell with just photos.

This masterful work of bonsai art, was posted by our friend and associate Robert Steven. There’s no translation for Robert’s text, so I can’t say much about it, except that it reminds me of the powerful rock mountains that jut out of the water in Viet Nam’s Halong Bay…  and that just seeing these remarkable photos made my day.

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rocks2

A little closer...

rockscu

Closer still. You can get a bit more feel for the texture of the rocks and moss in this close up.

rockscu2

Even closer still...

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Bonsai in an Unusual Setting, a Wavy Drum Pot & Others

pinelantern

It's a little surprising that there are so few good shots of bonsai in creative settings. This one was borrowed from Peter Warren's Surayama, as were all the photos in this post.

Spent most of the day trying to catch up the books. Not that much fun, but even less fun if you let things get too far out of control. Anyway, I didn’t leave enough time to put together a new post, so we’ll plunder our archives. This one is from June 2015. It was titled ‘Surayama – Shimpaku, Spruce & Several Others.

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Noelanders-trees_5This photo is from a series Peter calls Noelanders trees. (Noelanders refers to the Noelanders Trophy Exhibit). He doesn't say what it is, but I'll guess that it's a Norway spruce (Picea abies) root-over-rock. You might notice the very cool wavy drum pot.

Peter Warren is an accomplish bonsai artist and teacher who is well-known in England and Europe, but not as well known in this hemisphere. Though thanks to his visit to the 2016 U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and modern digital miracles, I suspect this is rapidly changing.

Noelanders-trees_3

This Shimpaku juniper  with its fluid deadwood and heavy crown is another from Peter's Noelanders trees. I'm guessing that the companion is a root-over-rock Trident maple.

 

Noelanders-trees_6

This powerful tree with brilliant berries must be a Japanese winterberry (Ilex seratta). It's hard to tell what's going on with the companion. Like the previous two, this one is labeled Noelanders tree.

 

Noelanders-trees_6crop

A closer look.

 

rosemary

Here's that Rosemary we were talking about. I'm not sure I've ever seen a pot quite like this one. I wonder where it came from.

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Taking Out the Makita & Dremels & Adding Some Interest

HH1

Close up of another Harry Harrington Privet bonsai. Here's Harry's caption: "Another job for the new year has been carving and staining an old Privet bonsai of mine. Part of the original live vein had died back over the years, leaving behind a blank wall of deadwood behind, so last week I took out the Makita and Dremels and added some interest! Bonsai pot by none other than Mr Victor Harris of Erin Pottery."

We’ve been featuring Harry Harrington’s bonsai a lot lately. The North American addition of his book The Foundations of Bonsai is due in our warehouse any day now, so our motivation is high. But lest you get the the wrong impression, I just counted 24 Bark posts featuring Harry’s bonsai, going all the way back to March 2009. Most of them long before our North American edition of Foundations was even a dream…

founddationscover4It's a good time to pre-order The Foundations of Bonsai with our 25% off Book Sale (see below).

 

HHB&A

Before and after. A dramatic example of an impressive result from a humble start. Here's Harry's caption: "My Ligustrum ovalifolium/Privet Bonsai, 2009 to 2017. Originally collected in west London by Francis Consunji-Chan, the tree has come along way in the past 8 years! Height 14"/34cm, 5"/12.5cm trunk diameter. Bonsai pot by Victor Harris of Erin Pottery."

 

HHPRI

All the photos in this post are from facebook.

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HHBACKYARDA piece of the Bonsai artist/author's back yard.

 

HHWITHTREE

The artist/author with an unidentified bonsai.

 

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Francesco Santini, Seven Years Later

TBACATTA

I found this gnarly old European yew (Taxus Baccata) on Francesco Santini's website. We've been featuring yews a lot these days. They make excellent bonsai and there are countless old specimens in temperate zone gardens (and in the wild) in Europe, North American and elsewhere (not all are T baccata however, as there are several other species scattered around the world).

It’s been a long time. Way back in February of 2010 we featured a couple trees that belong to Francesco Santini. Now, seven years on, he’s still at it and so are we. This time however, we’ll double down and show you four of Francesco’s outstanding bonsai.

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scots

I strongly suspect that this rugged old Scot's pine (Pinus sylvestris) was collected in the wild. This view is reinforced by the fact that Scot's pines are native Europeans, as is Francesco Santini (Italy).

 

sabina

This tall twisted beauty is a Sabina juniper. Sabina are also European natives, so you might assume that it too was originally collected in the wild. And though domestically grown twisted trees are becoming more common, I'd still bet it's a yamadori (collected bonsai).

lonicera2Another twisted sister.* The only name given is Lonicera (Honey suckle), so we don’t know the species. I’d bet this one is also a yamadori.

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*I’m not really a metal fan. However, I have an older sister who tortured me mercilessly (mostly psychologically), so the name rings true (she grew up to be good person by the way… now she only tortures me occasionally).

The Finishing Touches that Make a Tree Stand Out

taxus?

Is this a Yew (Taxus)? Thanks to Walter Pall we now know that this is a plastic sculpture (a very good one at that). "This tree was exhibited at Noelanders Tropyh 2012 ouside the bonsai exhibit. It is a PLASTIC tree wanting to show the ideal bonsai. There is a tree looking similar which is owned by Enrico Savini in Italy as far as I remember. it is still in the making. Enrico's tree is alive and for real." I don't know much about this tree; its variety, its owner, where it resides.... What I do know is, some highly skilled bonsai artist did an excellent job. Including all the finishing touches* that make a tree really stand out. And that it look suspiciously like a yew.

Still on vacation, so we’ll show you just this one tree (one amazing tree) and remind you about our book sale (and that our two bonsai wire sales are about to end).

BTW: I found the tree above here and there’s more about those aforementioned finishing touches below*

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* The perfectly chosen pot cleaned to look like new, the stand that simply supports the tree instead of calling attention to itself, the way the deadwood is clean and freshly lime sulfured, the way the living veins are cleaned and brushed to stand out against the deadwood, the manicured moss. And then there’s the professional quality photo…