A Propensity for Understatement

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This powerful kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) won the Culture Minister’s Prize at the 20th Green Festa Kokubunji bonsai fair. It is 19″ (48cm) high and about 55 years old. It is owned by Toyoyuki Hamabata from Takamatsu’s Mure town in Shikoku. It appears at Bonsai World, an English language website from Shikoku Japan.

It’s the long Thanksgiving holiday here in the States so we’ll take the easy way out today and dig into our archives. The tree above is from a 2009 post titled Japanese Bonsai, Small is Powerful. The one below is from a January 2014 post titled Old Kuromatsu for a New Year.
Here’s what Bonsai World has to say about the tree at the top of the page: This kuromatsu (Japanese black pine) tree is relatively young. Its ”nebari” root spread is good and it stands up dynamically. Its trunk form clears the conditions for a good bonsai tree — the tree has a thick root and tapers off toward the top. The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 branches come out superbly. It is a promising kuromatsu tree.
It is well-potted, and attention has been paid even to minute details. The more the cultivator gives it care, the better it will be. As it is well qualified to be a bonsai tree, it should grow into a wonderful ”moyogi” tree with pronounced bends and curves.

Japanese sometimes have a propensity for understatement, so we’ll take that into consideration. But fifty five years is relatively young? It’s a promising tree? Makes you wonder why they gave it best in show or even honorable mention.

 

shikokuHere’s another black pine from our archives. The branches are still developing but the trunk is undeniably powerful and so heavy that you could imagine it supporting a huge mass of foliage. There’s a lot more that could be said about this great old tree, but I’ll stop at pointing out the luminous color and texture of the trunk (not that you could miss it). The tree is around 50-years-old and was grown from seed. It belongs to Kiyoshi Hiramatsu (great name for someone who grows pines) owner of the Hiramatsu Seijuen bonsai garden in Takamatsu’s Kokubunji area in Japan.

 

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On topic. The book for anyone who’s into pine bonsai.

Showing Off Its Inner Charm

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This slender delight is showing off its inner charm. It’s late winter and the new buds are swelling. Without the leaves you can better see the subtle beauty of the bark and the delicate fine branching. The nebari is quite strong (but still in keeping with the delicacy of the tree). Much of its size and strength comes from having two trunks. This provides a good tip for creating nebari: leave smaller second and third trunks, at least for a while, if a strong nebari and lower trunk is your objective. Photo is from Bonsai Today issue 6.

Going back to our archives today. This one is from way back (November 2010).

George Buehler on Stewartias
There’s an excellent Stewartia article by George Buehler on the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society site. Rather than me paraphrasing (plagiarizing?), I think it’s better to just let George do the talking.
Here’s a small piece of what George has to say: “During summer, it is not very showy tree and, in fact, has dark green leaves that are slightly large for bonsai use. There does not seem to be any leaf size reduction benefit with defoliation, even with repeated attempts. Flowers are very unobtrusive, often going unnoticed in the dense foliage. Flowering is irregular, sometimes skipping several years in a row. However, when it does flower during June, it normally is followed by small very hard seed pods. Each pod contains three to five seeds that I have yet to get to germinate. Fall leaf color is an orange to dull red that rapidly dries up, but usually hangs on the tree until it is exposed to a freezing temperature for several nights in a row….”
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This one isn’t quite as developed, but is still an excellent bonsai.From Bonsai Today issue 3.

 

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If you ever want to build your own bonsai benches, look no further than this benchmark (so to speak) book. As long as we’re quoting George Buehler, we might as well mention his Guide to Creating Stands and Benches. It’s one-of-a-kind, very well thought out and organized, with simple plans and useful tips. There is no other book on the topic and even if there were, this one would still be the best.  Available (of course) at Stone Lantern.

 

Artisans Cup – Two Years Late & Right on Time

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Good news! The Cup is coming. Those of us who kept the faith when the Artisans Cup was postponed are officially vindicated. You may remember that the Artisans Cup was originally scheduled for October 2013. Until events conspired to cause it to be postponed until 2015. Now that 2015 is preparing its arrival, the excitement that we all experienced two years ago is coming back. Time to start making plans.

Michael Hagedorn, an indispensable half of the Artisans Cup original brain trust and major American bonsai artist, teacher and author, just posted this on Crateagus Bonsai.“One of the major events in North American bonsai is only 10 months away! The long awaited Artisans Cup bonsai exhibition will be held at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, USA on September 26-28, 2015. Our five international judges will be David DeGroot, Colin Lewis, Boon Manakitivipart, Walter Pall, and Peter Warren, choosing awards for trees selected by Ryan Neil and I. And quite shortly, in a few days, a new Artisans Cup website will be up to give you details.” There’s more here.

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The Portland Art Museum. The venue for the 2015 Artisans Cup.

 

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As long as we’re talking about 2015 we might as well remind you that without a beautiful Japanese bonsai calendar or Japanese garden calendar (or both) you’re bound to be date challenged next year.

And while we’re at it… our Big Site Wide 20% to 30% off Absolutely Everything Sale ends tonight at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time. Don’t wait.

Out of the Bonsai Mainstream

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This stately distinctive Hinoki is from Michael Pollock’s blog Bonsai Shinshei as are the other two bonsai shown here. Here’s Michael’s caption: “One of my lone Hinoli cypress after a quick fall cleanup. Falling deeper in love with this pot that Ron Lang and I collaborated on.”

I was going to feature the tree above in our last post until I got interested in the pot and one thing led to another. So, we’ll pick up where we left off.

There was a time not too long ago when most of the bonsai you saw conformed to Japanese standards. True, there has long been a wealth of bonsai in other east Asian countries, but it was mostly Japanese bonsai that first found its way West (this is especially true in North America).

Now, since bonsai has caught fire around the world, there’s a creative revolution taking place. Bonsai artists and enthusiasts are feeding off of each other and experimentation has become the norm. The results are often trees that amaze and inspire. And, as in the case of the Hinoki above (and its pot), trees that are so distinctive that they stick in your mind long after you see them.

I started this yesterday and now 24 hours later it looks like it’s evolving into a post on Michael Pollack’s bonsai. The two below are both from his Bonsai Shinshei blog. They don’t stray that far from our ‘out of the mainstream‘ theme, so I think it’s okay.

 

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I’m not sure this tree is as distinctive as the Hinoki above, but it’s a very good bonsai and distinctive enough. And it’s our local Northern white cedar no less. A variety that is just becoming acquainted with bonsai (or is it the other way around?). Like the other two trees shown here, it belongs to Michael Pollock who had just wired it when he posted it, so it has a bit of that waiting-for-the-foliage-to-fill-in look. He also mentioned that it needed a new pot. Still, freshly wired and in need of a new pot or not, I don’t know many people who wouldn’t want this bonsai in their collection.

 

Procumbens+multi-trunk+cascade

Unfinished, but still a sweet bonsai and though I’ve seen other bonsai more or less along the same lines, it’s distinctive enough. It’s a Juniper procumbens (looks like a ‘nana’) from nursery stock. I’ll take it that I don’t need to mention the pot (by Dale Cochoy).

All the bonsai in this post are from Michael Pollock’s Bonsai Shinshei blog.

Experimental Forms & Other Ingenious Bonsai Ceramics

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This highly textural pot is but one of a whole range of ingenious and original bonsai pots and sculptures at Lang Bonsai Containers (no one pays for content on Bonsai Bark – it’s just an accident due to time pressure or maybe lack of imagination, that this post read like an ad). 

Today and tomorrow have been set aside to move bonsai into winter storage and to finish wrapping some deliciously edible landscape plants with deer netting. So we’ll try to keep this short and to the point.

I was a little miffed to discover that we have never featured Ron Lang’s and Sharon Edwards Russell’s bonsai containers. Time to remedy this oversight.

The pots shown here give you some idea of the highly innovative and altogether remarkable range of shapes, styles, glazes and other ceramic variables you’ll find when you visit Lang Bonsai Containers. It’s a click well worth making.

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This innovative bonsai sculpture is from a page titled Experimental forms.

A Remarkable Bonsai, Two Questions & the Boreal Forest

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The inspiration for this post arouse when I stumbled upon this remarkable tree on facebook. It belongs to Colin Lewis. Here’s his caption: “Colorado blue spruce, acquired 2008 from Harold Sasaki. Styled 2011-2012. Pot custom made by my old friend Dan Barton, 2013. I’m letting it grow this year to refresh some old congested areas. Maybe I’ll show it in 2016…”

Le raison d’être for this post is the tree above. More accurately, the tree and the pot. Both are delightful and together, even more delightful.

However, and in spite of the magic of the bonsai above, two questions arise. Does the turquoise glaze (where the rim of the pot peels open to accommodate the dragon-like jin) enhance the overall effect or distract from it? To clarify, I love the opening in the pot, it’s color I’m curious about.

The second question is; without knowing how it came into existence (only Colin or Harold know), would the trunk be better off without the shari? Would the age and character of the tree be better expressed if we could see more of the old bark? And, is it one too many elements in a tree that already has so much going on? Or does it provide balance for the powerful jin?

I don’t have answers, just questions. But I do believe that Colin is one of those people who is interested in exploring and pushing bonsai boundaries. Maybe that’s the answer.

Below are a couple more of Colin’s trees that you might enjoy.

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Colin’s caption: “Oh what a tangled web we weave…. Crazy Ponderosa pine from Andy Smith 2005.” We’ve shown this one before, but it’s always worth another look (unquestionably). Colin posted it on facebook with the tree above and you can find it on his website as well.

 

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This Tamarack forest is from Colin’s website. I have a big soft spot for Tamarack (Larch: Larix laricina). It’s one of several sub-arctic trees that reaches down into northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (a little further south at higher elevations) and runs northwest through Canada’s great Boreal forest and all the way into Alaska (if you’ve been following the debate on the Keystone XL pipeline, you might have heard something about the Boreal forest).

 

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Colin Lewis’ excellent Ho Yoku Bonsai Care Products are all available at Stone Lantern. Now’s a good time to stock up, everything is 20% to 30% off

 

Finally, An Undisputed Winner

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Contest or no contest, this powerful European olive by Luis Vallejo is an exceptional tree.

Okay. That whole prove us wrong thing from last week was a bust. Absolutely no dissenting views.  Looking on the bright side, I guess that means we got it right.

Best of all, we finally have an undisputed winner for our  Bonsai Detective contest. Congratulations to Dorothy Schmitz. She wasn’t one of the first entries, but she kept plugging away until she got it right (if you happen to be Dorothy, your $100 gift certificate will be emailed to you on Monday).

Thanks to all of you who entered and especially the handful of you who got six out of seven correct.

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A. Gabriel Romero Aguade. Almost everyone got this one.

 

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B. Luis Vallejo. Almost everyone got this one too. Most agreed that it involves an assumption.

 

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C. Antonio Payeras. Almost everyone got this one right.

 

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D. Manuel Medina. This one proved to be the trickiest. Only two of you got it.

 

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E. Stefano Defraia. Another easy one that almost everyone got.

 

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F. Another tricky one. Luis Vallejo, German Gomez and Carlos Huerta were all given as answers. Our winner said Gomez and Huerta and we accepted that answer as correct (trees sometimes change hands).

 

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G. Melba Tucker. Another easy one that people found in several different places.

A Beautiful New Bonsai Book

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Ginkgo. A close up of the cover tree from the new Crespi Bonsai Museum gallery book.

We only occasionally devote a whole post to advertising and then only when we think what we are selling is newsworthy or warrants some special attention.

It has been a long time since we’ve seen such an exceptional new bonsai book. Quality photography, materials and production combine with fifty blue chip bonsai that have been shot over time and from different perspectives in a way that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable bonsai experience.

This excellent new book allows you a taste of the world famous Crespi Bonsai Museum (Milan, Italy) without suffering a trace of jet lag (not that Italy isn’t a trip worth taking if you have the time and means). Speaking of means, this superb hardcover is a remarkably good deal at 45.00 US dollars (especially when you consider our current 20% to 30% sale). Timing is good too (gift hint for those of us who need all the help we can get).

The images shown here are all scans from our ancient scanner and photos from my not so ancient iPhone. Neither do a whit of justice to the real thing.

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Japanese maple with such amazing cork bark. The variety is called Arakawa.

 

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Swirling Shimpaku.

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English hawthorn. What might be considered serious design flaws in other trees are overlooked with flowering tree in full bloom.

 

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Another Japanese maple. Cascade this time. It’s hard to get the full effect with this hastily shoot iPhone photo, but you can use your imagination.

 

B1CRESPIshimAnother Simpaku. Our scanner isn’t big enough to get the largest images.

 

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The cover. My apologies for the fuzz. I couldn’t scan the full cover without losing part of it, so I lifted and enlarged (thus the fuzz) this photo from the publisher’s website.

The Crespi Bonsai Museum’s new Bonsai Gallery book is available at Stone Lantern.

Majesty in Miniature

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Winter or early spring (it looks like there might be some leaves starting to push, but it’s hard to tell). Two things that jumped out when I first saw this photo are, the rather unusual shape of the stand and the shear number of trees in the display. No companions, no figurines, no stones (well, maybe one small one in the middle) and not much internal space either (though there is plenty of space around the whole display). Just nine mini bonsai and one very well chosen larger tree.

The photos shown here were taken by Morten Albek at the 2nd Mini-bonsai Exhibition at the Changzhou Qinxin Garden in China.

In case you don’t know him, Morten is the author of Shohin, Majesty in Miniature. He is also a Shohin bonsai artist, teacher, blogger and shohin spokesperson, as well as a top notch photographer.

Here’s some of what Morten has to say about this trip: “The 2nd Mini-bonsai exhibition September 2014 in Changzhou Qinxin Garden was an experience and a surprise to me. I had not expected something like this when I was invited to China to be part of this event….

Mini-bonsai has a different perspective than normal larger bonsai. Where large bonsai are displayed by themselves to show the beauty, strength and elegance of the tree, Mini-bonsai are focused on showing the beauty of the season too. This is done by displaying two or several trees together in a harmonious display, where flowering trees are important in summer, fruit bearing trees in autumn…” You can read the rest and see all of Morten’s photos on his blog.

 

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 This sweet little tree just standing alone looks like late summer with some fruit still to ripen. At first I thought this might be a Kumquat tree, but now I’m leaning toward dwarf Persimmon. 

 

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Late spring or summer. Another somewhat crowded but quite striking ten tree display. No concern about even numbers here (or is the little figurine in the middle the 11th element?).

 

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Summer? You’ll find this kind of unusual perspective and rich tones in many of Morten’s photos.

 

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Spring or summer? Seven little trees plus one larger tree (plus one companion, three figurines and one stone).

 

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Late summer or fall. It’s the single large fruit that gives it away. It looks like it might be a pomegranate and the tree looks like a Ficus neriifolia. I must be missing something.

 

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Spring? Looks like maybe the leaves are still coming out. Another unusual stand with some unusual elements as well.

 

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Late summer or fall again. Pyracantha’s are native to Asia and Europe, though due to the beauty of their berries and their hardiness, you see them all over North America (except here in northern Vermont, where winters are just a little too cold).

Bonsai Art: Running Out of Superlatives

art5The day has barely started and I’m already running out of superlatives. I guess ‘spectacular’ will do in this case. It’s a Korean hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii) by Ian Stewartson. The photo is from Bonsai Art’s website.

Getting ready for another cross country hop (west to east this time), so to save time we’ll pull something out of our archival hat once again. This one originally appeared March 2013.

Bonsai Art magazine is very well named. As bonsai magazines go, it is as well-done, beautiful and professional as they come (taking nothing away from International Bonsai Magazine and several other good ones). The problem, for most of us at least, is that it’s in German. But really, the photos and overall presentation are so good that maybe the language isn’t as important as you might think. And then there’s always freetranslation.com, though repeated copying and pasting or worse, typing German text and then getting bad machine translations might not be your thing. But anyway, it’s a beautiful magazine and I’m always delighted when mine arrives.

 

art8It has been a while since we’ve featured kusamono (companion plantings, or herbaceous plants in bonsai containers when they stand alone). This Thalictrum (Meadow-rue), also from Bonsai Art’s website, belongs to Wolfgang Putz.

 

art7Okay, the trunk is massive for sure, but there’s much to this tree (think ramification, among other things). It’s another Korean hornbeam (Carpinus turczaninowii). This one belongs to Mario Komsta and the photo like the others shown here is from Bonsai Art’s website. The smaller bonsai looks like a Shimpaku.


art41Learning from the Master (Masahiko Kimura). This is a pretty good example of what a spread in Bonsai Art might look like.

 

art6-500x696Bonsai Art’s cover. The tree, a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), won a special prize at the 2013 Noelander’s Exhibition. It resides at the Bonsai Museum in Dusseldorf. The artist is David Benavente.

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Tool Sale & our Masters Sword shears. This phenomenal tool is now only 92.16 (124.00 special price plus 20% off tool discount plus another 10% off for orders 100.00 or more). It is especially useful if you have a lot of deciduous or tropical bonsai. If you want more info on one of its uses, check out this post by Walter Pall.