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.

Continued below….

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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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The 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition – Great Trees, Good People & the Real Winner Behind It All

mtnhemlock

First prize, the Finest Bonsai at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. It's a Mountain Hemlock,(Tsuga mertensiana) that belongs to Eric Schikowski. Photo courtesy of Bill Valavanis.

Before we present the rest of the prize winning bonsai, I’d like to say something about first impressions and most importantly, the real winner of the Show, Bill Valavanis.

Just home from the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition and sorting through memories and notes while flashing mental images of great trees, good people and a still palpable sense of excitement.

It will take a while to sort things out, so more to come… but meanwhile, we’ll start with Bill Valavanis. The man behind the Exhibition and so much more in our bonsai world.

Continued below…

informal-pine-1

Bill Valvanis' famous Scots Pine. This photo was taken in 2013. Now, three years later, it's even more impressive.

Walking into the Exbition, the first tree you see is Bill’s now famous Dwarf (but very large) Scot’s pine. Though I’d seen several photographs over the years, I was floored by just how big, powerful and magnificent it is up close. The photos here, like all photos of great bonsai, don’t do justice (we work with what we have).

Wandering through the display area, I almost immediately ran into Bill himself. Dispensing with the usual haven’t-seen-you-for-a-long-time pleasantries, he grabbed me for a quick tour. He wanted to show me three trees that had been shown at Japan’s famous Kokufu Exhibition (it’s a great honor to be excepted into Kokufu) and a couple others he was excited about.

Meanwhile a rapidly expanding crowd started following Bill and asking questions, so all too soon my personal tour came to an end. Still, I was honored by Bill’s attention. Stopping and sharing his enthusiasm was a nice touch. Off to a good start…

Continued below…

valavanis-2

The hero of the day, Bill Valavanis with his famous Scot's pine (the photo was taken several years ago).

Just in case you don’t know Bill Valavanis, he is perhaps the most important living human when it comes to cultivating and promoting the art of bonsai in North America. Bill’s energy and enthusiasm for all things bonsai is unrivaled and his list of his accomplishments and contributions is encyclopedic. Now we have five (and counting) U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions, each better than the last, to add to everything else Bill has done to promote bonsai in North America and beyond.

If I had to chose one word to describe Bill, I would say brilliant and tireless (okay two words….). See you in Rochester in 2018!

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Off to Rochester & Good News from Stone Lantern

crab

This Nagasaki Crabapple is from the cover of the 1st U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition album (out of print, but we still have 3 & 4). It belongs to Harvey Carapella of Rochester NY.

The 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, a colossal event in our world is this weekend. In a few hours I’ll throw my bags in my car and head west to Rochester. I hope to see you there.

If you’re the impulsive type (or just a passionate bonsai lover) and you’re within a days drive or so, it’s not too late to come. You don’t need to preregister. Just bring your enthusiasm and a $20.00 bill.

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jin11

Going down? This Native American is one of my favorites (here's a later iteration). The photo is from the 2nd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition album (also out of print, but in case you missed it above, we still have 3 & 4). It's a Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis) that belong to Greg Brenden.

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Four Big Sales End Tonight – Tomorrow It’s off to the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

bucida

This tropical Dwarf black olive (Bucida spinosa) with its melted wax feel and gaping trunk is a truly unique tree that only Mother Nature (and Mary Madison's skilled hands) could create. It's from the 2008, 1st U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition album (out of print, but we still have 3 & 4).

The 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, a colossal event in our world is this weekend. Later today I’ll pack my bags and tomorrow I’ll point my car west to Rochester. I hope to see you there.

Continued below…

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suthinThis spectacular shohin (8"tall) Japanese maple is yet another Suthin Sukolosvisit marvel. It's also from the 2008, 1st U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition album (out of print, but we still have 3 & 4).
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The Delights of the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition – Any short term inconvenience will be forgotten when you walk through the door and are swept away by the brilliance & power of the event

SONY DSC

I borrowed this brilliant tricolor Toyo nishiki flowering quince from Bill Valavanis, the driving force behind the success of the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions.

You have three days to change your plans and throw your life into momentary chaos so you can enjoy the delights of  the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition. The disruption to you routine may cause a little short term inconvenience (and perhaps the disapproval and even derision of your significant other) but all that will be forgotten when you walk through the door and are swept away by the brilliance and power of the event. Really! It happened to me two years ago and I am confident that it will happen to you too.

And if you think you’re too inconvenienced or that your efforts are particularly special, how about Ryan Neil driving a covered wagon full of a ‘plethora’ of bonsai all the way from Oregon to Rochester?

ryanWhite line fever. Photo courtesy of Ryan Neil. Here’s Ryan’s caption… “Covered Wagon | Day One. Loading the plethora of trees and goods on the truck was a challenge, but we did it. (Sixty pounds under the 26k-lb. weight limit!) Drove a thousand miles. Stunned by the vast skies and landscapes of the American West. Sunrise in Idaho, sunset in Wyoming.

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Handle with Care & Only When Sober

nacho3

I'm not sure how Nacho Marin did this. Carefully I suppose. His caption reads: "Ceiba Stick, drunk, choricia.... 65 cm (25.5")" BTW, drunk refers to drunken stick (palo borracho*) a common name for Ceiba, and not, you can assume, to Nacho's condition while working on the tree.

I don’t know anything about Ceiba speciosa (aka Chorisia or Silk floss tree) beyond what I just read on Wikipedia. And though you might wonder why anyone would bother to bonsai such a difficult tree, there’s always the challenge that some humans seem to thrive on and perhaps there’s an interest in novelty too.

Or, in this case, perhaps it has something to do with Nacho Marin, a skilled artist designing and executing another great bonsai. Thorns be damned!

Continued below…

closeup

Cropped for a closer view of the base of the trunk and the nasty thorns of course. There's also the design on the pot.

To make the degree of difficulty even worse than you might think, it looks like there are two types of thorns. Those nasty little triangular spikes that pretty much cover every millimeter of the trunk and branches, and the long narrow needles at the tip of all the twigs. Talk about a plant that doesn’t want to be bothered.

In case you missed it, day before yesterday was also Nacho day, so I thought we’d just keep going. Like that one, this one is from facebook (Nacho used to have a website, but I can’t seem to find it).

Continued below…

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cu600

 A little fuzzy (blown up a little too much) but still an okay look at the two types of thorns.

*On a personal note, and of no significance whatsoever, borracho was the first Spanish word I learned… long before my first high school Spanish class

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The Best Bonsai Tell Stories

nacho

The smaller trunk was blown over in storm and saved when it landed on a tiny rock island. Fortunately, just enough of the roots are intact and a surviving branch has grown up to become the new crown. One of several stories told by this remarkable planting. The artist is Nacho Marin, a frequent presence here on Bark.

The best bonsai tell stories. Usually it’s about hostile environments and hardships, though you could have a robust and stately tree that speaks of a more gentle climate and easy living.

In the case of the tree above, you can see tough times in the small trunk that was blown over and in the battered deadwood on both trunks. Island life with limited soil and nasty storms.

However, the abundant healthy foliage speaks of ample water (of course), and many storm-free sunny days, with the the soil possessing enough nutrients for this tough old legume.

 

closeup

Close up of the tough (and lucky) little survivor...

Continued below…

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nachocu2

The main trunk. Scoured by strong winds and airborne water...

This remarkable planting belongs to the abundantly talented Nacho Marin, a frequent presence here on Bark. I found it on facebook. The close-ups were cropped by yours truly.

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See You at the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition

korean-hornbeam

I borrowed this dramatic Korean hornbeam from Bill Valavanis, the driving force behind the success of the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions.

If you’re not planning on visiting the 5th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, you have one week to change your mind and rearrange you life so you can be there. I can say with complete confidence that the 5th will be the best yet (they get better each time) and that the 4th was a breakthrough U.S. bonsai extravaganza. See you there!

koto-hime

Bill's famous Koto-hime Japanese maple.

SONY DSC

This brilliant tricolor Toyo nishiki flowering quince also belongs to Bill.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who are going to the Exhibition
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