Saburo Kato, Bonsai Master for the Ages

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This very large forest was on display at last month's World Bonsai Convention in Japan. It was originally created by Saburo Kato, who was one of the original old masters of Japanese bonsai. One of the things Mr Kato was known for Ezo spruce forests, so we'll assume that this planting is an Ezo as well. The photo was borrowed from Mark Fields, one of our lucky friends who made the trip to Japan.

It has been a while since we featured the bonsai of Saburo Kato, one of the most accomplished and most revered of the old Japanese bonsai masters

I only saw Saburo Kato once. It was in 2005 at the WBC (World Bonsai Convention) in Washington DC. I was busy selling books and magazines when he walked by. He was very old and thin, with an air of dignity. I was so taken by surprise that I blurted out “Kato san!”  He stopped for a moment, smiled and moved on. That was it, nothing more. Yet I can still see that moment and my embarrassment at just blurting out his name… incorrectly no less (san is the basic term of respect you might accord almost anyone). What would have been appropriate is Kato sama (an honorific used to address someone of much higher rank than oneself) or Kato sensei (teacher). Next time the greatest bonsai master of his generation (who happens to be almost twice my age) walks by, I’ll get it right.

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Same forest, different perspective. Both this photo and the one above include people, which helps when it comes to realizing just how immense this planting is. The photo was sent to us by Felix Laughlin, who is, in addition to being another lucky friend, the President of the U.S. National Bonsai Foundation.

 

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Close up. Realistically sized ground cover is an important piece in most great forest bonsai. This photo was also taken by Felix Laughlin.

 

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The Remotest Hill, Mr Kato's most famous Ezo spruce forest from the cover of his internationally renowned book, Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai. Here's Mr Kato's caption: "Ezo spruce (Picea glehnii). Sixty years ago I often traveled with my father to Ezo spruce in the large virgin forests on Kunashir Island off the cooast of Hokkaido. I selected the finest material to create this bonsai entitled The Remotest Hill."

 

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This exquisite mixed forest is also from Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai

 

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This photo of another Ezo spruce forest is from an untranslated Japanese book on Mr. Kato’s bonsai that his son Hatsuji sent us in appreciation for a gift we sent Mr. Kato’s family when he passed away in 2008

 

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Bonsai Ethics & Livelihood

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I think this magnificent tree is a Japanese beech. It's from Bonsaimania. All it says is: La foto de este bonsái pertenece al álbum de Jordi Escaler (The photo belongs to Jordi Escaler's album). As far as I know, neither Bonsaimania or Jordi Escaler are Japanese, yet anyone who knows about Japanese bonsai will readily recognize this as almost certainly Japanese.(whoops - according to Aleksander Dechnik Vázquez this tree is a Carpinus Turczaninovii (Korean hornbeam), that won the award of merit at Noelanders Trophy XIII, and is owned by Germán Gómez Soler - now my only defense is a guess that the tree originally came from Japan). When I tried to follow the link provided, 'content unavailable' came up. When I searched Jordi Escaler bonsai, I struck out.

Yesterday we posted about attribution (or lack of it) and promised we’d continue the discussion today. So here it is… some new thoughts on the topic and some old thoughts as well (from a 2010 post titled, The Attribution Question).

Social media is full of unattributed photos of bonsai. Often, what appears to be attribution is just a mention of where the photo was found. But as often as not, this source is not the artist or the photographer, but simply someone else who found the photo somewhere, liked it and put it up.

Continued below…

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I don’t know too much about the limits of copyright laws and how they pertain to posting photos online (I do know that you can challenge a post that violates copyright on facebook)… however, would you like to see one of your trees posted by John Doe with a discussion of how great John’s bonsai is?

Seeing your bonsai attributed to someone else can’t make you happy, but beyond that, wouldn’t it be helpful to simply know who the artist is? To me this seems like a basic piece of information that might prove useful… you could look up the artist and see what else they’re up too. Or you might want to discuss the tree with the artist, or even see about purchasing one of their trees.

This brings us to the question of livelihood. There are an increasing number of people who make their living off selling their bonsai as well as teaching, doing demos and writing about bonsai. Obviously, the more attribution the better for these artists, teachers and authors. After all, making a living at art isn’t that easy. And having potential customers think that your art belongs to someone else, or simply not knowing that a tree belongs to you, can’t help.

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I cropped and blew up the photo above because I wanted a closer look at the details. But the fuzzy result is questionable and may violate the integrity the of the photographer's work. Is this another ethical issue?

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Don’t Be that Person!

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This lovely tree will have to remain a mystery. The person who posted it doesn't say anything about it, including where he or she found it, so we'll return the favor.

If you’ve been reading Bonsai Bark for a while, you may be aware of my occasional rants (gentle rants I hope) about failure to attribute bonsai to the artists and provide other pertinent information about the trees. And yes, as you suspect, we’re talking about social media.

I think this is mostly just laziness. Somewhere in the course of a photo’s journey from one person’s timeline to the next, someone knew who the artist or owner was and failed to mention their name (this goes for other information about any given tree). Don’t be that person!

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There’s plenty to say about why attribution and other pertinent info on any given tree is important, but we’ll save that for tomorrow. Meanwhile, with the next tree, it’s kinda personal…

Just received this note from Tony BonsaiFirst tree is called Baeckea Frutescens. Native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Most of the stylists for these trees can’t speak read or write English which would explain a lot why trying to acquire info about these are near to impossible.” Thanks Tony… this explains part of the problem and also begs some questions (more later).

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I found this photo the same place as the other two shown here. I happen to know it's copyrighted (originally by Kindai Bonsai) and later by Stone Lantern's Bonsai Today magazine and still later by Stone Lantern when it was shown in our Pine book. So, technically posting it without permission is violation of copyright laws. But that being what it is, what troubles me is the lack of common courtesy by whoever first failed to list the source. I could complain about the lack of effort to find out by all the subsequent posters, but you might notice that I haven't done that with two of the photos shown here, so I'll hold my tongue.

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One more unattributed bonsai that you might like...

No Matter Where You Go, Sooner or Later You’ll Find Walter

Sabina1This tall, wild looking Sabina juniper was styled by Walter Pall. The photo is from The Art of Bonsai Project. The pot is by Bryan Albright.

Got a load of topsoil coming this morning, so we need to make this quick, and what could be quicker than borrowing from our archives? This one is from October 2013.

“No matter where you go, there you are” (Buckaroo Banzai) could be paraphrased, “no matter where you go on the web, sooner or later you’ll find Walter Pall ” (the Buckaroo of European Bonsai?). Walter is both prolific and very good at what he does. In this case, what he does is style some Sabina junipers, a bonsai species that may be common in Europe, but is little-known here in North America.

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This Sabina is from a post on Walter's Bonsai Adventures. The tree was collected in Austria in 1997.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Sabina junipers: “Juniperus sabina (Savin Juniper or Savin) is a species of juniper native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and western and central Asia, from Spain east to eastern Siberia, typically growing at altitudes of 1,000-3,300 m.” This might help explain the ‘little known here in North America” piece.

 

This is a stock photo of a cascading Sabina with a somewhat ‘in training’ look. The caption says, “Sabina juniper, Juniperus sabina, 50 cm high, 80 cm long, 100 years old, collected in Austria, styled by Walter Pall.

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Famous Bonsai Artists, their Demo Trees & the Omnipresent Green T Professional Hydraulic Lift Bonsai Turntables

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Bonsai Master Masahiko Kimura's rock planting perched on a Green T Professional Hydraulic Lift Turntable at last month's World Bonsai Convention

Time to pay another visit to last month’s World Bonsai Convention. This time it’s about the demonstrators, their demo trees and the heavy lifting, omnipresent Green T Professional Hydraulic Lift Turntables – the quiet stars of the show.
Continued below…

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That's famous bonsai master, Kunio Kobayashi on the right, getting ready to tackle his monster demo tree. And yes, that's a Green T gamely holding the behemoth up. The after shot is below

All the photos shown here are from Green T professional bonsai turntable on facebook. And just in case you suspect that this entire post may be an infomercial, well… Stone Lantern is your North American source for Green Ts… and as informercials go, you gotta admit you’re still getting our usual bonsai rich content (and it’s free!)

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Isao Omachi, his just finished demo tree and a Green T Turntable

 

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Another famous bonsai master, Shinji Suzuki, his demo tree and yes, another Green T Turntable

 

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Both the Basic and the Plus, Green T Professional Hydraulic Lift Turntables are 10% off at Stone Lantern

 

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Akiyama Minoru, his demo tree and of course, another Green T

 

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Thumbs up for Bjorn, his demo tree and its supporting Green T

 

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The Magician with his rock planting and another omnipresent Green T

 

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After. Kunio Kobayashi's monster pine from above. Still perched on its Green T

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A Juniper, Two Pines & an Unusual Flowering Tree

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This stately (and sturdy) Shimpaku belongs to Suthin Sukosolvisit. Looks like the lime sulfur is fairly fresh and the bark was recently brushed, so I'm going to guess Suthin was preparing for a show when this picture was taken. He still has to dress up the soil surface and oil the pot, though I'd bet these were next on his list.

It’s our old friend Suthin today. I’d feel remiss if we didn’t feature his trees every few weeks. There’s no particular theme to this collection (a juniper, two pines and an uncommon flowering tree). Except maybe that they are all somewhat unusual trees (each in its own way) and they all belong to Suthin.

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I think we might have shown this pine before, but it's worth another shot

 

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I don't think we've ever shown this one. It's bit eccentric with the large gnarled trunk-base. Is its unusual growth a result of damage by insects or fungi (or both)?

 

SUTYELHow many bonsai with yellow flowers have you seen? This one is a Siberian pea-tree (Caragana arborescens), a type tree we've never shown and that you don't see everyday. 
 

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Not Exactly Bonsai, but Close Enough

magI know this is a bonsai blog and this isn't a bonsai, but it's close enough. You might call it something like a giant Penjing style landscape. Or maybe just an exceptional landscape planting (probably Chinese) and leave it at that. I found on at a place call Bonsai Mag. They don't provide much information about who they are, or about this photo. Just heard from Dennis (one of our subscribers), that it belongs to Lâm Ng?c Vinh

Yesterday and day before we featured Harmut Muenchebach’s brilliant Bavarian backyard bonsai garden. Today we’ll continue the landscape theme with the garden above that we found on a place called Bonsai Mag (facebook of course).

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We've divided the shot above into two parts for a closer view. A little fuzz resulted, but I think it's worth it. It's hard to tell if that sumptuous flowing red Japanese maple is one or more trees (I suspect more than one).

 

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The Front Yard of the Same Brilliant Bonsai Garden

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Today it's Harmut Muenchebach's spectacular front yard. Yesterday it was the back

We were going to move on from yesterday’s post until I stumbled upon the photos shown here. Now the picture of Hartmut Muenchenbach’s magical Bavarian bonsai garden is a little closer to complete. Though the photos here are by Walter Pall and Jennifer Price (just like yesterday’s), we found them at a place called Bonsai Mag

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The happy bonsai/landscape artist in his rather amazing front yard

 

har2When I first saw the photos above and the ones from yesterday, it was the landscaping that caught me. It was clear that Harmut's bonsai collection was impressive, but to my eye his bonsai graced his landscapes. Now, after seeing more photos and taking a closer look, it's obvious that Harmut is in possession of an amazingly large and magnificent bonsai collection and though it's true that his bonsai grace his landscapes, it's equally true that his landscapes serve to present his bonsai...

 

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... and ultimately, the two are one... a masterful work of horticultural art

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Brilliant Bavarian Backyard Bonsai Garden

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Harmut Muenchebach's brilliant Bavarian backyard bonsai garden. It wouldn't be hard to indulge in a little envy here, but better to just enjoy.

Just stumbled upon these brilliant photos of Hartmut Muenchenbach’s magical Bavarian backyard bonsai garden. They’re from a post on Walter Pall’s timeline titled Jennifer Price at Hartmut Muenchenbach’s. The only other text says This is in Bavaria, Germany.

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Impressive tree in an impressive garden

 

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A closer look at the tree's details

 

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A strong tree and a great rock make for an impressive cliff planting. BTW, that's a lot of tree growing off that rock and a lot of weight to that side (notice how the soil runs all the way down the cascading trunk). The pot must be fastened to the platform

 

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Walter (left), Jennifer and Harmut

 

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A little closer for facial recognition

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A Unique Bonsai Art – Wire Sale Ends Tonight

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This is what you can do if you have the right stock, a great slab and a good eye. The planting belongs to Heinz Leitner (If you'd like to know more about the trees, visit our original post from last year). The slab is by Erik Križovenský. Once you've seen Erik's distinctive looking slabs and other bonsai containers (for lack of a better word) you'll be able to spot them anywhere.

This post* started out with some photos of a unique bonsai forest on an equally unique cement slab (it’s a special frost-resistant cement) and ended with a photo of an even more unique arch (also cement) that serves as a slab of sort. In between is a dramatic cement bonsai pot of sorts. All three, slab, pot and arch are the handiwork of Erik Križovenský, a highly skilled craftsman with a artist’s imagination… I guess that makes him a cement artist

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Summer. Too bad about the slab being cut off, but you get the idea.

 

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Early fall

 

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An upright container by Erik Križovensk.

 

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Tony Tickle's bonsai on books with a radically concave slab and almost no soil. As you can now tell, the slab or whatever you want to call it, is by Erik. The photo is from a 2015 Bark post (originally from Tony Tickle's Bonsai & Yamadori blog).

*this post originally appeared here in March, 2016, though much of the text is new

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