Visiting Ancient Florida Bald Cypress

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After a most successful Joy of Bonsai convention, organizer Louise Leister and Mike Rogers, President of the Kawa Bonsai Society, sponsor of the event, took Diane and me to a special visit to see ancient Bald cypress. The location is out in the wilds, where “men are men and sheep are weary.”

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We took three kayaks on the lake which was smooth glass. The weather was a warm 70F with a clear blue sky and no wind, a bit different than the -10F weather we left in Rochester, and will return to tomorrow. The calm water provided for some interesting reflections.

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These ancient Bald cypress trees had tremendous character and really showed their age and effects of nature. I wonder how many hurricanes, storms and floods they saw during their lifespans, which have been estimated to be over 1,000 years old. The oldest trees were not all straight and may actually be Pond cypress which have more movement than the common Bald cypress.

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Its interesting to note that Bald cypress seed does not germinate in water so they must have grown on land, which is now Lake Disston. The original soil line was at the level where the base of the trunk begins to well. Some of bases were so large our kayak actually went nearly all the way through the cavity. I was quite impressed by the wood texture.
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Throughout the trip wild birds seemed to lead us along the shoreline. Although I did not see any, Mike and Louise heard alligators. Good thing they did not mention it to us. All the trees had loads of Spanish moss and most had clumps of Tillandias, a type of Bromeliads. There were many huge bird nests as well. Some of the Bald cypress were full of male pollen flowers blossoming.
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Rather than attempting to rationalizing the design of these natural trees, I suggest you simply enjoy the beauty that God provided us with these old picturesque trees to provide inspirations for bonsai.
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A big thank you to Louise Leister and Mike Rogers who took time from their busy schedule to share the beauty of these magnificent trees with us. And, a special thank you to Diane who did ALL the rowing in our kayak so I could take photos to share. Over 400 photos were taken, but only a few of the most interesting are included in this posting.
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The Joy of Bonsai

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The Kawa Bonsai Society of Florida is sponsoring their annual convention The Joy of Bonsai, on January 16-18, 2014, in Bunnell, Florida, near Daytona Beach. Louise Leister did an outstanding job organizing the event. The speakers, Sean Smith, Ted Matson, Mike Rogers and Wm. N. Valavanis will be conducting demonstrations, workshops and critique. There is a wide selection of trees, containers, tools, supplies, suiseki and magazines for sale by a select group of vendors.

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Come, join us as the speakers share their skill and knowledge!

WINTER SILHOUETTE BONSAI EXPO– Part 2

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At the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo Joseph Noga photographed each tree with his large format digital camera and specialized lighting. He had to rent a trailer to bring all the necessary equipment across the state of North Carolina to capture the beauty of the displayed bonsai. But, that’s just the beginning of producing a perfect photograph. Each photograph must be adjusted for perfection. And, adjusting the photograph depends on the final use, digital or printed. They must have specific profiles which depend on the paper, ink and press where they will be printed. All of this takes time and skill, knowledge and dedication which Joe is well known for.

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Throughout the last fifty years I have met many photographers and have probably seen more photographs of bonsai from around the world than any other person, and I have the library to prove it. There are many good photographers who shoot bonsai photos. They are skilled and can take beautiful photos of the trees. However their job ends with the photograph and the final result is at the mercy of the printing companies.

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In my opinion Joe Noga’s bonsai photographs are the finest I have seen, including Japan, because of their composition, lighting, details and most importantly they are color correct. Joe was a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, known world wide for excellence in printing and photography. He spent 38 years teaching in the school of printing and specialized in electronic color imaging and has traveled around the world consulting with printers about color reproduction.

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The attached bonsai images from Joe Noga have been adjusted for displaying in this blog. The photo file size used for printing often exceeds 300 MB each.

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Joe Noga is also the official photographer for the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions and his work can be seen in the four Commemorative Albums. He spends four days photographing nearly 300 bonsai and then three months to adjust the photos so they will print perfectly for appreciation and study. With perfect depth of field and focus the photographs show all details, even fingerprints on the containers after they are cleaned and polished. He is a master of lighting to create highlights so the trees don’t look flat.

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All the covers and photographs in International BONSAI are adjusted and prepared by Joe Noga so they will print correctly on specific paper using calibrated ink on specific presses.

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Bonsai is also one of Joe’s hobbies and he has studied classical bonsai over 35 years and has made numerous trips to Japan to see their masterpieces. He has displayed bonsai in each of the four U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions as well as the recent Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo.

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The bonsai community is indeed fortunate to have Joe Noga who spends countless hours photographing our bonsai for enjoyment and study. It is said that bonsai look better alive than in photographs. However, with Joe Noga’s photographs the bonsai often look better than when seen with the human eye because his lighting effects penetrate deep into the bark crevices and foliage of the tree.

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Thank you Joe for using your talent and spending time photographing so others can see and appreciate bonsai from across the United States and bonsai world.

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WINTER SILHOUETTE BONSAI EXPO– Part 1

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The second successful Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo was held on December 6-7, 2104, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The event was organized and sponsored by Steven Zeisel, a bonsai hobbyist who wants to promote bonsai. Supporters included the North Carolina Research Center and Convention Bureau. The entire weekend was free to exhibitors, vendors as well as visitors to the two demonstrations and critique. You can’t beat that price, especially for the quality bonsai on display, wide variety of items for sale, educational programs as well as being held in the unique building.

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Several hundred visitors traveled to the North Carolina Research Campus, near Charlotte, North Carolina, from across the east coast and Midwest, (one couple flew in from southern Indiana only to attend the event), to appreciate beautiful bonsai during the dormant season when the trunk, branches, twigs and buds of deciduous bonsai are best viewed. The event was held in the David H. Murdock Center, a four story building with a rotunda that provided a most unusual and elegant atmosphere for this exhibition, which is increasing in popularity. The walls, floor and pillars are all made of Italian marble, the same used by Michelangelo for his “David” sculpture. The lighting was excellent because of the light colored walls and floor featuring a geometric pattern.

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To provide a different element to an already unique exhibition was the return of two young brothers playing classical Xmas songs on a baby grand piano and violin, sometime accompanied by a cellist. The background music was delightful as well as the faint scent of Xmas incense emanating from an antique bronze incense burner displayed next to a Chinese elm forest. Owen Reich from Tennessee presented a program on Pitch Pine Bonsai on Sunday afternoon and I gave a program on Chinese Quince Bonsai on Saturday afternoon as well as a critique on Sunday morning.

People brought some of their finest bonsai from Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and New York. The Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo encourages the formal display of bonsai and is not a local bonsai show where all members are encouraged to display a bonsai. The bonsai and displays were superior to those displayed last year because exhibitors saw the high quality and the formal venue for displaying their finest specimens. They all took pride in their bonsai and displays, which was quite evident in the mossing, table selection, accessories as well as meticulous bonsai preparation. Most displays were not crowded and allowed visitors to fully appreciate the bonsai, as well as the arrangement of bonsai, accessories and sometime hanging scrolls.

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It would be boring to see an exhibit of only bare deciduous bonsai so a few evergreens were included to provide interest. Some of the evergreens showed their winter coloring in keeping with the theme of the exhibition. Three awards were presented: Best Silhouette, Best Evergreen and Best Fruiting Bonsai. The public selected a People’s Choice Award as well.

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The Bonsai Learning Center

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People’s Choice Award– Don Kimball

Joseph Noga, one of the foremost bonsai photographers in the United States, from Winterville, North Carolina, traveled to the event hauling a trailer full of lights, backgrounds computer and other equipment necessary to capture the beauty of each bonsai in formal portrait photographs. An entire day was spent photographing each of the sixty odd bonsai. Rather than showing my photos of individual bonsai, only bonsai displays are included in this posting because Joe was unable to do both. Joe’s formal portraits will be featured in Part 2 coming soon when he completes adjusting the photos for perfect color balance.

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I was honored to participate and work with Steve Zeisel in this year’s Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo and congratulate him for another stellar event. His vision and taste, combined with the support of bonsai hobbyists and professionals, in a unique venue is providing the bonsai community with another major event for appreciating and learning about bonsai during the dormant season. I look forward to next year’s event on December 5-6, 2015. Mark you calendars now, and even better, begin to prepare a bonsai for sharing with others.

AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 7

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Stuck in Tokyo or a visit to Shunka-en Bonsai Museum In The Rain

Because of a delayed flight I stayed overnight at a hotel near Narita Airport. Got up early, worked on the magazine, wrote a recommendation for a close friend then took off to visit Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum. I just got back to the airport and had the pleasure to ride on a bus, four trains, two subways and three taxis in order to visit bonsai in the rain, and well worth the effort.

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Bonsai look different in the rain and are difficult to photograph. Yuji Yoshimura taught me that bark texture and color are best when dry to see the details. Well, I did not have a hair dyer to dry off the trees and I have loads of Mr. Kobayashi’s bonsai in the sun, so simply enjoyed the bonsai in the rain and took some photos.

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Mr. Kobayashi was showing some Taiwan bonsai collectors some of his pine bonsai and explaining how he transformed a common appearing bonsai into an award winning masterpiece. Then they went into his studio where some satsuki trimming was demonstrated. There are three Chinese short term apprentices here and Mr. Kobayashi was checking their work and also cut off a large branch.

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A while later a small group from Mexico came to visit Shunka-en Bonsai Museum. Even though Mr. Kobayashi was busy, he spent a few minutes with me and we had lunch together that Mrs. Kobayashi prepared.

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The formal museum featuring many tokonoma of different formality is always of interest to me. The trees were different than when our bonsai tour group visited last week. A Camellia and Olive bonsai were also displayed.

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Enjoy the photos of beautiful bonsai I took in the rain. This IS the last blog entry as my flight to Chicago is “still” on time. I wonder how the flight from Chicago to Rochester will be.

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Enjoy your family and friends tomorrow on Turkey Day! I still have 98 of my best bonsai to put away for the winter. I’m especially thankful for my family and crew who will help.

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AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 6 (Final?)

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Today we visited the top bonsai gardens and collections in the Nagoya area on our private bus.

Daiju-en Bonsai Garden

Toro Suzuki is the third generation proprietor of Daiju-en Bonsai Garden in Okazaki, Japan. His grandfather, Saichi Suzuki, was one of the greatest pine bonsai masters of all time and is responsible for the introduction of Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine and the Princess persimmon. His father Toshinori Suzuki continued in his father’s footsteps of training masterpiece bonsai and added Needle junipers to one of his specialties. Many of the now common pine training techniques for shortening needles came from Saichi and Toshinori Suzuki. Toro Suzuki is in charge of the Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition which finishes today.

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Toro Suzuki continues to specialize in Japanese black pine bonsai, but also has a great number of Japanese five-needle pine and Chinese quince. Dean Harrell from Virginia is currently studing with him along with a short term apprentice from France. They showed us around and answered all our questions along with Mrs. Suzuki who also speaks English.

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Shinpuku-ji Temple

Our next stop was at Shinpuku-ji Temple nearby, which was founded in 594 AD. The head priest Mr. Omura is a serious bonsai collector and has one of the finest collection of masterpiece trees. Among the famous bonsai are three Japanese five-needle pines which were created by Saichi Suzuki over 50 years ago.

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Siri Wish from Thailand

Every autumn Boon Manikivipart from California has been helping Mr. Omura for a week, this time with his student Siri Wish from Thailand. The only other “person” I know named Siri talks to me on my iPhone. They were removing the old foliage of beautiful Chinese quince bonsai, a new addition to the collection originally from Shinji Suzuki.

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One medium size Japanese five-needle pine was recently displayed in a Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. I remember seeing this tree and commenting on the rough bark and short straight needles. Boon told me to look at the tree closely as every branch was grafted on to a rough bark Japanese five needle pine by Saichi Suzuki over 50 years ago.

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We enjoyed an unusual vegetarian luncheon at the temple featuring bamboo delicacies as well as bowls and eating implements.

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Aichi-en Bonsai Garden

Our final stop for the day was at Aichi-en Bonsai Garden. Proprietor Junichiro Tanaka studied at Daiju-en Bonsai Garden under Toro Suzuki and is now his son in law. Mr. Tanaka is the fourth generation proprietor of Aichi-en Bonsai Garden and has several trees started from his great grandfather from the late 1800s. He specializes in maple and pine bonsai, but has a great number of unusual species including a Kiwi and Japanese Andromeda. There is a lot of grafting going on there as well as redesigning old bonsai into magnificent masterpieces.

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Jun Andrade from Costa Rica is now studying with Mr. Tanaka along with Danny Coffey from the United States and John Milton from England. I found it interesting that Mr. Tanaka teaches is students in English and that he only has foreign apprentices. They showed us around and it was great having three English speaking guides pointing out interesting bonsai with background stories.

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Juan Andrade showing a heavy trunk Chojubai Japanese flowering quince

Tomorrow I leave for home, but will first stop in Tokoname city to visit one of my favorite artists “Reiho.” so this will be my final blog entry for this trip, unless I see something interesting.

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Julian Adams rubbing statue hoping to grow hair

I hope you have enjoyed my personal thoughts and photos of my bonsai travels. If you want to see better photos, subscribe to International BONSAI at:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/product/IBM

If you would personally like to travel to Japan with me and experience a bit of the Japanese bonsai community and see fine-quality bonsai and exhibitions, consider joining me in early February for the 89th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition which will be held in two parts (over 500 bonsai on display) as well as the opening of the 2nd Japan Suiseki Exhibition. Of course we will be visiting Omiya Bonsai Village, Masahiko Kimura’s garden, S-Cube (Seiji Morimae), Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum as well as the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Information in our web site at:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/page/1449251

or you can e-mail me at:

wnv@internationalbonsai

for a tour flyer.

Happy Thanksgiving, we all have a great deal to be thankful for this year.

AUTUMN 2014 JAPAN BONSAI EXPLORATION– Part 5

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This year the autumn viewing season for maples has been excellent. A sign in our hotel indicates the stage of leaf coloring in several of the popular viewing areas. It looks like we visited Kyoto at the best time, too bad I did not have the opportunity to visit any of the gardens.

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Last views of the 34th Nippon Taikan Bonsai Exhibition

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Sargent juniper, Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii ‘Shimpaku’

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Only three shohin bonsai compositions this year were displayed. In early January there is a huge shohin bonsai exhibition which fills the entire building.

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Shishigashira Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashia’

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Japanese black pine, Pinus thunbergii. This masterpiece bonsai was created by Kenji Oshima and won the Prime Minister Award at last year’s Professional Bonsai Exhibition.

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Even the suiseki were carefully watered. Note the cloth placed behind the stone to avoid moistening the valuable display tables.

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Winged spindle tree, Euonymus sieboldiana

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Red flowering hawthorn, Crataegus sp. Looks like a contorted cultivar.

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Chojubai Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles japonica ‘Chojubai’ $7,500.

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Display table $8,500

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There were approximately 2,300 visitors to the exhibition on Saturday, the opening day. A few parting photos of some bonsai and general views.