Transplanting A Pine Bonsai

IMG_0183.JPGNow that our deciduous bonsai are mostly transplanted and trimmed, its time to begin with the evergreen species. Many of the pines have been pinched, at least once and I have learned that this is the prime time to root prune and transplant established pine bonsai.

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This bonsai is a RAF Dwarf Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris ‘RAF,’ which has been completely container grown for over 30 years. One of my students has been training the tree until I purchased it in 2011. The second trunk is quite vigorous and was not trimmed to maintain the thin trunk. So, we are working with the way the tree developed.

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At one time the crown had a pointed appearance that suggests an immature tree. I thinned it out, wired and transplanted it. A few years ago the bonsai was again transplanted into a shallower rectangular container.

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My Senior Assistant Alan Adair helped me transplant the pine today, May 23, 2018, just before I leave to teach in England. Note that the buds have already been pinched once and will also be pinched again as necessary.

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The root system was excellent, filled with mycorrhiza, the white beneficial fungus which forms a symbiotic relationship with the growing roots. We harvested much of the mycorrhiza and cut it up for inoculation to other evergreen bonsai in the future.

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Next a power sprayer was used to clean the base of the trunk and some of the lower bark of the bonsai. Note how Alan is carefully lifting and lowering the bonsai into the container using the upper branches, NOT handling the trunk with beautiful flaky bark. Since we were in a hurry, only finely cut long-fibered sphagnum moss was applied to the soil surface. Later when we have more time (?) green exhibition moss will be planted.

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The newly transplanted RAF Dwarf Scots pine was growing in a full sun exposure in my display garden. After transplanting, Alan carried it back to the same location and I thoroughly watered the bonsai in the full sun.

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I have been using this technique for several decades with excellent results.

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By the way, with Alan’s assistance, we were able to transplant another large RAF Dwarf Scots pine before boarding the plane to England.

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Rough Bark Japanese Maples

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The Rough bark Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Arakawa,’ is a beautiful cultivar that exhibits rough bark, which adds impact to a bonsai. The rough bark is interesting and creates a focal point to the total aesthetic impact the bonsai presents. But, this cultivar does not present a quiet refined image characteristic of Japanese maples with beautiful bark which becomes gray when mature. Fine twigs are difficult to develop and a coarse feeling is usually presented.

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Rough bark Japanese maple I started from a cutting about 30 years ago.

 

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A rough bark Japanese maple displayed in Japan, but not the Arakawa cultivar because of the fine bark and fine textured twigs. Perhaps this bonsai was developed from select seedlings or an air layer.

 

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Last autumn was a great year for my large Rough bark Japanese maple garden tree for seed production. Diane collected many seeds and they have been planted. However seedlings have also naturally sown themselves and are coming up in the gravel areas throughout the main display area and in the side gardens near the studio and garage.

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Diane has been busy collecting seedlings from the Rough bark Japanese maple garden tree. She and Alan Adair my Senior Assistant have collected nearly 600 seedlings already and more are coming up all over the garden, even in bonsai pots 30 feet away from the parent garden tree. The Rough bark Japanese maple garden tree is one of my cuttings started about 40 years ago.

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True Rough bark Japanese maples, Acer palmatum ‘Arakawa,’ must be asexually propagated by cuttings, air layering or grafting. These seedlings cannot the Rough bark Japanese maple cultivar because they are not asexually propagated. However, this parent Rough bark Japanese maple garden tree produces a high percentage of seedlings showing the beautiful rough bark characteristics, which will also develop on the surface roots. Many two and three year old seedlings show the beginnings of rough bark development.

Rough bark Japanese maples are commonly grown for bonsai from cuttings and air layers. Commercially they are quickly produced for the nursery trade by grafting. However grafted Rough bark Japanese maples do NOT exhibit the rough textured bark on the lower trunk and surface roots. Cutting or air layered trees show rough bark on the lower trunk and surface roots. A surface root from my garden tree about six feet away from the trunk has beautiful rough bark.

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The seedlings are carefully dug from the ground and gravel areas when the first set of true leaves form. The taproots are cut off using a sharp razor blade and immediately planted in small cell packs and kept in a shady area for a few days. A root inducing hormone is not used. Then they are exposed to full sun in the greenhouse. When the Rough bark Japanese maple seedlings begin to lengthen they will be put outside in a sunny location for the summer.

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The following year they are individually potted into three inch pots and some are wired for trunk movement. The curves are rather contorted because as they thicken they will become graceful.

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Unwired three year old seedling.

 

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Wired and shaped three year old seedling.

 

Usually I propagate Rough bark Japanese maples from cuttings or air layers. Semi softwood cuttings are taken in June in my area and placed under mist until rooted, usually in August. They are given maximum winter protection, sometimes in a cool greenhouse and individually potted in spring when new growth begins. Some cuttings I’ve grown, as garden trees are now about 12 feet tall with beautiful rough bark. As the surface roots are exposed the rough bark will also develop.

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Grafted Rough bark Japanese maple showing common Japanese maple bark on the surface roots.

 

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Cutting grown and completely container grown Rough bark Japanese maple.

 

Air layers are usually taken in early or late spring as the new growth begins, but I’ve also air layered them in early summer as well. They usually root in about two to three months and are removed as soon as possible to they can become somewhat established in pots. They are often maintained in a cool greenhouse during the first winter.

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The Rough bark Japanese maple is a delightful cultivar to grow and train. Easy to grow without many problems they can be trained into beautiful bonsai in several years. They do not tend to produce new adventitious new buds on the trunk and branches with the rough bark. Desired new branches must be grafted, usually using the inarch technique to add branches in needed area.

AUTUMN TOKONMA DISPLAY

WINTER DISPLAY

 

The Beauty of Maple Bonsai in Spring!

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Spring is my favorite season of the year. Emerging colorful new growth and spring flowers of deciduous bonsai delight my senses and prepare me for another fresh new growing season. Also, since I HATE winter, deciduous species and maples with early growth signal the end of the long cold season.

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Sometimes, no often, bonsai with emerging new foliage must be protected from cold spells to avoid damage and death. We get fooled a lot of the time too. I live in Rochester, New York, near Buffalo and only 90 minutes to Niagara Falls, Canada. Snow has fallen in Rochester EVERY month of the year. Fortunately, I have not experienced snow during the months of June, July and August, but have during the others. Last Sunday we had snow and two days later the temperature soared to 84F. The 15 day weather forecast does not include any colder than 34F, so hopefully all the bonsai will not need to be protected again. They have traveled from the garage to the driveway many, many times this spring. And, many are large and heavy so they are on carts, which make it easier to move around.

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Also, many of the maple bonsai I plan to photograph must be protected from the rain (and snow) so the bark is dry and looks at its best. Once 15 years ago I had to cancel a professional photo shoot because it rained and the tree bark was dark and wet. The photographer could not understand why we needed to postpone the shoot a week.

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In addition to enjoying the spring beauty of deciduous bonsai, it’s also my busiest season because developed maple bonsai must be bud pinched at the exact time for each section of the tree.

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Senior Assistant Alan Adair bud pinching Oto Hime Japanese maple bonsai.

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Plus, there is quite a bit of transplanting, pruning, shaping and also creating new bonsai, hopefully to become masterpiece bonsai when I’m gone. All the bonsai, pre-bonsai and nursery stock must also be taken back outdoors from their winter protection in unheated and heated poly houses and the garage. That’s a lot of work, in addition to teaching five bonsai classes a week, plus publishing International BONSAI.

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Alcove display changed daily for classes, workshops, friends and visitors.

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I’m blessed to have many dedicated, talented and knowledgeable friends assisting me in whatever needs to be accomplished. I could not do what I do without them, and McDonalds sweet tea of course.

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Joe Letner bud pinching maple bonsai. His wife, Jean, is also skilled with this technique.

Here are some photos taken during the past few weeks of my maple bonsai and spring garden. Enjoy the spring season, because it will not last long.

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REPAIRING RODENT DAMAGED BONSAI

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Although Spring is officially here, we are still experiencing 21F nighttime temperatures with snow of course. Our bonsai think its Spring and have begun to grow, especially maples. These must be carefully maintained now in order not to lose an entire year’s growth. This is a topic for a future blog post, “dancing with bonsai.”

In Northern areas, where your bonsai must be protected from the cold winter temperatures and wind, it is heart breaking to remove your bonsai from winter protection only to find damaged trees. Rodents love to eat deciduous bonsai, especially maples. And, I have also seen other deciduous bonsai as well as evergreen species stripped of bark. One friend had a beautiful developed shohin Zelkova bonsai he trained in a perfect broom style for about 30 years. He keeps all of his smaller bonsai in a box filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts. When he took it out of the enclosed box all he had was an eaten two inch tall trunk stripped of bark!

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Last year my friend Elmer Dustman brought a Japanese maple bonsai he has been training for about 20 years to one of my Open Workshops. All the bark on the trunk was girdled including the first branch, which was eaten, and he thought the bonsai was ruined and dead.

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But I had an idea. We removed a clean section of the eaten bark where the live tissue was growing and layered the tree. First a clean wound was made using a curved knob cutter. Then the area was moistened with water and dusted with a root inducing hormone. Usually an air layer would be used, but since the area was not that high we simply layered the tree and he planted the bonsai in a 7 gallon plastic pot. Before planting the entire tree, a ball of long-fibered sphagnum moss was wrapped around the layered area. Then soil was added to the container and the tree was allowed to grow vigorously for one year on April 1, 2017.

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On Friday, March 23, 2017, Elmer Dustman returned for an Open Workshop with his Japanese maple bonsai which was damaged a year ago. He carefully removed the tree from the large plastic pot and removed most of the soil from the root system. Fortunately the layer worked and a good size new root system was formed in less than one year and was supporting the trunk and branch structure.

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The tree was then taken outdoors to a work area and the old root system and damaged trunk section were removed with a reciprocating Sawzall. Elmer used the Sawzall, Harvey Carapella held the root ball and I directed the operation.

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The outside temperature was a little below 30F, (wish it were 30C), so the newly removed bonsai was taken inside for potting. Upon inspection after removing additional soil we noticed that the original trunk could be reduced by about another two inches. This time Elmer carefully and precisely used a sharp hand saw to cut away the extra trunk so in the future the bonsai could be planted in a shallower container.

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The bonsai was then potted in a large oval mica training pot for future development. A new front and branches will be developed during the next few years.

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On March 25, 2016, Elmer Dustman brought his Japanese maple bonsai to an Open Workshop for transplanting. Before transplanting we removed several large branches about an inch in diameter, which were not necessary for future development. A sharp curved knob cutter was used to make a deep concave cut on the trunk. The open fresh wound was then sealed with Cut Paste wound sealant. This technique works great on maples and other deciduous species. Usually the wound is covered with new bark in about a year.

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When the bonsai was returned on March 23, 2018, we noticed that the wound was completely covered with callus tissue. A large ugly knob did not develop because of the deep concave cut and Cut Paste application. Of course the bark is of a different color, but it will blend with the old bark in a few years.

 

CANADIAN RODENT DAMAGE

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Mike McCallion from Ontario, Canada, joined Kora Dalager’s and my bonsai tour to Japan for ten days. Upon return home to Canada Mike discovered rodents girdled many of his prize bonsai. In total five maples, a Cotoneaster and Chinese elm were severely damaged. No larch or junipers were touched. These were legacy bonsai originally from prominent Canadian bonsai artists. All of the bonsai were kept in his garage for ten years with rodent poison, traps and spray. Sometimes luck runs out.

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He applied liquid Cut Paste to some of the wounds. On others he simply wrapped with long-fibered sphagnum moss after applying a wound inducing hormone and covered with plastic. A couple of the other bonsai were air layered using standard techniques in the upper branches.

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I’ve seen this type of damage before and probably most of the girdled bonsai will survive because Mike is keeping them moist and allowing new bark tissue to form and on others they will simply air layer.

 

WINTER PROTECTION

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I keep my best bonsai in an insulated garage with supplemental heat from a air forces kerosene heater. The temperature I try to maintain is 27F with a thermostat.

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Several years ago I discovered a small ultrasonic electric pest repellant device after rodents ate all the Crabapple fruit from on of my largest bonsai. Fortunately they only ate the fruit and did not damage the bonsai. We do not use rodent poison because we have a couple of cats and dogs, which also eat rodents. I found the devices at Home Depot and they were not expensive, about $15 each or two for $25. There are several different models and I even found a double device too. They simply plug into electric receptacles to keep rodents away, and they work. In my garage there are five electric receptacles and each has an ultrasonic pest device. They are also in two large poly houses and the heated greenhouse to get rid of the four legged pests.

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Rodent and winter damage is common where bonsai are protected during the winter. Don’t give up, simply try to correct the damage and make preparations for future rodent control. Oh, by the way, the instructions for the ultrasonic devices warn not to use indoors if you have hamsters or gerbils…

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GardenScape 2018

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GardenScape 2018 is the annual flower and garden show in Rochester, New York, which runs from March 8-11, 2018. It is held at the newly remodeled dome in Henrietta, New York, a suburb of Rochester. Top landscape companies from around the area transformed the Dome into a living garden paradise. GardenScape showcases the most unique designs, display, plants and products for the attendees.

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This is the 22nd presentation of GardenScape, but there has been a gap of six years since the last show because the Dome was not available. I have been fortunate to have displayed bonsai, in every GardenScape and I’m the last of the original exhibitors. The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York has also displayed in each show.

 

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This year’s theme is “The Flower City Blooms Again.” GardenScape is presented by the GardenScape Professionals Association, a not-for-profit organization whose proceeds will help to benefit the association’s many educational and public service efforts, and by the Professional Landscape and Nursery Trades of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region.

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Several seminars are presented throughout the four day event. I presented two seminars on “Stone Appreciation” and “Horticultural Art Forms Of Japan.

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Each year nursery and horticulture professionals from outside the region judge the garden displays. Two or three teams consisting of landscapers, garden designers and horticulturists carefully evaluate each garden display and present many awards to worthy entries.

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The GardenScape Competition Mission Statement:

To raise the level of horticultural entertainment and education by rewarding imagination, creativity and the highest quality execution at GardenScape.

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The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York won two awards for “best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public” and for the “most entertaining display for the gardening public.” Their display was next to mine so half of an entire wall featured bonsai.

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In past GardenScapes, my bonsai were displayed in garden settings. This year, keeping with the theme The Flower City Blooms Again, each display was to feature something unique to Rochester. My display was named “Rochester: Home of the US National Bonsai Exhibition” because Rochester has hosted six US National Bonsai Exhibitions, 30 symposia, 45 Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibitions and one colloquium. Additionally there have also been numerous smaller displays for the public. The city of Rochester seems to be becoming a center of bonsai in the United States. My Monday Senior Crew assisted me in the set up of the display. We began on Monday morning at 9 am and finished up Wednesday morning. On Tuesday two friends from Ithaca, NY, drove up to Rochester to help. My son Chris and his friend Ray were a tremendous help, especially with moving two skids of stones and all the lumber for the gazebo.

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Six alcoves displays, identical to the US National Bonsai Exhibitions were designed to feature the seasonality of bonsai to present bonsai as a fine art to the public and therefore the hanging scrolls were not in keeping to my aesthetic appreciation. The hanging scroll paintings themes were usually duplicated with the main displayed bonsai to suggest the four seasons for the public, not the bonsai hobbyists. Colorful flyers for the upcoming 2018 6th US National Bonsai Exhibition (September 8-9) were handed out. Hopefully visitors to my display at GardenScape will want to see more formal displays and will attend the September exhibition.

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Additionally my display included a gazebo where Harvey Carapella, Alan Adair and presented continuous demonstrations working on two different trees at a time. Questions were answered during the event about what we were doing as well as the formal displays.

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My display was awarded for:

The Plantsman’s Cup for the best overall use of plant material featuring design and horticultural excellence.

Most impressive display of a single forced specimen under the direct supervision of the exhibitor.

Best integration of fragrant flowers in a garden.

Best use of planted containers in a garden.

Best plant labeling- botanical and common names required, creativity encourage.

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Additional information at: rochesterflowershow.com

 

 

Creating A Chinese Quince Forest

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Currently I’m conducting my 40th annual lecture tour in the Southeast United States. Today I’m helping my friend and photographer Joe Noga in Winterville, North Carolina, with his fine bonsai collection.

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Joe likes Chinese quince, Pseudocydonia sinensis, which he grows from seed. He has a wide range of seedling sizes, in both heights and trunk diameters. About three years ago we created four large size Chinese quince forests with his seedlings. Today they are being trimmed and repotted because this species is fast growing and the upper branches also tend to thicken. After I initially trimmed the established forests, Joe began to work the roots before repotting.

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This year he wanted to create a smaller size Chinese quince forest. He had all the one year old seedlings individually potted in two-inch cell packs. When the seedlings germinated last spring, Joe separated each seedling and trimmed the tap root to encourage fibrous roots. He had an entire flat of 36 seedlings ready for me, so while he was repotting the larger forests, I worked on a new smaller size Chinese quince forest.

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First the entire flat of 36 seedlings were wired with heat annealed copper wire. One piece of wire was used for each seedling. They were then graded into three different sizes by trunk diameter, large, medium and small. Note that there are more medium size seedlings than the large and smaller sizes.

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The roots of each seedling were then raked out and trimmed. An American oval shallow glazed container was selected and prepared with anchoring wires.

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Soil was then added and seedlings were planted and designed. Anchoring wires were tied together and twisted to hold the trees generally in the desired locations.

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Only the approximate position of the trunk base was considered at this time. Green moss was collected from the garden and the bottom layer of field soil was removed with a bamboo chopstick. The moss was soaked in water and was then planted on the entire soil surface. The exact position and trunk angle of each trunk was easily determined because of the moist green moss.

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Before trimming and adjusting heights and trunk angles

 

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After adjusting

Finally, the tree heights were established and the tops were pruned. Slight adjustments to the trunk angle were also made. The newly created small size Chinese quince forest was thoroughly watered and placed in a protected location. This is now the beginning of a new forest which will be developed and refined in the future.

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By the way, these Chinese quince seedlings are identical to those offered in this year’s seedling catalog. Three 8-12” unbranched seedlings are $35 postpaid in the United State only. You can easily order here: http://www.internationalbonsai.com/seedling%20list

Selecting A Container For A Koto Hime Japanese Maple

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I’ve been on the search for the “perfect” container for one of my favorite shohin bonsai Koto Hime Japanese maple started over 30 years ago from a cutting. During the past four months I’ve purchased three containers. A few days ago during our bonsai tour of seven top potters in Tokoname, Japan, I was fortunate to find another three “perfect” containers. A glazed container was obtained from Ikko Watanabe. That was about an hour after I purchased two unglazed containers from the Reiho Kiln.

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A few days later at the Ueno Green Club in Tokyo I found another two. Although Chinese, they have a wonderful patina which suggests that the container is old. All the other containers are Japanese from Tokoname kilns. When I returned home on Thursday I counted up all the containers, including the one it has been in for a few years and now have 10 suitable containers!

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Why so many containers for a single small tree? Well, I enjoy appreciating and sharing shohin bonsai composition displays with friends and at exhibitions. The effective aesthetics of this type of display are difficult. Each individual container in a shohin composition should be of a different color and shape, also keeping in mind the season.

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Often different glazed containers are used during the different growing seasons to contrast with the changing foliage colors and unglazed in winter when a quiet feeling is desired. Proportionally, it is also important to have a slightly larger size container when the tree is in leaf and looks more massive, and to use a slightly smaller size when the dainty winter twiggy winter silhouette is featured. Although the tree may look good in a smaller container, it must remain healthy and is generally repotted annually.

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Note all the containers are oval, except for a rectangle, which is nearly square. The pale yellow container is a modified oval. Why oval? Of all the container shapes, the oval is easiest to use. That’s why I offer many oval shaped containers to my beginning students. The feeling of this maple bonsai suggests a simple oval. Also note that five of the ten containers have an outer lip, which is the shape I prefer for deciduous species generally.

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There are six different colors in these ten containers. The unglazed are generally used in winter. The glazed containers are often used during the summer growing season, spring with colorful new growth and in autumn with the changing leaf coloring. Although Koto Hime Japanese maples do not often turn orange-red, they usually become a golden yellow in autumn.

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All the containers are about the same size in length, 18cm, but with different depths. These were selected so the tree can be easily lifted and transplanted according to the season of display or necessary use in a formal box display stand.

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Hopefully, these ten containers will help me display and share the beauty of this shohin bonsai maple display aesthetics along with refining bonsai. The display features a medium size Ezo spruce bonsai and the Koto Hime Japanese maple will be the accessory bonsai. Both are different sizes, and according to my taste the containers should be of a different shape and color. The Ezo spruce is in an oval hand made unglazed brown container by Gyozan, who is considered to be number one in Japan now. The Koto Hime Japanese maple is in a light blue glazed rectangular container, which appears to be square. The companion plant is a Dwarf monde grass in an irregular round unglazed container. So, all three containers are of different sizes, different colors and different shapes, which provides interest and avoids duplication in a bonsai display.

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I hope this shohin bonsai does not grow larger or dies….

The bonsai was just transplanted into the aged appearing rectangular container, which appears to be square according to my taste. Why was this container used? Well, in a few days I leave for my 40th annual southeast lecture tour. I always bring a small display to share with the hosting clubs. This year I’m teaching about shohin bonsai and formal bonsai display and refinement. This medium size display composition offers may opportunities for discussion on display, container and display table selection, training as well as bonsai refinement.

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I hope this shohin bonsai does not grow larger or dies….