This year’s suiseki exhibit was held in the Greenhouse Gallery at the International Bonsai Arboretum on September 10-11, 2022, in Rochester, New York. An active membership of 13, from a much larger group of the Suiseki Study Group of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York shared their prized suiseki with visitors and answered many questions. A few weeks ago we had our annual stone collecting trip and a few of the newly collected stones were displayed as suiseki. A stone or rock does or become a suiseki until it is collected and appreciated for its artistic suggestions of natural scenic formations or of objects.
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The 13 members shared their 48 suiseki with visitors, and each was displayed in a hand carved wooden daiza or water basins. All the suiseki were displayed on appropriate display tables. Two of the exhibits were displayed with bonsai to illustrate how they ca appreciated with bonsai. In addition of suiseki from New York, others came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Alabama, California, Puerto Rico, Japan, China, Africa, Albania, Maine and Georgia.
Today we finished setting up my displays to welcome visitors to my garden for this weekend’s Open House & Sale. Each of the individual displays was very carefully designed, and the entire four displays as well. Each display is unique, all trees, containers, display tables, accessory plantings have not been duplicated. Even all of the flat stands under the accessory plantings differ.
The main alcove display in the studio features a Golden Full Maple and Dwarf Sumac. The foliage is still green on the sumac and I’m trying to time the orange red autumn coloring to hold until the Pacific Bonsai Expo in Oakland, California. So far dark green, so I’m hoping to get lucky because I’d like to use it with one of my two maples I’m displaying.
We are taking extra good care of the display maples. But, I just happen to have two excellent alternative maples of the same cultivars.
The main display alcove uses a special hanging scroll Seiji Morimae painted for me when my mother died several years ago. The dark colors over the moon present a sad emotion. Since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday I thought it might be appropriate for the main display.
According to my taste there is an error in this display. Can you find it?
We also set up the 8th Upstate New York Suiseki Exhibit, featuring 45 stones from America, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, New York, Japan, China, California, Wyoming, Puerto Rico as well as Australia and Albania. It took a long time to transform my greenhouse into a spotless area for a suiseki displays. Hopefully I’ll have time to take few photos to share here.
The lowest area of bonsai is one of the most important features which creates beauty and the character of the bonsai. We work the surface root area quite a bit when transplanting. Please note that nearly all of these bonsai have spent their entire lives in a container, carefully shaping and allowing the trees to mature slowly during the past 60 plus years under my care. The Ginkgo, Chrysanthemums, Larch, Satsuki, Korean Hornbeam and only one Trident maple were trained from field grown of collected material. All others have been completely container grown.
Today, just before, watering (and weeding and clean up too!) a few of my bonsai trunk bases looked interesting, so I’d like to share them with you. Yuji Yoshimura taught me to photograph bonsai when the trunks are dry and show more details and rich colors. Once I had to delay a formal photoshoot because it rained the night before. The professional photographer did not understand and I had to wait several days to capture the beauty of the trees on film, not digital, as it was decades ago before electronic imaging.
Please note that these are actual photos of my bonsai tree trunks as growing outside in a full sun exposure. Many have weeds, old needles and moss growing on the surface roots. The dozen or so bonsai selected for formal display at this weekend’s Open House & Sale have been moved from the growing tables to another area where they have been prepared for my 10 formal indoor displays. I can’t move the heavy trees alone so must wait until my friends come tomorrow to move them inside. The display tables, scrolls and accessory plantings are all cleaned and set up.
I’ll post a few photos of my formal displays which have been carefully selected to greet my visitors at our 2022 Autumn Bonsai Open House & Sale this coming weekend, September 10 &11. Finally I watered my bonsai for almost two hours, while Diane spent three hours watering the sales and nursery areas.
The 44th Mid-America Bonsai Exhibition was sponsored by the Midwest Bonsai Society. It was held at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, on August 19-21, 2022 and is one of the largest regional bonsai shows in the nation. The tree quality has significantly improved throughout the decades, but took a giant leap forward this year with many refined developed bonsai. There were workshops, demonstrations as well as two courtyards filled with vendors. About 50 world class bonsai from the permanent collection of the Chicago Botanic Garden were displayed in two outdoor courtyards. Curator of the bonsai collection, Chris Baker, set up a unique contemporary display of bonsai on tables over a long hallway water tray. They were suspended and supported with wire.
The ABS Rendezvous On The River Conference was held in Memphis, TN on May 26-29, 2022. It was hosted by the Memphis Bonsai Society and Brussel’s Bonsai Nursery. The venue, Whispering Woods Conference Center was decorated by masterpiece bonsai from Brussel Martin. Welcoming visitors in the lobby was a magnificent Satsuki azalea in full bloom.
There were two displays in the spacious room, an invitational exhibit from bonsai collections and professional bonsai artists and a special “creative displays, where artists thought “out of the box” for their presentations. All the bonsai were of very high quality.
The International Bonsai Arboretum will be hosting the Spring 2022 Bonsai Open House & Sale on May 21-22, 2022 in Rochester, New York.
Come, visit and see what’s new in the garden and enjoy a 20% discount on most items. See how bonsai are propagated, trained and maintained in the garden as well as formal bonsai displays.
The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York will be having a one day exhibition on Sunday, May 22 from 9am to 5pm at the Golosano Autism Center. The exhibition is about a 10-15 minute drive to the International Bonsai Open House. Make a weekend of it and visit both!
49th Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale
Sunday, May 22, 2022 (One day only)
9am to 5pm
GOLOSANO AUTISM CENTER
50 Science Parkway
Rochester, New York
Our members are thrilled to be able to have our bonsai exhibition again to promote bonsai to the area and nearby bonsai organizations. A warm welcome to anyone who would like to join us for this special Bonsai Exhibition & Sale. A suiseki exhibit will be hosted by the Suiseki Study Group of Upstate New Work. Bonsai demonstration on Sunday at 2pm.
A few days before the April 2022 Mid Atlantic Bonsai Festival, April Grigsby posted a photo on her Facebook page of the largest container she made indicating it came out of her kiln, straight. This is often a difficult task because many warp during the firing process. I was impressed with her container as much I was when I saw her as vendor at the 2021 7TH US National Bonsai Exhibition. When I saw the container on her sales table at the Mid Atlantic Bonsai Festival I quickly snatched it. April Grisby may be contacted through her web site: aprilgrigsbyceramics.com
I was thrilled with my new container! It was a good size, not too big or too small, unglazed with shading to suggest patina, oval with straight sides and small lip, with two small belts to give the illusion it was more shallow than it actually was and the inside was scored to promote a downward root growth rather than horizontal. That’s my taste for an evergreen forest container, rather than the deciduous forests I commonly create.
I don’t have many evergreen forests because it is extremely difficult to find suitable material. I don’t like Sargents junipers for this style because of trunk thickness and shapes. Well, I just happen to have the true Ezo spruce, Picea glehnii, not the commonly available species sometimes found in the United States, Picea jezoensis. I just so happen to have over 800 two and three year old seedlings to select from. After an hour, several were selected and the bottom of the trunks were located. It took some time to select the trees because they are all seedlings and many have different characteristics such as needle color, branching and bud formation. Spruce do not generally bud back on old wood, or even on branches with needles. When trimming spruce it is important to cut just above a bud so new growth will develop.
Ezo spruce seedling variations
Don’t leave a stub, cut closer
The major problem for this proposed forest is that all the Ezo spruce are approximately the same diameter, heights can be easily adjusted, so I don’t worry about that. When a large main tree is needed in a forest for a focal point or to indicate eye movement there two techniques to create a focal point. Two trees can be planted right next to each other so the trunks appear as one or making a small mound of soil for the trees to make them higher in the pot. Even if I completely filled the container with trees, the composition would still not be in balance. The container depth was a bit too deep for relatively thin trunks and viewers would first look at the pot, rather than the forest. So I needed some heavy “trunks.”
Saburo Kato authored Forest, Rock Planting and Ezo Spruce Bonsai in 1963. The National Bonsai Foundation published the book in 2001 and I was honored to compile and edit the text. In this book and other bonsai creations Mr. Kato sometimes used a dead tree to suggest age and a focal point. So I had a solution to my trunk size problem. Just use a deadwood tree. However, I don’t happen to have any larger Ezo spruce, alive or dead. Marc Arpag looked in the fields during his seven hour daily walk for dead carcasses.
I figured the next best possibility was to use another spruce because of the branch characteristics. This was an easy solution because the Dwarf Alberta spruce it is a spruce and had similar branching. They are commonly available in nurseries and garden centers. This cultivar is often used for bonsai training, but not successfully because the tree has a “poor memory” for branch shaping. A tree can be wired, and even allowed to cut into the bark and scar, after removing the wire they return to the original positions. There are, however, many forest of Dwarf Alberta spruce which look good and also a technique used to maintain branch shapes.
Three Dwarf Alberta spruce of different sizes were selected
Off I went to a few garden centers to find three Dwarf Alberta spruce to use as the three main trees in the forest. This was not as easy as you think, because the trees needed had to have the right trunk thickness in relation to the height. Also, I was looking for taper. Finally, I found three trees and took them home for a week, thinking long and hard about using them as deadwood for the forest bonsai. Since I don’t have any living or dead Dwarf Alberta spruce, these three trees needed to be “prepared” for the forest. I could not do it, either could two of my friends. We spend all our time trying to keep trees alive. Finally I found an executioner to prepare the three trees.
Preparing the tree
Tearing and removing the bark
Since the trees were still alive it was easy to remove the bark and cambium layer, trim branches and remove bark. If the bark was allowed to dry out, it would take a considerable time for removal. Often it was easy to find a small flap and just tear the bark off in long strips. All three trees of different diameters and heights were stripped of their bark.
Main trees prepared for the forest.
Prepare the container, note the screen is not anchored
The first step in creating a forest bonsai is to prepare the container. In the photo the wire positions are indicated with a black line from one hole to the other. Usually I do not like to cross wire under the container, looks messy and sometimes get caught when moving. The wires actually surround the pot perimeter. No. 14 gauge annealed wire was used for anchoring the trees. Also, notice that each piece of the plastic screening is NOT anchored to the bottom of the pot. It is much more time effective for me to simply use a larger piece of plastic screen and not anchoring and to be careful how the trees are moved so the screen does not move.
Brian Witcomb, in a yellow, hoodie prepared each tree by exposing surface roots, removing most of the soil and trimming roots. They were put in three groups, large, medium and small, according to trunk diameters. Alan Adair in a green shirt helped to hold the trees in their approximate locations while I continued to add more and more trees, until the balance of trees and container were to my taste. Finally, six hands were required to complete the forest and tie the trees in place. The ten pieces of annealed copper wires were tied together to stabilize the composition. The ends were not immediately cut off as some ends were used again to grab trunks.
Note: the trees were not trimmed or thinned out, only the bottom of the trunk positions were important at this stage of composition. Next fine, thin, green moss covered the soil surface. The moss was wet so it could be easily used to adjust trunk positions. The forest was now complete, except for the final pruning and thinning out of the branches. First the heights of each tree were established, including the stripped trunks, to create an asymmetrical, stable triangle of the three main trunks. Tree positions were easily changed with the moist moss. Then branch selection took place. The new Ezo spruce forest was photographed (dry trees show more detail and true color) and finally watered. Using that photo as a guide, more branches were thinned. A photo is much better than seeing the bonsai because it picks up views the eye misses.
After first trimming: After second final trimming for this beginning stage of development
Selecting the trees took about an hour. Preparing the trees another hour and planting the composition required about three hours. I have no idea of how many trees I used, except for the three deadwood trunks. I’ll count them sometime, but now busy creating more forests. It will now take several years to finish the composition and refine the Ezo spruce bonsai for enjoyment.
Selecting a container for bonsai is of paramount importance as it adds to the beauty the tree presents to the viewer. Also, by definition, a bonsai must be potted. There are many factors in determining the correct container including the following aspects.
Purpose: If the tree is undeveloped, it is best to train in a round deep pot. The depth will help the tree grow vigorously, while shallow pots, which are normally used for training bonsai will develop a more compact root system, but the tree will grow better in a round deep pot. Roots have an easier time to follow the curved interior of a round pot when growing, while roots in rectangular training pots or wooden boxes must make a 90 degree turn and grow slower.
Therefore, trees which are being trained or encouraged to grow are usually planted in larger, rather than smaller pots. While developed bonsai are potted, usually in ceramic exhibition containers.
Size: An appropriate size container must be selected for beauty, balance and the horticultural growth of the tree. Many flowering and fruiting species prefer to be grown in deeper containers to support the flowers and fruit. While evergreens can withstand drying out, shallow containers are commonly used.
Also, the climate must be considered. Often bonsai grown in tropical or hot areas are planted in deep containers, so the roots do not dry out. Bonsai are often planted in deep containers which hold more heat during the winter to protect the trees in cold and frigid climates.
There are many different formulas to determine the specific size of a bonsai container. The method I use for standing style bonsai is the height of the tree should equal the length and depth of the container. This is determined by visual mass. A 12 inch tree could be planted in a pot 10 inches long and 2 inches deep. The same 12 inch tree would also look and be balanced in a pot 8 inches long and 4 inches deep. In general bonsai appear to be larger in smaller sized containers.
Species can also determine the size of containers. Fast growing bonsai such as Weeping willow or Crape myrtle are best grown in larger, deeper containers. Of course, heavier trunks should be planted in deeper containers for visual balance and thin delicate trunks look great in shallow pots. Also, the original root formation of collected native species sometimes determine the size and shape of the pot, until a compact root system is trained. This is also the case for nursery or field grown trees until smaller root systems are developed.
Shape: There are many different shaped containers, but basically, they all fall in one of the following two categories, equal sided and unequaled shapes. Examples of unequaled sided containers are rectangular and oval. Equal sided containers include round, square, hexagonal and multi sided.
Generally standing style bonsai are grown in unequal sided containers when the width or branches are to be emphasized. While equal sided containers tend to enhance tall trees, such as literati style because the eye movement will travel upward faster. Equal sided are also usually used for the cascade styles only deeper for visual stability.
Color: Color selection is mostly determined by personal taste and understanding of bonsai. Some like to harmonize or compliment the main color of the tree and container, like a red azalea in a red pot. Others like to use contrasting colors, like a white Flowering crabapple in a blue, green or colorful glazed pot. Of course, unglazed brown, red, grey and tan colors are quiet and are usually used for evergreen species, so they do not detract from the beauty of the bonsai. Almost any species look good in brown unglazed containers, but they are so commonly used that they can seem boring.
It is also important to consider what time of the season you intend to enjoy your bonsai. A bright yellow container might make a great contrast with colorful maples in autumn, while after leaf drop the yellow would be overwhelming. Many who grow small and shohin bonsai often have several pots which are seasonally used. I have ten different colored and shaped containers for one maple bonsai. They are changed according to the season of enjoyment or how they are used in box display tables to avoid duplication.
Design: The container rim, side body and feet all play an important part in selecting the right pot for your tree. Outer rimmed containers usually look good for deciduous and flowering and fruiting species. While straight rimmed pots are often used with pines and other evergreen when a simple feeling is preferred.
The side bodies can be straight or angled or curved. Straight sided containers are often used for bonsai with straight trunks where a more formal appearance is desired. Oval containers are the most versatile shape, especially one with curved sides. Additionally, painted pots with designs are often used in smaller size bonsai where the color and design would not be overwhelming.
Quality: One important factor for selecting containers for bonsai, which is often not considered is the quality. I have often seen beautifully shaped bonsai in inexpensive bonsai pots. I have, as well, seen undeveloped trees in training gown in old antique containers. Most bonsai hobbyists do not consider the quality, but as they gain more experience and exposure to higher quality pots, they begin to understand that container quality is important to release the full beauty of a bonsai for appreciation, yours and to the viewers.
Selecting A Container for a Dwarf Scots pine
For several months I’ve been on search for the “perfect” container for one of my Dwarf Scots pine. This last week we narrowed the selection to two unglazed grey pots. Then, as we were potting, suddenly three more unglazed brown pots were considered. I would have preferred a brown pot because the needles of this Dwarf Sots pine are bluish and would sharply contrast with the brown pot. I tried to avoid the two final unglazed grey containers which are kind of similar to the foliage. Of the three new pots to pick from, one was too plain, one was too large and one not of high value or quality.