Bonsai Without Borders Global Summit

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The Bonsai Without Borders Global Summit and Black Scissors Bonsai Creators Convention was co-hosted by the Huzhou Nanxun Phoenix Cultural Tourism Development Group and the BWB Global Summit and Black Scissors Community. It was held in Nanxum, a beautiful ancient city a few hours from Shanghai, China, on December 7-8, 2016. Su Fang, President of the Chinese Penjing Artists Association is also the co-founder of the “Black Scissors Community,” and promoter of Chinese penjing.

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Su Fang

The Black Scissors community, founded by Su Fang and Robert Steven from Indonesia in 2014 to promote a new bonsai culture spirit, so anyone who feels having the Black Scissors spirit can call himself/herself a Black Scissors fellow. The mission is to promote the spirit of inclusive and respective bonsai sisterhood, spirit of enthusiasm to explore new ideas, spirit of freedom to create and to express, spirit of motivation to encourage and to share creativity of bonsai art in order to lift bonsai art to higher level in a new perspective…and free from bonsai politics! There are 33 international bonsai organizations from 22 countries which have joined the  KOSBI Sister Community to promote the Black Scissors spirit. The Black Scissors Community remains as an informal and inclusive community which is cross nation, cross culture, cross religion, cross gender and cross generation.

Working together, throughout the world and the Black Scissors Communityd thinking “outside the box,” not being bound by traditional “rules” and traditions, however respecting history and the founders of the art are the goals of the community. The symbol of the Black Scissors community is to hold two fingers in a “V” formation pointing downward.

 

Nearly 300 bonsai leaders from around the world were invited to attend the BWB Global Summit from 35 countries, the first world convention initiated by China, the origin country of bonsai. The summit included media, honored guests as well as 70 bonsai artists from 35 countries for a demonstration.

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The two day convention began with an Opening Ceremony, complete with loud music and a multitude of lighting. In the afternoon attendees were bused to the Shuanglin Guiran Bonsai Garden for a bonsai exhibition and demonstrations. Entering the garden were SWAT police, not so much for protection, but to guide the 300 attendees plus visitors to the garden to the appropriate areas. There were about 50 large and a few small beautiful bonsai on display surrounding the demonstration area.

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Kumquat

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Princess Persimmon

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The demonstration by 70 bonsai artists was GREAT! I never thought it could be done, but Su Fang did it, with style too! Upon entering the large greenhouse with shade cloth each artist picked a ball by lottery indicating which tree they were to work on. Nobody knew which tree was theirs, or were they were to demonstrate from. The large size junipers were 20 years old and had been wired twice. They were huge, all potted in identical containers in a soil, which looked, like concrete. They must have weighed 100 lbs. each. All the artists were provided with a complete selection of sissy wire and the trees were placed on small, but strong and sturdy turntables. Each artist had a shelf where they could put tools and other articles out of the way. A trash box as well as a full bag of Japanese akadama soil, drinking water, a can of beer and wooden blocks for changing the angle of the tree were provided. Many of the trees were created into cascade style bonsai. Additionally a carpeted strong wooden box was used to stand on while working the trees was provided for everyone. Some did not use the box, like Bjorn, but I did…. and I would have needed two boxes, but had a tall stool next to me to sit on while carving.

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There were two levels of demonstrators, surrounded by stadium seating with covered chairs and carpeted flooring. Lights were everywhere so the demonstrators could see the trees. I think there were TV monitors too, as well as flags from each country. Loud music was also there, but we did not need it to keep us awake. Colored moving lights were around the display bonsai around the perimeter of the room. It was difficult to photograph the trees. Once I started, I did not stop, not even to use the restroom. There was no time. I did not even see the other demonstrations. There was TV crews and many provided interviews for the media. My good friend, Diane Boekhout, President of the Bonsai Society of Western Australia in Perth, and also President of the Association of Australian Bonsai Clubs took many of the photos included here, as well as Su Fang because I was not able to watch others and see everything.

 

Following the four hour, part 1 of the demonstrations we returned to the hotel for the BWB Ball. People were asked to dress in their country’s native dress. So, of course, being an American, one of my students who is a native American Indian provided me with authentic clothing, including a loin cloth (yes, I wore underwear) but not the headdress. Real eagle feathers are sacred so others were used. Many friends wanted their photos taken with me. Sometimes a line formed. When I left the room, the waiters, waitresses and kitchen staff corned me for more photos.

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The final day began with part 2 of the demonstrations. Since my tree was rather complex and I created quite a bit of dead wood, fine wiring was not completed, but the basic design was there. Many of the demonstrators had time to pot their trees into bonsai containers. All the trees were photographed against a black background for the upcoming book. I did not even have time to visit the garden’s sales area were great containers, display tables and more were for sale.

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In the afternoon we returned to the hotel for the BWB Forum where 25 bonsai leaders from around the world spoke and showed images of their country’s bonsai, activities and thoughts on the Black Scissors creative bonsai movement.

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In the evening of the final day everyone was bused to another hotel for the BWBonsai Gala,  black tie formal event that began with an interesting and educational short program on the history of Chinese penjing. Great images! Following was loud music and lighting, which looked like a stage show. Yes, there even were stage girls as well as singers and a belly dancer…. People partied and danced and everyone had a great finale to a wonderful two day convention.

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Su Fang and his assistant Mia Wang worked very hard to organize and conduct the historic Bonsai Without Borders convention. Having sponsored and organized over 30 symposia as well as five US National Bonsai Exhibitions and other events, I can attest that Su Fang’s event was excellent and well organized. The penjing and bonsai community has been blessed with the leadership of Su Fang. Thanks for a job well done my friend!

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Mia Wang with newlyweds Su Fang and Kay

 

 

2016 Winter Bonsai Silhouette Bonsai Expo

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The 4th Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo was sponsored and organized by Dr. Steven Zeisel with the support of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was held at the magnificent museum like venue on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina, near Charlotte. The exhibition featuring leafless deciduous bonsai was staged in the rotunda of the building framed with imported Italian marble walls and floors under the dome, which is the tallest south of Washington, DC. This year there were 73 bonsai in the exhibition.

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Best of Show, Japanese Beech, displayed by Sergio Cuan

 

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Best Deciduous Bonsai, Shishigashira Japanese Maple, displayed by Joe Noga

 

I have been privileged to participate in all four editions of the exhibitions and this year’s show was leaps and bounds finer than in the past. Exhibitors put considerable effort into their overall displays as well as preparing their prized bonsai. A large number of exhibitors traveled from the state of Florida and many defoliated Figs, Bougainvillea and even a dwarf Jade to expose the fine twigs, rarely seen because these species are broadleaf evergreens. The beauty of each bonsai was digitally captured by Joe Noga who spent most of the weekend photographing each bonsai. It is too bad that he did not have the opportunity to photograph individual displays because creativity of most of the displays was innovative as well. So, please enjoy my photos while Joe processes his images, which will be posted on the exhibition’s web site at a later date.

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Best Conifer Bonsai, Sargent Juniper, displayed by Ed Lauer

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Best Fruiting Bonsai, Deciduous Holly

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No, its not a Trident Maple, its Willow-leaf Fig!

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Additionally, demonstrations were presented by Owen Reich, Rodney Clemens, Adam Levine and Wm. N. Valavanis who also lead a critique of the entire show and individual bonsai. An expanded vendor area brought several new vendors who offered their bonsai, pre-bonsai, art, containers and much more for visitors. Both the public and bonsai hobbyists attended to see the beautiful naked bonsai. An auction prior to the Saturday evening delicious dinner helped to defray the costs of producing this beautiful exhibition.

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Steve Zeisel is to be congratulated, again, for producing such a fine display of bonsai during a dark period of the year. But, the splendor of each bonsai truly was shining through the dark skies. I look forward to next year’s Winter Bonsai Silhouette Expo during the first week of December.

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2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 7 (Final)

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Today we visited the city of Tokoname, which is well known in the world wide bonsai community for producing excellent bonsai containers. The city of Tokoname is one of the oldest pottery towns having been established in the 12th Century. It is best known for producing toilets, sewer tiles and teapots. Bonsai container production has dropped significantly and currently less than ten kilns are producing bonsai containers. It must be remembered that there are many different quality levels of Tokoname made containers. The importation of contemporary Chinese containers is probably the reason for the kiln closing. Many of the Chinese containers are better quality and less expensive than some low quality Tokoname containers.

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We visited the show rooms of several different kilns both before and after lunch. The first stop was at the Yamaaki Kiln, which produces very fine quality containers of “normal” sizes. Mostly unglazed brown, they began to produce containers with a light blue glaze. They have not produced any new containers in the past three/four years.

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Reiho mixing glaze

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Dipping the container into the glaze. Note the drainage holes are plugged with corks, which are quickly removed after dipping.

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The famous Reiho seal put on the bottom of all containers.

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Mr. & Mrs. Reiho. She makes great smaller containers.

Shuho Kiln was our next stop which specializes in beautiful and unusual glazed containers. We saw mostly small and shohin bonsai containers.

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Typical street scene where the bonsai potters live and work.

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Mr. Shuho near one of his kilns.

The Ikko Kiln makes all sizes of bonsai containers, both glazed and unglazed. The detail work is superb, as are some pretty unusual glazes.

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Mr. Ikko and his son.

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Another one of my favorite kilns is the Koyo Kiln, which specializes in mostly smaller size glazed containers. Since I specialize in deciduous species, its no wonder why I prefer Reiho and Koyo containers. I noticed a rather unusual companion planting container, which looks like a doughnut, complete with a hole in the center. I picked one up and hope it makes it back home in one piece, if not I have Superglue. Plans are to use it in one of my displays at the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo on December 3-4, 2016 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. More information at: www.winterbonsai.net

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Mr. Koyo with a great publication!

Our final stop was at the Gyozan Kiln, which is currently considered to be the number one potter in Japan. All of the containers are hand built, using no molds. Most of his containers are unglazed, but Gyozan is now producing glazed containers. His wife paints designs and figures on some of the small containers. I’ve been looking for a special container for my Dwarf ezo spruce bonsai. I showed Gyozan a photo of the bonsai with dimensions and he is going to make a container for my tree. Hopefully I can pick it up in April during our tour to Japan for the World Bonsai Convention.

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He had a rather unusual display at this year’s Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition in Kyoto. Gyozan displayed his new design for a container holding both the main bonsai and companion planting in one piece.

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Mr. Gyozan will also be demonstrating at the World Bonsai Convention in April.

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Tomorrow we fly home, into the snow for me, in time for Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has enjoyed my blogs, as I enjoy sharing new things I see and learn. Keep watching for blog entries next week from the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis, North Carolina and then the next day from China for the Global Bonsai Summit. Have a good and safe Thanksgiving!

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Pretty large size Lucky Kitty ready for Christmas!

2016 Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 6

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Genkokai Bonsai & Suiseki Exhibition

On Saturday and Sunday S-Cube sponsored and produced a special exhibition for the Genkokai, a small group of bonsai collectors with high quality refined bonsai and suiseki. Held in the Hoshu-In Buddhist temple, established in 1608, the complex is normally not open to visitors. This temple is in the Daitoku-Ji complex of numerous smaller temples of the Rinzai School of Japanese Zen including the popular Daisen-In on many garden tours.

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The Genkokai is headed by Seiji Morimae comprised of his clients who want to share the beautiful bonsai and suiseki collections. He has superb taste in bonsai, suiseki and display.

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Seiji Morimae designed the displays in the individual 11 rooms of the temple, each holding one to several bonsai or suiseki. Along with the help of his S-Cube staff Mr. Morimae presented an excellent selection of bonsai and suseki. They all suggest seasonality in a quiet atmosphere.

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Even though the lighting was dim, each tree and stone could be clearly seen, studied and appreciated. The low light, in good taste was not conducive for photographing, especially since it was necessary to sit on the floor for each display, not good for my knees. A single 100 watt light bulb was the only source of light for each room. But, it is important to realize the purpose of this exhibition was not to take good photos in sufficient light, but rather to move your soul while appreciating bonsai and suiseki from private collections which are never or rarely displayed.

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I was truly touched with this entire exhibition and the atmosphere of the presentation. Not too many exhibitions do that for me.

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In another building there were two rooms filled with beautiful bonsai, suiseki and display tables for sale by S-Cube.

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The Genkokai Exhibition was a moving and learning experience personally for me which featured stellar masterpiece bonsai and suiseki. I appreciate Mr. Morimae’s hard work, taste and desire to share the beauty of his client’s trees and stones. It’s important to realize ALL these items must be packed up and trucked back to Hanyu by his friendly and hard working staff. This year only three trucks were necessary to move all the items. Even his wife and daughter were there to help and host visitors.

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We were too late as this Japanese black pine bonsai was already sold.

 

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This Japanese five-needle pine was also sold. Each one of these two sold bonsai are about the same price of a new Chevy Suburban!!

 

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 5

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Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition– Part 2

The exhibition opened this morning after the ribbon cutting ceremony. Initially the show was packed, and then slowed down as the day went on, like me. Yesterday I walked (hobbled with cane actually) 2.9 miles photographing and watching (learning) during the judging.

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There were a large number of foreign visitors today from Germany, France, England, Italy and Canada too! Jerry Rainville studied bonsai with Hiroyoshi Yamaji about 40 years ago. I remember meeting this giant of man when Chase Rosade and Lynn Porter visited Shikoku Island to see pine bonsai. He was originally from Montreal and had a bonsai store with Arthur Skolnik. Jerry completed his studies in Japan, married his Japanese sweetheart and settled in the Vancouver area of Canada where he has a large scale bonsai nursery. Jerry returns to Japan each year to help another one of his teachers, Koji Hiramatsu for a month during a bonsai festival. This year the festival and the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition dates were not too far apart so he stayed to help Mr. Hiramatsu and his father with their sales area at the exhibition.

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Since the exhibition was now set up there were opportunities to get a few overall views of the show. Note the different colored background. It’s quite difficult to photograph a pine or maple with yellow foliage against a yellow background. The blue and green backgrounds can also be challenging with certain colored trees as well.

 

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Award winning Dwarf star jasmine.

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There were a few special large displays, including one organized by Kenji Oshima. Each year his displays feature a different species. One year it was Trident maples or Hinoki cypress. Last year he featured Korean hornbeams. If you look back in my archived blogs you can see the past displays. This year five Shishigashira Japanese maples were featured, all masterpieces. This is an old dwarf cultivar of Japanese maple, which has been in cultivation for over 300 years. When I saw Kenji today I asked again, do all these bonsai belong to one collector? He said yes and he cares for the entire collection. The collection must be huge and I must make a visit sometime.

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This small size Shishigashira Japanese maple was not part of Mr. Oshima’s display. This fine quality bonsai was probably started from an air layer. Great taper too!

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The sales area was open and crowded, until about 3 pm. Bjorn’s teacher had one of the best displays of good trees. In particular there was a large size Shishigsashira Japanese maple bonsai. Bjorn had a great one for sale when the show opened. It can be seen on the left side of the display area and can be purchased for only US $55,000.00. Well, someone knew quality and it was quickly sold…. But I think Bjorn said there was another Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai back at the nursery, which was better. I wonder if that tree will appear on the sales area tomorrow?

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There were some stunning, unusual and well done companion plantings, but I was only able to photograph a few as I was concentrating on the bonsai. Tomorrow I’ll try to take more photographs.

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At the end of the day, for me, as I was trying to get enough energy to return to my hotel, I noticed one of our tour members carefully studying the “best of show award bonsai.” Kurt Smith owns the Flower Market specializing in bonsai in Michigan. He recognized quality and was carefully looking at the bonsai from all sides appreciating the antiquity of the Sargent juniper. This type of serious dedication is typical of our tour members as they continue to see how the bonsai are created and developed after the initial impact of the exhibition passes.

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2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 4

 

1Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition

The Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition is the largest bonsai exhibition in western Japan held in Kyoto, just down the street from the Heian Shrine. Professional bonsai artists select trees from their clients who want to display. It’s kind of easy to have a tree accepted for this exhibition, much more than the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, which is highly judged. Entry fees are similar, $500 and $1,000 spots, depending on the size. So actually there is a wide quality range of bonsai in the Nippon Bonsai Taikan Exhibition. This year there are some pretty awesome bonsai. Each year the quality seems to go up. I can’t figure out where all these beautiful bonsai come from. Very few are repeated and the top winners from the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition are also displayed here.

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Set up and judging day are on Friday this year, which is quite interesting an educational for me. I appreciate the privilege of watching and photographing. The exhibition committee headed up by Toru Suzuki does the pre-selection for awards in the morning. They select the best three or four bonsai from each category.

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Then those finalists are brought in a long row for the judging which begins after lunch. This year there were 13 judges, primarily the heads of the various bonsai organizations: professional, amateur, two shohin societies and suiseki. Additionally art critics and other politically important people are included. So, actually, ANY tree, which is selected, is high quality masterpiece. And, those finalists who do not win the “best deciduous, shohin, suiseki, forest, literati and evergreen categories” also win other awards. I saw and heard one judge ask “what kind of tree is this?” It was a maple….

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Remember a few days ago I showed a cart full of bonsai in Mr. Kimura’s garden? Well, I was correct. One of those won the top Prime Minister Award. I wonder if I could get president-elect Trump to sponsor such a top award for the next US National Bonsai Exhibition?

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Technology is GREAT!

Before, during and after the judging, during the non-crowded times I began photographing the bonsai. I had a problem with my camera, which I could not figure out, the display screen was bright green. No problem, I simply turned on my personal wifi hot spot and got connected to the Internet free. Then turned on Facetime on my iPhone and called Joe Noga in North Carolina who corrects my poor images for the magazine. He has taught color reproduction for over 35 years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, one of the finest photographic and printing colleges in the United States and retired to North Carolina. He helps me adjust all photos for my magazine and is official photographer for the US National Bonsai Exhibitions and also the upcoming Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in North Carolina next weekend.

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I showed him the green display screen through Facetime and we figured out the Expo Disk used to set the white balance was put on the lens backwards. My operator error! So, while I had him on the iPhone, I showed him a bit of the exhibition and he even greeted Mr. Kimura and Peter Warren as they walked pass. The remaining photos came out OK.

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Please remember the photos posted in my blog and Internet forums are MY versions. The perfectly adjusted photos, which are in focus and in the correct color balance, will appear in a future issue of International BONSAI. So if you want to see perfect photos you will need to subscribe:

http://www.internationalbonsai.com/product/IBM-652343450

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These photos were taken before the entire exhibition was set up was finalized, trees are being moved and better views will be coming tomorrow after the exhibition opens.

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As my good friend and assistant Alan Adair says, enjoy the “Bonsai Porn” photos.

PS: I was just thinking: Does this mean that Bjorn and I are “Bonsai Pornographers?”

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 3

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Daiju-en Bonsai Garden in Okazaki, Japan, is one of the most famous bonsai gardens in Japan because of the historical contributions of the Suzuki family. Established by Saichi Suzuki in the early 1900s the garden continued with his son Toshinori’s leadership. Now son and grandson Toru Suzuki operates the garden.

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Saichi Suzuki is responsible for the introduction and developmental techniques for the Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine. He wrote a 32 series article, which I had translated for International BONSAI several decades ago. This article describes, in detail, how Zuisho was discovered, propagation methods and techniques Mr. Suzuki experimented with. Also information is shared on growing pine bonsai. Mr. Suzuki discovered many of the techniques for pine bonsai, now standard practice around the world.

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Japanese black pine created by Daichi Suzuki.

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He is also responsible for the introduction and popularization of the Princess persimmon. I remember seeing the “original” Princess persimmon Mr. Suzuki displayed at the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in the early 1980s with my mother on one of my earlier trips to Japan. It truly was the hit of the show as nobody had seen anything like it before. This began the Princess persimmon boom in Japan. There are many species like this which became popular during the decades such as Dwarf stewartia, Hibiscus, Nishiki Japanese black pine and Zuisho, just to mention a few. Many are no longer cultivated in Japan and I remember, to my shock, seeing fields of two to three foot tall developed Nishiki Japanese black pine plowed under because they were no longer popular and valuable for sale. Too bad this species is prohibited to be imported to the United States. During one of my last visits with Saichi Suzuki he gave me a rooted cutting, the size of a chopstick of a little-known Wisteria cultivar which has blossoms SIX feet long. That’s even taller than me, but that’s not saying much. To date I’ve only been able to grow a single flower to 56 inches in length, but I’m still trying. Also the original cutting the size of a chopstick is now well over 12 inches in diameter in my main bonsai display area and puts on a spectacular show every other mid-May, depending on the winter.

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Toshinori Suzuki inherited Daiju-n Bonsai Garden after his father’s passing. He continued to refine the new growth trimming techniques for Japanese black pine which have been featured in several Japanese language books. He also liked Needle juniper and Japanese cryptomeria, two new growth labor intensive species. Toshinori Suzuki created many of the top masterpiece Needle juniper bonsai in Japan. Bonsai awards were abundantly won by both Saichi and Toshinori Suzuki. Mr. Suzuki’s first apprentice is Yasuo Mitsuya and Kenji Miyata. One of his last apprentices is Kenji Oshima from Okayama, now an award winning bonsai artist.

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Needle juniper created by Toshinori Suzuki.

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Award winning Chinese quince by Toshinori Suzuki. He won this award about 40 years ago.

Toru Suzuki, a leader of the current modern world, took over his father and grandfather’s legacy and continued to specialize in pine, juniper and Chinese quince bonsai. An interest and study of suiseki makes him an authority on this subject. He is on the list of authorized bonsai instructors of the Nippon Bonsai Association, and frequently travels around the world teaching and demonstrating bonsai. A few weeks ago he traveled to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, DC, on the grounds of the US National Arboretum presenting a demonstration working on the Japanese black pine his grandfather donated to the US National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, now part of the original Japanese bonsai collection. The National Bonsai Foundation was formed to support the activities of the museum and additional information on Mr. Suzuki’s visit can be found at:

www.bonsai-nbf.org/celebrating-the-national-bonsai-penjing-museums-40th-anniversary/

Information on that site can also be found on joining this worthy organization to help support of the first public bonsai collections in the world and our nation’s only bonsai museum. The organization also has a Facebook presence– Bonsai Circle (National Bonsai Foundation) a free public group with many interesting article and photos:

www.facebook.com/groups/bonsaicircle/

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Japanese hawthorn

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Hardy Kiwi! Diane has one, but it does not look like this yet….

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Most professional bonsai artists in Japan make a significant amount of their yearly income by displaying their client’s bonsai in large exhibitions such as the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition, opening on Saturday in Kyoto and the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February in Tokyo. Clients are required to have a “handler” to have their bonsai judged and accepted for display. Additionally, display tables, mossing, companion planting and perhaps an antique Chinese container rental may be necessary, as well as perhaps years of preparation. Usually this is performed at the bonsai artist’s garden, which can be quite expensive as well as the $500 to $1,000 entry fee. Don’t forget the transportation costs too, which can run up if one lives in western Osaka and the exhibition is in Tokyo, a good day’s drive away. I remember, many decades ago, in the height of the bonsai boom in Japan when Toshinori Suzuki took 14 truck loads of his client’s bonsai to the Taikan Bonsai Exhibition. Tomorrow Toru Suzuki will take, or rather the apprentices will take and carry 14 bonsai in three truck loads. Unfortunately, the popularity and times have changed in Japan BUT the commitment of the bonsai artists and quality and refinement of bonsai continues to rise.

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Mr. “Bonsai Crazy” on left answering questions. He speaks perfect English and is a popular bonsai teacher in the United States. Currently he is an apprentice to Toru Suzuki.

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One of the older building in the 6th century Temple complex.

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Head priest and bonsai collector Mr. Omura teaching before he welcomed us at lunch.

We continued on our private motor coach to the Shinpukuji Temple, also in Okazaki about an hour away. Julian Adams and I visited years ago which required $50 taxi cost, each way of course. Our timing today was perfect to partake in a special Buddhist luncheon, which was included with our tour. This year was different, however, as we did not need to sit on the floor as tables were added, as well as an English diagram of all the different goodies handed out before the meal. ALL of the cups, chopsticks, spoons, plates, dishes and tray were made of bamboo, harvested on the grounds of this temple complex from the sixth century. Most of the food items were bamboo also, all delicious.

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As we were finishing head priest Mr. Omura came to welcome us to Shinpukuji Temple and invited us “behind the scene” to his extensive bonsai collection of developing trees and those not at their peak display, such as Witchazel and other spring blossoming species. We then walked trough the tall and stately bamboo and Japanese cryptomeria forest to the temple’s museum.

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The main museumlevel has an entry alcove usually featuring a large chrysanthemum suiseki and seasonal bonsai. The bonsai of the day was a large Persimmon. The lower level museum houses priceless antique Buddhist art, as well as contemporary pieces.

Upstairs on the main level a row of bonsai featured autumn fruiting species, especially Princess persimmons, a favorite of Mr. Omura. An outside area had about two dozen larger bonsai of many species. Most of the bonsai came from the Daiju-en Bonsai Garden of the Suzuki family, including many antique bonsai from Saichi Suzuki. One of the most famous Needle juniper bonsai in Japan is owned by Mr. Omura. The other most famous Needle juniper bonsai was seed earlier at Daiju-en Bonsai Garden.

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Mr. Omura proudly showed us one of the bonsai which received one of the coveted Kokufu Sho Awards, highest level award in Japan at the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition three years ago. His bonsai was a medium size Japanese five-needle pine bonsai, grown from seed, not grafted. In the reception room I saw, for the first time, the actual award certificate for a Kokufu Show Award.

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Finally, Mr. Omura showed me his Chinese quince he plans on entering in next year’s 91st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in February. I wish him luck and look forward to seeing his bonsai naked in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Gallery where the fine twigs and colorful unusual peeling bark can be appreciated. Of course it will a pleasure to greet him again in Tokyo as well.

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NO, I did not go up, nor down these steps to the main temple. My cane and knees don’t like steps……. We were driven up by a private car.

2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 2

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Today we only had two stops to visit bonsai gardens, but they were significant and quite a bit of time was necessary to view and study all the numerous details, which make each one unique.

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Our first stop was at Kunio Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Edogwa, Tokyo. Upon first entering the garden you must go around a wall to see the main display area full of large size bonsai. Every time I visit I see something new and learn a lot. Also each time I come there are more and more bonsai, mostly large size for Chinese customers. He has even constructed a new display area on the roof of the building housing his containers and suiseki. If you can’t expand horizontally, you go up. I took a short video from the rooftop growing area and I’m pleased to report no bones were broken during my ascent and descend.

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I was fortunate to visit here in both February and March this year and was surprised to see so many new bonsai as well as older Sargent junipers, which are being grafted with a different cultivar. Many of his established bonsai are continuously being refined into higher level masterpieces.

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It was difficult to navigate through the crowded garden, especially with my cane, which found a comfortable spot to rest until we left. Mr. Kobayashi is taking the appreciation of bonsai to a higher level through the art of display. He built his museum primarily to show different levels of bonsai display in eleven different alcove display areas.

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As always, Mr. Kobayashi was busy, running around preparing suiseki for display at this weekend’s Taikan Bonsai Exhibition in Kyoto. Peter Warren will pick up the stones tomorrow and drive and set them up at the exhibition. Of course he made time to visit with us and gave everyone a new suiseki from the Saiji River. All they now need is about 30 years of weathering outdoors to develop patina.

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Mr. Kobayashi displayed this BONSEKI in one of the alcoves. Fine sand is arranged to present a landscape. The art of bonseki is older than bonsai and suiseki.

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We then took the bullet train to Shizuoka, however there were no views of Mt. Fuji because of the clouds. That’s OK because on the way home flying from Nagoya to Tokyo superb views are often seen. Fields of Japanese green tea were abundantly seen from the bullet train, which looked like low hedges.

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Nobuichi Urushibata

Our group went to see the Taisho-en Bonsai Garden of Nobuichi Urushibata and his son Taiga who apprenticed with Masahiko Kimura. Mr. Urushibata is one of the top leaders for shohin bonsai. His established garden is loaded with small trees, nearly all container grown and superb. He also has an entire room full of trophies he won in ballroom competitions. Unfortunately he hurt his back and is no longer dancing.

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Taiga Urushibata is becoming more popular as a world demonstrator because of his skill, friendly personality and the ability to speak English. I brought him to Rochester, NY, in 2009 for my Shohin Bonsai Symposium and hope he will return in 2018.

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Although is skilled and knowledgeable with shohin bonsai, his trees are much larger than his father’s diminutive jewels. Many of this bonsai feature distinctive dead wood. Also his garden has a quarantine house for exporting to the United States.

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Nobuichi Urushibata, left, and Jack Wikle, two of the world’s top shohin bonsai artists discussing trees.

Taisho-en Bonsai Garden features bonsai of all sizes in a newly designed immaculate well-organized garden.

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2016 Autumn Japan Bonsai Exploration– Part 1

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Today the 19 members of Kora Dalager’s and my tour first went to Hanyu to visit Seiji Morimae at his Uchikutei garden. His business S-Cube, offers an extensive array of bonsai, suiseki, containers, display tables as well as antiques related to bonsai. His container prices are great and every time our group visits Mr. Morimae he has a smile on his face.

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In the past Mr. Morimae published WABI magazine (World Artistic Bonsai Information.) This was a great publication, which was published when he had the time to sit down and write. It did not have a regular publication date. Sound familiar, but I’m trying to get International BONSAI on a more regular schedule. In the past three weeks TWO issues were published and mailed to our subscribers around the world.

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Since Mr. Morimae has a busy schedule he has been offering his items through an extensive web site where you can purchase items on line. Currently blog site is only in Japanese and hope English will soon be coming. Please visit:

http://uchikutei.officeblog.jp

for his blog, in Japanese, but have great photos. In his most recent blog he has photos of Mr. Kimura and him standing next to some pretty large size bonsai from their trip to China last week.

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Also S-Cube has an extensive web shop and can ship items around the world. Unfortunately he cannot ship bonsai to the United States. But the web site has great photos of beautiful bonsai, suiseki, containers, display tables as well as antiques. You can visit here:

http://www.bonsai-s-cube-shop.com

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After our visit we went to the garden of Masahiko Kimura to see some great bonsai, many of which are award winning trees as well as Kicho Bonsai (registered important bonsai) which are identified with a small label hanging on a branch. Most of the bonsai are large and heavy and belong to clients.

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In the room with containers I noticed several carts with the five bonsai he is displaying this coming weekend in Kyoto at the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition. It will be interesting to see how many of these five bonsai will receive awards. I’ll let you know.

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I also noticed many newly created forest plantings on artificial stones using Tsuyama hinoki cypress. It will be interesting to see how he develops them in the future or if he just created them for sale.

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Next we went to the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. Photos were not allowed in the museum or the main display garden. But, there was an area where you can take some photos, also from the second floor balcony.

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We visited the museum on the day when many of the deciduous bonsai hit their peak autumn color. There is beautiful old multiple trunk Japanese maple that is quite famous in Japan. However many Westerners would not appreciate the composition because it has only subtle beauty and antiquity. It’s not that large and impressive with fat trunks. But, if you sit back and simply enjoy and appreciate the beauty, without trying to find its faults, you will understand “Mochigomi” agedness in a container.

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The top two Chinese quince bonsai in Japan were the area where photos were allowed. Looking at the lower trunk and surface root displays you can quickly appreciate why these two bonsai are well known and famous.

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Also famous is an old Korean hornbeam in peak color. But this masterpiece bonsai was not in an area where photos were allowed. So I tried to get a photo of it from the second floor balcony, but it was far away.

 

After a delicious bento box lunch across the street from the museum came the most difficult part of this tour, for me personally, walking through the Omiya Bonsai Village with a cane and bad knee waiting for a replacement. This is the first time in the 17 years Kora and I have been leading bonsai tours in Japan, that she did not need to tell me to slow down.

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First stop was Mansei-en Bonsai Garden, one of the oldest in Omiya Bonsai Village. Proprietor Hatsuji Kato and his son Takahiro are the 4th and 5th generation of the famous Kato family. Hatsuji Kato is on the organization committee for the upcoming 8th World Bonsai Convention in Omiya (Saitama). The logo for the event is a large size Sargent juniper said to be 1,000 years old. It has been at the Mansei-en Bonsai Garden for decades and a few years ago I saw a magazine article were Masahiko Kimura designed the bonsai.

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Next we visited Seiko-en Bonsai Garden down the block. Tomio Yamada and his daughter Kaori are the 4th and 5th generation artists for their garden. Kaori has innovated “Saika Bonsai” which is kind of like ikebana mixed with bonsai. She is well known and a TV personality teaching Saika Bonsai. Many young housewives enjoy her art and her busy teaching schedule.

I believe Kaori Yamada is one of the three Japanese bonsai artist pioneers whose goal is to popularize bonsai for the public. Toshio Kawamoto, son of famous Tomichiki Kawamoto also wanted to popularize bonsai and after World War II. He invented Saikei, which is actually a registered trademark. Mr. Kawamoto wanted the public to enjoy bonsai, but trees were difficult to get and expensive after the war. So he invented Saikei which mainly uses inexpensive young trees and ordinary stones combined to present and idealized miniature landscape. Actually Saikei is a form of Bonkei, tray landscapes. He suggested that after the Saikei became established to take them apart and create individual bonsai, like a pre-training technique for developing bonsai. Saikei is popular around the world, except for Japan where the art is currently unknown.

The third Japanese pioneer to popularize bonsai for the public was Yuji Yoshimura, son of Toshji Yoshimura one of the leaders of the Japanese bonsai and suiseki world. Yuji Yoshimura was the first person to teach bonsai to foreigners in Japan in 1954. To expand his desire to teach bonsai to Westerners he immigrated to the United States, leaving his native Japan. His activities to popularize classical bonsai art is well known.

I feel fortunate to have studied with Yuji Yoshimura for 30 years and with Toshio Kawamoto for 3 years. To date I have not had the privilege to study with Kaori Yamada, but I have not yet completed my bonsai training, as I’m always learning.

We next visited Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden that is operated by Isamu Murata and his son Yukio, who speaks excellent English. This garden established in the 1930s by Kyuzo Murata now specializes in naturalistic bonsai with unusual species and grasses. In 1970 I lived and studied at Kyuka-en Bonsai Garden with Kyuzo Murata.

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Our final stop for the day was at Hiroshi Takeyama’s Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden. Mr. Takeyama continues with his father’s art specializing in deciduous bonsai, group plantings and unusual species. His garden was superb and very colorful with many of the deciduous bonsai in peak autumn colors.

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A well known and famous Chinese hackberry, Celtis sinnenis, had just dropped its leaves and the well ramified twigs were visible.

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I needed to use a cane to walk through the village. This cane is special to me, as it belonged to my mother and was given to her by my Godmother, Adeline J. Geo-Karis, an Illinois state senator and politically the most powerful woman in Illinois, even more powerful than the Chicago Mayor, Jane Byrne.

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Finally, on the bus on the way to our Tokyo hotel we were treated to a magnificent sunset with Mt. Fuji. Everyone on the bus went to the left side of the bus with cameras to capture the view. But, buildings and walls made it difficult to photograph. I could not take a photo because I’m vertically challenged, but fortunately, Les Allen was able to get a shot, as did Kora. Les took this photo.

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Today was quite a busy first day for our tour. Tomorrow we leave Tokyo for Nagoya, another adventure.

The Beauty Of Autumn Bonsai

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This past summer and autumn have been quite busy for my good friends and me. After the successful 2016 5th US National Bonsai Exhibition my autumn Introductory Bonsai Course began. Then, I sat down and finished the next two issues of International BONSAI. The 2016/NO.2 was mailed out last week and tomorrow morning the 2016/NO. 3 issue will go to the printer, which means it should be in the mail late next week. Later this week Kora Dalager and I will be leading our popular Autumn Bonsai Japan Exploration Tour with 20 participants featuring the Taikan Ten Bonsai Exhibition, autumn maple viewing in Kyoto as well as private bonsai gardens. I return home the day before Thanksgiving leaving six days to prepare for the 2016 Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo in Kannapolis, North Carolina. This unusual show has become one of the premier exhibitions on the east coast. Come; join us on December 3-4, 2106 outside Charlotte to appreciate the delicate beauty of naked bonsai. Additional information on the exhibit, vendors and demonstrations, all FREE, can be located at www.winterbonsai.net

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Spike winter hazel being prepared for part of my display in the 2016 Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo. Come visit!

On the last day of the Expo I fly directly to China from Charlotte for the first Bonsai Without Borders– Global Summit. Organized by Su Fang, President of the China Penjing Artists Association, the event has 80 bonsai artists from 32 countries, including Cuba too! Sounds exciting!

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Four days after coming home I get a complete new knee replacement for Christmas. AND, The 2016/NO. 4 issue of International BONSAI is right on schedule with the publication date December 30th.

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Of course we have had a light snow on October 27th, but to date have not had a hard killing frost. Remember, this is Rochester, New York. Now you know why we can’t host a major bonsai exhibition from November through APRIL. If we had a show there is a definite possibility that people could not get their bonsai here OR even return home. Indoor tropical species might even freeze on the way here or home too.

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Although the bonsai are lovely, look at the heavy branch on the tree. It is my Rough bark Japanese maple garden tree, I rooted as a cutting over 40 years ago. This large garden tree normally produces a large number of seedlings which Diane collects, establishes and sometimes wire for future bonsai. The will be included in the new Bare-root Seedling Catalog.

 

The bright autumn colors are about one week later than normal in my bonsai garden. Our summer has been quite hot with little rain. Lawns went dormant and became brown. However, all my bonsai were a vivid green and were watered when necessary by my good friends, often twice daily.

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Porcelain berries!

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Porcelain berry bonsai displayed with mature multi-colored fruit.

porcelain-berryThis bonsai Porcelain berry was trained by Harvey Carapella. When I saw it, past the normal display time, it had an unusual late autumn beauty. Many people only see the naked bonsai with the remaining fruit, past peak. But Harvey’s Porcelain berry bonsai now presents a quiet eerie feeling.

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Firethorn bonsai in an unusual Japanese container. When I purchased the container at Mr. Kobayashi’s Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo, Japan, friends laughed at me. Truly, I had no idea what to put in this special container but knew something would look in it in the future. A few months later we were having lunch in my studio and I saw this bonsai in the greenhouse. Suddenly, the match was made and within 30 minutes the two became one. This bonsai contrasts with the last Porcelain berry. The presentation is loud.

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European beech forest created two years ago from the bare-root seedlings we offer. Look for the new 2107 Bare-Root Seedling Catalog coming soon.

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Multiple trunk Japanese maple. Over 40 years ago Chase Rosade came to our society and created a multiple trunk style bonsai by tying several young Japanese maple whips together then planted it in a long rectangular unglazed container. One of my students was lucky (and so was the tree), and won the raffle. He brought it to my classes for two decades then gave me the tree some time ago. After wiring and refining the bonsai suddenly became alive.

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Cut leaf Japanese maple which has green foliage during the summer. About 30 years ago Joe Noga was putting the poly on his overwintering houses when he lived n Rochester, New York. He stumbled, and fell backwards directly on top of this bonsai. He wanted to throw it away because of the broken top section of the bonsai, but I convinced him to continue working on it. Well, it recovered and a few years ago he gave it to me as it was becoming too large for him. I planted it in an antique mirror shaped shallow container. This is the studio photo to show the beauty of the structure, and color too.

 

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If you want to enjoy and appreciate the entire beauty of a bonsai it is commonly moved into an area with a plain background. A story can be created with the companion plantings and perhaps a hanging scroll. This large size bonsai did not have room for a hanging scroll. Some people ONLY enjoy creating and caring for their precious bonsai. But, I love to appreciate all the beauty on a higher level by display. Years, decades are spent growing and shaping a bonsai. It is not enough for me to just leave it in the garden, taking it to an exhibition or even taking a formal studio photo. I want to get more…

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My Monday Senior Crew came today to help me strip deciduous bonsai in preparation for winter protection. A great group of good skilled dedicated friends.grass-storage

A few of the companion plants my friends cut back for their long winter dormancy. They are placed on the ground, under benches in the garage.

Yesterday and today the colors peaked in my bonsai garden so we took some photos to share with everyone. A few species: Kashima Japanese maple, larch, pear and Korean hornbeam are just beginning to show their autumn colors. We will try to capture their beauty to share. Enjoy the colorful bonsai now, because leaves are dropping rapidly. Unfortunately peak autumn color is not long lasting, unless you can digitally capture it.

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Enjoying the beauty of the season with my two buddies Damien and Sam.