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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WOUND CALLUS TISSUE DEVELOPMENT

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….

 

Koto Hime Japanese Maple

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The Koto Hime Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Koto Hime,’ is in the dwarf or yatsubusa group of plants which are prized for bonsai training. This cultivar is best when trained as a shohin or small size bonsai because of the diminutive and tightly congested foliage.

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 Description

Koto Hime Japanese maple originated in Saitama Prefecture in Japan. The foliage is generally light green and is crinkled along the edges. Of all the maple cultivars Koto Hime Japanese maple has the smallest foliage. In spring the emerging foliage is colorful and appears as blossoms. The autumn color is not dependable for this cultivar, but the foliage generally becomes yellow before dropping in mid-autumn. Cultural practices and the current weather season determine the intensity of autumn coloring.

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The leaves of Koto Hime Japanese maple are closely spaced which means that there is an abundance of adventitious vegetative buds, even on old wood. This is an excellent characteristic for drastic pruning thick trunks and branches for developing or remodeling bonsai.

Most maples have an opposite leaf arrangement, but this cultivar often sports and produces a whorled arrangement. I have even seen branches form a fasciated or flattened shape, but it was not stable and worthwhile to propagate.

The most distinctive characteristic of Koto Hime Japanese maple is the extremely upright growth habit which sharply contrasts with Kiyo Hime Japanese maple which grows horizontally. Many of the dwarf maple bonsai in the yatsubusa group tend to have their crowns die back after about 20 years. I have numerous Koto Hime Japanese maples, many over 30 years old and have not seen the crown dyeing. However, I have experienced dyeing crowns on other Japanese maple cultivars.

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Propagation

Koto Hime Japanese maples are extremely easy to root as semi-softwood cuttings. Although cuttings can be taken anytime with good results, the ideal time for rooting is in late spring. Two to four inch terminal semi-softwood cuttings taken in May or placed under mist can be expected to root in approximately two to four weeks. Thick branches also root easy. Like other cultivars of Japanese maples, extra winter protection will produce healthy plants in spring.

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Koto Hime Japanese maple can also be air layered with ease. Even large branches over one inch in diameter will root in approximately two months when taken in spring.

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Bonsai Training

Since the natural characteristic of Koto Hime Japanese maple is upright the standing bonsai styles, (formal and informal upright and slanting) are the best forms to use. Any horizontal branching must be trained by wiring or pruning. Even if the branches are wired down, all future growth will remain upright.

Small size bonsai can be developed quicker than larger specimens, especially when air layering sections from large plants. Small specimens need small, neat foliage to be in proportion and this cultivar is perfect for that. The foliage is so small I have not found it necessary to defoliate to reduce the size. Small leaves often are deformed and do not resemble maple foliage.

Since the leaves are so tightly congested, it is necessary to thin out the buds each spring when they swell or as they are opening. This technique will eliminate many of the freely produced buds along thick old trunks and branches and give strength to the desired branches.

Should a branch get damaged, die or pruned, a new bud can easily and quickly be trained as a replacement. Allow the small replacement bud to extend without pinching or training to encourage the development.

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Before thinning out in spring

 

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After thinning out in spring

 

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For additional information on Koto Hime Japanese maple and other dwarf cultivar see the 1994/2 issue of International BONSAI.

 

2018 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition II– Part 2 (Final)

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Here are the last images from this year’s tour to Japan to visit the Kokufu Bonsai & Japan Suiseki Exhibitions, Omiya Bonsai Village, S-Cube, Masahiro Kimura and Kunio Kobayashi’s gardens.

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Do you recognize this Japanese five-needle pine bonsai? I did. It was featured in the video Shinji Suzuki produced many years ago. He was trying to decide if he should enter it in the professional Sakufu Bonsai Exhibition. He wanted to show it, but Seiji Morimae told him it would not win and to make up his own mind. Mr. Suzuki did enter the competition with this bonsai, and of course, did not win. Today I think it would win that exhibition.

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I was surprised to see so much needle variation on the Ezo spruce bonsai. The Ezo spruce, Picea glehnii, is commonly trained for bonsai in colder areas. Native to the Hokkaido area they love cold and snow. Many people confuse Ezo spruce, Picea glehnii, with the Black Ezo spruce (also called Sakhalin spruce or Yezo spruce) Picea jezoensis, which is NOT trained for bonsai in Japan. The needles are too long and coarse for bonsai.

There are probably two reasons for the great variation of the Ezo spruce bonsai in this exhibition. First is the natural seedling variation and the second reason has to do with the pinching techniques for new growth. The needles of course reduce in size according to the years and decades of training and containerization. The color differences may be cultural and again seedling variations.

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Bonsai and suiseki exhibitions attract people from all walks of life. I saw this lovely young lady studying the suiseki exhibit and asked to take her photo. She smiled, agreed and even posed for the photo. But I forgot to ask her why she was dressed up….

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2018 5th Japan Suiseki Exhibition

The 5th Japan Suiseki Exhibition took place on February 14-17, 2018, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park. This is the same venue as the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition on the second floor.IMG_8375

Nippon Suiseki Association Chairman, Kunio Kobayashi welcomes visitors during the opening ceremony.

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This year there were:

82 General Exhibits

6 Special Exhibits

32 Tokonoma Displays

1 Guest Entry

17 Foreign Displays

11 Accessory Exhibits

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Guest Entry by the Hosokawa School Bonseki titled “Distant View of Fuji”

 

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According to the Nippon Suiseki Association, sponsor of the exhibition:

Suiseki is a genera term referring to a stone that captures the poetic beauty of natural landscape scenery. In a single stone one can sense the whole of the universe, making suiseki among the most spiritual and culturally rich pursuits celebrating the art of nature.

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The history of suiseki is said to have begun in the mid-Muromachi period during the 15th century and its spiritual aspect deepened throughout its connection with Zen Buddhism and the tea ceremony. The pastime of suiseki as it has been passed down to us today became established between the end of the Edo period and the mid-Meiji period in the late 19th century. A unique literati sensibility toward natural stones and landscape beauty was born in the 18th century, which later melded with the love of nature’s artistry held by bonsai enthusiasts of the Meiji period, and ultimately became suiseki as we know it today– an ideal expression of Japanese aesthetics.

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It is said that the pleasure of suiseki lies in the heart of the viewer. To allow one’s mind to idle in nature, to perceive the whole of creation and Mother Nature’s elegance, to reach the point where one can hear the profound voice of the infinite world in a single stone, suiseki lures us into the subtle realm of yugen the refined hart of the wabi and sabi aesthetics.

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In addition to Japan, suiseki were displayed from the Philippines, Italy, Malaysia, England, Czech Republic, Spain, Denmark and the United States. Six stones displayed by Jim Greaves, Larry & Nina Ragle, Ron Maggio, Tom Elias, Paul Gilbert and Wm. N. Valavanis. I was personally honored that my suiseki that I collected in Georgia over 20 years ago was displayed in the main entrance room, third from the front. Mr. Kobayashi displayed my suiseki in an antique Chinese water basin over 200 years old.

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Tom Elias

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Ron Maggio

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Paul Gilbert

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Wm. N. Valavanis

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