Every summer our Bonsai Society of Upstate New York has a garden tour. In the past we have visited excellent and interesting collections of Hosta, Dwarf Conifers and even a top Dwarf Conifer & Rare Plant Nursery.
Last evening we had a special private visit to the Bergen Water Gardens & Nursery in Churchville, New York, a Rochester suburb. Proprietors Larry & Lily Nau have had much experience with growing plants and fish, in New York as well as in China. They also import Jindezhen porcelain pots for waterlilies from China. Larry was the buyer for a tropical fish store for over 40 years. He was also President of the American Conifer Society and an avid waterlily grower.
Now in its 20th year, Bergen Water Gardens & Nursery in its 16 acer propriety specializes in lotus, waterlilies, koi, goldfish, pond supplies, carnivorous plants and dwarf conifers.
Lotus are a specialty and they have been importing select tubers from China for a few years as well as from the United States. They hybridize many new cultivars and have now amassed a collection of 350-400 different lotus cultivars. Bergen Water Gardens & Nursery was honored to be the first International Waterlily and Water GardeningCertified Nelumbo Collection of Excellence in the IWGS’s 37 year history.
Here you can find tall lotus, over 6 feet in height with flowers 8-9 feet tall as well as teacup lotus which fit in the palm of your hand. New and popular are bowl and micro lotus which grow well in pots only 6 inches in diameter. The flower are small in size too. There are dozens of different cultivars, which are just coming into blossom now. I got a few tubers last year and three more this season. Primarily I purchased them to display with bonsai and this week one began to blossom so a display was created for my Senior Monday Crew during lunch.
Larry Nau and his wife Lily welcomed our group of about 20 members to their beautiful nursery on a warm lovely evening. Larry presented a short program on the history of their nursery and explained many interesting facts about lotus and waterlilies. Before we toured his nursery, Lily arranged for a pizza snack with lotus roots as a topping. It tasted quite good and added a different texture.
Following the presentation Larry showed us all areas of his nursery and explained a few of his 70 plus ponds he dug and has full of lotus for display, sale and hybridization. We ended up in his sales area where several of our members purchased fish, lotus, marginal plants for bonsai accessories and supplies.
Check out their website if you can’t visit in person:
Thank you Larry and Lily for your hospitality to our group to enhance our appreciation of water plants. And the lotus topped pizza was delicious!
Although defoliation is “generally” recommended as a bonsai training technique it actually requires considerable thought and it’s necessary to contemplate each specific tree and the purpose of removing foliage. Today I’ve been told that Ryan Neil and others do not recommend total defoliation of healthy maples. Unfortunately, I did not study with Ryan, whom I respect, and others. I must have skipped the defoliation chapters in the books studied. I’ve learned through intense study (both in the US and Japan) and actual practice for well over 50 years that plants, especially Japanese maple cultivars have diverse growth habits and respond differently to bonsai training techniques.
There are numerous reasons for defoliating deciduous, and even broadleaf evergreens, such as for increasing the number of twig ramification, reducing leaf size, transplanting out of season, reducing vigor on developed trees, energy balance, preparing trees for exhibits, improving air circulation and sun, improve autumn coloring, enjoying colorful spring shoots again, facilitating easier wiring, reviving dehydrated trees, eliminating pests and disease and more. The health, age, size, stage of development, climate and reason for defoliating a tree must be carefully considered, especially with established developed specimens. Undeveloped trees can generally withstand more stress than more developed trees.
June 2020 Katsura Japanese Maple Defoliated Bonsai And Garden Tree. Both Are The Same Age, My 40 Year Cuttings.
I recommend that the foliage matures and trees are fertilized before defoliating in late-spring and summer for maximum results in developing a new flush of growth for training or display. Timing is important to allow the new growth to mature before cold weather arrives. I’ve actually defoliated maples in August with good results, but do not recommend that late a date. Aftercare is important considering sun exposure, watering and fertilizer applications. The subsequent new growth can be trained for different purposes. Sometimes the fine delicate twigs are not as winter hardy as thicker branches.
Katsura Japanese Maple 2010 after growing in the garden for a few years. Before pruning.
2010 After Pruning.
I shared a few photos of my Katsura Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ in my original posts in Facebook and the Bonsai Nut Forum. The complete history of this bonsai is attached here. Both the bonsai and the garden tree are the same age, my cuttings about 40 years old and were planted in my garden in 1988. About ten to fifteen years later one of the maples had an interesting shape and it was lifted and trained for bonsai. Katsura Japanese maple is a vigorous grower and this specimen has only been in training for about 15 years after lifting from my garden. It’s a relatively large size and heavy bonsai. Since The outer canopy silhouette was the main reason for total defoliation. After removing all the leaves thick heavy branches were visible and will be corrected in the future.
May 2014, Excellent Spring Coloring.
May 2020, Spring Coloring.
June 2020 Before Defoliation.
June 2020 After Defoliation.
June 2020 After trimming, but before eliminating thick branching.
At the same time as totally defoliating the Katsura Japanese maple posted, I partially defoliated another Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, which was not posted. This special and unique tree is one of the original shohin bonsai from the Matsudaira Collection. Now over 120 years old this bonsai has an interesting history. Count Yorinaga Matsudaira and his wife created the largest shohin bonsai collection in Japan in the 1930s. He was infatuated in bonsai and wanted to see how small a bonsai could be created and maintained. Count Matsudaira, along with Norio Kobayashi established the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in 1934. This Japanese maple bonsai is from the Matsudaira Collection and was displayed in at least two Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions in 1957 and 1974.
1958 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition
1974 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition
June 2020 After Partial Defoliation
So, this is an old bonsai and not as vigorous as younger trees so it should not be completely defoliated to maintain health. However, I have a few times totally defoliated the bonsai during the past 36 years I’ve been caring for it. It’s been fun and a privilege to be able to care and continue the training of this distinctive and historical bonsai.
Everyone is invited to visit this year’s Spring Open House & Sale on Saturday-Sunday, June 6-7, 2020, at the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York. Please be safe and wear a mask.
Since I was unable to conduct my Introductory Bonsai Courses, Seminars and Open Workshops because of the Convair 19 Virus, it has been quite around here. Therefore we have had considerable time to create many new bonsai and prepare pre-bonsai for sale. The gardens look quite good too. We were able to transplant many masterpieces which needed root pruning and fresh soil as well.
There are a few unusual bonsai you might want to check out: Golden Smoke Tree, Climbing Hydrangea and a Red Dragon Harry Lauder’s Contorted Filbert. Additionally you can see how small and compact many of the bonsai maples have developed since bud pinching earlier during the season. Now is the time to pinch pines, and we are busy as they are always producing new shoots at different times throughout the trees.
Golden Smoke Tree
Red Dragon Harry Lauder’s Contorted Filbert
Compact Kiyo Hime Japanese Maple leaves
Its time for the Chinese Quince bark to exfoliate
Golden Full Moon Maple flowers forming fruit
RAF Dwarf Scots Pine
Butterfly Japanese Maple
Dwarf Ezo Sprue
The Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition, sponsored by the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York, was cancelled so there was no bonsai show for people to visit. There will, however, be the 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition coming uo on September 12-13, 2020 in Rochester. At the Spring Open House & Sale we will be featuring seven formal classical bonsai displays in addition to a beautiful garden full of fine bonsai where basic and advanced training techniques can be viewed and studied this weekend.
Award winning bonsai artists from the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York are joining me at the Spring Open House & Sale to demonstrate their skills and share their techniques and knowledge for creating bonsai. Each artist has many years of dedicated study and experience in training bonsai.
Harvey Carapella was a past president of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York for several decades. He has a large size Ginkgo bonsai forest which will be redesigned with a new main tree.
Mark Arpag is the current president of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and has a special Dwarf Apple for his demonstration. Twenty some years ago our Society had a visit to the famous Kirby Apple Orchard where members were allowed to dig and take home a large Dwarf Apple. Mark has been training his demo tree and plans to improve the dead wood area into a focal point.
Alan Adair is a director of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and also the Curator of the Living Collection at the International Bonsai Arboretum. He specializes in Larch bonsai and will share his knowledge on how to train this popular hardy species for bonsai.
Wm. N. Valavanis is a past president of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and will be creating a bonsai from a Japanese Yew Diane selected from a local nursery.
From last September’s Open House demonstration. Note how “tall” I needed to be to work on the pine. Well, I was standing on a cement block, look closely. I should have listed to Diane and Jerome Cushman because I broke BOTH feet standing on it.
My TWO broken feet did not stop me. I still went to Seattle, British Columbia, China and Japan a few times.
Check the schedule of events on the attached flyer for the times of the demonstrations. Between the demonstrations visitors are encouraged to study the bonsai displays and garden while shopping for bonsai, pre-bonsai, containers, wire and tools. There is a 20% discount on bonsai, pre-bonsai, containers and tools.
On May 22 Bonsai Empire from The Netherlands conducted a garden tour of our garden. It was filmed by Mark Arpag and assisted by my son Chris. The hour and a half live tour was quite popular and visited by 68,000 people around the world. Check it out at:
Join us this coming weekend for our Spring Open House & Sale, no snow is forecast, only good warm weather, to enjoy bonsai, learn from the demonstrations, meet with others who share your passion and go shopping to add to your collection. Please be safe and wear a mask.
Bonsai Empire by Oscar Jonker has done it again! He has produced another stellar educational and entertaining online bonsai course taught by Masahiko Kimura, the magical technician of contemporary bonsai. This is the first time Mr. Kimura has presented an online bonsai course. I first had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kimura with Chase Rosade nearly 40 years ago in his bonsai garden filled with masterpiece bonsai. Since that time International BONSAI has featured “Magic Moments- The Artistry of Kimura” a photo essay by Masahiko Kimura for over 35 years. For the past 32 issues we have published “Masahiko Kimura’s Fun Bonsai Classroom where Mr. Kimura shows how he transforms ordinary plant material into stunning works of art.
Mr. Kimura’s private classroom has been opened for his online students
So, I’m quite familiar with this innovator of contemporary bonsai and have watched dozens of his live demonstrations throughout the United States and the world. Twice a year he has opened and shared his garden for my bonsai tour members in Japan.
It’s a wonder how Bonsai Empire was able to capture the essence of Mr. Kimura’s art and techniques in the easy to learn Kimura Masterclass. Like other of Bonsai Empire’s online bonsai courses, this unique course is well organized, photographed and edited to make students easy to learn from the teacher. Masahiko Kimura shares a lifetime of cultivated knowledge through his excellent explanation of this design theory and bonsai techniques he has perfected. The photography was superb showing all details of the techniques. And, there were a few segments of high speed wiring to avoid students being bored.
The four hour bonsai course is divided into three sections which are complete close up views of two demonstrations, plus a bonus content. The first demonstration on an old collected Japanese five-needle pine shows how Mr. Kimura studies the untrained tree and how he prepares the tree for creating into a stunning windswept bonsai. For the first time I learned that Mr. Kimura dyes his raffia close to the color of the tree’s bark to make it “disappear.” Considerable time was spent with his apprentices cleaning the overgrown moss groundcover to show the hidden surface root display. The next two parts of this demonstration shows how he selects the proper gauge of annealed copper wire and how he applies it, cutting the wire to the “exact” size to avoid any waste. Clearly he has done this before. Bending techniques for heavy branches are featured as well as the proper use of guy wires. He explains his thought process of establishing the basic design according to his taste which is the cumulation of decades of study.
Before concluding the new windswept bonsai demonstration Mr. Kimura talks about refining the design and the apex silhouette aesthetics. The finished bonsai is typical of the fine quality work of Masahiko Kimura.
The second demonstration lesson shows how Mr. Kimura creates a clinging-to-a rock planting bonsai using Sargent junipers. He purchased about 50 trees and carefully selected the best six or seven trees for the rock planting composition. Mr. Kimura has been creating numerous clinging-to-a rock planting bonsai and has perfected his techniques to show nature in miniature. He was greatly influenced by his many trips to see mountains in China.
The rock for his rock planting was carved by Mr. Kimura, and although he talks about how he carved and painted the stone I wish photos or a short video on how he created the stone was shown. He wired and planted the stone to the container before planting. Each of the trees was prewired and skillfully planted on the stone. The wires for attaching the trees to the stones used an interesting technique I’ve never seen before. The asymmetrical balance of tree positioning was well done and explained. Considerable time was spent on applying the peat muck and subsequent moss. The finished rock planting bonsai looked established, like it had been created decades before.
The third or Bonus Content will be an eye opener for most students. Mr. Kimura takes a tour through his back area where his unfinished compositions and client’s bonsai are kept and trained. Many future masterpieces can be seen in this section. After the private area tour students are shown the public garden where world-famous bonsai masterpieces can be enjoyed and studied.
Finally to conclude the private lesson an interview with Mr. Kimura explains how his creativity was influenced and how he developed many of his masterwork bonsai. A great conclusion to a stimulating private lesson with Mr. Kimura. It was wonderful to hear Mr. Kimura’s advice to his students and apprentices that you should grow your bonsai with love and affection, the most important factor for bonsai. This Kimura Masterclass is really special because he has no intention to travel to teach bonsai. In Mr. Kimura’s own words about the reason for his first online bonsai course: “to share his knowledge and legacy on.”
Clearly photographed the entire online Kimura Masterclass features Mr. Kimura explaining everything in Japanese. However, Makiko Kobayashi did an excellent job translating all his comments in proper English subtitles. This must have taken considerable work to get all the fine details translated then edited and printed at the bottom of the video.
I suggest the Kimura Masterclass to any serious bonsai enthusiast who wants to learn techniques and aesthetics directly from the master to improve their bonsai skills and understanding.
As an extra added bonus, at the conclusion of my four hour private lesson I was able to print out a Certificate of Completion which can be framed and displayed. Well done Mr. Kimura, Oscar and Makiko!
4 hours of private instruction
Students can easily enroll in the 4 hour Kimura Masterclass at:
Well, “Spring” has finally arrived in Rochester, NY, although the official safe frost free date is May 30! All the bonsai are now outside and the indoor tropical species are also being moved outside, all of them.
Only 6 days later.
This spring has been quite unusual… Since I have been unable to teach or conduct workshops because of the Convair-19 Virus, we have been kept quite busy working on bonsai. Together with my assistant Alan Adair (curator of the living collection at the International Bonsai Arboretum,) and my Monday Senior Crew we have created well over 100 new bonsai, refined and transplanted many masterpieces (which they needed,) and also “dancing” with the bonsai, many, many times moving inside and out on nearly a daily basis to protect tender beautiful new colorful growth from cold, frost and snow.
I believe this year we have actually transplanted nearly every deciduous bonsai which needed it, almost. We are just starting to transplant the evergreens. Truly, we never really stop transplanting here, when a tree needs it, we simply transplant and adjust the aftercare. A couple of days ago we transplanted one of my largest Kashima Japanese Maples in full leaf. I must have skipped the chapter on transplanting in the bonsai instruction books or did not watch the videos on YouTube.
Enjoy these photos from the past six weeks of busy work, actually having fun.
Shishigashira Japanese maple
White Chojubai Japanese flowering quince.
Shishigashira Japanese maple
Kashima Japanese maple
Japanese larch forest created for Diane’s family. Each tree represents a member of the McAleer family in Montreal, Canada
Crabapple logo bonsai for the upcoming 2020 7th US National Bonsai Exhibition which WILL be held on September 12-13, 2020 in Rochester, New York. Come see it loaded, hopefully in an abundance of fruit. Last year in preparation for the exhibition we removed all the flowers to produce more blossoms and fruit for you to enjoy.
Trident maple, completely container grown from a 4″ potted seedling for about 30 years.
Cork-bark Chinese elm redesign, not complete yet, but perhaps a new owner will design in their own taste.
70 Trident maples in a very shallow container.
Mycorrhizae on pine bonsai. Watch for a comprehensive article on this symbiotic fungus in the next issue of International BONSAI, which I’m working on now.
Induced back budding on an old Japanese maple bonsai not by drastic pruning.
Transplanting and root pruning Kashima Japanese maple bonsai in full leaf.
As most friends know, I specialize in maple, deciduous, unusual and forest planting bonsai. Spring is the peak of beauty, OK autumn too, in my garden. On Friday, May 22, 2020 at 2pm (EST) Bonsai Empire will be hosting a live walk through video stream from my beautiful and colorful garden. Even better, after the tour I’ll be delighted to answer any questions you might have. Simply use this link to tune in for a beautiful, enjoyable and educational spring visit.
If you live within driving range, our Spring 2020 Open House & Sale will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7th. This year Award Winning bonsai artists, Harvey Carapella, Marc Arpag, Alan Adair and I will be conducting demonstrations. Come, spend some time in my garden, learn and enjoy the bonsai, and please make some purchases as well. At least, subscribe to International BONSAI, the first and only professional bonsai magazine published in the United States for the past 42 years.
While most bonsai fanciers in our great country are finished with transplanting and now defoliating and trimming deciduous bonsai, we in the frigid Upstate New York area are still dancing with moving trees inside and out, daily to avoid frost and freezing temperatures. We are still transplanting and have over a month before we can even think about defoliating deciduous bonsai. In fact, we are expecting SNOW tonight and tomorrow.
Friends frequently ask why I live here. Well, many of my friends are around, are kind of centrally located for visitors, it’s the home of the US National Bonsai Exhibition (still coming up soon) and if you buy one of my bonsai, you know it will be winter hardy in most of the country.
Experiencing long periods of cold we learn to appreciate early spring flowering bonsai, a harbinger of a new fresh growing season where we have another season to enjoy and opportunity to improve our bonsai. So, basically, anything flowering in late-winter and early spring means that the “real” spring is not too far away, and hopefully will last more than a couple of days before the hot weather arrives. Today, the Forsythia and Bradford pears are still in flower.
Magnolias make great bonsai, but are not frequently seen, perhaps because they are only attractive when in flower for a couple of weeks and do not look good because of the large foliage. Well, so are a number of other species such as Cherry, Winter hazel, Witch hazel, and these too are not often seen.
I happen to love the beauty of Magnolia bonsai with the different size flowers, varying colors from white to pink to red and even yellow. The fuzzy buds are especially attractive too.
Last year there was a large magnificent cascade magnolia displayed at the 2019 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in Tokyo which also received the Kokufu Prize and People’s Choice Award. It was truly beautiful with large dark purple flower buds. It really impressed me and thought it might be fun to attempt to create a cascade Magnolia bonsai.
In March 2019 I was shopping for plants in South Carolina and stopped at a Lowe’s to see what they had available in the nursery area. I was not surprised to see Magnolias for sale but was amazed to find a specimen with a rather unusually shaped trunk which could be trained into a cascade style with a bit of wire. I purchased it, brought it to Rochester and made a few cuts, wired and transplanted it into a training pot for future development. It grew last season and the wire was removed before cutting into the beautiful white bark. Of course, the tree did not hold the desired shape all the way, so must be wired again this week. But before wiring I wanted to enjoy the flowers which increased in number. I’m having fun playing with this tree.
April 14, looking promising
April 16 after frost and in snow
April 20, after frost
We also have a Star Magnolia garden tree in our garden. It was originally trimmed for about 15 years by one of my students who worked in a local garden center. When they closed down, I was fortunate to purchase the 8 foot tall tree and with the help of my friends moved it to our garden. That was about 20 years ago. Since planting, Diane has taken over the yearly job of maintaining the compact shape to keep the beauty of the tree. Please note that Magnolias blossom in early spring and are usually hit by frost before displaying their blossoms. We had an early warm March, but frigid April and actually thought we could not enjoy the fragrant flowers this year. The April weather hit the tree, but it still flowered! And it’s the best display we have been able to enjoy in 20 years.
If you like Magnolia bonsai and want to learn how to train and cultivate them, check out the 2007/NO. 1 issue of International BONSAI on “Spring Flowering Bonsai,” which includes two articles on how to train Magnolias and lots of great photos of other spring flowering bonsai.
It is spring and my garden is beginning to display brilliant colors, so what am I doing sharing information on chrysanthemums now? There is an active thread on the Bonsai Nut Bonsai Forum discussing chrysanthemums for bonsai. I began to write a response but developed “diarrhea of the mouth” and my reply became too long, so decided to share it here.
Chrysanthemums make great, colorful bonsai for autumn display. In the early 1970s while apprenticing in Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan I also had the opportunity to study bonsai chrysanthemums with Tameji Nakajima, co-author of The Art of the Chrysanthemum, the foremost book on chrysanthemums. He co-authored the book with H. Carl Young, who introduced Seiju elm. Mr. Nakajima hybridized chrysanthemum cultivars and selecting those which have small blooms and develop thick trunks for bonsai. I was fortunate to introduce about a dozen of his bonsai chrysanthemum cultivars in the 1970s and traveled the country teaching how to train bonsai chrysanthemums. When I stopped training bonsai chrysanthemums I made sure they would not be lost in commercial production and sold them to King’s Chrysanthemums in California, now located in Oklahoma.
Bonsai chrysanthemums are actually started in autumn, from stolon growth (small shoots) at the base of a plant. That small growth is what is trained for the following year’s bonsai, NOT the original cutting. This technique creates a great lower trunk and surface root system. During the summer growing season the chrysanthemums are transplanted MONTHLY and wired and unwired several times. If successful in developing a bonsai chrysanthemum bonsai they will present you with beautiful small colorful flowers for perhaps a month. Mostly the bonsai chrysanthemums seen in Japan are one year trees.
Bonsai chrysanthemums are extremely labor intensive and difficult to overwinter. They do not overwinter well, and when they do, I have discovered, are not as vigorous as one-year old plants.
As I have grown up the bonsai community I have learned that my time is too valuable to create a bonsai which can only be enjoyed for one year. I want to develop a bonsai which can be kept and appreciated for many years, decades.
So, currently I’m not training bonsai chrysanthemums. However, I am growing another chrysanthemum for bonsai which is long lived. The Nippon Daisy, Chrysanthemum nipponicum, is a woody perennial which is winter hardy in the Upstate New York area and develops great trunks, old bark and bright pure white, daisy-like flowers in autumn. The flower stems are a bit long, but attractive. Recently the Nippon Daisy chrysanthemum has been reclassified as Nipponathemum nipponicum.
Yuji Yoshimura next to his Nippon Daisy chrysanthemum bonsai.
My Nippon Daisy chrysanthemum originally came from Yuji Yoshimura who imported a plant from his father’s Tokyo bonsai garden in the early 1960s. The original plant was started in the 1950s so it must be 70 years old now. When I purchased the bonsai at Mr. Yoshimura’s auction in 1995 it had three trunks.
The lowest branch developed into a cascade bonsai in 2012.
I removed the left trunk and developed it into a cascade style bonsai which continues to flower and presents an aged appearance. Several other plants have been developed from trunk sections, all trained in the cascade style.
After I removed the left lower trunk the remaining two trunks were trained into a stunning twin trunk bonsai. Through the decades the smaller left trunk rotted away and a single trunk bonsai was developed. It is planted in a rather unusual Japanese Tokoname-ware container which was a wedding gift from Hiro Yamaji.
The left trunk rotted away, don’t forget its 70 years old!
The Nippon Daisy chrysanthemum is easy to root and grows great in the garden. In fact, heavy clay soil promotes rapid trunk thickening. Only a yearly spring trimming to keep the plant growing with only one trunk is all that is necessary. In three to five years it is easy to get a 2-3” trunk. Then the plant is dug and branches can be developed to form a bonsai in a container.
Old bark quickly develops.
They grow quite quickly and are trimmed several times during the growing season. However, I try to stop trimming in July or August to allow the plant to set flower buds. Usually I repot them in early to mid-summer when I have time. They prefer deeper containers because the thick leather-like foliage is heavy and demands quite a bit of water. Often I have the container sitting in a shallow saucer of water. Normally, my Nippon Daisy chrysanthemums blossom in late-October to mid-November. After flowering the small twigs are usually pruned leaving only the major branching. Thus branching is easily developed the following year.
I promise to share photos of the colorful maple bonsai in my garden soon.
Last week I participated in GardenScape 2020, Rochester’s premier garden show. We forced many Azaleas, Pears, Cherries and two Wisteria to blossom in March, rather than in May.
The two Wisteria bonsai woke up and the flower buds began to open. One of the bonsai was delayed, exactly one week behind the other. When the flowers racemes began to open they looked quite different. A couple of days later I realized one of the Wisterias was Chinese, and the other Japanese, Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys.’
The Japanese wisteria I forced suddenly became beautiful with the long, elegant hanging racemes which are also fragrant. This bonsai began as a two year old graft which I sold to a student in 2001 for only $8.00. Each year he brought the Japanese wisteria to my classes for advice and training. Since he is moving out of state I was able to purchase the bonsai and continued its training in my design.
The bonsai flowers peaked today. I do not like all the flower open, but rather appreciate the beautiful long racemes in opening bud. After photographing the bonsai I took a critical look at the silhouette and was not pleased, especially with the flat terminal. So, I thinned out the flower racemes and used guy wires to change a few branches to create the bonsai in my design. One flower raceme measured 24!”
Chinese wisterias are more popular in the United States than Japanese because they have naturalized in the southern states. Large heavy trunks can be collected and trained into pleasing bonsai in only a couple of years.
Chinese wisteria flowers are a bit larger and fuller than the Japanese species, which are considerably longer and more fragrant. I have both Japanese and Chinese wisterias growing in my garden and also trained for bonsai.
Chinese wisteria trained by Bob Blankfield
One of my favorite Wisterias is Rokushaku wisteria, Wisteria floribunda ‘Rokushaku.’ The Japanese word “rokaku” means six, and “shaku” is an old Japanese measurement of about 12”, so the name means six feet long. Yes, this cultivar is supposed to have floral racemes six feet long. I have only been able to measure one 56” in my garden. This cultivar was given to me by bonsai pioneer Saichi Suzuki who introduced Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine over 40 years ago when the trunk was the size of a chopstick. I planted it in my mother’s garden for a few years, then after I married Diane we transplanted it next to the “great wall.” The trunk has thickened considerably and is now over 14” in diameter, with considerable movement as well.
I have taken numerous cuttings and planted one in our front yard about 20 some years ago. In 2017 it produced a considerable show.
International BONSAI has featured Wisteria bonsai in two issues, 1990/1 and 2004/1. Here is an article about the differences between Japanese and Chinese wisterias.
There is also a Dwarf wisteria, Milletia microphylla, which is not really a Wisteria. It’s a beautiful plant with Wisteria-like beautiful foliage. Although it is easy to grow and train, it rarely blossoms. I’ve never seen one in person, but Boon has a blossoming plant and sent me a photo. This blog is getting lengthy and perhaps a Dwarf wisteria could be another topic. In the meantime there is a comprehensive article on Dwarf wisteria in International BONSAI 2004/1.
Enjoy the beautiful fragrant flowers of your Wisteria bonsai when they blossom later on in spring!
GardenScape 2020 is the annual garden show in Rochester, New York, which runs from March 12-15, 2020. It is held at The Dome in Henrietta, New York, a suburb of Rochester only five miles from my garden. Landscape companies from around the area transform the Dome, over one acre in size, into a living garden paradise in 2.5 days. GardenScape 2020 showcases the most unique designs, display, plants and products for the attendees.
This is the 25TH presentation of GardenScape, and the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and I have been fortunate to have displayed bonsai every year and I’m the last of the original exhibitors. This year 12 of my Monday Senior Crew helped design, build and install our bonsai display garden in two long days. The final result came out great after months of planning, building and forcing azaleas for the colorful garden. Unlike other exhibitors who mostly purchased forced plants for their gardens out of state. All of our plants, including the dwarf daffodils, were forced by us.
This year’s theme was “Passport to Spring.” My garden, “Passport to Spring in Japan” featured two large hand painted murals by noted artist Alan Adair. His first painting mural featured a view of sacred Mt. Fuji, framed by a Scots pine bonsai and flowering cherries. The second mural of pines, inspired by paintings in the Momoyama Period (16th Century Japan,) provided a striking contrast with a massive Dwarf Scots pine bonsai. They were designed to be enjoyed while entering the garden through the torii gate. By the way, the GardenScape committee wanted the award ceremony to be held under the “Red Arch.”
The third mural featured nearly 50 of my entry visas to Japan, China, Australia, Korea, Brazil, Germany, England, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Indonesia where I have traveled to teach and demonstrate classical bonsai as well as leading tours for people from around the globe. Throughout the exhibit Japanese flowering cherries were featured in the garden as well as trained bonsai. Two spectacular fragrant Wisteria bonsai welcomed and drew the public into our garden.
To enhance this year’s garden Exhibit Engineer Joe Lentner designed and built a 12’ tall torii gate for the entrance. This took considerable design and construction which took him many weeks. The torii gate is generally used as an entrance way to a Shinto shrine or other sacred place. Here the torii gate invites visitors to a “Passport to Spring in Japan,” entering a magical world of classical bonsai. Shinto architecture is keeping harmony with nature. All vertical sections are round, as trees grow upright in round forms. Horizontal sections are squared off because they are not in keeping with nature.
There are many different styles of torii gates. Painted wood torii gates are traditionally vermilion. After Joe finished the torii gate construction, Alan Adair primed and painted it using vermilion color. Several sections needed a couple of coats to present the torii gate in perfection. Joe built the torii gate in our garage. Since the garage does not have a 12 foot tall clearance, we were unable to actually test it to see if it would work and see what it would look like. Fortunately, Joe’s design was superb and we were able to raise it on the first try.
Last year Joe Lentner designed and constructed a new gazebo where Harvey Carapella, Marc Arpag, Alan Adair and I presented almost continuous demonstrations from 10am to 9pm for the four day show. Only two people were working on trees at a time, while the others and Diane answered many questions about bonsai and my upcoming Introductory Bonsai Course.
Each year nursery and horticulture professionals from outside the region judge the garden displays. The team consisting of landscapers, garden designers and horticulturists carefully evaluate each garden display and present awards to worthy entries. Unfortunately they are not well versed or understand bonsai, typical.
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.
Our display won the following awards:
Most impressive display of a single forced specimen under the direct supervision of the exhibitor.
Best integration of fragrant flowers in a garden.
Best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public.
Best plant labelling.
The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York also had a good size exhibit next to my display featuring about two dozen trees from members. They won the best non-profit exhibit for education. Their members staffed the exhibit and answered many questions.
In addition to the beautiful gardens, visitors were amazed by the fantastic creations of Stan Munro’s toothpick scale models of some of the world’s most recognizable structures. His “Toothpick World” exhibit consist of only wooden toothpicks and Elmers glue. Over the years he has estimated he’s used some six million toothpicks and more than 65 gallons of glue.
A few photos of a few of the other garden landscape exhibits. Unfortunately, GardenScape 2020 is being held during the Coronavirus pandemic which greatly impacted the number of visitors. But, those who did visit were treated to a breath of spring with beautiful fragrant flowers, gardens and bonsai. Hopefully the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York will add new members and I’ll get new students for my Introductory Bonsai Course and workshops. A big thanks to Diane, my Monday Senior Crew and all of my friends who supported the display.