Chrysanthemums In Spring?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The lowest branch developed into a cascade bonsai in 2012.

 

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2018 CASCADE

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wisteria Bonsai

FLOWERS

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.

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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!”

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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.

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WISTERIA BONSAI

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.

WISTERIA BOB

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.

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I have taken numerous cuttings and planted one in our front yard about 20 some years ago. In 2017 it produced a considerable show.

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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.

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WISTERIA

 

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.

DWARF WISTERIA DISPLAY

DWARF WISTERIA SUMMER

DWARF WISTERIA

Enjoy the beautiful fragrant flowers of your Wisteria bonsai when they blossom later on in spring!

Bonsai at GardenScape 2020

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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.

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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.

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PINE MURAL

 

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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.”

PASSPORT MURAL

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

AWARDS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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WATERING

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2020 7th Japan Suiseki Exhibition

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The 2020 7th Japan Suiseki Exhibition is being held on February 14-18, 2020 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan. This is in the same building as the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition, but on a different floor.

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Bonsai from the Hosokawa School

 

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There are seven special entries, 32 alcove displays and a guest entry of a bonseki from the Hosokawa School. Members displayed 89 suiseki in the general entries. The foreign entries included suiseki from: Philippines, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Vietnam, Australia, China and the United States. There were 21 suiseki in this category. Starting this year, the organization will be having a special exhibit featuring 22 suiseki from famous rivers which ha produced excellent suiseki. In total, there were 171 suiseki and one bonseki in this exhibition.

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As in the past the Nippon Suiseki Association published a full color commemorative album featuring all displayed suiseki. Photographs were allowed this year.

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It was wonderful to see so many beautiful suiseki from throughout Japan displayed next to bonsai from so many foreign countries. Each stone was unique and presented different views to each person who appreciated their beauty, value and history.

MAGGIO

Ron Maggio, USA

RAGEL

Larry & Nina Ragle, USA

ROTH

Janet Roth, USA

DATO

Dato Chua Kok Hwa, Malaysia

 

ATKINSON

Neil Atkinson, Australia

 

WNV

William N. Valavanis, USA

2020 94th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Part 4

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Additional interesting photos from Part 2 of the 2020 94th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition and a few from Part 1 too. Enjoy and learn, I did.

 

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PINE

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Displayed front

 

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Another view

 

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Chojubai Flowering Quince from the Green Club sales area $700. DIY?

 

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Developed Chojubai Flowering Quince ready to display $4,000.

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Great old appearing bark on Chojubai Flowering Quince.

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Silverberry

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Mini Bonsai

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2020 An old historic unique Ezo Spruce displayed in the 1934 1st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition.

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March 1934 1st Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. I have many developmental photos of this bonsai which went through the Yoshimura bonsai garden.

 

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A Visit To Taisho-en Bonsai Garden

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Taisho-en Bonsai Garden is operated by Nobuichi Urushibata and his son Taiga. It is located in Shizuoka, Japan, near Mt. Fuji. Breathtaking views can be seen from streets and also at the train station where I took this photo through a window.

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Dwarf Stewartia!

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Japanese Maple $2,400

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Crepe Myrtle

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Nobuichi Urushibata is one of the top shohin bonsai artists in Japan who specializes in these diminutive treasurers. His son Taiga apprenticed with Masahiko Kimura and, of course, specializes in carving dead wood and large size bonsai. He is actually one of a small handful of professionals who can delicately wire small size as well as large size bonsai. He is quite skilled, has smarts and also speaks excellent English. A few years ago he was one of the judges and demonstrators for the 2018 US National Bonsai Exhibition. He is a popular demonstrator around the world.

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Sargent Juniper winter coloring

 

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Sargents Juniper under protective cover

 

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Nobuichi was quick to point to me that that he also works on the large size bonsai and his son also works on shohin size bonsai. This small bonsai garden is immaculate and one could eat off the floor. Each has their own apprentices to teach and train for bonsai.

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2020 94th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition Part 3

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Part 2 of the 2020 94th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition opened this morning at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. For the first several hours it seemed as though there were more foreigners than Japanese visitors. A great number of Americans, Italians, German, French, Australians and more were among the first to appreciate some of the finest quality bonsai in Japan. The crowd quickly thinned out after lunchtime.

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OAK

Japanese oak

 

 

 

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Firethorn, Pyracantha

 

Personally, I liked the bonsai in Part 2 better than those displayed in Part 1, but those were equally beautiful. I noticed a great number of containers made by Gyozan, so I counted all of them. Mr. Yukizyuou Nakano (Gyozan) specializes in large unglazed containers, but also hand makes smaller and glazed pots too. Mrs. Nakano is a talented artist as well and often hand paints scenes on containers her husband makes. There were 96 large bonsai displayed in the main gallery and 10 were planted in Gyozan containers which equates to 11% of the large bonsai in the main gallery were made by Gyozan.

PEACH

Peach, NOT Japanese flowering apricot

I saw a Peach bonsai displayed as well as a spectacular large cascade Rose which won a Kokufu Award. I found it quite interesting that it was in the same exact position (No. 95) as the magnificent cascade award winning Magnolia displayed last year. In fact, they were both displayed on root stands, but of different sizes and heights.

 

Here is the data from Part 2 of the exhibition:

151 Exhibit Areas

106 Large Bonsai

39 Chuhin (Medium) Compositions (82 pcs.)

7 Shohin Compositions (52 pcs.)

(1 Shohin Composition was actually a “Mini” bonsai display with 10 trees)

Total Displayed Bonsai, Approximately 240

 

4 Kokufu Prizes

Kokufu Bonsai Award Japanese five-needle pine

KOKU 2

 

Kokufu Bonsai prize Chojubai Japanese flowering quince

KOKU 1

 

Kokufu Bonsai Award Hinoki cypress. This is the true species, not the commonly available dwarf cultivar.

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Kokufu Bonsai Award Japanese rose

KOKU 4

 

2019

2019 Kokufu Bonsai Award Magnolia. This cascade style bonsai displayed on a carved root stand was in the same location as the Kokufu Bonsai Award Rose displayed this year.

 

19 Kicho (Important Bonsai Masterpieces)

7 Special Exhibits

1 Suiseki special exhibit, but four bonsai compositions included a suiseki

 

HIMALAYA

One of the special exhibits was especially interesting, and at first glance looks like an unkempt off color Japanese five-needle pine. Actually, this historic bonsai is a Deodor cedar, Cedrus deodara which is extremely rare to see trained for bonsai. The Deodar cedar is, however, commonly used in Japan as garden trees or fencing. This bonsai is from the famous Keiunan Bonsai Collection of Mr. Tanaka. The bonsai was once owned by Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida who was a bonsai collector.

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More photos of beautiful bonsai to come.

A Visit To Shunka-en Bonsai Museum

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Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in the Edogawa Ward of Tokyo is owned by award winning bonsai artist Kunio Kobayashi who is well known around the world. Visits to his museum are always one of my highlights to Japan. There is always something new to see. I was here a few weeks ago, and new bonsai have suddenly appeared, many large size Japanese black pine for the Chinese market.

 

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One of Mr. Kobayashi’s talent is to share the beauty of his art through formal bonsai display. He designed his museum to feature about 12 different display alcoves of different sizes and degrees of formality. They are always spectacular and ready to photograph.

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When our group arrived in the morning there was an army of people running around picking weeds out of the small gravel, washing containers outside on the growing tables, watering the stone paths for welcoming visitor and removing old pine needles. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard in this garden. It almost looked like my Monday Senior Crew helping me prepare for important visitors or for a show. Even Mr. Kobayashi was working picking up. Something must be going on.

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Apprentice Raphael from Poland, who spoke perfect English toured us around the museum explaining little known facts. I learned a lot from him.

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MAYOR

At 10 am the Mayor of Edogawa Ward came to visit, along with a few assistants. Mr. Kobayashi toured him around and then his youngest daughter, a tea ceremony master presented a tea ceremony for his important visitors. Mrs. Kobayashi pulled up a stool for me, but I politely excused myself to study more of Mr. Kobayashi’s artistry.

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The rest of the morning was spent looking through his garden and seeing new trees and training techniques.

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A Visit To S-Cube, Masahiko Kimura, Mansei-en and Fuyo-en Bonsai Gardens

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Our small group, in a private van, first visited Seiji Morimae’s S-Cube Bonsai Garden Uchiku-tei in Hanyu, Japan. As always, Mr. Morimae was extremely busy with his large sales area in the Ueno Green Club and preparing for the Nippon Suiseki Exhibition. He showed me over 50 beautiful tables selected for display with the stones, including one of my prize suiseki for the exhibit.

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His wife and staff warmly welcomed us and let us look around and photograph anywhere. Later on, as we were leaving Mr. Morimae showed me a special group of nearly 100 ancient Ezo Spruce bonsai collected by Saburo Kato’s father, Tomekichi Kato about 80 years ago. He will carefully select many of these historic bonsai masterpieces for his Bonsai Museum being built in Kyoto. I have seen so many collected Ezo Spruce at one time. It was special treat for me.

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Masahiko Kimura Garden

Next, we stopped at Mr. Kimura’s garden where his apprentices were busy preparing display tables for the 21 bonsai he will be displaying for his clients in Part 2 of the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. Also, there was a long row of display tables all cleaned for another exhibit he is having at the Tokyo Dome Orchid show.

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Andrei Bessonov, one of Mr. Kimura’s six year apprentices was showing us around. He has often been featured in the demonstrations Mr. Kimura does for his bonsai Fun Bonsai Classroom series in International BONSAI. Andrei is from Russia and has survived his six-year apprenticeship which ends in June. He will be returning to Russia to begin his career as a professional bonsai artist. I took a photo of him now, before he becomes famous. By the way, the large Zuisho Japanese five-needle bonsai he is standing next to is special. It is an early bonsai propagated from a rooted cutting over 40 years ago, completely container grown. I immediately recognized this unique bonsai because I had to water and care of it and also helped wire it in 1971 when I was an apprentice in Omiya Bonsai Village. There are a few early photos of that bonsai in my first and second books Encyclopedia of Classical Bonsai Art.

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Mansei-en Bonsai Garden of Takahiro Kato

After a delicious lunch we visited the Omiya Art Museum, then walked to the Mansei-en Bonsai Garden. There were loads of bonsai, many famous and historic.

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Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden of Hiroshi Takeyama

Our last stop for the day was at Mr. Takeyama’s garden which is always colorful. He had several red-pink Japanese Flowering Apricot bonsai in full fragrant blossom. He specializes in deciduous, unusual and forest style bonsai. Since he has developed many species with fine delicate twigs they are overwintered in temporary poly houses to prevent die back because the fine twigs are not that hardy.

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