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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2018 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition II– Part 1

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The 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held in two parts again this year. The second part II runs from February 13-16, 2018 and here are a few photos of bonsai which captured my trained eye. Please remember that the bonsai are displayed in the exhibition are for live viewing, NOT for photographing. It is extremely difficult to get a good image of a tree because of different lighting and different backgrounds in each area. Plus the ceiling heights are also different and the exhibition is full of people trying to enjoy the beauty of the bonsai. Many of these photos were actually taken by my new iPhone X, not my Cannon DSLR. Then after trying to take a decent and acceptable image they must be adjusted for lighting, color balance, detail enhancement and the background seams must be removed, including their shadows on the display tables. Often the name tag, display number tag and information sheets are also removed to present an image of the displayed bonsai. Again, finer quality photos will be appearing in a future issue of International BONSAI.IMG_7530.jpg

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Now having seen both Parts I and II it is my impression that Part II is better because of the quality of the bonsai and diversity of both species and styles. Also, having seen and studied more than 40 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions it is my opinion that this is the best show yet. I still have another two days to carefully look over Part II, and I’m certain to find things I missed during my first three times through the exhibition.

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Although all 221 bonsai were switched from Part I, except for the Imperial Bonsai Special Display, I noticed several of the accessory plantings used again, and why not, they look great. There were several Ezo spruce bonsai in this part and I found a great diversity in the foliage. I’ll try to photograph them today to share.

 

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2018 Part II Statistics

161 Individual Bonsai Displays

114 Large Size Bonsai

43 Medium Size Bonsai Displays (approx. 86 individual trees)

4 Shohin Bonsai Displays (24 individual trees)

 

Total Bonsai Displayed approx. 224

19 Registered Important Bonsai Masterpieces

4 Kokufu Bonsai Prizes

3 Bonsai Displayed with Suiseki

2 Bonsai Displayed by Americans

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Kokufu Prize

Japanese Black Pine

 

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Kokufu Prize

Chinese Quince

 

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Kokufu Prize

Trident Maple

 

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Kokufu Prize

Needle Juniper

Congratulations go to Shinji Suzuki whose clients won three out of the four Kokufu Prize winners. He is responsible for displaying and preparing the bonsai for his clients, but not necessarily for their creation. Masterpiece bonsai of this quality take many decades to develop and are bought and sold frequently. Each time they change hands they usually improve in quality. It is not uncommon to see a famous bonsai in different gardens every year.

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When my group visited Mr. Kimura’s garden last week I asked him how many bonsai he worked on which are on display. He said 55 pieces, which is down from over 70 a few years ago. Still, that’s a staggering number to be proud of considering about 445 bonsai were displayed this year. One of his newest tall rock planting creations of Tsuyama Hinoki Cypress was displayed for the first time this year, under his client’s name of course.

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Three bonsai were displayed by Americans

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Satsuki Azalea displayed by Mel Goldstein from Ohio. He will be displaying this masterpiece which is planted in a Gyozan container in the 6th US National Bonsai Exhibition on September 8-9, 2018, in Rochester, NY. Come see it in person.

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Japanase Hemlock displayed by Doug Pall from Pennsylvania.

 

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Dwarf Star Jasmine displayed by Adam Blank from Pennsylvania.

 

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A beautifully carved “root stand”

 

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Perhaps this simple and elegant sinuous styli e Japanese five-needle pine is my favorite bonsai in Part II. It is planted in an antique Chinese “Nanban” oval container. Of course there are many more impressive bonsai in the exhibition, but this tree talked to me….

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Guess what?

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Bittersweet! This vining plant is a pest in most areas of the US and is against the law to sell.

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Again, the Nippon Bonsai Association has presented another exhibition of some of the finest bonsai in Japan. THE best exhibition of the finest bonsai, and the 100 finest suiseki took place at the 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama in April 2017.

 

2018 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition I– Part 2

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The 92nd Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition is being held in two parts again this year. Here are some more images from the first part. I saw a great number of foreigners this time, many from Italy.

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This year the Nippon Bonsai Association is using new white backgrounds for the main room only. They are a bit taller and shiny with a texture. The older tan colored backgrounds are being used in the smaller downstairs room and upstairs in the mezzanine level and also the shohin bonsai room. The main room has many more lights, all LED. The dark blue table cloths are a bit narrower which reveals more of the light tan skirting on top.

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That wraps up the report for Part I of this year’s Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. A report for Part II in a few days.