The 2019 2ndUS National Shohin Bonsai Exhibition was held on June 28-30, 2019 at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The unique domed four story venue covered with marble was also home to the 2017 1stUS National Shohin Bonsai Exhibition and six Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expos held during the first weekend in December sponsored by Steve Zeisel. I’ve never seen such a beautiful refined display area for bonsai, and I’ve seen numerous exhibitions throughout the world. The light colored imported marble from Italy is bright and each bonsai could be easily studied. No need for additional lighting.
The compressed beauty of small size bonsai was featured in the three day event including eight workshops, eleven lecture/demonstrations, a critique, benefit auction and the exhibition featuring 140 individual bonsai. They were displayed by 29 people from Puerto Rico, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and New York. All of the beautiful shohin and small size bonsai were formally displayed alone, in three point, five point and seven point displays. In addition to a wide variety of species and cultivars it was amazing to see the high quality display tables as well. This type of display is not often seen, except for the US National Bonsai Exhibitions in Rochester, New York. Attention to detail and the love the artists put into presenting their small bonsai and displays is truly shines for the visitors. Additionally three rooms were filled to capacity with vendors offering everything from nursery stock, companion plants, pre-bonsai, established bonsai, soil, tools, supplies, books, suiseki, display tables and containers.
The year’s annual bonsai exhibition & sale took place at the Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester, New York, on May 18-19, 2019. Our society of approximately 150 people have members from Erie and Williamsport, PA, Syracuse, Buffalo, Ithaca, NY as well as in the greater Rochester area. Members from these far distances prepared their bonsai and brought them for display for others to enjoy and learn.
Each year the second Saturday of May has been designated as World Bonsai Day. This is an internationally celebrated event dedicated to furthering bonsai awareness and appreciation. World Bonsai Day was initiated by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to honor the memory of Saburo Kato, renowned bonsai master and founder of the WBFF. Clubs, organizations, arboretum collections, businesses and individuals plan special events to celebrate World Bonsai Day. Exhibitions, demonstrations, displays as well as people donating their bonsai to collections are some of the events that happened today. However, perhaps the most popular activity celebrated on World Bonsai Day is the actually working on bonsai, which happened all over the world. That’s what bonsai is all about, the trees.
Originally, I was planning a Maple Bonsai Exhibit in my studio, garden and garage display area. But, as I was selecting the bonsai I realized that all were Japanese maples, and Trident maples were not represented. So, the name was simply changed to a “Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit.” Only Japanese maples and their cultivars were displayed. OK, I included a couple of Full-moon maples as well. Most people can’t tell the difference, but I frequently explained the difference.
Each visitor received an excellent DVD by Canadian bonsai artist Arthur Skolnik and a copy of Kinbon Japanese bonsai magazine. Yes, the articles are entirely in Japanese, but the excellent color photos and illustrations are an inspiration and also educational if one looks closely.
In addition to the Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit I held a morning and afternoon workshop for advance students. Paul Tuttle traveled from Syracuse for both the morning and afternoon sessions and Rick Marriott, who assists me teaching and a member of the Monday Senior Crew also worked all day on his bonsai.
We had quite a few visitors from across the area and one gentleman from North Carolina also dropped in. He was within a couple of hundred miles from Rochester and read about World Bonsai Day and my Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit and decided to attend, he stayed for most of the afternoon too. I met him at the Winter Silhouette Bonsai Expo held last December, in Kannapolis, NC. Unfortunately, I’m bad at remembering people’s names, but good at remembering the common, botanical as well as the Japanese names of plants.
Many of the visitors were past students, members of our local Bonsai Society of Upstate New York as well as all of my Monday Senior Crew. This is a special select group of friends who come every Monday to assist me in any way they can to help me promote bonsai. All of them are quite familiar with the Japanese maples on display, having trimmed, mossed, bud pinched, transplanting, wiring and watering. They know my plants, however they are familiar with these bonsai in my garden, where they must live. The bonsai are not often formally displayed in my studio, garden and garage display area. I felt very honored that they took time from their busy schedules to stop by to appreciate the beauty of the Japanese Maple Bonsai Exhibit.
Each year the second Saturday of May has been designated as World Bonsai Day. This is an internationally celebrated event dedicated to furthering bonsai awareness and appreciation. World Bonsai Day was initiated by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation to honor the memory of Saburo Kato, renowned bonsai master and founder of the WBFF. Clubs, organizations, arboretum collections, businesses and individuals plan special events to celebrate World Bonsai Day. Be sure to visit a World Bonsai Day event nearby, or travel to attend.
This year I’m pleased to personally participate in a World Bonsai Day celebration by having six special Maple Bonsai Displays in my studio complex. These bonsai maples will be formally presented for people to appreciate and study the design, container & accessory selection and how they have been combined to celebrate the spring beauty of bonsai.
This spring has been quite busy for us with 30 additional new students each week, in addition to others for the Open Bonsai Workshops. Since spring arrived late this year I’m having three unscheduledspecial Open Bonsai Workshops on Friday, May 10 (1-4pm) and Saturday, May 11 (9-12pm & 1-4pm).
I enjoy helping and guiding students with their bonsai development and refinement. It’s great to see some of the bonsai we have been working on together for the past 30 and 40 years return to the studio for consultation. New students, just starting out also learn from watching advanced students working on their masterpiece bonsai during the Open Workshops.
Each student participating in one of these special Open Bonsai workshops will be given a gift to commemorate the World Bonsai Day celebration. Each Open Bonsai Workshop is $40, while an all day session on Saturday is $75. These will be the last Open Bonsai Workshops for the spring 2019 season. Please contact me to reserve your space.
Everyone is welcome to join us on both Friday, May 10 (10-4pm) and Saturday, May 11 (9-4pm) to enjoy the special Maple Bonsai Displays.We will also be preparing for the following week’s 2019 Spring Open House & Sale,which is on May 18-19th, during the same weekend as our 46thUpstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Saleat the Monroe Community Hospital in Rochester.
Last week at the MidAtlantic Bonsai Festival Taiga Urushibata from Japan created a bonsai Ponderosa pine. It was originally collected by Andy Smith and quite healthy. It was a difficult tree to design. Robert Mahler was the translator for Mr. Urushibata. Not knowing the condition of the roots made the recommended future transplanting more difficult One of my students, John Caulwell from Pennsylvania was the lucky winner of this unique collected bonsai.
Today he and his wife drove three hours from Pennsylvania to attend an open workshop with me and brought his new bonsai. We examined the roots and to my surprise, they were beautiful, healthy and full of fibrous small roots. It was safe for transplanting and we only removed one section of an awkward large root. Fortunately I just happen to have four containers suitable for John’s Ponderosa pine. A deep cascade was selected but needed the help of my assistant Alan Adair to grasp, pull and twist the tie-down wire to prevent movement in the new container. He even had to stand on the container to get the 4mm aluminum wire to stabilize the tree.
This Ponderosa pine is unique, as are most collected specimens. Rather than just looking at the design of the unusual trunk formation; its important to stop and appreciate the hundred or so years the tree grew on a cliff somewhere and still had the will and persistence to survive. Taiga Urushibata worked several hours to bring out the beauty of the collected tree. The lucky owner, John Caulwell and I examined the tree, prepared the roots, added mycorrhizae to the soil mix and potted the tree for the next step in the development of a new bonsai. Although the design is not complete at this time, the beauty of this bonsai can still be appreciated.
The 36thannual Spring Festival of the MidAtlantic Bonsai Societies was held on April 11-14, 2019 in Harrisburg/Hershey, Pennsylvania. Featured speakers were Taiga Urushibata from Japan, Marc Noelanders from Belgium and Jennifer Price from the United States.
GardenScape 2019 is the annual flower and garden show in Rochester, New York, which runs from March 14-17, 2019. It is held at the newly remodeled dome in Henrietta, New York, a suburb of Rochester only five miles from my garden. Landscape companies from around the area transformed the Dome, over one acre in size into a living garden paradise. GardenScape showcases the most unique designs, display, plants and products for the attendees.
This is the 23rd presentation of GardenScape, and the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York and I have been fortunate to have displayed bonsai, in every year and I’m the last of the original exhibitors. This year 12 of my skilled friends helped design and build 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, except for the dwarf daffodils were forced by us.
This year’s theme was “Enchanted Gardens,” and my garden featured miniature fairies among most of the bonsai. And a couple of rubber duckies in the water basin. Its important to have fun with your bonsai and many young people searched to find the fairies.
The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York won the award for the Non-Profit Award for the best garden or display with educational value for the gardening public. Their display was next to mine so half of an entire wall featured bonsai.
Joe Noga has been growing and training his Shishigashira Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira,’ for over 35 years. This dwarf cultivar of Japanese maple has been selected and appreciated in Japan for over 300 years. It is commonly trained for bonsai in Japan and is generally easy to air layer to produce a bonsai. The lovely dark green leaves are interesting and curled, which is not a good characteristic for bonsai because when reduce in size they become deformed and do not look like maple leaves. They are however, slow and compact growing and quite popular for bonsai training.
Joe grew his Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai in Rochester, New York for decades before moving his large and excellent bonsai collection to Winterville, of Carolina, nine years ago. In Rochester, his maple bonsai thrived in a full sun exposure all day long, while in North Carolina shade must be provided to avoid leaf burn by early summer.
He wanted to display his bonsai in the 2018 6thUS National Bonsai Exhibition which was held in September 2018. Usually by September most of the dark green lustrous foliage would be burned and unsuitable for display. I suggested Joe bring it to Rochester in May to display in the Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition & Sale then leave it with me where I would care for it and keep it in the full sun for the summer and prepare it for the US National Bonsai Exhibition.
During the five months under my care I had the opportunity carefully study the design of the Shishigashira Japanese maple bonsai. Although the root display was impressive a slight rotation would improve the total aesthetic impact of the bonsai, showing a wider surface root display. Like many fine bonsai masterpieces this bonsai can be displayed from two sides. The surface roots, trunk design and branching can be appreciated from both the front and back views. This comes in handy for display, and a bonsai with left to right, or right to left eye movement is necessary for the designated show area.
Joe and I discussed rotating the front to refine the design and decided to transplant the bonsai the next time I visited to help him with his bonsai collection. Today, February 27, 2019 we had the opportunity and made time to transplant his Shishigashira Japanese maple.
After removing the bonsai from the container, the pot was cleaned, wired and prepared for receiving the tree after root pruning. A nifty inexpensive hose nozzle (under $5) from Lowes, which produces a powerful strong spray, was used to remove old soil after trimming back the long fibrous root system. Joe washed the roots, picked away soil, trimmed fine roots and repeated the process several times until the root mass was ready for potting.
Considerable time was taken to carefully reposition the bonsai in the container making certain that the trunk, branches and surface root display looked good from both sides. The two side views were important to provide an upward trunk with slight lean towards the front.
Two side views
Finally, the tree was set into the container and then bottom, main and top soil was added. The tree was securely tied into the container with sissy wire and the entire root mass was carefully firmed with bamboo chopsticks which are flexible and safe, unlike metal chopsticks.
This is my last day at the exhibition and this will be last blog entry. Officials estimate that approximately 1,200 people have visited the exhibition daily. The crowds vary during the day, and sometimes its impossible to photograph, so repeat trips are necessary. I’ve walked over 24 miles looking at bonsai this week, just ask my sore feet. I have gone through the exhibitions five times, carefully studying the trees and how they created, refined, repaired and tried to cover things tried to trick the viewer’s eyes.
Chojubai Flowering Quince, largest I’ve seen, but certainly not the best.
Sargent Juniper, which way do I look?
Toyo Nishiki Japanese Flowering Quince
Japanese Five-needle Pine
Japanese Red Pine
I’ve been watching the large cascade dark purple Magnolia to see the progression of flowers. Now there are small leaves emerging which means that extra protection must be provided until the end of frost has finished. In Rochester, New York, that would be the END of May. I saw Mr. Kimura and asked him how many bonsai has he worked on. In 2011 he was represented by 70 to 80 trees. This year he had 20 in Part I and 26 in Part 2.
I hope you all enjoyed my photos, comments and personal thoughts during my bonsai study this week. Remember, the most important aspect of bonsai is the beauty the tree presents to you and how you enjoy and appreciate the art
It’s always a treat to wander through the Shunka-en Bonsai Museum in Tokyo. There are more and more and larger and larger bonsai to appreciate and learn from. Today’s wander, and stumble down the stairs did not disappoint.
Clearly, Japanese black pines are the king in the museum. They are everywhere, mostly in large sizes, for the Chinese market. Mr. Kobayashi has one said that if you want to make money, grow Japanese black pine bonsai.
On display was his famous white Japanese flowering apricot bonsai which is a past Kokufu Award winner and was on the cover of a Chinese penjing magazine as well. It was truly stunning and is a superb example of what a bonsai is. Beauty, refinement, well trained and the evidence of loving care, which has aged in a container. You really cannot fake this appearance. Although many attempt to with evergreen bonsai.
In the reception room a Winter flowering cherry was beginning to open, just the way I like to see blossoms. In fact, there are two large old Japanese flowering apricot trained garden trees which were also beginning to flower. One is at the entrance to the garden and the other near a waiting area near the traditional tea house. At this stage of floral development, one can appreciate the fine branching as well as delicate blossoms. In a few days both garden trees will be in full flower, and although beautiful, and fragrant, all one can see is a mass of flowers. It might be longer than next week for the trees to peak flowering because it’s been cold here. In fact, it began snowing while I was strolling through the garden and falling down the stairway…. I WAS holding to the railing on the right side of the steps.