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New Shohin bonsai book on its way

It’s a great pleasure to announce that I have e new Shohin bonsai book on the desk soon. At the Trophy in Genk last year the publishers of the Esprit Bonsai asked me if we could do a reprint of my first book. Originally published by Stone Lantern in 2008. I was really not in the mood for a reprise. So many new things to tell, and is was though more than ten years ago it was published. There would be a need for some updates.

Shohin bonsai seasons

After one day of thinking I returned and asked if we could do a totally new book instead. And Michéle from Esprit Bonsai agreed immediately. Therefore I have used most of the time since then to write a lot of new material and some rewriting of the parts needed to be covered again.

The book follows the four seasons and in each chapter there is a lot of basic and advanced growing advices and examples. As well as each chapter finishes with explanations on displaying Shohin bonsai.

I will keep you updated as soon as preorders, prices and so on are in place. That will be soon. I look so much forward to see it in print.

The book will be released February 2020 and available at the Trophy too.

Here a few photos that (maybe) will be included.

Have a great Sunday.

 

Kisetsu-en, Garden of the seasons

Finally a Japanese name is settled for the garden. I have been searching for a good Japanese name for the garden for some time now. Something that expresses the mood of the garden, and has a good sound too.

Kisetsu

It was so simple as I first found it. Kisetsu means seasons in Japanese. No name could be more suitable. Kisetsu-en, Garden of the seasons, expresses the feeling and spirit of the garden perfectly. Having a fair share of Shohin-bonsai in the collection, where the aim of the Shohin display is exactly focusing on seasonal changes. Also having a love for deciduous trees, furthermore makes the choice of name meaningful.

 

Winter

Winter time has arrived. First days with frosts ahead, so i am preparing the winter shelter for the trees. Some are already under roof. Trees like Trident maples, are more vulnerable for freezing, and therefore they are stored earlier than other specimens. Also Shohin-bonsai are stowed away sooner than larger trees, simply because the small pot will be freezing faster than larger pots with a higher amount of soil.

More about winter storage in the next video coming up in a week from now, at the Bonsai Video Studio.

 

 

Horsetail Kusamono

The Kusamono Dwarf Horsetail, Equisetum scirpoides, is a gift from a good bonsai friend. He didn’t remember the name, so I had to research a bit to find the correct name of it. I like the elegant structure with the tiny dark knees dividing each of the stems. Also it`s black, pointy cone is distinctive.

Dwarf Horsetail, Equisetum scirpoides.

Growing together

Placed in a pot by Eimei,Youzan Tokoname, Japan, underlines the elegant small plant. Actually a pot I found difficult to use, but now it shines with its new guest. Planted this spring, and developed nicely through the season. Dwarf Horsetail, needs a moist environment, and is therefore placed on top of a water tray, to keep humidity high.

Time will add a more established expression and age to the Kusamono. When the plant begins to fill the pot, it will look more aged and with a timeless feeling. As with bonsai age and harmony is important. Not achieved at day one.

Equisetum scirpoides, Dwarf Horsetail.

The pot

The pot I have had for some time, trying different plants in it. None with a good result so far. Not before now. Sometimes it is about trying different solutions, and some day it turns out just right.

The pot was bought only because I really liked it. Not because I had any plans with a tree or accent to go in it. So we do. Get lost in the beauty, finding out later, that there was no idea at the moment the money were spent. Now I am just glad I did it.

Tokonoma in the garden

On request I here show how the Tokonoma in my bonsai garden was established. It was built during the summer 2016.

The raw Tokonoma at its first stage.

I did not do a sketch first, so no drawings and precise measures are available. The inner space is a bit larger than a tatami mat, 190 X 80 cm (75 X 31 inch.) The area in my Tokonoma covers approximately 200 X 90cm (79 X 35 inch). I am considering adding another small display area  at the side, having a space for a simple display of a grass, Suiseki or a single tree.

The height of the table area is 70 cm (27,5 inch.). Poles are set in concrete, so they are not having any soil contact. They are treated with an outdoor preserving paint first. The main pole with movement is from a garden tree (Beech).

The placement of the Tokonoma is central in the bonsai garden when guests arrives.

The roof is made of wooden planks overlapping. Back and side wall is wooden boards painted with several layers of protecting outdoor painting so it will last and withstand the weather. The side wall has an open window cut out, decorated with bamboo.

All resembling the spirit and mood of an original indoor Tokonoma.

Tokonoma used all year

I use it most of the year, for both bonsai and simple Suiseki displays. Tokonomas do not have to follow any strict measures and comes in different sizes, depending on the room they are in.

An outdoor Tokonoma like this, is probably not seen before (as far as I know). But I wanted this to add the right atmosphere in my bonsai garden, without having a large building.

Below a gallery of pictures with the bonsai garden Tokonoma for inspiration.

The small wonders of Japanese maples

Maybe it is because of the size of the tree. Maybe the size of the leaves. The wonders of the Japanese maples in Shohin bonsai always amaze me more than bigger amount of colored leafs. The same with the tiny leafs of the Cotoneaster microphylla.

I have always admired the simplicity in bonsai. Especially in the world of the smallest trees. As a headline of my now sold out book says, Majesty in Miniature. This is so true for this special branch of bonsai, focusing on the seasonal changes.

Cotoneaster microphylla.

Delicacy

Maybe I appreciate the small amount of delicate leafs more, because they seems more fragile and adds a feeling of not lasting long. We just have to enjoy as long as they are present. It can be over in a few days. When chlorophyll (the green pigment that helps taking up light for photosynthesis)  draws back into the stems, and shed the leaves. Controlled by shorter days and dropping temperatures. Making a small magic happen, and preparing trees for winter.

Japanese maple.

European Yew

Or English yew. Goes under both names. There is only one latin name though. Taxus baccata. This specimen is a headline story in this months seasonal bonsai report from the Shohin Bonsai Europe garden. Also detailed explanation of English yew, pinching and distributing energy to the correct areas of a tree, is part of the 27:30 long video. Ready for subscribing members now. 

In the Q&A video this time, a question about pruning and controlling growth on Lonicera nitida is answered.

Rules rules – too much

What is it about rules in bonsai? Rules seems to rule, often too much.

I really believe in the historical heritage of bonsai have to be taken seriously, and be part of the moderne development of bonsai. Sometimes though, bonsai people have a tendency to cling to something written or told in the past, that has little to do with reality. Or the art.

There are several different directions taught by bonsai masters and teachers. Including myself. These can be very different, and sometimes in contradiction with each other. The only real rules to take seriously, are the ones telling how much space you have at an exhibition, and the categorizing of the sizes within Shohin-bonsai. These are some rules chosen to be the standard for this part of the art.

Ho you then express your bonsai art, is another matter. So here is a reprint of an article written a little while ago. Simply because I keep stumbling upon folks that cling very rigidly to “rules” in bonsai.

Say No to Rules

Republished.

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4 items, three shohin-bonsai and one accent. Is it right or wrong? Does it matter? Does it work? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.

Say NO to RULES. We are still clinging to the bonsai rules thing. When we do not cope with the artistic freedom or maybe are afraid of failing, we can always say we did what we did, because the rules told us to do so. But the frightening truth is, there are no rules in bonsai.

There may be some restrictions regarding exhibit areas on a exhibition, how tall a tree going into the shohin category have to be. But generally speaking THERE ARE NO RULES.

A common belief concerning shohin-bonsai displays is that the display has to be with a odd number of trees; when counting elements, dead items do not count in (scrolls), – and even at the latest exhibition I took part in, a judge disqualified a display because of the use of an even number of trees. Say what?

I therefore borrowed (with permission) a few photos from the highly recognized Japanese exhibition Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association, with examples that proves not to go with this misunderstanding. There are no rules telling us how many elements to put in to the display area assigned the artist.

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Two bonsai and one accent. Is this three items, or two bonsai with and accent? Odd or even numbers? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.

Sometimes it is easier to set up a display with an uneven number of trees, because it is easier to balance the display. But it is only because of this, not that you can´t or will be denied artistic freedom. Why are most displays with an uneven number of elements then? you may ask. Because it is easier to set up and achieve harmony. If you use an even  number of items, the use of negative space is very important to achieve the right balance and harmony – but if it works it works. So please go ahead and experiment with the display, and forget about numbers and rules. Just think about the expression, the mood, the feeling and balance of your display. That’s what counts.

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Four items – does it work? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.
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How will you count this? Will you count? Should you? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.
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Four bonsai and one accent or five items? Photo: Shuga-ten and the Japanese Shohin-bonsai Association.

Happy autumn

bonsai video

Autumn, (and I do repeat myself year after year) is one of my favourites. When it gets colder here in Northern Europe, the colours of deciduous trees change. For now it is still warm, but this will slowly change. Deciduous trees change their leaf colors from the darker summer green tones to yellow, brown or red. Especially the Japanese maples are stunning in all their variations.

 

Stop feeding

At this time it is important  to stop feeding your bonsai. Feeding them now will stress new growth, and this new growth will be too weak to cope with the winter colds. It is time to do other jobs in the bonsai garden though. Checking wire applied in the summer or earlier. Ensuring that the summer growth does not overgrow the wire and make marks difficult to change.

Fungus

Cleaning out any weeds or dead leaf at the soil surface, to secure no pests are hidden. More important, the removal of dead plant material are of big importance because fungus can be a present. Most actions of fungus are good actions. because fungus breaks down dead plant material and feed future trees with nutrients. But that is when it is happening in the ground, in the forest.

In the bonsai pot, fungus can attack weak branches and open wounds. Therefore it is advisable to remove what can cause this. And that is dead plant material. Fungus likes humidity and cooler weather, and just that is the features of autumn.

The good thing, is the wonderful colours at the bonsai. Looking forward to that part.

Follow the seasons

One of the elements in the monthly video updates at the BONSAI VIDEO STUDIO is the report from my garden. Following the changing seasons is one of the important parts of bonsai. What to to when, and the pleasure of getting in contact with nature all year. All 12 months will be covered in the Vlog, so you can enjoy following the garden and trees.

Join the BONSAI VIDEO STUDIO

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Sign up and get full access immediately. Ask your questions about bonsai and get video answers.

Follow the four seasons of bonsai, and learn bonsai with high quality video content by international bonsai artist Morten Albek.

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We will be happy to have you as part of our community.  

Tokonoma display

The garden Tokonoma is used on a daily basis. On rainy days I keep tables and scrolls out, and just set up a basic display. Sometimes just a Suiseki. Other days a proper display with scrolls and tables are included. Like today.

The point is to use the Tokonoma the whole year. It gives me tremendous pleasure and practice. it also enhance the experience of enjoying bonsai. It raises the level of the displayed items, and I pay more attention to their development and quality when set up in the Tokonoma.

Sometimes it is not very well developed trees or plants I display for my self. It can be semi developed trees that I want to have a clearer and cleaner view at than standing on the tables in the bonsai garden. Or simply enjoying them on their way in the middle of their development. When guests arrive, I clean up and display the best of my trees in respect of the guests.

Todays display – that will stay for a few days before it is changed – is a mame-bonsai Juniper I have had for several years. The display is a bit different from how I would normally display a mame (shohin) bonsai. But this is not an exhibition display. It is in my private Tokonoma, and the goal is to enjoy and not to compete.

The Tokonoma allows me a lot of freedom from the ordinary, so I have set up a small tree with larger elements, because I want to see how it works. To balance the small tree with the larger and visual heavier elements, I have placed it on a thicker stand made of wood. This is placed on a stone slap, again to balance with scroll and stone in the display. Does it work? It is up to you to judge. Later I will make a video at the Bonsai Video Studio were I will like to experiment and discuss the possibilities, and the guidelines to make a good display. In the Tokonoma, and at exhibitions. Today, I will just enjoy.

 

Bonsai garden expanding

These days the new bonsai garden area is getting the finishing touches. Originally the bonsai garden was a bit smaller, but there  was an urgent need for more space. Because new trees are coming in for the Bonsai Video Studio recordings, and there simply wasn´t room for the trees as it was. Secondly (but as important) I needed improved settings for the video making and working space. Okay. Thirdly. Because I just wanted it. Watch the new Vlog released this coming weekend, and you will know why.

The new area should be able to blend in well with the rest of the garden, and also add good growing conditions. This is mostly concentrated on light, and I will go deeper into this too in the Vlog from the garden –  available for members.

You can buy your membership here. Remember the first month is a free trial period, so you can try it out without paying if you do not find it is something for you. But I am sure you will stay 🙂

At the Vlog I will also show how an old Prunus bonsai is pruned, pinching a Shohin Yew, adding fertilizers and a short sneak peek into the next theme (released early June). The next Theme will be dealing with what worries many enthusiasts; how hard can I prune back raw material and how to start deciduous bonsai from scratch.

The garden and trees are just happy this spring acting like summer. A lot of new growth is pushed forward, improving the health and development of the bonsai collection. This spring already shows to be better than last years summer measured in heat and sunny days. Climate changes most likely. Some part due to natural changes, but we have to deal with that on an environmental plan as well so we do not affect the planet more than is good for it – or for us. By growing bonsai and being closely connected with nature I think we will have an improved healthy view on our resources.

Morning lights

 

The nice thing about being up early (if you can’t sleep anyway) is the quietness and light. I really enjoy taking a tour around the garden in the morning, viewing bonsai setting new growth rapidly at this time of the year.

New leaves at the old Crataegus Shohin bonsai..

At the moment the Deshojo maple leaves are looking great with their spring red colours. I got this tree as a gift, and as an ordinary small garden tree, from an old friend in bonsai. He passed away a few months ago and I will remember him with this tree in my collection, now having a life as a bonsai. It made a nice shadow play in the Tokonoma this early morning.

 

Bringing a cup of good coffee and chillin with my trees, is an absolutely favourite time of mine. The low morning light at the garden Tokonoma often happens to be very nice when the sun bothers to be around. New growth needs to be trimmed and wire has to be removed from winters work. Spring is busy in many ways, but remember to enjoy it and just look at your trees too. Thats whats it is all about in the end. Enjoying.

It is not relaxing all the time though. A new area expanding the bonsai garden is in progress these days. Heavy work. Will be good to be finished. Hopefully within May everything should be finished.

A few pictures from today at the bottom of this post after a small 1 min. video made for another bonsai website. Haven’t shown it to my wife 😉

 

 

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