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History

From trash to Shohin Bonsai

At a travel to Japan back in 2012 I stumbled upon a small Japanese pre-bonsai maple. It was placed awkward on an almost hidden table like it was dumped. And it was. The owner of the bonsai nursery in Takamatsu has dismissed it as potential future bonsai, most likely due to a dead midd of the trunk. This is in Japan viewed as a fault. Most likely because the dead wood on a soft wooded tree, like most deciduous, do not cope with that in the moist Japanese climate. And the eternal matter of traditions.

In  Europe though, we have a lot of those kind of trees (deciduous with hollow trunks and deadwood) and they cope with that. Pears, apple trees, oak and many others  do live long with dead parts of the trunk, showing great will to stay alive and great strength is expressed by this.

Therefore I asked to buy the small tree. I could see some potential, and it talked to me because of the nature I have around behaves like this. It was a struggle to be allowed to pay for it, because the owner she wanted to just give it to me. This stupid foreigner who doesn’t know. But I managed to pay a very small amount as symbolic as it might have been.

Today, twelve years later, the small Shohin has developed very well, and I have it for many more years to come I hope. Its development can be seen in the picture series below. I have treated the deadwood middle of the tree with some limesulfur to prevent it from rotting. But only once some years ago. It seems not to be harmed in any way, but I will seal it again to be sure it stays healthy.

It will be added to the case story I am writing up for the new website launched in 2018, as part of the new Shohin Bonsai Video Studio.

Click on pictures to view in larger size.

Shimpaku upside down

For a number of years I have been growing a small Juniperus Shimpaku, and followed the original position until now. The tree was purchased as a semi-finished piece at the Mansei-en nursery in Omiya, Japan, of late Saburo Kato in 2005, and mainly bought as a memory of the time spent with this most respected bonsai artist. One of a few I could afford.

2005. Original bonsai after purchase at Mansei-en.
2005. Original bonsai after purchase at Mansei-en.

I named the tree “Kato” for the very same reason. To remember a personality and respected artist who as one of a few, deserved to be entitled master. A misused phrase put on too many people nowadays who still needs to deserve this predicate after proving years of dedicated high quality work.

Back to the tree. After a few years of training, a tree in this size usually needs some restoration, some work that brings it back in shape. I originally had to reduce the slightly overgrown canopy after the purchase, and after that I managed to keep it in it`s form for some time. The shari (trunk deadwood) was only worked on sparsely, and I enhanced the deadwood some years ago to add some interest to it. I also extended it a little to make it better.

2005. Working the deadwood to bring in more age and interest.
2005. Working the deadwood to bring in more age and interest.

Time gone, and the tree needed to be reduced a little again in 2017. New growth was developed further back, so I now had the opportunity to reduce the length and keep the size limited. This made me think of a new possible style of the tree. A simple change with a huge effect, with little effort done.

Trying out the new position.
Trying out the new positions.

Where growth was removed new jins (deadwood branches) have been created, and this opened for a new vision of the tree. Same pot, but new position changes the view and expression of the tree. Only rearranging the left part of some roots was necessary. I was able to tilt the tree, so it performs much better now to my taste.

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The repotting was done carefully, not disturbing the roots much. The new inclining position also lifted some older roots to the surface, that in future will be a good visual nebari adding strength to the image when the soil carefully is removed little by little over time.

Mind the gap. When positioning a cascade or semi-cascade bonsai it is of great importance to leave air between the trunk and the pot. A convincing cascade bonsai shows it`s strength only if it is able to hold it self and not supporting it by resting at the edge of the pot. Keeping air between the pot and trunk is therefore an important detail.

Click the gallery below for larger pictures.

Never sell your bonsai

  You see these beautiful aged bonsai set for sale by private bonsai enthusiasts from time to time. For bonsai pros it is naturally a part of the business. But for private collectors I find it disturbing to see a personal tree set for sale. There can of course be a number of very good …

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The story of the Shimpaku Juniper

It´s Secret History (English Translation © WBFF 2003; Original Japanese Text and Photos © Kindai Shuppan Co. 2003). Brought at Shohin-Bonsai Europe with permission. Header photo from Mansei-en, by Morten Albek. Behind the story. The original story was lost on the internet, but due to steady work Brian Van Fleet succeeded to rebuild the story and …

The story of the Shimpaku Juniper Read More »

The story of the Shimpaku juniper

It´s Secret History (English Translation © WBFF 2003; Original Japanese Text and Photos © Kindai Shuppan Co. 2003). Brought at Shohin-Bonsai Europe with permission. It is astonishing to realize that the Shimpaku juniper so beloved for bonsai culture was first found only a little more than a century ago in Japan. But in that short time, …

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