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.

Shohin displays at Noelanders

As promised in an earlier post, I will take a little time going through some of the shohin displays at Noelanders this year. Not to judge them (judges already did their job), but to put some words on the way of displaying shohin-bonsai the classical way at a exhibition.

The obvious to put forward, is the two awarded seven point displays (nana-ten). They both are classical Japanese displays, with the largest number of trees in that size, fitting this type of five pieces racks. At competitions you are admitted a certain space to fill in with trees. The smaller trees, the larger quantity there is room for. Or room for more space if one prefers.

Both displays I think would have a fair chance at the highest level in Japan, because of the quality of trees, and the way the overall display is set up.

Why is it always the seven point displays that seems to win? In japan, and at Noelanders where Japanese masters also judged this year, there is a simple rule to follow. If there are an equal number of displays with the same overall quality, and same quality of trees, it always is the display that present most trees that wins. Simply because it logically is far more difficult to present a higher amount of high quality trees than maybe only two. When more displays are overall equally good, with same number of trees, detailed judging of each tree in the display will make the difference in the end.

It is not a matter of taste (not much at least) when judging this kind of competitions. It is a matter of judging quality in trees, and the overall impact of the display. The variation of trees, different colours, and especially avoiding repetition in trees, shapes and colours i.e. is considered. You might personally favour a display with fewer trees and another type of expression, but a competition is not about that.

When I look at a shohin exhibition I look at it at two levels. First I do it with the above described competition viewing in mind. Next I do it with my heart.

Looking for pleasure is about forgetting all the details that must be considered to find a winning display, and just look with my heart. Still viewing to see the beauty of the well trained trees, but without noticing numbers of trees i.e. Just enjoying the display as it is.

If you are going for prizes when you display shohin-bonsai, you have to have the competition judging traditions in mind. If you just want to show your work, and are less concerned about being a prize winner, you can go for the freedom of displaying as you like. Not being careless with the display of course, but you might want to focus on other qualities and expressions in the display like silence or emptiness (expressions often a feature sought for in the tokonoma display). Like the artistic display (shown below) where a gold screen is used to gather the display in a frame, and adding a special mood. Fewer trees is used in this display, and competition wise it will have fewer chances to win, compared to the displays with higher amount of trees in the same quality. That does not take away its beauty in any way, and there is even more room for being playful and express another kind of display using fewer trees. Two kinds of beautiful displays, each with different qualities.

Juniperus chinensis `Otoigawa´ , Acer buergerianum - Alexandre Escudero
Juniperus chinensis `Otoigawa´ , Acer buergerianum – Alexandre Escudero

The traditional display, often with seven pieces, always with an evergreen and almost always a Black pine on top of the rack is a Japanese traditional display. In the west I have a feeling that many find these displays a bit uniform and boring because of the repeated use of the same type of top-tree (the main tree of the display), and also a kind of uniformity of the general way of setting up these displays. That is of course a matter of cultural differences, taste and traditions. But also the difference of displaying for competitions or for just showing the beauty of the seasons.

If you look through Japanese bonsai magazines you will find a great variety of displays, and expressions showing much more freedom and creativity, than the ones showed at exhibitions were the goal is to collect an award.

Pyracantha, Cotoneaster dammerii - Bruno Wijman
Pyracantha, Cotoneaster dammerii – Bruno Wijman.

 

 

 

Great weekend with bonsai art

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Making new friends and meeting old ones might sound like a cliche, but it was very true at this years Noelanders Trophy in Genk, Belgium. The exhibition this time added the EBA exhibition and a number of 220 displays could be seen. A great variety of trees, and many interesting displays. Meeting new Shohin people, and re-meeting some of the many bonsai people around Europe is a joy. Here some impression outside the exhibition area. You can see the Shohin-bonsai displays here.

Shohin displays at Noelanders Trophy and EBA 2017

Juniperus chinensis `Otoigawa´ , Acer buergerianum - Alexandre Escudero

Juniperus chinensis `Otoigawa´ , Acer buergerianum – Alexandre Escudero

With special permission from The Noelanders Trophy organisation are here most of the Shohin-bonsai displays from this years exhibition in Genk, Belgium.  The displays were part of the Noelanders Trophy and the EBA 2017 meeting.