When I was in Rochester, NY, for the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition, I made sure to visit the best known bonsai garden in the area – the International Bonsai Arboretum, home of the Valavanis Bonsai Collection.
International Bonsai Arboretum
Within moments of stepping foot inside the Arboretum, several things become very clear. There are many beautiful trees here. The breadth of varieties is impressive. And Valavanis has been at this for a long time. The age and character of the trees in his garden reveal many years in the making – a testament to more than 50 years of hard work.
Euonymus – one of my favorite trees in the garden
As we toured the garden, Valavanis pointed out highlights and surprising facts. The corkbark maple landscape tree and the bonsai of the same variety growing beside it are the same age.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the garden or who want to learn more, I strongly recommend a copy of Valavanis’ Classical Bonsai Art – a study of the creation of 100 of his best trees. See a good review at The Bonsai Journal.
After walking through the garden for a while I reflected on how much effort must be required to keep so many trees in such good shape. I’m not sure how Valavanis does it, but I’m glad he finds the time for it.
On display in the tokonoma
Dwarf Alberta spruce
Japanese maple – kiyohime
More highlights from the Arboretum next week.
This year’s US National Bonsai Exhibition included a special treat for suiseki enthusiasts – the Invitational Suiseki Exhibition. Fifty stones from around the world were displayed with accents and bonsai.
It was quite a bonus to see such great stones so well displayed.
Three-point suiseki display
Daiza by John Naka
Formal display with scroll
The stone on a pillow
Each stone warranted attention for its shape, color and texture.
A very special small-sized bonsai display at the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition featured the work of Tsukinowa Yusen. Yusen pots are precious – a display comprised solely of trees in Yusen pots is a rare thing. The composition was beautiful.
Shohin bonsai display in Yusen pots
Porcelain berry and accent
From the top – red pine, little gem dwarf spruce, shimpaku, Japanese flowering quince ‘chojubai’
The curator’s note provided good context and history:
Tsukinowa Yusen – 月之輪湧泉
1908 – 1998
Kato Goichi (加藤護) or better known to bonsai pot collectors as Tsukinowa Yusen lived from 1908 to 1998. He lived in Tagimi-city of Gifu Prefecture and was a gifted painter having studied in Kyoto.
His profession was that of a ceramics painter but unrelated to bonsai. In 1960-61 he started to make pottery for himslef and as he gained an interest in bonsai he began to hand paint his own pots.
Sometime around 1971-74 he lived with Sei-fu Yohei and developed a partnership where Yusen would make the ceramics and Sei-fu would peint them. Sei-fu didn’t always bare his signature on Yusen pots but his painting style is different and recognizable.
Yusen normally created small porcelain pots which he painted red, blue or a mix of colors. Infrequently he would glaze his pots with a yellow frame but this is quite rare. Before Yusen there were almost no painted bonsai pots in Japan.
One of Yusen’s famous series of pots is his version of Ando’s “53 Stations of the Tokaido Road.” Other well-known motifs include the famous anthropomorphic animals, mountain landscape scenes, water scenes featuring birds, pictorial scenes of famous poetry and even one with bats!
Without question, Yusen’s pots rank the highest in terms of hand-painted pots. They are highly valued in and beyond Japan. To own one is a treasure, to own more than one is considered a highly valuable collection of the best hand painted bonsai pots in the world.
Here are some close-ups.
Pine and mountain – Yusen
On a boat – Yusen
Birds – Yusen
Mantis – Yusen
Nature scene – Yusen
Shohin bonsai were well represented at the 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition.
In all, 120 shohin appeared in 40 displays.
To fully appreciate these trees as they were displayed, I recommend getting a copy of the Exhibition Album. Joe Noga does a fantastic job with the photography, and you’re not likely to find more accurate color in any bonsai publication. I’m now caught up with albums from previous events and am looking forward to this year’s installment. Special pricing is in effect if you order before December 15th.
Here are some of the individual shohin and small to medium-sized bonsai on display.