This past weekend the Bay Area Bonsai Associates – better known as BABA – held their 32nd annual exhibit at the Lakeside Garden Center in Oakland, California. The exhibit opened on Saturday evening with dinner and a demonstration by satsuki expert Suishou Nakayama. Nakayama worked on several large azaleas that were raffled off while describing his approach to azalea styling and maintenance.
The exhibit itself was great, featuring a variety of bonsai providing evidence that spring is nigh. Of particular note were the exhibit’s many shohin bonsai.
San Jose Juniper
A friend at the event asked which trees in the exhibit stuck out to me. I answered by pointing to a small black pine nearby. The tree was grown from seedling cutting made 23 years ago. Through the owner’s skill, the tree has developed into one of the better home-grown shohin pines I’ve seen.
23-year old black pine
Another of the owner’s pines sat atop a second shohin stand.
Black pine – what a tiny pot!
Satsuki azalea – Akemi no tsuki
Many of the small and medium sized bonsai in the exhibit lined the walls of the hall.
Small and medium-sized bonsai
Contorted quince – tree and pot by Jim Gremel
The exhibit also included a number of suiseki, including a box display featuring small stones.
Figure stone – what do you see?
One of my favorites was a new addition to Kora Dalager’s collection – a stone with two fronts.
Pointing to the left
Pointing to the right
As for the demonstration, Carl Morimoto did an admirable job translating the oftentimes humorous Nakayama. In response to a question about fertilizer, Nakayama answered that he feeds his trees meat, pork bellies and tofu skin. A mix of organic compounds, in other words – a summation made clear by Rick Garcia who helped with the demonstration.
Suishou Nakayama and Carl Morimoto
Here is but a small sample of the shohin pines at Gashou-en.
Japanese black pine
Sasaki clearly appreciates black pines as there was no lack of the variety at his nursery. Some had large trunks, others slender trunks with good movement, and almost all of them were under 8″.
Less developed black and white pines were legion on the benches.
Young shohin pines
There were also a few larger trees, including this medium-sized exposed root black pine.
A number of these larger pines had recently come to the nursery from Shikoku. Their rootballs were buried in the ground until the time could be found to repot them all.
Black and white pines
Masahiro Sasaki is doing his part to put Mifune, Kumamoto, on the map. The small Kyushu town is home to Gashou-en, a large nursery specializing in small-sized bonsai. Every other tree was worth a double-take. Here are some of their chojubai.
Japanese flowering quince ‘Chojubai’
Chojubai (subtract two zeros to get an idea of the price in USD$)
Some of the trident maples I found were equally interesting.
Semi-cascade trident maple
Multi-trunk trident maple
For each well-established bonsai on the bench there were many score more in development.
Shohin bonsai in development
Many of Sasaki’s best sales trees were at the Green Club – more on that in a future post – but there was no lack of fun trees back at the nursery.
Chirimenkazura – dwarf star jasmine, Trachelospermum asiaticum var. Nana
I’m a huge fan of dwarf star jasmine – it’s one of a number of varieties I enjoy in Japan but don’t see very often in the US.
The ume were at their best the day I visited – just a few days ahead of full-bloom.
Check back Friday for more from Gashou-en.
Some 20-30 years ago, Kyushu bonsai hobbyist Mr. Honda began buying pine trees from Nomoto Chinshoen, a Miyazaki bonsai nursery. As the trees had little in the way of branching, Honda planned on developing the branches on his own. He’s done quite a job.
Black pine bonsai
Japanese black pine
The trees aren’t particularly old – many of them 40 years give or take. The branches were developed over about 20 years.
Well developed branches
Honda has a relatively small collection, but the trees all look great. I couldn’t believe what a great job he’s done developing these pines.
Black pine with large trunk
Yet another black pine
The trees relatively young age was evident by looking closely at the trunk. Although the roots were impressive – and likely the result of seedling-cutting – the bark had yet to develop the furrows I’ve seen in other trees of similar age. I don’t know if these trunks were grown in the ground or in containers, but it appears they were created using a number of escape branches gauging by the scars.
Large black pine
Lower trunk and roots – although the tree is powerful, the bark looks young
Mr. Honda and Daisaku Nomoto taking a photo
Honda didn’t have many young pines at the house, but there were a few, and yes, they were growing in colanders.
The day was sunny but cold. It was about this time that Honda opened a thermal container and pulled out three coffees, a welcome sight. We moved on to the upper garden where he keeps his white pines and deciduous trees. I was immediately struck by a trident maple. Apparently Honda has a pretty good understanding of deciduous trees too.
Trident maple – wow!
Below the benches I found a number of small chojubai.
Root over rock Japanese flowering quince ‘chojubai’
Boy do I like this variety. Honda says he removes all but the interior leaves once a year, possibly in June, and cuts back to about two buds when shoots reach 1-2″ long. The approach seems to be working.
Root over rock chojubai
Nestled here and there were a few small shimapku with fun movement.
Sargent juniper, aka shimpaku
Across the street an empty lot is put to good use – Miyazaki mountains rise to the southeast.
View from Honda’s garden