Bonsai Tonight

Bonsai stamps

Posted in Reflections by Jonas Dupuich on February 21, 2012

Bonsai stamps

The USPS unveiled a new series of bonsai stamps last month. The artist, John D. Dawson of Hawaii, came out to Sacramento’s McKinley Park for the “first day issue” rollout. Had I known, I might have attended.

I first heard about the project 18 months ago when the USPS wanted to license the image of one of my trees. The artist had used a photo of my black pine from Bay Island Bonsai’s 2003 exhibit as a reference for the stamp. Upon seeing the design, I was immediately struck by the likeness.

Black pine - based on my tree!

Black pine stamp – January 2012

Black pine

Black pine – January 2003

The USPS included a bit of a bonsai primer in their announcement of the series, and followed up with a nice piece about how the project took shape.  The other stamps in the series feature a banyan, a trident maple, a Sierra juniper, and an azalea – a colorful mix!

Banyan

Banyan

Trident maple

Trident maple

Sierra juniper

Sierra juniper

Azalea

Azalea

This is the most fun I’ve had since my hinoki was featured in a cosmetics catalog.

Hinoki

Hinoki – “The Giving Tree”

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Million dollar bonsai

Posted in Reflections by Jonas Dupuich on November 25, 2011

Million dollar bonsai

There was a lot of talk about a large white pine at the 11th Asia-Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention & Exhibition (ASPAC 2011) offered for 100,000,000 yen. At today’s exchange rate, that’s close to 1.3 million dollars.

Million dollar white pine

Million dollar bonsai

The tree was offered by S-CUBE, the bonsai organization headed by Seiji Morimae. The tree sported a sold sign on the second day of the convention, but I do not know for how much the tree actually sold.

Could a large white pine really be worth $1,000,000? Good question. The pine is big, really big, and it has amazing roots.

Trunk

Million dollar roots

Million dollar trunk

Good trunk, good roots, and the man behind S-CUBE, Seiji Morimae

What I’m learning is that it can be difficult to determine the value of trees like this because they are unique. Vendors have heard about the slow economies around the world in many languages this week, but a few good buyers have been leaving a slew of red sold signs in their wake, and the very best trees sold well – hence the success of S-CUBE at the event. If only more exhibits featured such nice trees!

Japanese maple

Japanese maple – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Chinese juniper

Chinese juniper – sold

Cork bark pine

Cork bark black pine

Chinese quince

Chinese quince

Black pine

Japanese black pine – sold

Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Chinese juniper

Chinese juniper – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

S-Cube bonsai

A row of great trees

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Scenes from a Kondo workshop

Posted in Reflections by Jonas Dupuich on August 19, 2011

Scenes from a Kondo workshop

I recently had the good fortune to attend a bonsai workshop run by Akio Kondo. In contrast to the last Kondo workshop I attended, this event was more pensive, more contemplative. My trees experienced no radical transformations. Instead, we spent time making plans for the future and talking about how and when to execute these plans. Not the most exciting bonsai work, but some of the most important work. Others in the workshop had similar experiences.

Pondering kaede

Contemplating kaede

Kondo had a number of suggestions for the trident maple above. Some branches were left long so they could thicken. Others were kept short. Long drooping branches were wired slightly upward. In a year or two, the long branches will be shortened to stubs and the process will begin again the following year.

A grafted prostrata juniper with wonderfully green shimpaku foliage showed up for styling. Trees benefit greatly from professional attention at this stage of development. Watching the tree shape up with help from a such a talented artist was a treat. Although the day ended before the tree was finished, I’m hoping I’ll see it completed before long.

Grafted prostrata juniper

Shimpaku

Kondo spent a long time making subtle adjustments to an old procumbens juniper. Cutting a bit of a branch here, wiring a branch there, Kondo performed fairly mundane work on the tree. We were surprised, when he finished, at the difference these small adjustments made. Although the tree will continue to improve as the branch pads develop, we now have a much better idea of what form the bonsai will take in the future.

Styling a procumbens juniper

Refining a branch pad

The matter of the front is still up for grabs a bit. The front pictured below is a good candidate, as is a similar front a few degrees to the left.

Procumbens juniper

Sonare

The primary styling goal is to highlight the interesting movement in the trunk.

Procumbens juniper - trunk detail

Sonare – trunk detail

The most radical step in the tree’s immediate future will be repotting. Setting the tree in a more appropriately sized – read: smaller – pot will make a world of difference.

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Bonsai apprentices online

Posted in Reflections by Jonas Dupuich on June 7, 2011

Bonsai apprentices online

Like many bonsai enthusiasts, I’ve long dreamed about studying bonsai in Japan in a formal apprenticeship. After hearing tales from Kathy Shaner, Boon Manakitivipart, and Michael Hagedorn, I’m both excited by, and somewhat afraid of, all that the experience entails.

Recently three more bonsai students began apprenticeships in Japan: Tim Gardner, Peter Tea, and Tyler Sherrod. Tim is studying with Tohru Suzuki at Daiju-en in Okazaki. Toshinori Sukuki, Tohru’s father, trained Yasuo Mitsuya, Kathy’s teacher, and Kihachiro Kamiya, Boon’s teacher.

Peter is studying with Junichiro Tanaka, owner of Aichien Bonsai Nursery in Nagoya. Tanaka studied bonsai with Tohru Suzuki.

Tyler is studying bonsai with Shinji Suzuki in Obuse, near Nagano. Michael Hagedorn studied bonsai with Shinji Suzuki, and Matt Reel continues to study with Suzuki. Shinji Suzuki studied with Motosuke Hamano, Masahiko Kimura’s teacher.

Somehow, both Peter Tea and Tim Gardner have found time to write about their adventures and share them online. Their blogs are among my favorite bonsai sites as they contain great photos and excellent advice on bonsai training and care. I recommend them both highly.

Here are some photos from Peter’s Aichien Journal (photos by Peter Tea):

Aichien

Japanese black pine

Aichien

Japanese five needle pine

Aichien

Japanese maple

And here are some photos from Tim’s Daiju-en Journal (photos by Tim Gardner):

Daiju En

Tohru Suzuki working on a Japanese black pine

Daiju En

One of the greatest collections of pines on earth – Daiju-en

Daiju En

More pines from Daiju-en

Peter, Tim, and Tyler – I wish you all the best of luck. Ganbatte!

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