The 21st Gomangoku, Daiju-en’s annual bonsai exhibit in Okazaki, Aichi, featured some great Japanese black pines. The Suzuki family, and the apprentices who studied with them, are well known for their pine work. Getting to see the trees up close, to carry them, study them, and think about them, was a great experience. I’ve long been interested in the many ways one can style pine bonsai, and the trees on display provided good examples for study.
A good trunk may not always make for a good bonsai, but it’s impossible to have a good bonsai without a good trunk. For black pines, this means good bark and good movement. One of the primary characteristics to look for in good bonsai is age, and age is often best shown in the trunk.
Apart from the trunk, one can look at the health of the tree, the leaf shape, color, and size, and branch placement. Does the foliage generally appear in small clumps or in large pads? Is the apex round or pointed? Is the silhouette continuous or are there significant gaps between branches? Do the needles point up or out?
I like a number of different styles, and I always appreciate well-styled black pines. I hope you do too!
Japanese black pine – great bark and movement
Buds grow very close together to form a smooth silhouette – this is very clean pine work. Does the tree point to the left or the right?
A sturdy, medium-sized pine
Pine on a slab
Shohin black pine
A massive trunk
Informal upright black pine – does it point left or right?
Good bark – the style remains beyond me
Nice black pine – this pot shape is often used for pines
One of my favorite pines in the show
A close up of the foliage
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