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“One Quick Glance at this Tree Brought Me to a State of Nirvana”

rootoverrobertCU

A close up of a rather spectacular root-over-rock bonsai (the entire planting is just below). Here's our original caption (from May, 2016) with some changes made today... Robert Steven (my mistake, see below) has done it again. This time it's a perfect root-over-rock bonsai. Here's what Charles Bevan has to say about it: "This is unbelievably perfect. One quick glance at this tree brought me to a state of nirvana."

I was looking to continue our forest theme when I ran across this post from last year (and the year before). There is a forest (below), but it’s the feature tree and the title of the post that caught me. As usual, I’ve done a little adding and subtracting. 

When we originally found the three trees shown here on Robert Steven’s timeline we assumed they belonged to Robert (always assume assumptions are mistaken). Here’s the real story sent to us by Tab Aquino. “These trees are from the Philippines. The rock-grown tree is a Vitex trifolia owned br Marvin Besa. The “juniper” (see below) is actually a Pemphis acidula owned by Alexis Perez.

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rootoverrobert

There are root-over-rock bonsai and then there are root-over-rock bonsai. I think it is safe to say that you will seldom see one quite as spectacular as this one. Nor one with such long thin roots supporting the tree.

 

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Tab didn't say, so we don't know what the trees are. However, we do know that this is a very large, powerful and well done forest planting. And we might assume (there's that word again) that such a huge pot costs a small fortune.

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This is not a juniper in spite of what you might think and in spite of what I thought until Tab Aquino set me straight (see his comments above). It's a Pemphis acidula

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The Magician’s Formal Bonsai Forest

formalforest770

Masahiko Kimura 'The Magician' styled this Ezo spruce (Picea Glehnii) planting with a high mountain stand of conifers in mind (this shot is three years after the initial planting and two years after the intermediate shot - both are below).

Much of this post is from 2009 (our first year blogging). I’ve added some photos today and revised and added to the text. I hope these changes are helpful. 

Looking at the forest above, you might notice how the trees on the outside lean out in search of sunlight, which is what you would expect in a natural stand of trees. You may also notice how Kimura enhanced the feeling of age by removing or jinning about half of the limbs (compared to the intermediate shot below). Trees tend to shed limbs as they age. This is especially true of trees in forests where there’s competition for light; with more growth at the tops and edges and less in the shaded areas where branches tend to weaken and even fall off.  All three photos in this post are from Bonsai Today issue 26*

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intemediate

It's amazing what wire can do in the right hands. This intermediate stage is one year after planting (below) and two years before the top photo. It's quite powerful at this stage and I suspect most of us would be delighted to have a forest like this exactly as is. Notice how each trunk is wired and all are almost perfectly straight and vertical. One of the next steps will be to bend and lean the outer trunks and make more subtle adjustment to the inner ones.

 

before

Freshly planted. Kimura started with inexpensive, untrained trees. The placement of each tree is carefully thought out to create a natural and harmonious feel. We'll discuss some of the concepts behind placement in future posts. Meanwhile, an excellent book on the subject is Saburo Kato's Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai.

cucenter

A closer look at the trunks and ground cover

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culeft

Close up of the left grouping

 

curight

The right grouping

*The photos in this post are originally from Kindai Bonsai and are shown here courtesy of Bonsai Focus

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Challenges All Their Own – Mixed Bonsai Forests

museo

This mixed forest/landscape is from Spain. The Museo del Bonsai Marbella to be exact (from Bonsais del Sur). It's too bad the pot is chopped off and the whole photo is cramped, but that's the way we found it. Still, from what we can see, it look s like a very ambitious project with a numerous type trees and other features to integrate. No mean feat to pull off

Today we’ll stay on our forest and other multiple trunk theme of late, only this time it’s mixed bonsai forests from mixed sources. Mixed forests present challenges all there own and are not as common as single variety forests

Forests with mixed species can be a little tricky; not only does the planting have to make sense aesthetically, particularly when it comes to questions of scale, but the various types of trees should make sense growing together (would you find them growing together in nature?) Not that you can’t experiment with trees that normally might not grow in the exact same locations, but the more different their natural habitats are, the more unnatural the planting might seem and the more difficult it is to keep all the trees healthy.

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b1kato-mixed-forest1-280x3001This mixed forest is one of my favorites. It’s from Saburo Kato’s Forest, Rock Planting & Ezo Spruce Bonsai (published by The National Bonsai Foundation and distributed by Stone Lantern).
B1KATO-2Here's the cover. The forest in this case is all one species; Ezo spruce, a favorite of Kato's. This beautifully done, classic book is one of the best bonsai forest books, if not one of the best bonsai books period.

 

Maples1

This swirl of colors is a different kind of mixed forest. All the trees are one species (Japanese maple) but there are at least four or five different varieties. It's by Juan José Bueno Gil. Note: I'm not sure why the trunks are so white. Not something you'd expect with Japanese maples. Maybe someone fiddled with photoshop a little too much? 

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More Impressive Works of Imagination & Skill

 

HK7

This Penjing landscape features exceptionally rugged terrain and no immediately visible sign of humans. Or are there one or two tiny almost indistinguishable specks of something that could be man made?

Continuing where we left off yesterday. For some reason I got a little fascinated with the man made elements; mostly small boats and buildings. I think maybe it’s the perspective they provide. Tiny beings in a vast wild world. Anyway, with or without signs of human activity, these rugged and realistic Penjing landscapes are impressive works of imagination and skill

All the photos are borrowed from Hong Kong Bonsai Pots. No artists or plant varieties are mentioned


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HK7cu

Closeup from the photo above. Is that a boat?

 

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Unlike the one above, there are plenty of signs of human presence in this one.

 

HKMCUA closer look at the cave covered mountain from the photo above.

 

HK8

I like this one's understated beauty and simplicity, with almost no sign of humans

HK8cu

A closer look. You can see the building in the whole landscape above, but can you make out the boats?

 

HK11

A little change of pace. There's no mention of plant variety, but the bark and what we can make out of the leaves looks like a certain type of Chinese elm.

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Attention to Detail, Skill and Precision

HKMAIN3CU

Part of large Penjing scene. The full construction is just below. The photo is from Hong Kong Bonsai Pots

I’ve long been fascinated by Penjing tray plantings  The best exhibit remarkable attention to detail, skill and precision, resulting in dramatic scenes that can transport the viewer to places beyond their ordinary experience. Or if we’ve become jaded, then maybe just a yawn while we scroll to the next photo…

All the photos in this post are borrowed from Hong Kong Bonsai Pots

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HKMAIN3

The whole magnificent scene. The open white spaces represent water. There's a boat with an orangish sail center front (you can see it better in the photo above). These small almost incidental traces of humans are common features in Penjing and are usually sized quite small in contrast to the grandeur of nature

HK2

A litter softer than the one above with less dramatic rocks and more developed trees. Is that a boat?

HK3

A single large clump style* tree on the banks of quiet pond or slow stream.
 *We've been featuring clump style bonsai lately (here and here)

HK4

Jagged, towering rocks dwarfing human buildings. Perhaps the buildings on the larger rock are a monastery. There's a small, almost imperceptible village on the banks of the river to the right

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The large rock. I can see at least one man made structure that I missed in the photo above

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The smaller rock and village. A little fuzzy in this blown up photo, but still a pretty good look at the village

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A simple forest provides a little change of pace. Or maybe it's not so simple?


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Forest Bonsai – Focal Point, Balance, Scale, Age & That Elusive Quality…

pall11I stumbled across the European hornbeam (Carpinus betulas) by Walter Pall on his Bonsai Adventures blog. The shot looks like spring with some trees lagging behind others.

Continuing with our multiple trunk theme (yesterday was Clump style, today is forests) and with Walter Pall (day before yesterday), we’ll go back in time once again to a post that originally appeared in 2014. (we’ve added a photo and a little more text). I think it’s one of our best on forests, and worth another look.

Without the dominant tree this forest planting by Walter Pall would be a whole lot less interesting. With the dominant tree the planting has a focal point, balance, scale, a feeling of age and that more elusive quality we call interest, or beauty.

Focal point. Everything organizes around the dominant tree. Your eye goes there first and from that point the rest of the planting falls into place.
Continued below…

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Balance. If you look at the silhouette of the whole planting you’ll immediately see and feel how everything flows from the dominant tree, creating an overall sense of balance and harmony. This has a lot to do with the natural strength and dynamism of scalene triangles and something called The Golden Mean or Golden Ratio (aka Magic Thirds).

Scale. Notice how the large tree is toward the front. Not only does this show off its size and power, it also highlights a sense of depth when contrasted with the medium sized trees in the center axis (left to right) and the smaller trees in the back. Rather than seeing these trees as smaller as they go back, you might see them as further away.
Continued below…

pall21Same forest. Same time. Different backdrop. Walter usually shoots his trees with two or three different backdops.

Continued from above…
Age. When it comes to age, there are two types of natural forests: ones where all the trees are more or less the same age and size (for example a stand of trees that grew up after a forest fire) and the more interesting and common old forests with trees that show a mix of ages and sizes.

This planting is a good example of the latter, with the main tree emphasizing and even exaggerating the contrast. To carry this a little farther, you might even imagine that at one time the dominant tree stood alone and gradually seeded the others.
Continued below…

twohornbeams

The plantings are a little small in this composition, but you can still get a pretty good idea of how different backdrops effect our perception of the planting.

Continued from above…
Walter Pall often shows several photos of the the same bonsai with different backdrops and at different times. I think this is a good practice, especially given that no single photo will ever completely capture the power and dynamism of a good bonsai. Not to say that several photos will do that either, but they might help.

pall6

Same planting, fall foliage. You can see how the individual trees turn and drop on different schedules.

 

pall4One of the rewards of winter hardy bonsai.


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Clump Style Bonsai – Multiple Trunks with a Single Root Stystem

forest1We found this extraordinary clump style Japanese maple on Bonsai Nakayoshi (sorry the link is no longer active). You can imagine that all the smaller trunks started as suckers on the roots of the main tree (you could also imagine that they started from seeds dropped by the main tree; in which case each seed would have its own roots, so that wouldn't qualify as a clump style bonsai).

Staying on our clump style theme from yesterday, I borrowed this one from our archives.  It was titled Multiple Trunks Sharing a Single Root System – Clump Style Bonsai Forests (technically, I don’t think you would call a clump style bonsai a forest), and it was posted in August, 2015

Any discussion of multiple trunk bonsai should include clump style (Japanese: Kabudachi or Kabubuki) . Rather than boring you with my take on clumps, here’s something that I lifted from ofBONSAI Magazine (the link from 2015 is no longer live – the same goes for most of the links in this post)

“Clump style bonsai should have three or more odd number trunks grown from a single point (this definitive statement about odd number trunks is common, particularly with Japanese artists – here’s more on this). The natural equivalent might be a group of trees that have sprouted from a single cone, or a collection of mature suckers springing from the base of a single tree (in both cases they all share the same roots). All branches should grow outwards towards the light and create an overall triangular shape and composite crown….” There’s more here (sorry, another dead link)

clump-1This illustration is borrowed from the Kabudachi, Kabubuki article in ofBONSAI Magazine.

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jwp2

This Japanese white pine is from the 2011 Taikan-ten bonsai exhibition in Japan. It’s hard to tell from this angle if all the trunks are sharing a single root-system. It could be a twin-trunk tree and a triple-trunk clump combined. I borrowed the photo from Bonsai Empire.

 

erniehernandez

This very sweet clump style Willow leaf ficus is by Ernie Hernandez (this just might be a raft style planting). Aside from the how well the trunks and crown all go together, there's that perfect pot and those well-placed little spots of moss. The photo is from an old Art of Bonsai Project post.

 

quebec

All the exposed roots have grown together to form one nebari on this old Trident maple clump. The photo is from the 2010 Expobonsai Quebec.

 

pine

We'd be remiss if we didn't show a Shohin clump. This little pine with its shaggy too-long needles, aged lichen covered trunks and funky almost too-small pot is near perfect in its imperfect naturalness. From Shohin Bonsai World, Nishinomiya branch. For a detailed look at pine bonsai, you might want to take a look at our Masters’ Series Pine book.

 

clump Last but not least. Michael Hagedorn’s now famous and freshly touched up Mountain Hemlock clump style bonsai (I can't say for sure that all the trunks share the the same roots, but my best guess is they do - you'll have to ask Michael to find out for sure). The photo is from Micheal’s Crataegus Bonsai.
 Here's what Michael wrote about it: “And this is how the Mountain Hemlock looks today, in January, 2015, after minor wiring touchup. More and more I’m inspired by what I see in the local mountains, which do not have as severe an environment as the Rockies, but tend to feature moister, calmer forests. In the nearby Cascades and Coast ranges I’ve been very taken with the relationships of trunks, just visually, and also the communities of trees ecologically, and have sought out trees for bonsai that might communicate this. I tried to present this hemlock as simply as possible—without a pot or visible slab—to highlight those features.”

 

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Under Appreciated Bonsai?

jmmain

This single tree with five trunks is an Rough bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum Arakawa). It was  imported from Japan by Akina Bonsai, Poland and redesigned by Walter Pall last month. As you can see, Walter decided to use guy wires. The trunks are on the large side for bending and moving with conventional wiring and wrapping wire around each trunk might damage the bark

Maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes feel like clump style bonsai (trees with one root system and multiple trunks) are under appreciated in our bonsai world. Single trunk trees with massive girth or dramatic movement (or both) seem to more readily capture our imagination.  This is unfortunate.  Well done clump style bonsai require degrees of subtly that are often missed by casual viewing. Multiple trunks that complement each other to create a balanced and natural feel aren’t as easily done as you might think.

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jm2

Before. Though Walter doesn't say, you might imagine that this photo was taken soon after it was imported

 

jmnebari

A good nebari lends a feeling of age and stability, and this one is beyond simply 'good'

 

jm4

Recently repotted. This photo with no leaves and new soil shows how dominant the trunks are in relation to the branching. If each trunk had more developed branching (something that's usually desirable in single trunk trees), the individual crowns would crowd each other.

 

jm3

Leafed out and waiting for Walter's guy wires. I wonder if he waited for the leaves to make sure each trunk was healthy enough to move.

 

text

50 cm is just shy of 20 inches

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Bonsai Mystery Solved

sal4

If your short term memory is still functioning, then you might remember this tree from yesterday. Or from March, 2014, when we first featured it. If you forgot it from four years ago, join the club. Here's part of the caption from that 2014 post... "Carob Tree (Ceratonia silicua) by Salvador de Los Reyes from Spain. Owner, Manolo Vargas. Height: 90 cm. Added by Gustavo Celayes

The mystery of yesterday’s unidentified tree was solved while I was looking for some more bonsai by Salvador de Los Reyes (yesterday’s artist). There it was, a Carob tree in a post from four years ago. Right here on Bark.

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antes4

Carob bonsai from yesterday. No longer a mystery. Here's yesterday's caption...  "A mystery tree before & after. Salvador identifies most of his trees, but not this one (that I could find at least)."

 

CUsal4-2

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Four Before & After Bonsai

AyDBefore & after (antes y depues) Shimpaku juniper by Salvador de los Reyes.

Four for the price of one. Still sorting our from vacation (no vacation goes unpunished) so it’s back to our archives (July, 2012). All four transformations are by Salvador de los Reyes.

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A mystery tree before & afte. Salvador identifies most of his trees, but not this one (that I could find at least).

 

Sabina juniper

 

A bonsai rarity. Tamarix before & after. You see don't many Tamarix bonsai and you almost never see a well-styled weeping bonsai.