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Bonsai perfection. Luis Vallejo provides the following information with this tree... "Fortunella hindsii Kumquat, By Nobuichi Urushibata, Taishoen. Luis Vallejo Bonsai Garden, Photo Miguel Krause." Taishoen is Nobuichi's bonsai nursery in Japan. Luis Vallejo is an accomplished bonsai artist and the owner of Museo de Bonsai Acalanes in Spain. Fortunella hindsii Kumquat, is of course the type tree, with the Fortunalla hindsii being the smallest of the Kumquats.
Just one tree today, but it’s a good one. I found it on Luis Vallejo’s timeline. If you’ve been following Bark for a while, or if you’re someone who appreciates European (particularly Spanish) bonsai, you’re no doubt familiar with Luis.
You’re also likely familiar with Kumquat bonsai, though they are not all that common outside of Asia. They’re often shohin, though this one appears a little larger (no dimensions are given)
Great nebari with multiple trunks.
Closeup of fruit and leaves
I like this shot. All the space and the dark background accentuate the fruit and the tree's simple beauty
Got pieces of broken pots laying around? No problem. Robert Steven's caption for this photo... "Dedication of the broken pots"
Time to visit our old friend Robert Steven again. Robert has been on the cutting edge of Indonesian and world bonsai for a long time and judging by his recent endeavors, you might conclude that he intends to stay there. All the text in italics are direct quotes from Robert.
Roberts writes... "Front' is simply a viewing angle where we want our bonsai to be seen from..."
"Premna, a wonderful species for bonsai but not easy to take care of from the white scale's attack !" Coincidentally, we just put up a post on scale the other day.
"Happy Chinese New Year! Selamat Tahun Baru Imlek!"
"Happy Chinese New Year! Selamat Tahun Baru Imlek!"
Ben Oki's famous Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis). Mr Oki donated it to the Pacific Bonsai Museum where it now resides and stands as one of the crown jewels in this amazing collection.
RIP Ben Oki, respected and loved American Bonsai pioneer, teacher and friend to countless bonsai enthusiasts. Here’s part of a post on from Verso, the blog of the Huntington Botanical Gardens where Mr Oki was curator of the bonsai collection (written before Ben Oki’s passing)… “When Ben Oki first saw a bonsai tree as a curious youngster of six, he asked his father what bonsai was. “It’s something people do when they retire,” his father explained. Luckily for the world of horticulture, Oki didn’t wait that long to start.
“The curator of the bonsai collection at The Huntington, Oki is one of the world’s leading masters of the art of bonsai. Trained under the tutelage of legendary master John Naka, Oki has devoted more than four decades to the art and has received so many honors as a teacher himself that several prestigious awards bear his name, including the Ben Oki International Design Award sponsored by the Bonsai Clubs International…” Here’s the rest of the article
Here’s something Ted Matson a bonsai artist and student of Ben Oki wrote… “Sorry to announce the passing of Ben Oki this Friday from a heart attack. We lost a great American bonsai master who faithfully served in the shadow of his sensei, John Naka, but was a top artist in his own right with a sense of style and technical skill that made huge impact in more ways than we all realize. I know that he was very influential in my bonsai career and it’s a personal honor to help carry on his legacy at The Huntington.”
These little critters with their protective helmet-like shields are just one variety of the approximately 8,000 species of scale. Though not all are harmful to your bonsai, the ones that are, need to be taken seriously.
Here’s what Michael Hagedorn has to say about scale…
“They’re here again*…scale are emerging from their eggs underneath their shields, and beginning to crawl.
“This is the time to control them. If we sprayed during the winter we wasted insecticide on protected eggs. In June they mature and begin moving around the plant, and can be controlled with oils. All-season oil or Neem oil work. Early summer through the warm months they are active.
“It’s very important to identify when to control what. If we spray with the right insecticide or fungicide in the wrong season, we waste time and money and maybe give a beneficial organism a hard time.”
*February is a little early for this article, early summer would be better but you can still prepare
For more bonsai advice from Michael Hagedorn, be sure to check out Bonsai Heresy.
A female cottony cushion scale with offspring.
Here’s a small piece of what Wikipedia has to say about scale
“Scale are small insects of the order Hemiptera, generally classified as the superfamily Coccoidea. There are about 8,000 species of scale insects. Scale insects feed on a wide variety of plants, and many scale species are considered pests. Scale insects’ waxy covering makes them quite resistant to pesticides, which are only effective against the first-instar nymph crawler stage. However, scales are often controlled with horticultural oils, which suffocate them, or through biological control. Soapy water is also reported to be effective against infestations on houseplants.” As is Neem oil.
Was this foliage pinched in order to achieve that dense, perfectly refined shape and texture? The answer, according to Michael Hagedorn is an emphatic NO! Except when it isn't. The image is borrowed from our Masters' Series Juniper Bonsai book.
Thought you might enjoy another round of Micheal Hagedorn‘s bonsai wisdom. Most of this post was borrowed and updated from a 2012 Bark Bark Post titled "Pinch! Don’t Pinch!" We added some content and posted it again in 2015. Because it offers an important lesson for anyone who grows junipers, especially those of us who are in the habit in pinching to control growth, it’s worth another look.
Michael Hagedorn's famous Post-Dated Still the best bonsai read in the English language
Back in 2012 Michael featured a post on his Crataegus Bonsai blog that was titled Never Pinch Junipers. Here’s en excerpt in his own words… Basically, we don’t pinch junipers. We cut new long extensions with scissors…and I know that will raise some eyebrows. I think the idea of pinching junipers with fingers started long ago in translated Japanese articles written by those who did not specialize in or have much experience in junipers. And then we bought into the idea of pinching because it seemed like a way to have fun with our junipers. But pinching, especially over-pinching where every growing tip is removed, has been killing junipers for decades. There’s more here.
Don't pinch! Michael Hagedorn's hand showing off healthy juniper foliage that he'll never pinch.
But what about Japanese articles that encourage pinching? When Michael mentions “the idea of pinching junipers with fingers started long ago in translated Japanese articles written by those who did not specialize in or have much experience in junipers” I thought uh oh, could it be Bonsai Today that hes’ referring to?
The early issues of Bonsai Today were translated from Japanese to Spanish to English. The person doing the Spanish to English knew nothing about bonsai and, at that time, almost no one else in the West did either (possibly including the person translating from Japanese to Spanish). So it’s easy to see how misconceptions could be passed on and be interpreted as bonsai gospel.
Which brings us to an article in Bonsai Today issue 28 (1993) where Kunio Kobayashi (he’s a famous bonsai artist and teacher and his fame is well earned) where he is quoted as saying (translated twice mind you) “The objective of pinching is to remove the leaves in areas of strong growth, so that you keep the strong branches from growing too long and, at the same time, bring into balance the vigor of the tree’s strong branches (which are pinched) with that of the weak ones (that are not pinched).” There’s more, but you get the drift.
Pinch? If you look at this photo (from a Kunio Kobayashi article in Bonsai Today 28), it looks like he's showing us how to pinch juniper foliage. When you combine the photo with the text (even considering the possibilities of poor translation) it looks like he advocated pinching.
I’m loath to disagree with Michael on any bonsai topic (Michael apprenticed in Japan for three years and is extraordinarily meticulous and thorough when it comes to bonsai), but equally reluctant to disagree with Mr. Kobayashi. Fortunately, I think there’s a way out (beyond the old saw about reasonable people disagreeing); it’s when Michael says “But pinching, especially over-pinching where every growing tip is removed, has been killing junipers for decades. So, maybe you can still pinch your junipers, as long as you don’t over-pinch. Or maybe just take Michael’s advice and use you scissors and avoid pinching altogether.
Of course all this might cause you to question if it’s also possible to over-trim new growth.
Was this tree pinched? Shimpaku juniper by Kunio Kobayashi from Bonsai Today issue 28. (image courtesy of Bonsai Focus).