Deciduous and broadleaf trees

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deciduous and broadleaf trees

Despite the fact that half of the trees in the winter exhibit are without leaves and most of the other half are fighting off winters tendency to tinge foliage with a yellowish or bronze cast, many bonsai are at their best look this time of year. Late winter and early spring are great times to show flowering bonsai, but managnig the silhouettes of trees coverd with new growth is a challenge. Fall is a good time to show bonsai as pines are in check and fall color may be evident. But it is only in winter that we can clearly see the structure of deciduous trees.
With careful technique, leaves can be shrunk to fit the scale of tree. Leaves hide the degree to which a tree’s branches are ramified. Great branch structure is a source of pride for deciduous tree owners.
Although the tree is attractive in summer, it’s far more dramatic in winter. We experience the tree in three dimensions by examining the tree front to back and top to bottom. We can also get a better sense of its age without leaves. It was a pleasure to have this tree in the exhibit.

Chinese elm

The pomegranate below has one of the older and more impressive trunks in the exhibit. I can imagine it as a craggy old monster of a tree well-suited to a scary movie. Within a few years this tree can develop into a truly impresive bonsai.

Pomegranate with fruit from last fall

My trident maple is beginning to suggest its eventual silhouette. Daisaku Nomoto suggested that one could prepare any trident for Kokufu within three years. I asked how this was possible. “Easy,” he intoned. “Wire the tree and cutback three times each year and the tree will be ready.” In the future, I will focus on developing the primary branch on the right hand side of the tree to improve its balance.

Root over rock trident maple

This gooseberry was one of the more fun deciduous trees in the exhibit. Nothing manicured about it – save the Bunzan pot.


The chojubai below was a perfect complement to the suiseki it accompanied.

Flowering quince ‘chojubai’

We were fairly hard up for color at this year’s exhibit. The small pyracantha below did more than it’s fair share.

Pyracantha with mondo grass accent

Although typically grown for their flowers, azalea can also make great bonsai. Their trunks can show great age and their branches great development.

Satsuki azalea

Oaks were very well represented this year. Oak is a popular variety for bonsai that you just don’t see very often in Japan. And although they grow in a variety of climates around the world, they are very evocative trees for Californians.

Cork oak

California live oak


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