BIB exhibition – conifers

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

BIB exhibition – conifers

Bonsai exhibitions are my best opportunity to simply enjoy the trees. During BIB’s annual exhibition, I make time to wander the hall as if I were a visitor. I study bark and branch placement, moss-work, accents, and display.
One of the first things that strikes me about a tree is its balance, or “baransu,” as Yasuo Mitsuya would say. The shimpaku below has it in spades. Dense and green foliage, wonderful course to fine ramification, and a silhouette that’s as Japanese in character.

 A Ponderosa pine an aisle away had a similar lifeline that twistd around a deadwood trunk. The roughly textured shari reveals prolonged batle with the elements, and the wonderful twists show the tree’s flexibility in response to harsh conditins.
Some found the less-developed foliage distracting. The branches will ramify and the foliage will improve with time. Ponderosa ain’t as well known for their foliage as they are for their movement, and this tree has good movement.
Ponderosa pine
I find it interesting that the Ponderosa and the shimpaku ended up in such similar pots. The larger, more powerfull tree is potted in a deeper bowl with less tapered sides and the feet are turned toward us to create a strong profile. The more delicate tree is potted in a contianer with very tappered sides and feet turned to the sides to create a more delicate silhouette. Both are appropriate and attractive choices.
Now that Western junipers have been making their way into peoples collections, we are starting to see them in exhibitions.
Western juniper
Western juniper
They are a great variety for bonsai. Atractive foliage that’s easy to refine, great vigor and often spectaclar movement combine to make these trees perfect vehicls for their owners visions. In time the branches will develop to create more appropriate back-drops for the exciting trunks. More developed foliage will do wonders for the trees’ balance by influencing our sense of the trees’ depth and direction.
Western juniper
Western juniper
Some junipers have less desirable foliage. Californias often fall into this category. Many of the first Californias and sometimes Sierras to be collected, were grafted with shimpaku foliage. Today they are mature looking trees, trained, in the Japanese style, but with an unmistakably indigenous trunk.
California juniper with shimpaku foliage
Atlas cedars have long been popular material for bonsai. Easy to bend – when they don’t snap – and the needles don’t grow too long.
Blue atlas cedar – cascade
Blue atlas cedar – formal upright
Juniperus procumbens is a very poplar variety for bonsai due in part to specmens like the rock planting below. Long trained as bonsai, this procumbens is in great health and conveys its age well.
Procumbens juniper – root over rock
The specimen below is another long-time bonsai growing out of a rock. Or is it two trees growing out of the rock? The debate remains open, but I put little stock in the answer. It’s a unique tree with a special branch/trunk to one side. In another five to ten years the foliage will fill in and create a silhouette worthy of the old trunk.
The pot, if you look closely, is a beautiful Chinese antique. Somewhat warped by time, the pot boasts one of the more striking patinas in the hall. Between the pot and the rock, the bonsai was one of the heaviest in the exhibit.
Ezo spruce – root over rook
White pine can be a challenge in Northern California. Some varieties do well, others have trouble staying alive. In between, many five-needle pines vacillate between sparse and full from year to year. The past year was good, but not great for white pine. The semi-cascade below is one of my favorite white pines, and one of my favorite bonsai in the area. If I can find someone with the photos, I’ll be happy to share its story someday.
Japanese white pine
Japanese white pine
Japanese white pine


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