Chicago Botanic Garden’s new bonsai Curator.

I are pleased to announce that our former summer intern and volunteer Chris Baker, has been selected as the next Curator of the bonsai collection at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Chris is assuming the position after the retirement of longtime curator, Ivan Waters.

046

In addition to his time working at the National Collection, Chris spent 1 year apprenticing with Mr. Tohru Suzuki at  Daijuen in Okazaki, Japan.

IMG_9429

Chris has been a huge asset to us, both he and his contributions to the Museum will be missed.  Chris assumes the position April 21st and will be returning to DC in May to take part in our annual PBA Bonsai Festival in his new role.

Kinbon Photoshoot

The nicest weather I experienced during the trip was on my third day in Japan, the rest of the trip was either cold and windy, cold and rainy, or cold and snowy. This day however was sunny and pleasant, which was great since the bonsai magazine Kinbon, was coming to do a photo shoot of the trees that were headed for Kokufu-ten.

IMG_8559

These trees had already been photographed once before when they were judged a few weeks prior to my arrival. It was interesting to find out that all the bonsai in the Kokufu exhibit are judged and photographed almost a month before the actual show.

IMG_8473

Since then they were being kept in the workshop, protected from the elements. This meant that my sempai Takuya and myself would be lifting trees for most of the day.

IMG_8472

This needle juniper had some of the tightest foliage pads I’ve ever seen. This tree was from Gashoen, another bonsai nursery nearby, and Mr. Suzuki was taking it to the show for them.

IMG_8475

Not the best picture of a very nice japanese black pine. For whatever reason the photos I take with my iphone don’t capture the whole image as it appears on the view finder.

IMG_8474

Even from the back this semi cascade white pine looks awesome.

IMG_8524

More trees were also being kept in the reception area which is where the photographer set up his backdrop. Since this beech was the closest tree it was the first one to be photographed.

IMG_8547

Once things were set up the photo shoot did not take as long as I thought. The displays had been thought out by Mr. Suzuki long in advacnce and it was simply a matter of us removing the tree, Mr. Suzuki changing the stand and then we were there with the next bonsai to photographed. Very effecient.

IMG_8525

The next one up was one of my favorite trees. A bunjin white pine which had beautifully old shari.

IMG_8601

IMG_8602

Since this years Kokufu was a double show, meaning there were two sets of bonsai exhibited, each set was judged and awarded. This already famous Kichou, (Important Bonsai Masterpiece), root-over-rock JBP won “Best Conifer” of the second group.

IMG_8550


IMG_8557

IMG_8553


IMG_8554

In addition to the big trees there were several three-point-displays photographed.

IMG_8556

Japanese White Pine with kumquat shohin and small fern. The kumquat was kept warm in a small plastic greenhouse inside the Suzuki home along with a few houseplants.

IMG_8549

Another killer japanese white pine smiles for the camera.

IMG_8555

The same semicascade white pine from above, but now paired with a shohin root-over-rock japanese maple, and perhaps the most famous accent plant ever.

IMG_8551

 

I really liked the character of this tree, great trunk. It is a procumbens juniper or sonare in Japanese, with foliage as tight as your ever going to see.

IMG_8562

Once photographed each tree was set out to catch some much needed rays. After we set this tree down I noticed something white around the nebari. It looked like the tree had some fungal issue.

IMG_8563

Concerned, I asked Takuya about it, he smiled and said “Strong tree”. I am no stranger to mycorrhiza but I’ve never see it as abundant as this, it was growing up the nebari! Not only is this a strong tree but its another kichou bonsai.

IMG_8565

This quince was one of the shohin used in another three-point-display. Not only is this tree top shelf, but check out the patina on its pot. Kokufu trees are transplanted into antique Chinese and Japanese pots for the exhibit then put back into their “growing” containers after the show.

IMG_8564

The very last thing I did was give each tree a much needed watering. If you have the chance pick up a copy of Kinbon to see the actual photos. As always, thanks for reading.

 

Kennett Collection Sale

For any serious bonsai enthusiast on the Eastern Seaboard, there was one place to have been on March 14th. Gateway Garden Center in Hokenssin, DE was host to over 400 bonsai being sold from the legendary Kennett Collection.IMG_9006

Almost all the trees had been imported from Japan and were being sold at amazing prices. I actually passed on buying things last month in Japan in anticipation of this sale.

Museum Curator Jack Sustic, myself, and Museum volunteer Ted Pickett drove up that morning and arrived an hour early. People had already began to muster, circling the perimeter trying to locate the trees they wanted.

There were buyers from Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and even Houston, Texas. Let me know if I missed any.

IMG_8978 IMG_8979 IMG_8980 IMG_8981 IMG_8982 IMG_8983 IMG_8985

IMG_8995A tent had been set up with cashiers, heaters and best of all free coffee and donuts.IMG_8998

IMG_8991The rules were simple and as fair as possible so that everyone got a chance to get a tree.

IMG_8988Each person pulled a wrist band out of a box and that determined when you could go in.

IMG_9013

Peter Warren MC’d the event, going over everything in detail and bound everyone to a gentlemen’s agreement to abide by the rules.IMG_9004

IMG_9003

IMG_9002In what we can hope will become as iconic an image as the original, Peter pumped up the crowd with the shout of “Bonsai Power!”.

IMG_9016

Jack at the starting gate waiting for his group to go. No one dared to try anything funny with what I assume were the first bouncers ever at a bonsai sale.

I was in shortly after Jack and was able to photograph the trees. Enjoy.

IMG_9018 IMG_9019 IMG_9020 IMG_9021 IMG_9022 IMG_9023 IMG_9024 IMG_9025 IMG_9026 IMG_9027 IMG_9028 IMG_9029 IMG_9030 IMG_9031 IMG_9032 IMG_9033 IMG_9034 IMG_9035 IMG_9036 IMG_9037 IMG_9038 IMG_9039 IMG_9040 IMG_9041 IMG_9050 IMG_9051 IMG_9053 IMG_9054 IMG_9055 IMG_9056 IMG_9058 IMG_9059 IMG_9060 IMG_9061 IMG_9062 IMG_9064 IMG_9065 IMG_9066 IMG_9067 IMG_9068 IMG_9069 IMG_9070 IMG_9071 IMG_9072 IMG_9074 IMG_9075 IMG_9076 IMG_9077 IMG_9079

The first group went in at 10 am and apparently this maple was the first tree purchased, by 11:30 over half the bonsai were sold.
IMG_9080 IMG_9081 IMG_9083

It was a great experience, even for those who didn’t get exactly what they wanted. Thank you to Mr. Paul and everyone involved in orchestrating this event. It’s exciting to know that so many fine bonsai have been distributed around the U.S. and I assume we will be seeing many of them in upcoming exhibitions.

Paid Bonsai Internship at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum

Here is your chance to work with us at the Museum. We are in the final week of accepting applicants for our Spring/Summer intern. If you are interested please send your resume by this Friday, March, 14th 2014.

bonsai intern

Last years Bonsai Intern Chris Baker.

Description
This internship will be at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum. The intern will be trained by the curator in the care and maintenance of the bonsai collection. This internship is a paid position that receives a stipend. Weekend work will be required. The intern may work a full time or part time schedule depending on availability. Internship will not exceed 480 hours.

Qualifications
Applicants should have an active interest in the art of bonsai. The incumbent should have a basic understanding of plant care and have the ability to accurately follow instructions relating to planting, pruning, weeding and other routine garden maintenance tasks. Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen.

Duties & Working Conditions
Duties include assisting with the day to day care of the bonsai collection. The intern will work under the direction of the museum curator. The intern will assist in a wide variety of tasks required in the maintenance of the bonsai collection as needed such as watering, repotting, trimming and wiring.
Interns may have contact with visitors. In many cases work will be outdoors and may involve heavy lifting and exposure to extreme heat and humidity. Duties may also include work in the museum’s gardens.

To apply:
Please send a cover letter and resume via email to USNA.Internships@ars.usda.gov.

Deadline for applications is March 14, 2014. 
Questions? Contact the internship office at (202) 245-4563 or USNA.Internships@ars.usda.gov

Diaju-en

At the end of January I was extremely blessed to have traveled to Japan for a 3 week “apprentice” style learning experience with Mr. Tohru Suzuki at the historic Daiju-en bonsai nursery in Okazaki. This trip was timed to coincide with the 88th Kokufu-ten exhibition where I would have the opportunity to assist Mr. Suzuki and the Daiju-en family with getting their trees to and from Tokyo. Before I share that experience I wanted to highlight the trees of Daiju-en.

When you think of pine bonsai you think of Daijuen. As a 3rd generation bonsai nursery, Daijuen and its founder Saichi Suzuki are credited with developing the now universal technique of de-candling used for Japanese Black Pine bonsai as well as the fast growing Japanese White Pine cultivar ‘Zuisho’.

IMG_8624IMG_8622IMG_8621

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Suzuki about the story surrounding his grandfather’s discovery which resulted in what is now the fundamental technique for training Japanese Black Pine.IMG_2261

For those who have never head the story, it goes like this: One day while in the nursery, Saichi noticed something out of the ordinary with several of his pines. Upon closer inspection the new spring growth had been completely eaten by caterpillars, leaving the trees with out any new shoots.IMG_2436

He set them aside to see what would happen, would they live of die? Not only did the trees live but they put out another flush of growth, only the new needles were much shorter. From that point on the practice of removing spring shoots to force a second flush of growth is applied wherever JBP are growth as bonsai.IMG_2438

I asked Mr. Suzuki about those first trees his grandfather set aside.  He  said that they were in the formal upright style and at that time they belonged to a customer. I asked if they were still around and he replied that they are still alive but were at another customers home. It would have been awesome to have seen the legendary “catepillar “trees, but there were plenty of historic bonsai at the nursery.IMG_2150

Hear are just a few of the pines at Daiju-en.IMG_8627 IMG_8581 IMG_8585 IMG_8560 IMG_8518 IMG_8519 IMG_8517 IMG_8522IMG_8512 IMG_8508 IMG_8506 IMG_8505 IMG_8504 IMG_8502 IMG_8501 IMG_8500 IMG_8496IMG_8512 IMG_8558 IMG_8484 IMG_8485 IMG_8482 IMG_8478 IMG_8480 IMG_8479 IMG_8468 IMG_8469 IMG_8466 IMG_8467 IMG_8463 IMG_8462

IMG_8587 IMG_8580 IMG_2240 IMG_2152 IMG_8533 As always thanks for reading, I hoped you enjoyed seeing some of the Daiju-en pines and learning a little bonsai history. More to come from Japan.

Potomac Bonsai Associations Winter Newsletter

The winter edition of the PBA Newsletter is out and features Museum volunteer turned bonsai apprentice Danny Coffey. Danny breaks down his approach in restyling a really cool shimpaku. Get the complete article here.

Danny Clippings winter

You can also follow Danny’s journey as an apprentice on his blog “Tree the People“.

2014 Winter Silhouette Bonsai Exhibition

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located on the East Coast of the United States, has been having its annual Winter Silhouettes exhibition for nearly 20 years. We’ve recently gone to a biannual show to generate more interest as winter is our slow season at the Arboretum.
IMG_0058Japanese Maple-Kiyo-hime, In training since 1946, Donated by Akiko Matsudaira.

IMG_00603 point display with Trident Maple, In training since 1895, Donated Prince Takamatsu, Mt. Fuji scroll, and Japanese Blood Grass.

IMG_0064Branch silhouette.

IMG_0063Japanese Blood Grass, container by MC2.

IMG_0061Triptych of Root-over-rock Chinese Elms, Donated by Yee Sun-Wu.

IMG_0070 Chinese Hackberry, In training since 1946, Donated by Shu-ying Lu.

IMG_0071Winter Suiseki.

IMG_0072 Chinese Elm, In training since 1946, Donated by Yee-sun Wu.IMG_0073 Bald Cypress, In training since 1972, Donated by Vaughn Banting.

IMG_0074 Chinese Elm, In training since 1970, Donated by Marybel Balendonck.

IMG_0075 Branch detail.

IMG_0077 Year of the Horse shohin display.

IMG_0078 Rabbit foot fern, container by Lang,  with horse figurine.

IMG_0079 Chinese Elm, Age unknown, Donated by All Japan Shohin Bonsai Association.

IMG_0080 Trident Maple, In training since 1918, Donated by Prime Minister Obuchi.

IMG_0081 Hut Stone.

IMG_0082 Trident Maple, In training since 1986, Donated by Doris Froning.IMG_0083 Smooth-leaved Elm, In training since 1982, Donated by Keith Scott.

IMG_0084 Pomegranate, In training since 1963, Donated by Alice Naka.

IMG_0085 Japanese Cedar, In training since 1905, Donated by Eisaku Sato.

IMG_0086 Chinese Elm, Age Unknown, Donated by Stanley Chin.

IMG_0087 Trident Maple, In training since 1916, Donated Takeo Fukuda.

IMG_0088

Chinese Elm, In training since 1961, Donated by Shu-ying Lui.