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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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



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.





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


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.


Another killer japanese white pine smiles for the camera.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



Winter Tokonoma 2014

Happy New Year! For the first post of 2014 I wanted to showcase the current display in our tokonoma.

For this display I wanted to try and use some objects that are not my immediate choices for a winter themed arrangement. This would not only show off more of the Museum’s collection but also challenge me to be more creative with them.

From the start I knew I wanted to use a scroll we have of a white hawk on a pine branch.


The scroll makes me think of a remote snowy mountain where this white hawk remains vigilant through the falling snow.

The second object I wanted to use is one of my favorite stones at the Museum because of its name. 30,000 Foot White Beard is the name of this figure stone donated by John Naka. The stone’s name comes from a white strip of minerals running down this otherwise black  figure stone which John envisioned as a very long flowing beard.

The white “beard” reinforces the feeling of winter as its shape also reminds me of an hanging icicle or perhaps a frozen waterfall on a distant peak.


John collected the stone from the Kern River in Northern California and I assume the daiza was made by himself and that he collected it in 1966 as both his name, the year 1966, and the date 10-29-66 appear on the bottom of the daiza.


The biggest challenge I encountered was finding a stand that would work within the display. Like picking a bonsai pot you never have enough options and none are ever perfect. I wanted the stone to be elevated enough to be properly viewed and to further enhance its verticality. I also needed the stand to be limited in it’s width so that stone was not visually lost when placed on it.

The first few stands were more traditional in style but weren’t the right size. I then pulled out a stand that seldom gets used here as it has a very narrow range of objects it would work with. However, once I put the stone on it I knew this was the one. Its size was the closest to what I wanted but more importantly it turned a static display into a story I could imagine.


Now, the display became more than just a stone on a stand but a white bearded man walking over a bridge among snow covered trees being watched by a white hawk.


Takahashi Shotei, “Bridge in the Snow” ca. 1910

The addition of a winter grass in a cream colored pot completed the setting as I could hear the cold wind rustling their dried stalks.


Haiku by Matuso Basho

First snow
On the half-finished bridge


Hope you enjoyed the display. Thanks for reading and for accompanying  me for walk in the snow.


Hamano, “Evening Snow at Edo River”1932

I am also very excited to say that I will be making my first trip to Japan next week. I will be studying at the historic Daiju-en nursery for 3 weeks in conjunction with the upcoming Kokufu-ten exhibition. I look forward to sharing my experience here and will be also be posting pictures to my Instagram feed @capitalbonsai

2009 Golden State Bonsai Convention Show

In conjunction with my last post about Peter Adams at the GSBF convention in 2009,  I wanted to share these photos I took of the bonsai on exhibit . Please forgive some of the blurry photos, when I took these 4 years ago, I didn’t expect to be posting them online. Also I normally attribute the owner but again I failed to capture that info. Enjoy.

IMG_4145California Juniper

IMG_4146California Live Oak


There were also a number of viewing stones on display.


Brazilian Pepper




Viewing stone, most likely from the Eel River.


California Juniper


Chinese Elm



Chinese Juniper

IMG_4159California Juniper





Japanese Black Pine



IMG_4164California Juniper

IMG_4166Twisted Pomegranate


California Juniper


Shari detail


San Jose Juniper

IMG_4174Virginia Creeper


Sierra Juniper

IMG_4176California Juniper


Dead wood detail

Falling into Winter, part 2

As the trees on exhibit move past their peak fall color we replace them with trees that are just beginning to shine. Here are the new additions as well as a few from the first post that look better than they first did.

IMG_9815Trident Maple, Donated by Stanley Chin, Age Unknown


IMG_9818Closeup of netsuke

IMG_9819Japanese Maple, Donated by Shintaro Abe, In training since 1946.


Red Maple, Acer rubrum var. Drummondii, Donated by Vaughn Banting, In training since 1974.


Cedar Elm, Ulmus crassifolia, Donated by Arch Hawkins, In training since 1981.

IMG_9822Close-up of trunks and branch structure.

IMG_9823Bald Cypress, Donated by Vaughn Banting, In training since 1972.


Ginkgo biloba, Donated by Masayuki Fujio, In training since 1896.

IMG_9829Japanese Privet, Ligustrum obtusifolium, Donated by Seiko Koizumi, In training since 1968.

IMG_9826Trident Maple, Donated by Ted Guyer, In training since 1975.



Japanese Maple, Donated by Ryutaro Azuma, In training since 1906.


Liquidambar, Donated by Vaughn Banting, In training since 1975. The photo doesn’t do the tree justice regarding its actual color. Its almost a neon red. When you see it in person the tree seems like it is glowing.

IMG_9833Close-up of fall leaves.


Golden Larch, Pseudolarix amabilis, Donated by Shu-ling Lui, In training since 1971.


Thanks for reading. I will be posting the final installment of this years fall exhibit next week. This coming weekend will be your last opportunity to see this special Fall Exhibit, so if you live in or near DC stop by the Museum and enjoy the trees before all the leaves are gone.

Falling into Winter, Autumn Bonsai Exhibition 2013

IMG_9747Thankfully things in Washington got sorted out in time for our annual fall exhibition. The exhibit runs from October 26 – November 10. Trees will be rotated in and out as they come into peak color and I will post addition pictures as we change them.

IMG_9712Bradford Pear, Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’, In training since 1976, Styled by the first curator Bob Drechsler.

IMG_9713Three point display: Pomegranate bonsai, scroll with gourd and calligraphy, and contorted mondo grass.

IMG_9714 Pomegranate, Punica granatum, In training since 1963, Donated by Alice Naka.

IMG_9715 Contorted mondo grass, Ophiopogon chingii.

IMG_9717Trident Maple, Acer buergerianum, Age unknown, Donated by Stanley Chin.

IMG_9719 English Hawthorn, Crataegus oxycantha,  In training since 1955, Donated by Bertra Bruenner.

IMG_9720 Close-up of trunk and fruit.

IMG_9721 Three point display: Crabapple bonsai, scroll of Mt. Fuji and rising sun, and Japanese forest grass accent.

IMG_9722 Toringo Crabapple, Malus seiboldii ‘Toringo’, In training since 1905, Donated by Shyuichi Ueda.

IMG_9723 Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra.

IMG_9724 Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, In training since 1906, Donated by Ryutaro Azuma.

IMG_9725 Close-up of trunk and nebari.

IMG_9726 Chinese Elm, Ulmus parvifolia, In training since 1906, Donated by Yee-sun Wu.

IMG_9727 Close-up of hollow trunk .

IMG_9728 Three point display: Gingko bonsai, viewing stone, and sedum.

IMG_9729 Indian Blanket Stone donated by Melba Tucker, and sedum.

IMG_9730 Three point display: Sweet Gum bonsai, scroll with bird and nandina, and Japanese bloodgrass.

IMG_9731 Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua, In training since 1975, Donated by Vaugh Banting.

IMG_9732 Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica, pot by Sharon Edwards-Russell.

IMG_9733 Chrysanthemum Stone, Donated by Kemin Hu.

IMG_9734 Detail of chrysanthemum.

IMG_9735 Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, In training since 1986 , Donated by Kazuo Moriyama.

Tokonoma Display Summer 2013

I’ve been told that a good tokonoma display creates an setting through which the viewer can be transported to a specific place in time. The objects being displayed must work together to create a unified theme centered around a specific season.


“Dragonfly & River Mollusk” by Rabani, Accessed 9/21/13,

Two of my favorite elements of summer, water and dragonflies, encapsulate the mix of activity and rest, stillness and movement experienced during the summer.  From the small pond in my parents backyard that was visited each summer by a fiery red dragonfly, to the matchstick thin damselflies that inhabit the stream I take my own son too; the dragonfly symbolizes summer almost as much as its aquatic habitat.

IMG_9640With that said it should be no surprise that I really liked this display. The main object in a very large (6 x 29.5 x 16.75), and may I add heavy, puddle stone (mitsumari-ishi) collected from the Saji river in Japan and donated by Teichii Katayama.


I have seen puddle stones displayed both with and without water. When they contain water they are almost always placed in a suiban with sand rather than in a wooden daiza. Some also like to not only fill the reservoirs with water but wet the entire stone. As the water dries the color of the stone changes and I think this helps bring some life to an other wise inanimate object.


Side view showing several puddles.


What do you see, a mountain lake or a natural bird bath?

IMG_9633Alternate side view

IMG_9628In contrast to the heavy wet stone is a scroll depicting 3 light and airy dragonflies hovering above the water.


The signature on the scroll reads Shoshen. I was unable to find any information about the artist and would welcome it if you know something about him.

Dragonfly & Autumn leaves, Lightsnow photography, ,accessed 9/30/13

Dragonfly & Autumn leaves, Lightsnow photography, accessed 9/30/13

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to my favorite season and a new Autumn display.