Hokkaido Chinese Elm Penjing

grouper52

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I may have posted this Penjing here before in the gallery - not sure. Anyway, here it is in its current incarnation today. I've been messing with it for about three years.

The components are as follows, and I will use them to teach a bit about penjing to those who might like to know.

First, and foremost, the impressive hunk of limestone from Vancouver Island, much of which, BTW, is actually a large chunk of land drifted over from China eons ago, and therefore VI is chock full of great Chinese-looking rocks! The smaller rocks, mostly lining the water's edge are also limestone, a type named Ying rock after the area where it is found, and it looks similar and harmonizes well with the VI rock.

Chinese place more emphasis on the rock than the trees in such compositions. This makes it easy to use poor quality trees in such scenes, but the rock is actually emphasized because it is eternal - or at least much more so than the fly-by-night trees.

The trees here are Hokkaido Chinese elms bought for a few bucks each from a little non-bonsai nursery near here. Practically worthless as bonsai, despite showing the illusion of promise, they are even more worthless in the ground as landscaping trees - so I'm not sure why that nursery was trying to pedal them, but they suited my purposes, and have shown resilience and appeal in this composition.

Penjing usually shows at least some hint of human presence, even if not actual humans. The Chinese find nature boring wihout the human element to give it human meaning. Here there are three little mudmen by the water's edge to round out the scene. Even more transitory than the trees, they lend context and meaning and interest to the scene.

It all sits in a white marble tray of classic style. I got the tray from Robert Cho, the owner of Asia Pacific Gardening, who imports such things (and the Ying rock) from China.

This is a land and water penjing. The harmony of the elements, and the peaceful quality created thereby, are always the primary concern. Other than the harmonious blending of disparate elements, there are few rules in Penjing, but the form here is fairly classic. It's about 30" in length.

Enjoy.
 

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Brian Underwood

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Very nice planting, and quite an informative post! I have always loved penjing, and forest plantings continue to be my all-time favorite bonsai. Thank you for sharing!
 

grouper52

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Thanks for the comments, everyone.

There are a number of reasons why folks ought to try some of these.

First, they are easy to do at least somewhat well. The fact that there are few rules except an emphasis on the harmonious blending of elements takes a lot of the pressure off the creation.

They use cheap material for the trees - any little thing too worthless to be a real bonsai can be stuck in the scene with a few or a bunch of other ones of the same species. Most people can find some interesting or useable little rocks near where they live. These formal white marble trays from China are sometimes a bit hard to find, and expensive, but any old rock slab can be used as well.

The construction is super simple. Some red lava rock piled up to form a mounding drainage layer, is then covered with a 50-50 bonsai soil - the organic material is necessary for moss to grow on it, and can even be as simple as commercial potting soil, which is what Robert Cho uses. Just don't use pure peat moss. The tree can be unceremoniously taken, root ball and all, from it's nursery pot or wherever and plunked down into a little depression hollowed out for it, and the soil packed around it. You can remove some of the root ball if it is too bulky. You're not going after great nebari, typically, so special treatment is not needed. There is seldom any need to wire the trees in place, and no drainage holes to use for that anyway. Drainage, BTW is no problem - the tray is shallow, so just set it at a slight angle and it will drain fine. Pushing the rocks into the soil also shapes and retains it.

Slight mounds and depressions can be made convincingly with your hands, often simply pushing down with the side or back of a hand to create a gully or such. Then put spots of moss on it. Here we have tons of great moss and many varieties, but using a putty knife to scrape sheets of it off of shaded driveways and walkways works the best.

Including a human element, if you want, can consist of a one or more mudmen, which can be had cheap - you can even get some of the nice 100 year old beauties fairly cheap on Ebay. the 2-4" size typically works best.

Non-human elements that still hint at human presence are often even more effective. A series of flat stones forming a path or steps down an incline are subtle but effective. A small boat at the water's edge. A rock wall, perhaps, one that appears to be falling down with age. A small dwelling or shrine. A small figurine of an animal that is associated with humans. All these create interest, and are easy to obtain or make.

BTW, in all the elements, the concept, "Bu shao chi," should be kept in mind - No small energy. Rather than a hundred small branches, have several large branches. Rather than a hundred small rocks, have one prominent rock, and then perhaps a few smaller subsidiary rocks. Rather than a hundred small trees, have one or several main ones, perhaps with a few smaller ones merely to compliment it. With the human elements, don't build a whole village - less is more! Look at the old paintings by the Chinese masters, BTW - amidst a spectacular landscape, almost hidden down in some corner is a small hut, a man walking along a trail, a single boat in the distance: that's the impression you want to create.

Along those same lines, when you hear the old Chinese penjing folks talk about training in this art, their recommendation catches us off-guard: study the old paintings, and study poetry. They felt this was the proper emphasis to cultivate the mind for this art form. It is all about the harmonious blending of elements, nothing more. No other rules. This makes it relaxed for me, and to achieve something pleasing to the eye and mind is not hard. AND, it is a great deal of fun, like a child at play, really creative. If you don't like it, rearrange it, redo it, take it apart. It's not a permanent structure at all. Have fun.
 

GerhardG

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Hi

any little thing too worthless to be a real bonsai can be stuck in the scene with a few or a bunch of other ones of the same species
The trees here are Hokkaido Chinese elms bought for a few bucks each from a little non-bonsai nursery near here. Practically worthless as bonsai, despite showing the illusion of promise, they are even more worthless in the ground as landscaping trees - so I'm not sure why that nursery was trying to pedal them
I just want to find out if this is a general opinion regarding Hokkaido elms or just these in particular
I'm asking because due to financial considerations I bought a normal chinese elm rather than the Hokkaido last time I was at a bonsai nursery, didn't help that they potted the best ones for sale at inflated prices.
I did love the tiny leaves and actually figured I'd get one sooner or later....

Thanks
Gerhard
 

Bolero

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penjing-grouping-larch 4-17 001.JPG penjing-grouping-larch 4-17 002.JPG penjing-grouping-larch 4-17 003.JPG penjing-grouping-larch 4-17 004.JPG This is the 2017 Spring picture of my Penjing of a Japanese Maple Forest Grove & Monks in contemplation of President Trumps 1st 100 Days,....It is an award winning Penjing, 4 years old and still a WIP, it will be Tuned, Pruned and Cleaned up for an August Showing...
 
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