Styling deciduous trees

Attila Soos

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I had a great time reading Andy Rutledge's comments at the recent AOB contest. Two things that Andy insisted upon, grabbed my attention. Andy recommends that :

1) Maples should NOT be designed with foliage pads.
2) A tree in the leafless state versus the same tree in full leaf should be displayed in pots of different color.

It is true that pine-tree-style pads are overused amongst the less-versatile bonsai hobbyists, and these pads tend to look too artificial on deciduous trees. On the other hand, a total lack of pads can lead to overcrowded and messy-looking foliage.

So, to look for answers, I grabbed one of the Kokufu-ten exhibit catalogues, and did a little research on the usage of pads on Kokufu-ten quality deciduous trees. I also paid special attention to the pot color on these trees.

Needless to say, all these deciduous trees were shown in a leafless state - the exhibit is held in February. Personally, it was a revelation to realize that after looking at the first 50 pages, not one single deciduous tree had any foliage pads. I saw maples, hornbeans, chinese quince, elms, etc. Azalea was the exception, they do have pads, but they are an entirely different category from the deciduous trees shown in leafless state.

I wonder whether the forum members here have noticed the lack of pads on these top Japanese deciduous trees, in light of all the talk about the "Japanese style" and how the "Japanese design everyting to look like pines".

I also happened to look at the picture history of Walter's trident maple shown in the AOB contest, and noticed that in the early stages Walter has built those pine style foliage pads, but on the most recent pictures, the tree has lost the pads, and instead, Walter transformed these pads into "foliage concentrations".

As far as the color of bonsai pots is concerned, I have not found any consistency in the Kokufu-ten catalog. Most of the pots containing the deciduous trees in leafless state were glazed ones, in a wide range of colors. Some pots were light, others were dark. Every color in the rainbow.

So, I am not sure what Andy meant by pot colors appropriate for leafless state. In the catalog, I saw yellow, cream, orange, brown, blue, and various darker earth colors. I am sure that I could instinctively point out examples where the pot color is wrong in a certain display (it did not happen in the Kokufu catalog) but it probably has to do with the color of the bark of the tree, and not because the existence of a general guideline in this regard.

May be someone here can point out any guideline or recommendation in this area.
 
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Atilla... I love you. Thank you for posting this valuable observation.


Personal favorite maxim...

For the love of god... do not style a deciduous tree to look like a pine.

Here's one American classic which obeys that rule beautifully.... Ben Oki's Hackberry




I will concede that this tree's only real purpose in life is to be seen in this state. It looks like a rediculous mushroom when it's in leaf. :p

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 
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painter

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do you have an image of this tree in leaf?
its truly amazing.
p
 

Attila Soos

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Atilla... I love you.
We're both married, so I'll skip this one.;)





Personal favorite maxim...

For the love of god... do not style a deciduous tree to look like a pine.

Here's one American classic which obeys that rule beautifully.... Ben Oki's Hackberry

I will concede that this tree's only real purpose in life is to be seen in this state. It looks like a rediculous mushroom when it's in leaf. :p


Victrinia
That tree is just out of this world.

It becomes more and more clear to me why the Japanese insist so much on displaying their trees leafless: due to the lack of clear-cut pads, the negative spaces disappear, when displayed in leaf. So the result, as you said, is like a mushroom. Not very interesting.

We, on the other hand, like the in-leaf image. So, in order to create more negative space, have no choice but create tight foliage pads, which leads to loss of naturalness.

We want to have it both ways: to look good in-leaf as well as bare. This leads to the cookie cutter bonsai. The Japanese seem to think that looking good naked has a price: the mushroom look when in leaf. So we think that their trees, when in leaf, look boring. But we have to admit that they look stunning in winter view.

It seems that in bonsai, if you want top quality, need to make up your mind. You cannot have it both ways.....

....except there is one way out of this conundrum: creating deciduous trees in the literati style. With their sparse, airy foliage, literati deciduous trees tend to look good and interesting in any season.
 
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bretts

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It seems bonsai exhibits are a western notion that was then adopted by the Japanese.

Public exhibitions of bonsai were held in western countries long before they appeared in Japan. Bonsai were displayed in France, England, and the United States at the numerous world's fairs and international expositions staged between 1860 and 1920. In Japan, the first public display was held in Hibiya Park in Tokyo in October 1927 and then annually through 1933 This was replaced by the first Kokufu, ten Bonsai Exhibition held at the Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park in Tokyo. Bonsai exhibits were common in Japan long prior to the late 1920's; however, these were private showings typically held in traditional Japanese restaurants. Bonsai, suiseki and accompanying items were displayed in tokonoma lining the walls of large banquet rooms. There, invited guests could view the plants on display. A catalog of one of these exhibits was compiled by members of the Bijutsu Bonsai Taikai and published in Meiji 25 (1892).
See here
http://members.iinet.net.au/~jold/bonsai-in-asia/japanbonsaievents.html

Now it seems if we go by the dates of the major Japanese exhibits they are all in the winter and fall seasons. Only Satsuki exibisions are held through the growing seasons.

Yet if we want to talk traditional then we would need to look into the traditional private exhibitions.
Here we see a private display by Saburo Kato.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuHVhWPbgMc&feature=player_embedded
Is he wrong to display the deciduous in leaf? Is private appreciation different to public exhibitions?

As to the pads of deciduous trees I think there is room for different styles. When there are many different disciplines of bonsai I find it hard to have black and white comments that a deciduous must be styled with or without pads. I feel that there is room for both and the answer may be nothing more than personal taste or the school you are taught by.
Many different schools of bonsai evolved over the years. This would not have been possible if black and white comments like Andy's where the norm.
There seems to be very little "charity to the author" in bonsai appreciation. The definition in this is trying to understand what message the artist is trying to convey.
I understand that Japan is looking forward in bonsai design while Westerners keep looking back.

I think consideration must be given to the pot colour shape and style if considering the season that you would like to display your tree. It may even extend as far as horticultural reasons. I have a small hornbeam that I only put into a shallow pot one year at a time. It looks great in that pot but just like defoliating it's health may suffer if I kept it in that pot year after year.
 

Smoke

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Here is the tree many years ago. It is a scan of a photo.

Will talk about my maple later this weekend since I have some Xmas duties to perform this weekend.


have some photo's of my trip to the mountains from yesterday too!

Ben Oki's Hackberry

Giant Sequoia's...yes this is the actual color. In fact it hurt my eyes to look at them. Almost day-glo.
 

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GOZTEK

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in human form this would be brad pitt. AMAZING TREE!!!! i think i just cum myself
 

bretts

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There are several different CHINESE SCHOOLS OF PENJING such as
YANGZHOU, TUNG, SUZHOU, SHANGHAI, NANTONG, ZHEJIANG, LINGNAN

Are there differnt styles or schools from Japanese bonsai that may style Deciduous differently?
 

Smoke

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I had a great time reading Andy Rutledge's comments at the recent AOB contest. Two things that Andy insisted upon, grabbed my attention. Andy recommends that :

1) Maples should NOT be designed with foliage pads.
2) A tree in the leafless state versus the same tree in full leaf should be displayed in pots of different color.

It is true that pine-tree-style pads are overused amongst the less-versatile bonsai hobbyists, and these pads tend to look too artificial on deciduous trees. On the other hand, a total lack of pads can lead to overcrowded and messy-looking foliage.

So, to look for answers, I grabbed one of the Kokufu-ten exhibit catalogues, and did a little research on the usage of pads on Kokufu-ten quality deciduous trees. I also paid special attention to the pot color on these trees.

Needless to say, all these deciduous trees were shown in a leafless state - the exhibit is held in February. Personally, it was a revelation to realize that after looking at the first 50 pages, not one single deciduous tree had any foliage pads. I saw maples, hornbeans, chinese quince, elms, etc. Azalea was the exception, they do have pads, but they are an entirely different category from the deciduous trees shown in leafless state.

I wonder whether the forum members here have noticed the lack of pads on these top Japanese deciduous trees, in light of all the talk about the "Japanese style" and how the "Japanese design everyting to look like pines".

I also happened to look at the picture history of Walter's trident maple shown in the AOB contest, and noticed that in the early stages Walter has built those pine style foliage pads, but on the most recent pictures, the tree has lost the pads, and instead, Walter transformed these pads into "foliage concentrations".

As far as the color of bonsai pots is concerned, I have not found any consistency in the Kokufu-ten catalog. Most of the pots containing the deciduous trees in leafless state were glazed ones, in a wide range of colors. Some pots were light, others were dark. Every color in the rainbow.

So, I am not sure what Andy meant by pot colors appropriate for leafless state. In the catalog, I saw yellow, cream, orange, brown, blue, and various darker earth colors. I am sure that I could instinctively point out examples where the pot color is wrong in a certain display (it did not happen in the Kokufu catalog) but it probably has to do with the color of the bark of the tree, and not because the existence of a general guideline in this regard.

May be someone here can point out any guideline or recommendation in this area.


Reading this at first glance it is easy to get caught up in your revelation untill you dissect thos photo's. If we compare apples to apples (like I've said a thousand times) it is easy to look at those photo's and see where branches were chosen. Most trees in Japan have gone thru countless hands to achieve the look they have at any one time. From field grower, to chopper to trunktaper grower and finally the seller who sells it as a stump.

Finally the artists (there may be a fewin it's life) will move the tree into it's final destination. This may take 20 years or more to achieve the fine tracery of twigs we see in the finished photo's of a kokufu book. So a tree may be well over fourty years old before it's even exhibited in that book.

Look at the hackberry I posted. It is well over 25 years old. The photo I mean. If we were to post the tree in a leafless state as it was then I am sure the wow factor would completely diminish. At any point in a trees life as a bonsai branches will have to be chosen. There will be a length of time that the tree will always look rather juvinile or like a pine tree.

It is my desire to have the tree ramified to the point that divisions between the branches are barely noticeble. This does take time. In the mean time I have taken off some very large roots and the new nebari is really nice now. By the time the outline is where I want it the root mass will have caught up and I will have a nice tree.

2003 as stump
2004
2006
2007
2009
 

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Smoke

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Maybe in a few year the outline will fill in and it won't look so much like a pine....

of course I hardly think it looks like a pine now.
 

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Redwing

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Reading this at first glance it is easy to get caught up in your revelation untill you dissect thos photo's.

Al, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, but from the most recent picture this is a much better tree than I realized from the "fall color" thread. Props to you; it would be welcome on my bench anytime.

-rw
 

davetree

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That's a great point and a nice progression, Al. It is my understanding that one of the main reasons that deciduous trees are styled like a pine early on is to slow the apical dominance. This keeps the top from bulking up and weakening the lower part of the tree.
 

Smoke

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That's a great point and a nice progression, Al. It is my understanding that one of the main reasons that deciduous trees are styled like a pine early on is to slow the apical dominance. This keeps the top from bulking up and weakening the lower part of the tree.
...and thats not hard to see in my tree. My tertiary branching is much better in the upper half than the bottom half.

Redwing, what part don't you understand?
 
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Smoke

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Redwing...maybe if I remove about 7 or 10 years worth of ramification from Walter's tree it might make more sense?
 

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