Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Strange Musings and Today in Bonsai

It's hot. Hideously hot. Hopefully everyone is taking care of themselves as well as their bonsai in this nasty little heat wave we've got going across the USA. The nursery business is finally starting to slow down for us, but with the heat it still *feels* like we've been going full tilt when we get to the end of the day.

I'm sure that I don't need to remind folks who are reading this blog that we need to watch our watering. While not all of our trees may need to be watered two and three times a day, it's worth checking to make sure. I have a few small trees (mame and shohin) that not only need extra watering, but that are kept on trays of wet sand or in the cases of the smallest pots, are covered completely in a tray with sand or fine mulch to help keep the water levels right, because those pots dry out faster than I can sometimes water them, especially on long work days. A shade cloth does wonders, and just about everything *except* for my sun loving conifers (junipers, pines) are protected from the worst of the afternoon summer sun. Issues with water aside, those little pots get *hot*, and even more so the black nursery pots that much of my stock in training lives in.

Of course, my tropicals are thrilled. A few small ficus, fukien, serissa and a rather large scheflerra are all basking in the 90F (30C)temps and 90% humidity. Which is good, they deserve some happy time to. I, however, am not looking forward to the next three weeks of oppressive heat that we on Long Island usually get through August.

Otherwise, work has stopped on the trees. Fertilizing strength and frequency has dropped, and when it resumes, the type and goal will once again have changed (from spring and summer nitrogen growth to higher potash and phosphorus for prepping for autumn and winter). Once the weather cools off, work will recommence, but right now it's mostly focusing on keeping the trees (and myself) cool and watered.

The slowing down of the nursery season and the lack of work to do on the trees should mean that I get more writing done.... if the idea of sitting on my couch with the warm laptop wasn't so abhorrent. Still, there are projects to be done on that front, and deadlines (mostly self imposed) that I've been shirking. I'm several species entries behind both for Kitsune Bonsai (have any requests? Let me know. The order I do them in matters less than getting them done!) and KoB (Ficus wip, just a little bit more to finish. Just do it!), as well as a few other projects for KoB and AoB, one of which is top secret hush hush, if I told you I'd have to kill you.

Well, probably not, but it's funnier that way. At least, it amuses *me*.

Now, an interesting tidbit for today:

I came across a website, with something they call The Bonsai Book of Days. The Phoenix Bonsai Society ( has a list of what has happened in bonsai on "this day", going back about a hundred years (maybe more, I haven't read through it all yet).

Checking out for July, I came across an interesting entry that I thought I would share.

July 11th 1981 - "An American Fantasy” was the title of the 5-1/2 foot long Bonkei (tray landscape) created by Mr. Yuji Yoshimura at the International Bonsai Convention in Atlanta today. He was assisted in the demonstration by long-time students Marion Gyllenswan and Phyllis P. Wishnick. The entire 1-1/2 hour program was coordinated by Edwin C. Symmes, Jr. Created by Mr. Yoshimura as a tribute to the country that has supported his efforts in teaching and creating bonsai for over two decades, “An American Fantasy” was comprised of three parts: 1) “The Rugged Mountains,” 2) “The Verdant HilIs,” and 3) The Welcoming Shore.” The landscape depicted a cross section of the American landscape. Starting on the left with the high mountain waterfall as a source -- and planted with dwarf juniper, Sawara cypress, Kingsville dwarf box and azalea -- the water then runs through a rocky mountain gorge. As it enters the second tray, it flows around a hill -- planted with dwarf juniper, serissa, andromeda, cryptomeria, and Trident maple -- and into a pond before continuing out through the flatter landscape. The water continues past a hardwood area with Trident maple in the third tray, into a swampy area with bald cypress and then into the sea. Every aspect of the program was carefully chosen to heighten the dramatic effect. The lighting, music, and drama was effective creating a very dramatic demonstration of the art involved in this creation. Typical of Yoshimura, months were spent preparing the plant material and the entire tray landscape was actually assembled the week before for Symmes to photograph. After the slides were developed the composition was taken apart and replanted in to training containers only to be recreated at the convention. Then immediately following the convention presentation, which was done in the dark with lights only on the plants and no photography permitted to spoil the mood, a complete set of slides was available to memorialize the event.

For a picture of "An American Fantasy" -

I'm interested in several facets of this project. One is how the whole thing was created, in what I can only relate to a test run, *before* the event itself. Is this a common practice for people giving demonstrations? I rarely see saikai done in a demo, but especially if you are bringing your own stock and supplies, doing this makes a lot of sense. How much agony (which I've seen a lot of in demos) would be saved if this was done first? Would it make the demo lose some of its "magic"? I don't think so, but maybe that's just me. And of course this can be applied to more standard one tree demos. How often do the demonstrators request/receive advanced photos of the stock that a club has for them to be working on? This seems like a no brainer to me, and whenever possible, I'd like to know what I'll be working with in advance, give myself some time to look over it (yes, I know, pictures are limited, but limited is better than nothing.). I've only done two demos/workshops, and both of these were for children ( a lot of fun, by the way. They really get in to it, more than some adults I know), but it seems like having a photo in advance of what you'll be working on would be a huge boon.

I also admit to being curious about the make up of the piece. Junipers and serissa? Seems like a couple of the plants in there have vastly different care needs. I can't find any modern references (i.e. anything newer than the blurb about its creation) to the piece, so I wonder how well all parts survived. Which I see as unlikely. But I could be wrong. Part of me would like to be wrong.

I'm going to stop my wonderings here, though this piece may again show up as a topic of conversation. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it.