Saturday, May 22, 2010

Demonstration by Salvatore Liporace

Last weekend I went for a demonstration by Salvatore Liporace from Italy. I anticipated a demonstration with dramatic transformation of a tree involving unusual styling and dead wood carving. Well, there was none of that. Below is the before and after photos of the tree he styled.

It will take a few years for this tree to become something nice, provided the jin is carved adequately. The demonstration went on a tangent wiring lesson. He said that he takes great care to make wired trees to look good, because he may sell or exhibit them with the wire on. So, he uses copper wire for conifers and doesn't use wire gauges thicker than 4.5 mm. He wires two branches with one strand of wire as much as possible not to have too many wire ends and has all wire ends at the back of the tree. It also allows to use less wire. It is not uncommon to put a kilogram of wire on a 70-cm-tall tree and the cost of wire in Italy is higher than in Australia ($70). He bends the branch first than wires it, so that the wire holds it nice and tight. Unlike all bonsai books say, he wires at an angle a little wider than 45°. A branch he wired as example is shown below.

He also explained a new method for achieving ramification in five-needle pines and demonstrated interesting grafting tecniques for junipers. To make it worse for the people who expected just bonsai entertainment, Liporace said some “harsh words” about the standard of bonsai in Australia and excuses we make about the lack of suitable and aged plant material. He said that we are satisfied with little and I absolutely agree with that. How many times I came from a bonsai exhibition disappointed! He noted that, when bonsai first took off in Italy, they were importing a lot of trees from Japan and China and it took them a while to realise that the local material is as good. Apennine Mountains with their rocky volcanic soils have a lot of excellent bonsai material and now Italian trees are valued higher than the imported ones. He also mentioned that the average size of bonsai trees in Italy is decreasing. If a few decades ago thickness of the trunk to tree height ratio was 1:6, now it is 1:4.

Since selling bonsai is Liporace’s bread and butter, he can’t afford to waste time on redesigning trees. The tree design is decided on right from the time of collection with the aim to get the tree to exhibition standard within 5 years. Things he said made me realise that Europe is becoming like Japan when it comes to bonsai. There is a growing number of people who practice or at least appreciate bonsai. Lots of local and imported plant material. It is common for someone to pay three or four figure price for a bonsai. There are wealthy people who just own bonsai trees and have bonsai practitioners work on them. Liporace said that it costs €200-300 to style a larger tree and it is not unheard of to spend around €1000 to get a tree ready for an exhibition. Customers show him their tree and he gives them a quotation. Large number of bonsai organizations, exhibitions, nurseries and auctions provides bonsai practitioners with lots of things to do. Nothing of the sort exists in Australia, with its small market for bonsai and relatively small number of bonsai enthusiasts.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Forest planting by Saburo Kato?

Bonsai master Saburo Kato was well known for his forest plantings. When I visited Mansei-en nursery in Omiya, which was owned by him, I saw several forest plantings, but was really impressed by the one on the picture. Could it be a bonsai done by Saburo Kato?

P.S. For more info on this forest planting see: