Sunday, August 23, 2015

No free lunch: Part II

Last year, I did a couple of posts on Tang Dynasty poetry quotes suitable for bonsai pot decoration (see and Image above shows a Chinese proverb or cheng-yu with the meaning “nothing good is ever simple” also known to me as “there is no such thing as free lunch”. Could I also interpret it as “good bonsai is never easy”?

Sunday, August 02, 2015

My residence at Fujikawa Kouka-en, Osaka

This June, I have undergone a one-month residence at Fujikawa Kouka-en bonsai nursery in Osaka. People asked me what I actually did there and this post is the answer to that. In a nut shell, I was learning on the job in a relaxed and peaceful environment. It was like going to work, nine-to-five, six days a week. I was given trees and told what to do with them. Every time I wasn’t sure about something the staff of Kouka-en consisting of bonsai master Keiichi Fujikawa and apprentices Naoki Maeoka, Bjorn Bjorholm and Yuri Hayama taught me the technique in question.

The trees that were given to me to work on were not so much as trees with promising future, but just trees that are kept at the nursery for training short-term overseas students. Although, some of them look completely unimpressive I learned a great deal from each of them and think of them with fondness.

The first tree was a shimpaku juniper. I was asked to prune, wire and style it. When finished, it was 15.5 cm tall (see before and after images below).

The next tree was a needle juniper. I had to pull out old needles (see images below) 

When finished, it was 18 cm tall (see before and after images below). 

Next was another shimpaku. When finished, it was 18.5 cm tall (see before and after images below).

After that I was given a Japanese Black Pine. When finished, it was 46 cm tall (see before and after images below).

Following that I was put on a pulling out old pine needles. The first tree was 64 cm tall. I wasn’t allowed to prune or de-candle it (even though it was the start of de-candling period for black pines). All I was asked is to pull out old needles one-by-one with a pair of tweezers until there were only 8 pairs of this year’s needles left at the tip of each branch. Before-and-after images shown below look almost the same.

However, viewing the branches from above reveals a visible reduction in the amount of foliage (see before and after images below). 

This was followed by another pine with the same task. This time however I was asked to leave only 6 pairs of needles, therefore the difference between before-and-after images shown below is more obvious. This tree was 50 cm tall.

After that I was back to styling. Black pine again, when finished, it was 48 cm tall (see before and after images below).

The last tree I worked on was a black pine too, when finished, it was 59 cm tall (see before and after images below).

Some of the things these trees taught me:

  • Respect the work done on the tree previously.
  • Follow what the tree is “telling” you, its movement, ect.
  • Plan for a long-term future of the tree.
  • Never do anything in a hurry. Slow is good.
  • Pay attention to minute details.