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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"We interrupt this programming - " Best-of-Show Awards at the 40th Mid-America Bonsai Exhibition

     "We interrupt the scheduled posts to bring you the following report."

I meant to  write another post soon about MABA 2017, but wasn't able to before coming to Chicago for the 2017 Mid-America. I've decided to give you a quick report on the Best-of-Show awards given today by Guest Master Kathy Shaner.

Best of Show, Open Class went to this pomegranate owned and styled by Gary Andes.

Best of Show, Open Class. Punica granatum, common pomegranate. Owner and artist, Gary Andes.
Best of Show, Open Class; a closer view of the tree itself.
Here's what Kathy Shaner had to say about this tree in the Exhibit Critique this evening, from my notes:

  • Great canopy; full but open enough to let light in to keep the interior healthy. (And open enough to draw the eye in. - Inferred by yours truly from an earlier comment of hers.)
  • The relatively plain pot has a restful effect.
  • The contrasting accent plant harmonizes well with the tree.
  • Pomegranate can be difficult, even impossible to grow in some parts of the USA.
  • "I just like it!"

Best of Show, Professional Class winner was this 'Kashima' Japanese maple, owned and styled by Bill Valavanis.

Best of Show, Professional Class. Acer palmatum 'Kashima,' Japanese maple 'Kashima."
Owner and artist, William N. Valavanis.
Best of Show, Professional; a closer view of the tree.
Kathy Shaner's comments on this tree:

  • The stupendous trunk is this tree's outstanding feature. (Tho I think the nebari runs a close  second.)
  • The pot shape draws the eye to the trunk.
  • The mix of harmonizing colors and shapes in the main bonsai and the crab-apple companion plant is very well done.
  • The fruit on the crab-apple gives a touch of seasonality.
  • Her only negative comment: bumpy moss looks out of scale.



My next post will get back to coverage of MABA 2017. But I don't promise not to break in on that lineup again!


:-)  :-)  :-)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MABA 2017 I: The "Best" Awards


     In early July the  Indianapolis Bonsai Club hosted the MABA Convention for the second time in two years, and they put together an event that was a worthy sequel to MABA 2015. A big "Well done!" is due to all the IBC members and MABA officers who helped make the weekend a success, with particular recognition going to Mark Fields, Scott Yelich, and Paul Weishaar.

This year's headliner was Matt Reel, a native of Portland, Oregon. Matt Reel returned in 2014 from an eight-year stint with bonsai master Shinji Suzuki in Japan, and is now associated with the Portland Bonsai Village. (I understand that a standard apprenticeship lasts five years, and it is customary for a newly-certified former apprentice to stay on for a time, helping out his or her teacher as a practical expression of gratitude for what he or she has learned.)

And as headliner, he was the judge for the bonsai exhibition, putting into application what he learned in Japan.

Best of Show went to this Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, owned and trained by William N. Valavanis. This superb tree also won "Best of Show Professional" at the 2013 Mid-America Bonsai Exhibition in Chicago.
Best of Show: Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris dwarf cv. Owner and artist, Wm. Valavanis.
Photo by Larry Benjamin. Used with permission.

Best North American Indigenous (MABA Area)
was awarded to this Thuja occidentalis, known commonly as "northern white cedar" and "American arborvita". I think the visual balance of shari to live bark is excellent.
Best MABA Area Native: Northern white cedar, Thuja occidentalis. Owner and artist, Paul Weishaar.

Best Evergreen
award was given to this Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. I particularly like the powerful nebari. Notice also the unbleached shari emerging at the first major angle of the trunk. (A dead branch in such a position would not bleach in nature.)
Best Evergreen: Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. Owner and artists, Barbara Bogan.

Best Deciduous
was awarded to a Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, owned and styled by Dr. Zach Denka. This, I understand, was the first time Dr. Denka entered a tree in a major display, and he won an award his first time out of the gate! But this award caused me (and others) some perplexity, because the tree - no offense intended to Zach Denka - reminded me of an Old English sheepdog: there was too much foliage for its structure to be seen! I wondered what steered Matt's decision.

     I failed to get a picture of the tree, so Zach kindly allowed me to capture two pictures of it from his FaceBook page. Here's one that shows how the tree looked in the MABA display:
Best Deciduous: Japanese maple, Acer palmatum. Owner and artist, Zach Denka.
I didn't catch the name of the cultivar, but Zach told me and a few others that the long petiole is natural to it.
Photo by Zach Denka. Used with permission.
     And here's the photo that cleared up the erstwhile mystery. This is the same tree following partial defoliation. Notice the fine nebari, the trunk movement, the taper and the ramification. Evidently Matt Reel decided that those features outweighed the "shaggy dog" look that first met the eye. (And having seen this picture, I'm not going to argue.)
Acer palmatum, defoliated.
Photo by Zach Denka. Used with permission.

Best Tropical was this root-over-rock veldt fig, Ficus burtt-davyi, owned and styled by Mark Fields. You can see the rock showing thru the abundance of roots. And F. burtt-davyi does often grow on rock outcroppings in its native southern Africa. I think the pot color is well chosen, too.
Best Tropical: Veldt fig, Ficus burtt-davyi. Owner and artist, Mark Fields.


Best Shohin Display was awarded to this 7-point display by Neil Dellinger. Notice how the movement of all the trees is either toward the center of the display or straight up. Also, the topmost tree in such a display is traditionally a high-altitude species (think "mountain-top"), altho this one is a shimpaku juniper. That shimpaku's pot is antique Chinese, and I understand it's worth more than many of the trees in the display!
Best Shohin Display: Mixed species. Owner and artist, Neil Dellinger.
Photo by William N. Valavanis. Used with permission.

And finally, the award for Best Accent went to this mixed planting by Dan Turner. You can't have a bonsai display without accent/companion plants, and this one is outstanding. The combination of colors, textures, and surfaces makes it at once restful and a bit fascinating! 
Best Accent: Mixed planting. Owner and artist, Dan Turner.

Next post: some other awards I might have given, had it been up to me.

:-)  :-)  :-)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"I'm a bonsaiist, Jim, not a photographer!"

     I have a confession to make: I am not a shutterbug.

My wife can be counted on to get plenty of pictures almost anywhere she goes. I, on the other hand, often have to be reminded to take a camera at all! And when I do take one, I don't always remember to use it. That last is especially true when I go not to see something (as at a bonsai display) but to participate (as at a picnic.)

Which explains why I didn't remember to get many pictures at the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club's annual picnic-and-auction on July 15th. And that is rather a shame, because the picnic was as good as ever, and the auction had more to offer, I think, than it ever had before.

Jerry and Darlene Kittle hosted us, to everyone's appreciation and as they always do. Jerry is also the chef responsible for preparing the meat, and the pork ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender. The rest of the food was carry-in, and most of it measured up, I'd say, to the standard set by the ribs. (Some things about this part of Indiana are not widely known, and the general level of cooking skill is one of them.)

But, photographically-challenged or not, I did get a few pictures.

Eating and talking under the sun shelters. You can see a few of the silent auction offerings to the right. 
Always get a banker as your club treasurer if you can. Ed Hake has been handling the club's money competently and
faithfully for many years. To his own left is Cody Harris, club VP and volunteer live auctioneer.
Yes, all those plants on the tables are for sale in the silent auction. And there's a fixed-price table for the smallest items,
as well as a dozen or so trees on the live-auction table. I don't think we've ever had so many before.
Ed answers a question for Deanna as Maria, Shay and David consider all the possibilities on the silent-auction tables.
We gave up live auctions several years ago: none of us had auctioneering experience, and the result was dragged-out proceedings, sometimes excruciatingly slow. (I'm not pointing fingers at anyone else; I'm a terrible auctioneer myself.) Finally we went to silent auctions, which have worked well.

But this year Cody Harris, club VP, wanted to try a live auction, for just a limited number of items. Cody had been inspired by Jim Doyle's performance a week before as auctioneer at the MABA 2017 convention. Jim not only knows how to keep an auction moving right along, he also has a knack for making an auction fun. (Which, I admit, I would once have thought to be a contradiction in terms.) I suspect Cody hoped to make our Ft. Wayne auction fun as well; if so, I think he succeeded. No dragged-out bidding, and people enjoyed it. Jim would be proud to have him for an understudy, I think.

And this is where I really regret my tendency to forget to take pictures, because I have none of Cody as auctioneer! I apologize for that. But you don't have to take just my word for it that he did a good job - ask anyone else who was there.

I bought one item myself: a small Siberian elm stump, Ulmus pumila, that Ed Hake collected from his own yard. (Ed's mother tree is extremely prolific.) It looks like it will be challenging, and will probably teach me some things. I'm aiming for an eventual upright shohin, featuring a heavy and probably hollowed trunk. A recent blog post by Juan Antonio Pérez, of Cádiz, Spain, inspired my thinking (and inspired the purchase). Gracias, Juan Antonio! Que mi árbol queda tan formidable como el tuyo! (May my tree be as impressive as yours.)

(If you know Spanish, you can read his blog post here. If not, I hope to translate it in the not-too-distant future and post the translation on my blog, with his permission.)

My silent-auction acquisition: Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila, perhaps 8 years old.
And next year - more pictures!

(-:  (-:  (-:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making Pinch Pots

(Alternative title: "We play with clay!")

     For our March 2017 meeting, the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club got together to make pinch pots. One of our members, Pat Guido, kindly opened her home so we would have plenty of space for our creative efforts. Thanks, Pat!

As many of you may be right now, I was wondering just what a "pinch pot" is. A pair of videos on YouTube were very helpful. A pinch pot is simply a pot you make with your fingers, rather than on a potter's wheel or by pouring slip into a mold. You can - and many of us did - literally pinch the clay into the desired shape. Frankly, it's almost as much fun as making mud pies was in childhood! 😄 

Another of our members, Mark Sturtzenberger, has considerable amateur experience with ceramics. He led the session, sharing his knowledge with anyone who asked for his assistance, and also took care of the firing afterward. Thanks, Mark!

Forming one of my creations.

Glazing, if desired, had to be done after the first firing, and any pots that were glazed had to be fired a second time. The glazed pots were delivered at the club's annual picnic-and-auction this past Saturday.

Here are my three efforts, with a standard DVD for a size reference. I decided to glaze just one of mine.

The lighting is a bit off in this picture, but I don't know why. My apologies.

We had two kinds of stoneware clay available. I used the finer-textured one for my tray, which I expect to use for a small bonsai or, more likely, a kusamono.

The texture on the outside of the rim is there just to avoid monotony, but I think almost suggests stone.

The other two pots were made from the other clay. I made the walls of this next one so thin I was a little concerned that they might collapse under their own weight. They held up, tho. I can see a fairly wild-looking kusamono in this pot, or a very informal small bonsai. 

You can see the coarser texture of the clay. I'm not sure what the black dots are, but I think they add interest.

I wanted to try for a muted glaze on my last pot, and I'm very pleased with how it turned out! This will hold an accent plant or - just possibly - a mame-sized black pine. I think the latter could work.

The glaze turned out even better than I had hoped: muted overall, with darker variegations. ☺

Some of Ian Young's pictures on his "Bonsai Eejit" blog gave me the idea for the next two pictures. I leave you with these two views.




Until next time, keep having fun!


:-)  :-)  :-)