In this episode of ‘National Bonsai’ I’d like to share some progression photos of an old Japanese black pine bonsai that resides in the Japanese collection of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington DC. It is one of over 50 trees that came to the United States by way of donation from Japan back in 1976, as a gift for the US bicentennial.
Here’s what we know about this tree. It was collected in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan, on the Atsumi Peninsula. An area of Japan that is well known for cultivating black pine bonsai. It was donated by a man named Goro Ito (whom I’ve struggled to find more info about), it’s pretty old with an impressive number of decades spent in the pot. In training since about 1906.
The following is a group of photos dating back to ’75 or so, up to present day.
At some point between the 2010 photo and the 2015 photo, the original main branch was replaced with the branch just above it in an effort to reduce the heavy feeling. Pretty good move.
During my duty as intern at the museum I was able to spend some quality time with this tree, cleaning it up, cutting out leggy branches and doing a complete wiring and re-set of the branches to allow continued refinement and forward progress through the decades to come.
With so much time spent in the pot, this tree is showing evidence of age that -while common in Japan- is not so easy to come by in the US. Though we have plenty of very old collected material here in the United States, much of it is still several decades away from showing its true potential. There is no way to rush the accumulation of character that 80-100 years of growing in a pot can bring. Trees like this are a great study tool that every one has access to view. The objective parts of this tree are very nice. Plenty of thin, old, barked-up roots at the surface. Nice accumulation of bark all the way up the trunk and into the secondary and many of the tertiary branches. Good ramification with lots of slowly grown thin branches that taper nicely from trunk to foliage. Match all of that with a full canopy, good structure and a light weight feeling with both strength and elegance and this tree can easily be accepted as one of the finest bonsai in the collection. Hard to dislike stuff like this, and its even better in person!
The following side-by-side comparison photo illustrates just how slowly a tree can grow in the pot. Its these decades of slow growth that give a bonsai it’s genuine character. Note just how much thicker the tree has become in the pot. Not very much, considering the time difference of the photos. Some species will thicken in the pot much more than others. Japanese Black Pine happen to be one of the species that don’t have much of a girth increase once put in the pot, though they do still accumulate bark and evidence of age. Pine species from the foothills and mountains such as red pines and white pines however, can often become much thicker in the pot in this amount of time.
Well thats it for this one, out of photos.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time…