FOREST PLANTING TECHNIQUES
By Saburo Kato (Japan)

                Introduction by David Fukumoto:  In July of 1988, Kodansha Publishing Company, Tokyo, Japan, published The Beauty of Bonsai by Saburo Kato (10.4 x 14.1 inches) 204 pages total, 144 pages in 4-color offset; cloth hardcover with slip case; in Japanese with captions and brief resume of text in English. This is one of the most beautiful and informative bonsai book ever published. In the book are photographs of approximately one hundred bonsai created by the author, with most Japanese captions translated into English. Bonsai are shown in formal indoor display as well as Mr. Kato's garden, Mansei-en. A special section of more than 70 photographs on full-color pages, documents step-by-step techniques the author used for the creation of five bonsai, including his specialty, group plantings.

                In 1988, I assisted Mr. Kato, Ted Tsukiyama, and others in planning the World Bonsai Convention to take place in Omiya, Japan and developing the organizational documents for the World Bonsai Friendship Federation.  The highlights of the convention was the creation of a large group planting and formal formation of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation. To promote the convention and the proposed federation, I wrote and submitted a number of articles to several bonsai magazines. Mr. Kato and the publisher graciously provided the following photographs and authorized publication. It was published in the Winter 1988 issue of Bonsai: Journal of the American Bonsai Society.

Kato forest 1.jpg (78626 bytes)         The following eight photos are part of a 24 photo series in color (that included large, full-color plates). The chapter begins with the following English paragraph quoted from the book:

        "I like group plantings of Ezo Spruce and have created and trained many. Full of creative urge I am always eager to know how close I can come to the scenery in my imagination. There are two ways of creating group plantings: To look for suitable trees with a certain conception in mind or to adapt to plant material that is at hand and make the best of it. Here I tried to create the scenery of a typical Kunashiri forest with material that was ready at hand."

        1. The qualities of the largest or main tree will establish the feeling of the group planting and should be studied carefully. In the finished planting this two trunk tree is reversed with the large trunk on the left of the small trunk to give the group a directional movement to the left.

Kato forest 2.jpg (97061 bytes)         2. The available plant material. The trees differ in trunk thickness, but all are about 200 years old and were collected before World War II from Kunashiri Island off the coast of Hokkaido.
Kato forest 3.jpg (174774 bytes)         3. Unnecessary branches are made into "jin" (weathered, bleached driftwood).
Kato forest 4.jpg (138538 bytes)         4. This time an artificial granite slab ("tonekurama-ishi" in Japanese) is used instead of a container. The stone is prepared with wire to hold the trees in place; a ring of peat-muck is formed to contain the soil; and a layer of coarse soil is spread over the bottom.
Kato forest 5.jpg (103277 bytes)         5. The principal tree is selected and its placement is decided. Then smaller trees are arranged successively in relation to the principal tree. If the imagined scenery is kept in mind, the arrangement can proceed smoothly.
Kato forest 6.jpg (182315 bytes)         6. The placement of the trees on the right and left side of group plantings is very important. In this example, the slanting trees on the left give the group planting liveliness and tension, whereas the trees on the right have to keep the balance of the whole arrangement.
Kato forest 7.jpg (90710 bytes)         7. After all trees have been arranged, the prepared soil is worked in and around the roots with chopsticks and fingertips. To encourage further growth it is advantageous if the roots are spread pointing outward. The soil at the edge is covered with peat muck to prevent it from being washed out.
Kato forest 8.jpg (202168 bytes)         8. Finally the group planting is watered thoroughly. After the soil is well settled, its surface is covered with moss to complete the creation.

                 It is said that a person is a "bonsai master" when he can consistently create high quality forest arrangements and rock plantings.  Saburo Kato is especially known for his ability to create outstanding forest arrangements which can be compared to a large extended family with each member having a different appearance and unique personality.   The ability to recognize individuality and combine them into a harmonious composition is also applicable to being able to recognize personality traits, to organize groups, and to provide effective leadership. Mr. Kato has consistently demonstrated his multi-level skills in leading the international bonsai community.

*** Return to index   *** Continue to next section    *** Go to mailorder
Kodansha Publishing Company, American Bonsai Society, and Fuku-Bonsai
January 2001    www.fukubonsai.com   Phone (808) 982-9880