TWO STYLING CONCEPTS

                Bonsai techniques are vehicles that transform plant stock to the shape in the mind of the trainer. The characteristics of the plant stock usually suggests the styling. At other times, the trainer has a design in mind and searches for the right plant to be used to create that design.

                The Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center & Hawaii State Bonsai Repository is co-sponsored by Fuku-Bonsai Inc. (who provides the facilities and underwrites most costs) and the non-profit Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation (who serves as the educational arm, public guardian of memorial bonsai, and liaison with the community).  The center is open to the public without fee and there are visitors from throughout the world. We've developed a varied collection of all forms of artistic pot plants to compliment the memorial bonsai in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository that honors past Hawaiian bonsai grower-trainers.

                The exhibit collection includes the Fuku-Bonsai / Lyon Arboretum Ficus Bonsai Research Collection, the original trees that pioneered True Indoor Bonsai, and trees from the educational exhibits. Our educational exhibits were designed for self-guiding tours with specific bonsai to serve as training aids to compliment specific lessons. Educational panels include graphics, photographs, and an economical amount of educational text.  "Two Styling Concepts" is one of our early introductory exhibits to demonstrate the styling range with similar plants.

                Too often students feel compelled to train "average" bonsai that look like the other bonsai in the class.  The two trees have similarities and differences a discussion about them will allow you to quickly grasp extreme strategies. It is important to emphasize from the very beginning that each bonsai should be different and a reflect the spirit of that tree. Just as each tree is different, each of us are different and have different aesthetic values of what is beautiful. Each tree has a spirit or personality and each trainer should first study and know the tree.   Bonsai is man and nature in harmony and after many years, the tree will also be a reflection of the owner-trainer.

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                The tree on the left is a Japanese Garden Juniper (Juniperus procumbens) trained from a cutting rooted about 1974.  It's about 20" tall with a trunk about 1" in diameter. The tree on the right is a Dwarf Prostrate Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Prostrata') also trained from a cutting rooted about 1974. It is about 10" tall with a 2" diameter trunk.  Both trees are in similar handmade pots by master bonsai potter Akiji Kataoka, the founder of Yamaaki Pottery in Tokoname, Japan. Pots are about 12" in diameter and 1 3/4" high They are made from a brown clay body with a dark olive-grey oxide-slip and unglazed. These irregular informal pots lend themselves to less traditional bonsai designs.

                How can two trees of the same age in the same pots using the same basic single apex-tier branched structural design be so different?  One is twice the height of the other. The short tree has a trunk that is twice the diameter of the other. The educational panel in the background includes a photo when the exhibit was designed about 15 years ago. Since that time, there have been improvements but the height and trunk thickness have not changed very much. Most of the changes are the result of detailed creative pruning.

                From this exhibit, it's easy to see that the key to successful bonsai training is the selection of the bonsai stock and developing the training strategic plan.  Training a bonsai masterpiece becomes very achievable if you begin with "masterpiece quality stock" and an exciting "masterpiece game-plan!"  A bonsai master can develop outstanding bonsai stock from rooted cuttings or seedlings, but it will take time.  The trees in the 1985 background photo were already about 11 years old and had been in training for several years. The 2001 photo shows 15 years of additional training with the plants about 27 years old.  That may seem to be a long time,  but compared to the history of bonsai, these are very young trees. 

                A common bonsai question is: "How long does it take to create a bonsai?"  I usually answer: "It depends upon the situation!"  If you start with a seedling or newly rooted cutting using temperate climate plants, it will probably take about 30 years to create a bonsai representing a mature natural tree. In the photo above, we're almost there.  But bonsai is never completed and each year more character develops. 

                Why are the results so different? Part is due to the inherent characteristics of these two juniper species.  Although both are common spreading junipers that grow well in Hawaii, a bonsai trainer will quickly recognize the differences. Japanese Garden Juniper grows taller and is less compact than Dwarf Prostrate Juniper.   It was an earlier temperate climate tree grown in Hawaii including the famous "Kaneshiro Kengai"rock-planted juniper with cascading branches that was formally named in honor of its creator Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro. In our example above, the trunk was actually supported with a pole until it was able to stay upright. Branches tend to grow horizontal, and as was shown in the story about "Contrarian," the branches can be trained to fall. 

                In contrast, Dwarf Prostrate Juniper is believed to have been brought back to Hawaii from a person visiting an Oregon nursery in the early 1950's. By the 1960's they were readily available in 4" nursery pots in the Honolulu garden shops and was a popular plant in my early bonsai classes.  Dwarf Prostrate Junipers have two types of foliage. Younger plants have "juvenile" foliage similar to Japanese Garden Juniper.  Growth is very compact with heavier trunks and branches. After the tree is about 7 or 8 years old, the mature "Prostrate Juniper" type foliage takes over.  

                The two extreme styling concepts are: "Thin & Tall" and "Stout & Short." To create these two extremes, use different plants selection criteria, different pre-training techniques, and train using different principles. To give these concepts a human flavor, we call them the "110 Year Old Chinese Philosopher" and the "Japanese Sumo Warrior" concepts that follow.

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www.fukubonsai.com     Fuku-Bonsai Inc. &ntrast, Dwarf Prostrate Juniper is believed to have been brought back to Hawaii from a person visiting an Oregon nursery in the early 1950's. By the 1960's they were readily available in 4" nursery pots in the Honolulu garden shops and was a popular plant in my early bonsai classes.  Dwarf Prostrate Junipers have two types of foliage. Younger plants have "juvenile" foliage similar to Japanese Garden Juniper.  Growth is very compact with heavier trunks and branches. After the tree is about 7 or 8 years old, the mature "Prostrate Juniper" type foliage takes over.  

                The two extreme styling concepts are: "Thin & Tall" and "Stout & Short." To create these two extremes, use different plants selection criteria, different pre-training techniques, and train using different principles. To give these concepts a human flavor, we call them the "110 Year Old Chinese Philosopher" and the "Japanese Sumo Warrior" concepts that follow.

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www.fukubonsai.com     Fuku-Bonsai Inc.   Phone (808) 982-9880  (January 2001)