MAINTAINING MEMORIAL BONSAI;
THE RESTYLING OF THE HARUO "PAPA" KANESHIRO IRONWOOD

                 If a public bonsai collection is a repository of memorial bonsai, it must have policies for appropriate training.  It is not enough just to have a person who can keep the plants alive and to train bonsai. It is undesirable to allow an aggressive individual to have unlimited authority to "improve" or "retrain" memorial bonsai.

                Fuku-Bonsai and Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation faced these challenges in developing the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository. In some cases, we have a clear idea of the concept and intent of the original trainer. But when we didn't, or if there was a change needed due to various reasons, then we needed guidelines for the curator. After extensive research, soul searching, and discussion, we adopted the "STEWARDS' CREED" on November 14, 1992.

5a11bStewardsCreed.jpg (14909 bytes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEWARDS' CREED

        Bonsai is a living art and when owner-trainers die, their bonsai may come into the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository at the Fuku-Bonsai Center to honor their memory, to share with visitors, and to preserve the history of bonsai in Hawaii.

        As stewards, we pledge the finest possible care to allow the bonsai to survive to the limits of its botanical specie.When there is knowledge that the bonsai was trained towards a specific goal or by a specific styling philosophy, that goal will be carried on.

        But when major styling becomes necessary, we will carry out our duty as the stewards of the bonsai's future and change styling direction. We will study the growth patterns and the shapes of the specie. We will research the past history of the plant and limit modifications within the range of the plant's health and vigor.

        We will try to balance the preservation of the past with the dynamic potential of the future and by these actions honor the memories of those who were associated with the bonsai placed in our care.

        ADOPTED this 14th day of November, 1992
Janice Biltoft, President, Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation
Michael Imaino, Collections Curator, Fuku-Bonsai Center
David W. Fukumoto, President, Fuku-Bonsai Inc.

 

APPLYING THE STEWARDS' CREED

Kaneshiro1965Ironwood.jpg (19374 bytes)           Hawaiian bonsai master Haruo "Papa" Kaneshiro passed away the day after the original Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center celebrated its grand opening in September 1992. He had been ill for several years and his friends had assisted in caring for his trees. 

          1965.  We began our study from a photo that had been published in the Honolulu Bonsai Kenkyu Club Commemorative Album. This was the largest bonsai club in Hawaii with about 500 members. The tree had been collected from the eroded clay-rock Kahuku hills about 1950 and two of the original three trunks had been shorted.  At the time of the photograph the tree was already about 48" tall and one of the tallest bonsai in Hawaii.

Kaneshiro87Ironwood.jpg (19144 bytes)           1987 photo.   Papa's favorite Ironwood was one of the trees I had studied in detail in the 1960's. It was not the common fine needled Casuarina equistifolia, nor the very coarse needled Casuarina glauca.  It seems to be a medium needled hybrid. In those days, most bonsai growers were training Ironwood in a single apex - tier branched style like Japanese Black Pine and believing that the Japanese bonsai books were the primary standards, I just couldn't understand why Papa wouldn't conform. 

          Papa was Hawaii's gentle non-conformist who taught me how to control growth by pruning with this tree. To control the apical dominant growth, the top required frequent trimming and this resulted in beautiful lower branches that needed very little pruning.   

Kaneshiro1993Ironwood.jpg (19293 bytes)           December 1992.   When the tree was brought to the repository, the tree had almost doubled in height to over 60" tall and had a huge dense canopy! Ironwood is not shade tolerant and the large crown had shaded out and killed all but one of the original main branches. It already visually much too large for the pot! The vigorously growing crown was absorbing all growth and the last original branch was also dying. The photo was taken after a lot of the dense crown was thinned out and the height reduction already started.
5a11 papa ironwood.jpg (52483 bytes)        Start of restyling in 1993. To save that branch required severely cutting back top growth.  The tree was the subject at one of the center's Bonsai Days and the members of the foundation and guests all made input. Everyone came to understand the need to drastically reduce top growth. This photo was taken on a misty drizzly day after 18" of top growth and over 75% of the foliage mass was selectively removed. The drastic pruning was successful and the last remaining original branch was saved!
Kaneshiro1995Ironwood.jpg (13476 bytes)        1995.  Heavy top pruning forced growth to the remaining branch at the middle left.  In repotting, more of the original clay-rock that had stunted the tree was removed and the plant responded with stronger growth. The drooping branch indicates the tree's roots can not support this amount of foliage.  To keep the same pot and create more vigorous growth, it is necessary to further reduce foliage mass. The other option was to move the tree to a larger pot.

           From the very beginning, it was very apparent that this tree would test the validity of the Stewards' Creed.  In Hawaii, Papa was highly respected and the bonsai community would not take kindly to his bonsai being drastically restyled unless the reasons and new strategy was clearly explained. Total restyling was necessary due to two primary reasons:

           Fuku-Bonsai Center curator Michael Imaino was directed to continue to heavily prune top growth, to remove more dense clay-rock at the next repotting, and to continue to focus on improving the health of the tree.  In March of 1994, the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center closed and this tree and the other collection trees were brought to the Fuku-Bonsai Kurtistown nursery.

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    Fuku-Bonsai Inc.   &ndly to his bonsai being drastically restyled unless the reasons and new strategy was clearly explained. Total restyling was necessary due to two primary reasons:
  • Most of the original branches had died and the tree was twice as tall as when Papa was training it. It no longer was in his style.
  • The pot was a high-quality burnished unglazed Yamaaki pot.  It was the largest of this design and it was desirable to utilize Papa's irreplaceable pot on a long-term basis. 

           Fuku-Bonsai Center curator Michael Imaino was directed to continue to heavily prune top growth, to remove more dense clay-rock at the next repotting, and to continue to focus on improving the health of the tree.  In March of 1994, the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center closed and this tree and the other collection trees were brought to the Fuku-Bonsai Kurtistown nursery.

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