Friday, January 29, 2010

Saikei: Living Landscapes in Miniature

Saikei: Living Landscapes in Miniature
by Toshio Kawamoto HC pp.133
ISBN Nil (Published 1967)

This book is dated, so much so, it doesn't even have an ISBN number. This book was featured at Bonsai Bark. It is the following photo that captured my interest. The composition was so natural looking, I needed to see more and ordered the book from Alibris.

The trees (29) are Cryptomeria and the Suiban
measures 27x19 inches.

I have always had a deep penchant for Saikei, and have several books on the subject. What makes this book different than others? The plans for duplication!

Many folks do not believe in reproducing work that has already been created. This, for artistic reasons if nothing else. However, for those looking for inspiration there are several colour plates (similar to the one above) complete with a material listing and plans to create each landscape.

The book is broken down into 8 Chapters:
  • Masterpieces (16);
  • Materials and tools;
  • How to plant trees;
  • Use of stones and soil;
  • Rock-grown Saikei;
  • Raising seedlings;
  • Controlling tree growth; and
  • Care of Saikei.
The book is informative but dated. Newer refinement techniques have evolved. It does contain a good list of (better suited) materials to create these miniature landscapes. The artistic and aesthetic considerations to their creation is well explained, for even aspiring young enthusiasts.

I was able to acquire this hard-cover book in excellent condition for the modest price of $9.00, a pretty good investment considering the book retailed for $6.95 when first published in 1967.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mission of Transformation

Mission of Transformation
by Roberts Steven
ISBN 9789799920331 HC pp. 247
Published 2009
Suprindo Offset Printing-Indonesia

Mission of Transformation is Robert's second book. For those who have or have read the first, this book is an excellent addendum to his first.

If transformation is a mission, dignity of life is the design
When we try to show everything we show nothing

Who is Robert Steven and what message is he trying to convey? The answer is probably as complex as the man himself. The best way to describe Robert is to understand him, the best way to understand him is through his quotes and his life philosophy in general.

In my intuition I find myself
In myself I find freedom
In nature I find the rule
In the rule I find the wisdom

You don’t need to have ears
You don’t need to have eyes
For you can hear my unspoken silence
You can see the echo of my vision

When I break you down
I cannot undo my error
I cannot delete my mistake
But I can edit with my love…
(designing trees)

If I were a composer I would honor you with my love song
If I were just a poet I would write you the lyric of my soul
But I am just a Bonsai artist and, can only shape you with my life!

Obviously, all the textbook conventions for bonsai are derived from fundamental concepts of artistry and aesthetic principals of visual art. Among the aesthetic principals of visual art are: line; form; color; texture; composition; dimension; perspective; and balance.

A working understanding of these concepts will enable us to freely create and innovate without hesitation because we understand the essence of the art and what these conventions refer to. Furthermore, a solid understanding of horticultural theory and natural rules is very important to our ability to simulate natural phenomena in a convincing manner. (Excerpt from Behind the Rules)

Casuarina equisetifolia raft

Probably the best composition that encompasses Robert's vision for bonsai (in my opinion) is his Casuarina pictured above. Why is that? It doesn't look like a bonsai but a replication of what could be found/seen around the corner on any given road. So what is so special about this composition? I believe the following quote from his first book sums it up nicely!

On its root I firmly commit
In its trunk I keep my soul
Through its leaves I reflect my vision

The folks who understood "the man" and were moved by his first book, will see their bonsai education into the artistic and aesthetic part of bonsai further enhanced.

The book is laid out in 10 chapters:
Bonsai and nature
The principles of good bonsai design
Transformation studio
Gallery and finally
Chronicle of a Premna adventure

Introduction (excerpt)
Any shape or style of tree in nature is not miraculously formed; there are always horticultural clues behind the present form.

Three aspects form the style of a tree: the nature of the species; the condition where it grows; and the exterior influence.

To create a good bonsai there are three aspects to follow: artistic beauty; horticultural clues; and thematic messages.

Robert then leads us through the remaining chapters. The sequential flow of information between chapters is well done. The information is laid out in such a way that the information provided in any given chapter, becomes the foundation for subsequent information and chapters. The information presented is easily understood and, photographs are used to further enhance the intended message.

I am not one to reinvent the wheel. Probably the best way to provide insight into this book is to provide the following remarks from the Preface:

"Vision of My Soul" was a refreshing and unprecedented book explaining the design elements utilized for bonsai creation. It did not discuss the technical nor cultural aspects for bonsai which most other bonsai books cover.

Mission of Transformation continues on with his study of bonsai design and how it is utilized when creating specimens. The technical and horticultural aspects are not discussed here either, but Robert thoroughly explains the principles of good bonsai design and how they are applied when creating bonsai from both collected stock and nursery grown plant material. (William Valavanis)

Bonsai is the most backward looking art that I know of. In general, bonsai books never fail to teach tradition, but usually not even exactly how tradition is seen in Japan.

Robert Steven has totally broken away from this method of teaching. He does not really even mention tradition in his book, instead he gives great insights to those who are desperatetly trying to grasp what the artistic side of bonsai is all about...

What was started in his first book "Vision of My Soul" in describing artistic principles and aesthetic considerations is put into practice here in this book...

Following the old principle that states a picture is worth a thousand words, Robert uses a couple hundred of well chosen photographs to illustrate his words and beliefs. I dare say that this book will become a classic. It is a must for every advance student of bonsai. Beginners will profit vastly because they very soon will find out there are more than six bonsai forms... (Walter Pall)

The following addendum forms part of my review.

Bibliography: Robert's blog and book, Mission of Transformation

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Japanese Art of miniature Trees and Landscape

The Japanese Art of miniature
Trees and Landscape

By Yuji Yoshimura
ISBN 0-8048-0282-3 SC pp.220
Published 1957
Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc.

Although this book is dated, it definitely owns a place on your book shelf. The depth of detail Yuji imparts in this book is just short of his passion for bonsai. You will not find pretty photographs in this book, well at least not the ones you have been accustomed to, but what you will find is extremely well detailed procedures and sketches. With the exception of soil components, it is refreshing to see that the techniques of yesteryear are still very much the norm today.

This book, beyond a doubt, has all of the information the serious bonsai artist needs to know. The authors provide very thorough details about creating bonsai, and take it to the level of science rather than art. However, it is because of this high degree of detail that I was struck with how serious the art really can be. I would tend to recommend Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes to the person who is quite dedicated to pursuing the art, and would not recommend it to a person with a more casual interest.

All about creating Japanese Gardens

All about creating
Japanese Gardens

By Marilyn Rogers
ISBN 0897211480 HC pp176
Published 2003
Meredith Publishing Group

I wasn't going to review this book as it is dwarfed when compared to Peter Chan's reference on the same subject.

However, I decided to give my perspective on this volume regardless. Although, the fundamentals of good design are present, this book is more of a quick reference when compared with Peter's work which goes into much greater detail. When comparing cost, it rings in at half the price of Peter's book, but is also a soft covered publication.

The Art of Bonsai Design

The Art of Bonsai Design
by Colin Lewis
ISBN 1402700709 HC pp.160
Published 2001
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.

This book is out of print but several avenues exist where one can acquire this work second hand. I acquired a used copy that was in excellent shape (slight wear on jacket) at a fraction of the original cost.

As the title evokes this book is about the artistic side of bonsai. It is not a primer and although intended for all audiences, newly introduced enthusiast should have a basic foundation in place to fully grasp the information imparted by Colin.

The book is broken down into four main sections:

- Elms;
- Junipers;
- Pines; and
- Larches.

A great review was previously carried out on this book. Although I fully intended in providing an in depth look into this volume, it would have paled in comparison with this review.

Bonsai Wonders is about my fascination with Bonsai, but more important to me is sharing information with fellow enthusiast. In doing so, I feel no need to re-invent the wheel so to speak. If good information can be found elsewhere, I have no reservations in pointing this out on this site.

Totally Bonsai

Totally Bonsai
by Craig Coussins
ISBN 0804834202 HC pp.192
Published 2001
Qunitet Publishing Ltd

A well-written “hard cover” book with a lot of attention to detail; this book is Craig’s preamble to Bonsai School. It includes a great section on monthly care for both indoor and outdoor trees. The section on pests and diseases is better than most. His book also contains an “easy species” guide, which in my opinion is a great asset for a beginner

Bonsai Landscapes

Bonsai Landscapes
by Peter Adams
ISBN 0706377672 HC pp 128
Published 1999
Ward Lock Wellington House

A “hard cover” book on creating bonsai landscape. This is by no means an equivalent to Qingquan Zhao’s book, but Peter provides some beautiful landscapes that one can create/duplicate with detailed plan(s) that are included in this book.

Mountains in the Sea (Ho Non Bo)

Mountains in the Sea
by Phan Van Lit
ISBN 0881925152 HC pp.232
Published 2001
Timber Press Inc.

Connaisseurs of miniature landscapes have long studied and appreciated the arts of Bonsai from Japan and Penjing from China. Until very recently, however a few outside of Vietnam have known of an equally distinguished and vibrant art form known as "Hon Non Bo", mountainous island in the sea.

While bearing some similarities to Bonsai and Penjing in its use of stone and trees, Hon Non Bo is a unique discipline influenced by the landscape of Vietnam with its mountains, coastal scenery, and lush vegetation.

A “hard cover” book depicting the methods of re-creating miniature landscapes. It goes on to describe the tools necessary to work with rocks and stones, amazingly these are not expensive or “really” specialized items. It contains a good description on how to create waterproof concrete slabs/pots, as in this particular book the use of water in the landscapes is predominant. One is not to worry; water and trees are kept separate.

Mountains in the Sea will appeal to readers of many backgrounds. Bonsai and Penjing enthusiasts will be inspired by a fresh approach to miniature landscapes presented by a master artist.

Ficus The Exotic Bonsai

Ficus The Exotic Bonsai
by Jerry Meislik
ISBN 0974952400 HC pp.144
Published in 2004
Devonshire Gardens Ltd

Jerry is a well known bonsai lecturer, writer and teacher. He has written many articles for many of the popular bonsai magazines. Most importantly Jerry has a 25 year long love affair with Ficus for bonsai. Jerry is affectionately known as “Ficus Jerry or Mr. Ficus, need I say more.

What can I say about this book? If you are going to grow ficus, then I believe this is a requirement in your reference library. A limited edition, hard covered, full-coloured book, signed by the author.

This is what David DeGroot had to say:

Ficus, The Exotic Bonsai is clear, detailed, and comprehensive. It covers the cultural relevance of figs, their physical characteristics, and their place and function in the natural environment, indoor growing requirements and techniques, and plant problems.

It discusses the aesthetics of various fig styles and the techniques required to achieved the desired effects. It deals with propagation, show preparation, and finally, detailed infromation on specific popular varieties.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Creating japanese Gardens

Creating a Japanese Garden
By Peter Chan
ISBN 1856486966 HC pp.176
Published 2003
PRC Publishing Ltd

Peter Chan is the founder of Herons Bonsai - Britain's premier bonsai nursery, and winner of 16 Chelsea Gold Medals. Peter is also a prolific designer and builder of beautiful Japanese Gardens. Peter is a member of the prestigious Association of Professional Landscapers.

In this work Peter examines and explains the four key elements of Japanese gardening: rocks, plants, water and space, demonstrating how these basic components in the right combination can transform any ordinary garden into a haven of peace and tranquility.

The book starts off with a brief history on meaning and design characteristics. One needs to understand these basic philosophical and religious principles to truely understand the beauty and serenity in the text that follows. Peter goes on to described the various types of gardens: stroll, tea and Zen to name a few.

Chapter two leads us into design considerations, plant selections, symbolism and meaning behind each choice and the combination of choices. He explains in detail the harmony between the elements and how improper placement and selection may lead to chaos.

Chapter 3 and 4 deal mainly with various projects and favourite gardens throughout the world. This book is well laid out and inspirational. Peter's teachings in this volume will grab your attention in such a fashion that by the time you lay down the book, you want to rush outside and try your hand at your own creation, a well worth investment.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bonsai with Japanese Maples

Bonsai with Japanese Maples
by Peter Adams
ISBN 0881928097 HC pp.156
Published 2006
Timber Press Inc.

With all the books related to Bonsai out there, I find myself being a little more particular/selective of what I add to my growing library these days. I find myself only acquiring what I categorize as "specialty books", and Peter's latest creation on Japanese Maples is just that.

The book is broken down into five Chapters. Peter commences with care and selection of Japanese Maples, discussing: potting, watering, feeding, pruning, along with an invaluable list of suitable cultivars and their characteristics. He moves on to discussing developmental methods, both in ground and in boxes in Chapter two. He explains in detail the necessary pruning and trimming details along with the time lines in achieving a suitable silhouette.

Chapter three deals with refinement techniques both above and below the soil line, including but not limited to grafting, whilst Chapter four is dedicated in developing shohin size trees.

Chapter five discusses in detail 23 case studies of actual trees of varying cultivars, the methods used in their establishment, development, training etc... along with future possibilities.

The text and illustrations flow well and is easy to follow. A definite asset to ones library who raises Japanese Maples as Bonsai.

Bonsai, a Care Manual

Bonsai, a Care Manual
by Colin Lewis
ISBN 157145988X SC pp.128
Published 1997
Octopus Publishing Group Ltd

Colin Lewis is an acknowledged and respected bonsai expert. He has studied bonsai in Japan, is a member of the Bonsai Kai of the japan Society of London.

A definite must for all beginners, “soft cover” extremely well laid out. The book is tailored to meet the needs of first-time owner and more experienced collector by explaining in detail all the techniques needed to keep bonsai alive and in good shape. It also describes the anatomy of plants/trees and how a tree functions. It contains a comprehensive section on trees (sunlight, care, pruning, feeding etc.) It further explains various soil types, their composition and use, as well as a detailed section on different types and proper use of fertilizers. A good section on proper pot selection and shape for various tree species and shape.

Clear step by step illustrations combined with photographs will help even the most nervous newcomer to grow bonsai with confidence.

Beautiful Bonsai

Beautiful Bonsai
by Bruno Delmer
ISBN 1402714335 HC pp.159
Published 2002
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.

This “hard cover” book offers a lot of insight into plant selection, e.g.: indoors or out and general care. The book is not very descriptive and is more suited for the coffee table than the reference library. This was the second book I purchased, because it broke down various species and their use. It does not contain bonsai techniques perse, but does breakdown the species in:

a. Broad-leafed trees
b. Evergreen trees
c. Tropical Trees

Grow your own Bonsai

Grow your own Bonsai
by Colin Lewis & Neil Sutherland
ISBN 1402713584 SC pp.141
Published 2004
Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

A great reference “soft cover”, it demonstrates in-depth styling, has seasonal care tips with an excellent section on first aid. This book was bought late; I wish I had picked it up sooner. This book would probably have been purchased before David Prescott’s book. Please don’t read into my last statement--each book has its own individual merits. I was really impressed with the Seasonal Care Requirements and First Aid section.

One thing I was impressed with was the section at the end of the book, where average garden centre stock is utilized in creating respectable candidates. This latter section demonstrates how plant selection occurs, seeing the tree that is not there. A careful study of this section will equip any newcomer to bonsai with the necessary tools in plant selection.

Bonsai School

Bonsai School
by Craig Coussins
ISBN1402703686 HC pp.256
Published 2003
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc

Each part of Bonsai School examines the techniques required to create a bonsai in depth. Part one and thus, the two opening chapters explain the history of the art of miniaturizing trees. Craig has worked closely with Bonsai Historian Robert Baran to tell the true history of bonsai, thereby clearing up some of the myths and misinformation that are occasionally put forward.

Part two consists of four chapters that together form a structured course in how to create a bonsai, covering popular methods and techniques, as well as trees suitable for bonsai culture.

The third part of the book builds on an explanation of bonsai techniques and styles with a series of photo essays that systematically cover many bonsai-creating techniques. The fourth part of the book explores those areas of interest that are associated with bonsai, namely suiseki, Chinese viewing stones, pots and tools.

The book is well illustrated and contains a good section on tree selection for bonsai, other than that it is a bit disappointing. The section on pest and diseases is shallow in my opinion. The emphasis of the book seems to be placed on going “gaga” with the historical inspiration and pretty pictures. It does have a good section on styling techniques by Michael Persianno and Bill Valavanis, in the meantime it leaves the reader flat. I awaited this book with great anticipation after reading about it on Craig’s site. Totally Bonsai by the same author will provide more to the novice than Bonsai School in my opinion. A good read which belongs on the coffee table vice a reference library.

Pocket Bonsai

Pocket Bonsai
by David Prescott
ISBN 1843305860
Published 2004
New Holland Publishers

Davis Prescott with Colin Lewis as a consultant editor wrote this book. A “soft cover” great all around reference with regards to care, shaping, re-potting, species and style. This was my first book and it is probably the best book a beginner may own. It is well written and covers the majority of what a beginner needs to know. It is easily understood and, combined with pictures, gets the point across nicely. Many folks own this book and still use it, even after years of caring for bonsai.

It delves into the anatomy of plants/trees and how a tree functions. It covers the basic requirements on plant needs and feeding. There is a short list of the most common pests and diseases. Although, it prescribes treatment for the latter, it doesn’t state the length or course of action one should take. I believe this information is invaluable as far as I’m concerned. Having said that I haven’t found a book (outside of a book on pest and disease) that did.

It contains a good section on potting and shaping your tree, as well as basic pot selection. The end of the book includes a short list of the most appropriate bonsai species, along with colour photographs. It describes basic plant and care requirements, a good all around book!

Complete book of Bonsai

Complete book of Bonsai
by Harry Tomlinson
ISBN 1558591184 HC pp.224
Published 1990
Abbeville Press

Harry Tomlinson is one of Europe’s leading bonsai artists and instructors. He has practiced and studied the principles for over thirty years and is a recognized authority on the subject.

With so many books out there, the vast majority being repetitive, it was indeed refreshing to find one with a unique blend of information and ideas. Not unlike other good books, I found the description on the origins, development of bonsai and it’s underlying principles clearly explained. It contains an in depth section on how to create a bonsai from seedling, cutting or nursery stock. Clear step-by step instructions take you from the initial raw material through to the finished bonsai. All the tools and techniques are clearly illustrated and explained. Their use is described in full detail. I found the section on containers extremely informative. Although brief, the attention to details in this short section is commensurate with the rest of the book. As most artist, the choice of the right pot is often difficult, this is especially true when one has developed a world class bonsai, where the pot becomes an integral part of the composition/illusion. This book contains a good explanation on suitability and use of each, unlike other manuals that seem to give the reader a mere cursory or general overview on containers

The heart of this book is a photographic catalog of bonsai trees and shrubs, providing the cultivation and styling details of over 100 different species. The end of the book encompasses a compendium of over 300 trees and shrubs that can be developed as bonsai including individual growing requirements and needs. This hardcover full colour book make it a worthwhile investment.

Classic Bonsai of Japan

Classic Bonsai of Japan
by Nippon Bonsai Association & John Bester
ISBN: 4770029926 HC pp.188
Published 1989
Kodansha International Ltd

This hard cover “pearl” is not reference material per say, but a collection of some of the finest bonsai to be found in Japan. The book contains 130 full-coloured photos and 48 BW plates of priceless specimens. Each tree has it’s own description to offer insight into the balance, style, harmony and overall aesthetic effect, along with comments on the history of it’s cultivation at the hands of several generations of bonsai masters.

Creating Bonsai Landscapes

Creating Bonsai Landscapes
by Su Chin Ee
ISBN 1580174841 SC pp.127
Published 2003
Quarto publishing

This soft covered book features 18 miniature garden projects. It is well written but the best feature in this book are the detailed plans on how to duplicate these miniature landscapes.

The rocks were all created using a mixture of “wire grids” fiberglass cloth and cement fondue. Another thing that surprised me was the clear explanation on how to proceed from nursery bought stock, to a beautifully designed miniature trees. Having said that, the one thing the book fails to mention is the length of time to produce tree designs required for these landscapes. Because these are miniatures, the developmental period is much reduced. I believe this is a worthwhile purchase; not only will one have beautiful landscapes once completed, one can be occupied in the creation of long term projects, which is fascinating in itself. At the end of the book there is a detailed section on specific trees suitable for miniature landscapes e.g. the proper Var. of Cotoneaster, to name but one.

The art of Natural Bonsai Replicating natures beauty

The art of Natural Bonsai
Replicating natures beauty

by Dave Joyce
ISBN 1402700555 HC pp.288
Published 2003
Sterling Publishing Co, inc.

I somehow ordered this book by mistake, one I am glad I made. This hard covered book is an absolute gem. I like Dave’s naturalistic approach to bonsai design. The book is well laid out and explained. It has one of the best sections on pests and diseases that I have seen. It is quite explicit with detailed recommended remedies and procedures, listed in a chart where Dave prioritizes his approach to differing ailments.

The book contains the usual basics at the beginning and goes into greater detail as the text evolves. It has recommended species for beginners. The middle of the book covers the design and shaping process of several of his trees, along with timelines between stages, the latter is a good reference for beginners, as they can chart the process. The book also contains a section on making cement slabs, pots and rocks. The end of the book contains an extensive list on trees and their individual needs. This full-coloured book is indeed inspirational, and wears its title well.

Vision of My Soul

Vision of My Soul
By Robert Steven
Edited by Andy Rutledge
ISBN 9799920302 HC pp166
Published 2005
Suprindo Offset Printing

I finally received my copy of Robert's work as a birthday present. I believe only one word truly describes this work "powerful".

"On its root I firmly commit
In its trunk I keep my soul
Through its leaves, I reflect my vision..."

This masterpiece is a limited edition print signed by the artist. The attention to detail from beginning to end is phenomenal. The layout and thoughtfulness of its creation is second to none: from the handcrafted cover with silver leaf inlay; plethora of sketches and colour plates; to the easily understood artistic impressions conveyed by the author; this book was described in another review as a work of art and I can only echo the sentiments of that particular review. The combination of these two aspects makes this book extremely valuable in my opinion.

Works without soul, are mere objects on, or of any given medium. Understanding the basics towards an end is a great foundation in assisting the individual reach his/her goal. If the individual fails to portray the passion from deep within, and merely designing from the mind instead of the soul, then he/she is just creating "something".

True passion is not a mechanical process but one that evokes response. I guess other folks call this talent, but one can have talent without evoking passion, the true artist has both in my opinion.

I was fortunate enough to have acquired Robert's book and I am looking forward to the publishing of his second. No amount of reviews can accurately describe the contents of his work, nor convey the message held within. Although a book is classified as "literature" this volume is anything but, it is in a sense a work of art. Why? Because the book has the ability to move you. The author has managed to evoke deep seeded passions in the written word that, in my opinion, others fail miserably to achieve, art is felt not seen.

In closing for those who naturally possess artistic impressionistic talents, this work may well be of little value. However, for the multitudes that are struggling with the aforementioned required elements in Bonsai, it is a much-needed reference to one's literary collection.

Complete guide to Trees and Shrubs

Complete guide to
Trees and Shrubs

By Ortho Books
ISBN 0897215001 SC pp 224
Published 2004
Meredith Publishing Group

Undoubtedly a comprehensive writing on trees and shrubs. Not only does this volume assist bonsai enthusiasts in plant/tree selections, it is a great assistance in the landscape.

I have found this book extremely useful when making selections for the landscape. It describes in detail the suitability of the tree in relation to any landscape, soil condition. light, hardiness zones to name a few. Whilst this book was not designed with bonsai enthusiasts in mind, individual growth habits of trees and shrubs will greatly assist you in making an informed decision when choosing bonsai subjects.

This book contains an extensive section on pruning and maintenance as applied to the landscape. It is amusing to find some of the guidelines listed in this particular section, have been seen before in bonsai books. It is my opinion that far too many folks just plant out their trees and shrubs without any thought to growth patterns and necessary maintenance, to finally wind up with trees and shrubs that have become unmanageable. Too often these shrubs will find their way to the curbside because of negligence. Trees on the other hand are often frail and fail in severe adverse weather conditions, where a little forethought would have prevented the latter.

A definite asset to anyone's reference library.

Masters Series “Junipers”

Masters Series “Junipers”
Compiled and edited by Wayne Schoech
and the Staff of Bonsai Today
ISBN 9780976755036 SC pp174
Published 2007
Stone Lantern Publishing

Having previously received and read “Pines” the Master Series, I looked forward in not only reading but adding this book to my reference library. This volume as with the former, is targeted towards the intermediate to advanced enthusiast. Having said that, the layout and descriptions are easily understood by any audience.

“Junipers” as with “Pines”, is a compilation of former articles that appeared in “Bonsai Today” magazine. To some, this avenue seems redundant. For others, who do not have the luxury of possessing every back issue of the periodical, it is indeed refreshing to see the forethought in the compilation of previously published articles under one binder. However, it is my understanding that the book does include information not previously published or found in former articles.

The book is divided into 18 comprehensive chapters from care basics to re-designing established bonsais, while displaying the talents of some of the best enthusiast in the world like, Kimura, Kobayashi and Hirao to name a few.

Chapter one begins with a comprehensive species guide suitable to bonsai cultivation, followed by the usual basic care and maintenance section. Once, one has begun compiling an extensive library, these basic sections become redundant. However, as always I did find fresh information to wit, an exquisite section on ramification. Of special note would be the seasonal chart found at the end of Chapter 2. This chart not only compiles monthly maintenance requirements but shows the different maintenance requirements between: cold, temperate and tropical climates, in an easily understood spreadsheet.

As we continue through the book we find a comprehensive section on various grafting and layering techniques, including a section on emergency treatment. As with “Pines” this work features many re-styling and transformation plates. What is readily seen, these transformation are more descriptive in comparison to what is commonly found in the limited available space of a magazine.

In my opinion as with “Pines” this is definitely a worthy addition to any reference library. Although the layout and photographs are easily followed in the re-styling section, in my opinion what stands out the most would be the comprehensive maintenance chart which includes the delta between climates. Far too often we have seen seasonal care described from the author's perspective only, Stone Lantern went one step further and, in doing so have gained my full endorsement. In my opinion, this chart alone outweighs the reasonable purchase price of this magnificent work. Once again I look forward in seeing their next volume.

If I was to criticize this book would be the binding method used. As with “Pines” it is poorly done in my opinion, and will fail over time.

Bonsai Techniques Vol I

Bonsai Techniques Vol I
by John Yoshio Naka
ISBN 0930422317 pp269

The “Nakas” are referred amongst Bonsaiist as the “Bonsai Bibles”
A lifelong work is described in these volumes. Because “these” are John’s notes, translated from Japanese, the description at times is a little thin. However, the learned hobbyist can easily extrapolate the necessary information as required. The “Nakas” are not “Bonsai Primers” and as such, are intended for intermediate to advanced Bosaiists. Before one delves into these magnificent books, one needs to understand the basics of bonsai and bonsai care.

Vol I will take a novice along quite readily, but it is this author’s opinion that, one needs to posses a firm grasp of bonsai basics, if one is to fully comprehend what John is trying to impart to his audience. It contains a great in-depth section on various soil uses, along with recommended soil recipes for various trees. An in-depth monthly care guide can also be found in this book. If one is looking for traditional Japanese values, one will find them here.

Bonsai techniques Vol II

Bonsai techniques Vol II
by John Yoshio Naka
ISBN 093042233 pp 442

Bonsai techniques Vol II is more or less on advanced “bonsai techniques” and as such is not for beginners, I purchased mine at the same time as Vol I. Although, my apprenticeship is far from being at the level to apply advance techniques listed in this book, I found it extremely inspiring and educational. One thing it has taught me since I have read the book, was to seek inspiration from nature, find an appropriate tree (raw material) and duplicate the inspiration. John had a saying; don’t make your tree look like a bonsai, make your bonsai look like a tree. Walter Pall is famous to some extent for this exact approach. Considered a “rebel” in the beginning, Walter’s battle gained credence for his work. His innovative approach to the art has forged a way for the future. This is also the direction I intend taking in the future. I will no doubt meet allot of controversy during my journey, but at least learned veterans of the likes of Walter and many others have paved my chosen path. To the true “traditionalist” well! Walter’s work is totally unacceptable.

This book goes into great details with regards to grafting whether grafting roots or branches. Detailed descriptions on each are available; it goes on further to explain which method gives a greater chance of success depending on the tree species. The book then naturally flows to the trunk, branches and apex. This is where John goes into great detail with regards to the fundamentals of branch placement, height ratios etc. No serious Bonsai Artist would be without them.

Home Gardener’s Problem Solver

Home Gardener’s Problem Solver
by Ortho Books
ISBN 0897215044
Published 2004
Meredith Publishing Group

This book “soft cover” book contains all known diseases and afflictions your plants, flowers, vegetables and trees may be infected with. As previously stated, because it is a book published by “Ortho” the recommended remedies are with the use of “Ortho’s products.” However, they do give the treatment and providing you follow their recommendation as to which chemicals to use for remedy, you should be able to treat your tree to full recovery. The latter is really a problem here in Canada as many pesticides are now banned. In Nova Scotia, outside of organic treatment of pests and diseases or harmless chemicals, there is little alternative. However, the book diagnoses the problem you might have in great detail, including pictures of the possible affliction.

The book is broken down into the following main categories:

a. Houseplants;
b. Lawns;
c. Ground covers;
d. Annuals perennials and bulbs;
e. Trees, shrubs and vines;
f. Vegetables, berries and grapes;
g. Soil, cultural, and climate problems;
h. Gallery of plant diseases;
i. Gallery of insects; and
j. Gallery of weeds, to name a few.

Masters Series “Pines”

Masters Series “Pines”
By Michael Persiano
ISBN 0976755009 SC pp183
Published 2005
Stone Lantern Publishing

“Pines”, is a compilation of former articles that appeared in “Bonsai Today” magazine. To some, this avenue seems redundant. For others, who do not have the luxury of possessing every back issue of the periodical, it is indeed refreshing to see the forethought in the compilation of previously published articles under one binder. However, it is my understanding that the book does include information not previously published or found in former articles. This volume is targeted towards the intermediate to advanced enthusiast. Having said that, the layout and descriptions are easily understood by any audience.

The book is divided into 16 comprehensive chapters dealing specifically with Japanese white and black pines. It is the first in a series of intended futures. The “Masters' Series” is intended as a compendium of information on specifics, in this case “Pines”.

Chapter one presents an overview of the basics, including but not limited to: growth habit, hardiness, diseases, insects etc... of the Japanese White Pine. An extremely informative and interesting section can be found in Chapter 3 that deals specifically with energy balance from: proper candling and pinching techniques to bud removal, branch and needle pruning. Chapter 3 also contains Michael's “Superfeeding” program. Although to many this program is tagged as “superfeeding”, to most, just a good feeding regimen to use with free draining almost totally inorganic potting mediums which is the trend these days.

The book continues with several demos and aesthetic considerations, to finish of the JWP section with a gallery of White Pines. A good introduction follows on the Japanese Black Pine (the pride of the Orient).

A comprehensive look at needle reduction is found and explains the difference between the two main species of pines (JWP and JBP). Probably the jewel of this work is the comprehensive easily understood article of growing JBPs from seed. This article is well written and the accompanying photographs greatly assist in teaching the basics of raising seedlings into a respectable bonsai (shohin) in 7-10 year.

Unlike many books that only dabble in certain areas, this reference is a must for anyone growing or interested in adding pines to their collection. Pines have unique requirements and this book explains in detail these unique requirements.

Bonsai in your Home

Bonsai in your Home
by Paul Lesniewicz
ISBN 0806907819 SC pp.207
Published 1996
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.

The most comprehensive “soft cover” book for indoor bonsai care, highly recommended. If you want to grow indoor bonsai, this book is a must-have, in my opinion. It contains a good overall list of the lighting requirement for the vast majority of inside trees. The care requirement of individual trees is well addressed. Although, the book contains but a few short sections with regards to pruning, styling etc… In my opinion the latter does not diminish the value of this book as, one purchases this book solely for plant selection and care.

Bonsai It’s Art, Science, History and Philosophy

Bonsai It’s Art, Science,
History and Philosophy

by Deborah Koreshoff
ISBN 0908175752 HC pp.255
Published 1984
Boolarong Publications

The crown jewel of my collection
Some might disagree with me on this one, but I believe it is, without a doubt, the best-written book on the subject. This book was out of print for quite some time and hence, difficult to find, as a matter of fact because the market demand was so great for a while, used dealers took it upon themselves to make a quick buck, selling used copies at exorbitant prices, the majority of which were paperbacks. After months of surfing the net, I was fortunate enough to acquire a used hardcover copy, in excellent condition for a very good price. The publisher as ordered another print of this magnificent book and it is once again widely available to the public. If history was any indication I would not hesitate in acquiring one before the well runs dry once again.

A short biography
Deborah was born in 1957 into a world of bonsai. Her father, born in Harbin, Manchuria, was also surrounded by bonsai and absorbed the knowledge from the old Chinese gardener who tended them. From infancy, Deborah was exposed to club meetings and lectures/presentations by her parents, and had her own collection from a very early age. By the time she was 14 she was showing remarkable talent, and her first demonstration was given to the Bonsai Society of Australia.

In 1976, her parents’ Bonsai Nursery became the only authorized branch of the Nippon Bonsai-Saikei Art Institute with the authority to issue the Japanese Certificates. In 1978, Deborah became the teacher and since has travelled extensively around Australia. She has been the Education and Program Officer for the Bonsai Society of Australia and is the artist and major contributor for the magazine “Bonsai Australia”

The book starts off with an in depth introduction to the Art of Bonsai and it’s history. I believe describing the origins an important aspect of what we do; it is further my belief that we need to know where we have been in order to know how to proceed. Although the book has the usual pre-requisites, Deborah takes them a step further with, a brief history on the subject at hand, which, offers the reader some perspective and first hand knowledge on how things developed over the centuries. This type of approach in my opinion offers the reader the rationale on why we do things the way we do, far too often this approach is not used, or is to shallow, leaving the reader with more questions than answers.

Deborah’s attention to detail is second to none. The book contains hundreds of illustrations and photographs. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and no truer statement can be said about this book. The graphics are clear and further emphasized with extremely good explanations, which even a novice in the art can make out. Although, I would classify this book as intermediate, it is indeed well suited for any audience from beginner to advanced.

Although, the Nakas are known in the Bonsai World as the “bibles” I have chosen to crown Deborah’s book the same. John Yoshio Naka was one off, if not the founder of Bonsai in North America. His books are his lifelong notes on the subject and are translated from Japanese. The information contained in his books is invaluable. However, because these books were translated from his personal notes, it leaves the reader with many unanswered questions, as I found the detail insufficient at times. Bonsai Techniques Vol II seems to have remedied the situation somewhat but in no way compares to the depth of detail in Deborah’s book. I am not promoting one over the other here, as these books stand on their own merits. I am willing to say, however, that should I have purchased the “Nakas” after Deborah’s book I would have been disappointed somewhat. Notwithstanding, one has to remember the source of the “Nakas”; these were his personal notes. The perceived missing information or detail was in his head and, those whom had the pleasure of meeting John would back up my statement that he was a walking “Bonsai Library”.