Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Fatty Boom Batty

Woke up this morning, looking through the inbox and had a email newsletter from Colin Lewis with the title "Bonsai Obesity..." which piqued my interest...the contents were something which is close to my heart...

Bonsai Obesity
Those of us who have been growing bonsai for a few decades will have noticed a trend towards ever thicker and shorter trunks. In Japan many development nurseries have had to shorten and re-design their stock in order to appeal to current tastes.
There's nothing wrong with heavy, powerful trunks, mind you, but I confess that I do mourn the passing of grace and elegance as familiar elements in bonsai design. This coincides with the decline of fine deciduous specimens being produced. Perhaps the two are linked: there is an inherent elegance in the branch structure of a deciduous masterpiece, and failure to consider this when planning and pruning leads to ugliness.
Compare these two sketches, both from great bonsai visionaries: on the left by John Naka, 1980 and on the right, from Sandro Segneri, 2010.

Good job he didn't use one of my sketches...a five year old can do better.

Still, very good point well made there Trev.  Big fat trees are all well and good when you want to win a pissing contest but there is nothing like an elegant tree,  and so for lovers of such effeminate trees....

Mountain Cherry Prunus Tomentosa in a Toufukuji Pot, Old bark, red berries, looks like a tree, what more do you need?

La petite mort

"You need to wire that up mate, looks a bit untidy"

Old school Needle Juniper.  I use this as justification for not wiring them...nothing to do with the pain


Lovely lonely scotty at the BSA

The ball achingly good and sadly no more Mikka Tsuki (Three day moon) A white pine owned by Mr. Yanagi, and classic old school bonsai from an classy old school guy.

My Sumac at Crawley last year.  Planted a load of seeds this year, just started to poke through thanks to Mr. Pitti

Literati White Pine of mine at BSA this year, Katsumeisho pot, John Brocklehurst Stand. Shameless self promotion.  The tree is still only young, but give it another 50 years...

Clip and grow is such an outdated technique, you get much quicker results wiring them branches and putting loads of movement in them.

Thanks for the inspiration there Colin.

Stay elegant people


  1. I agree about the bonsai obesity craze. Another questions to ask is "do those trees actually look real?". I have to admit I used to really like that style, but after being in Japan a while and getting a better understanding of "good bonsai", fat trunk squatty trees don't do much for me. Shohin are a different story. Understated elegance is what does it for me. We could always hang some "truck balls" from the edge of our stands if we really wanted to make a statement : ).
    Owen Reich

  2. Owen,
    Who's making bonsai Truck Nuts! I must have a pair! Maybe bronze?
    Nice post Peter. Elegance in bonsai has definitely taken the backseat to big trunks. Like Owen implied, I also dig them on shohin, however, and I think perhaps the decline of slender, elegant 10 to 1s correlates remarkably to the rise in popularity of Shohin in Japan.
    That Tofukuji that the Tomentosa is in is awesome! Much pricier than Chips!

  3. Hi Peter,

    thank you for sharing. I have reshared one of your trees on facebook, with link to your site. Hope you don't mind.


  4. Thank you for this post! These trees look like they should be Japanese paintings! beautiful! BTW, I have sumac here naturally and was wondering what they might look lke as bonsai. Thank you for the inspiration1 They are beautiful!