Bonsai Summer Festival: Part 3

Summer Bonsai Festival 

In my previous post I wrote about the Summer bonsai Festival organized by the Nippon Bonsai Sakka Kyookai Europe (NBSKE) of wich I have been a member for a couple of months and am so excited to be part of. If you missed my previous post go to Part 1 and Part 2 to see more.

The last part of the week was dedicated to the National Congress of the NBSKE. Again the trees and compositions were rearranged, and the focus of this last part of the week went to the real art of Bonsai: Improve your bonsai with Sensei Isao Fukita; how to set up the Tokonoma; demonstration of bonsai technique with the contribution of the expert members of NBSKE and Sensei Fukita; for those interested teacher Fabio Smolari did some Taiji in the morning and prof. Aldo Tollini gave a very interesting conference on the Arts and ways of Japanese culture.
 
Well, since Sensei Fukita was there, I tried to apply my very sparse Japanese to impress, but I grandly failed with pleasant appreciation from his side: I told him “kombawa” instead of “domo arigato”. For the record: good night instead of thank you! He laughed with affection!

Of course the new shimpaku bought at Otti’s nursery had to be restyled, and Sensei Fukita did a great job, well… what else could one expect! Sensei Isao Fukita  was born in 1966 in Hirosaki in the province of Aomori. In 1983 he became a pupil of Sensei Kunio Kobayashi at Shunkaen. In 1990, after the loss of his father, he had to leave Shunkaen and returned home to carry on the family tradition as bonsai Master in Kashoen. At the Nihon Bonsai Sakufu-Ten he received, for three consecutive years (1994-1996) the Association Hana Ippai first prize, Satsuki section. In 1998  he received the award from the Mainichi Shinbun for first style Bunjin at the Sakufu-Ten. In the same year he travels to San Francisco to give Bonsai conferences. In 1999, at the Sakufu-Ten he archives the award from the Japanese Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

It was nice to see a Japanese sensei at work, he sweated a lot bending two pinus silvestris!
After dinner Prof. Aldo Tollini, a great expert of Japanese culture and our translator, held a really interesting conference about the arts and ways of Japanese culture. “le arti e le vie nella cultura giapponese” the Arts and Ways in japanese culture. Basically; the perfecting of the imperfect, the path of the art brings illumination, the heart searches for perfection in exterior forms, the correct exterior form corrects the heart. The concept of wabi, the Kibishiza drama. Really interesting.
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Saturday, a very interesting conference/exchange of opinions about the preparation of the Tokonoma. I am sure everybody knows what a Tokonoma is. In English, Tokonoma is usually called alcove (quelle: Wikipedia). For bonsai enthusiasts a display in the Tokonoma should be the ultimate goal while planning the plant. When a composition is finished/styled/restyled or even just preparing for the next show, it should be displayed in the Tokonoma to see the flaws and qualities of the plant, for the choice of the right shitakusa (accent plant) and the kakejiku (Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy), in order to choose the right table or jiita (a wooden or bamboo flowerpot saucer). 11 exhibitors and master members presented their own interpretations in the Tokonoma.  Once more, a very interesting exchange of opinions, and the President of NBSKE Lorenzo Agnoletti recited a poem? Very touching.
 
I travelled home on Sunday and missed the demo of my Sensei Nicola Crivelli and a Yamadori workshop with Lorenzo Agnoletti but my new friends told me it was really special.
This was my 3 part series on the Bonsai Summer Festival. Hope you all enjoyed it and hope I brought you some japanese bonsai culture in your heart and in your soul.
 
I had a wonderfull week, I meet lots of lovely people, I learnes su much about bonsai art, I really had a great time and wanted to thank all the members of NBSKE for organizing such an amazing event. I really hope to repeat this experiance also next week.
 
….love, Melanie!
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The Art of Kusamono

Ever since I started out with Bonsai I wondered what those grasses and weeds were doing near the bonsai? In fact for a neophyte it’s not immediately clear and if you don’t ask, nobody will give you an answer. To find out you could take a workshop or a private course or a University course as I am doing.
A couple of elements in the Tokonome: the main tree, the scroll and the shitakusa

A couple of elements in the Tokonoma: the main tree, the scroll and the shitakusa

Why should a small little pot with some green inside be a companion to the tree? This companion plant is not really a Kusamono but it’s called Shitakusa (“shita” meaning under, below and “kusa” meaning grass, weed) and it evokes the season in which the tree is exposed. A flowery Shitakusa evokes spring, an airy grass evokes the summer, and a rusty, brown grass evokes the fall, just as grass with fruits will. I am still very new to the Bonsai world but this can be a big help when you visit the next Bonsai show. Also; sorry, but no Bonsais in this post folks!
This is one of Nicola Crivelle juniper's. It shows it in the Tokonoma at every season of the year. Guess which season?

This is one of Nicola “Kitora” Crivelli juniper. He shows it in the Tokonoma at every season of the year. Guess which season?

Back to Kusamono which, by the way, is displayed alone in the Tokonoma with a Tenpai (small little figure) and/or a Kakejiku (Japanese scroll). It’s very important in Japanese Bonsai art to display the tree when it’s finished and has matured to its best. So, for instance, if you have to show a juniper, which is always green, in winter it’s a good idea to have a nice Shitakusa that gives a wintery feeling and maybe a Kakejiku picturing a snowed mountain. The same applies to Kusamonos. Again, it’s displayed alone as the main item with a Tenpai and/or a Kakejiku only when it’s mature; at least 3-5 years old.
This Kusamono is showed alone. The scroll evokes the melting snow and the cute tenpai (the litte badger figure) evokes the end of lethargy

Kusamono are showed alone. The scroll evokes that is still cold and the cute tenpai (the litte badger figure) evokes the end of lethargy. Spring!!

At the Swiss Bonsai Show I went to last May, Paolo Giai gave a demonstration of Kusamono and I was thrilled to try this at home myself. Kusamono (“mono” meaning object, thing) is a composition of different grasses, so at first you have to be sure that the grasses come from the same area: swamp, alps, lakes, dry areas and so on. Basically it’s a hint of a piece of nature that you could find in the wild! Ideally, it would be displayed in a round, shallow pot because in the course of the years the front may change, but there are other typologies of Kusamono; on a plate, exposed roots or as mentioned before, in a round pot.
Paolo Giai with his finished Kusamono

Paolo Giai with his finished Kusamono

the same Kusamono a couple of months later

the same Kusamono a couple of months later

The soil is a mixture (in ratio 50/50) of waste of sieved Akadama and universal soil, also sieved. A small amount of 3-5 mm Akadama soil will be placed at the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes. Kusamono are not fixed with wire and will be placed in a shadowy area of the garden, not in full sun. Fertilization is done in moderation with a liquid fertilizer on a ratio of 3/9/9 plus microelements 2 times a year to avoid a speedy growth and not to lose the smallness of the leafs. A re-pot is made every 2-3 years depending on the composition.
Make sure to choose grasses that aren’t too flashy, with small flowers and small fruits. Lastly: the compositions are endless!! So go out in the wild and collect or take some inspirations or you can do as I did and go buy the plants at your next door gardening shop.
This is very little, very rudimental information about how to create and cultivate Kusamono and here is my first composition:
Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry, Paolo gave it to me as a gift, thank you pal), a Calamagrostis acutiflora (Reed Grass) and Epimedium x versic (Bicolor barrenwort).
My very first Kusamono

My very first Kusamono

What do you think of my very first Kusamono composition?
…love, Melanie!!
PS: I will like to thank Nicola for giving me permision to use his pictures as an example.