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The Shohin at the show PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
An article by one of our members on the special shohin bonsai section of the CBS' annual show.



For the first time our club show included a separate shohin bonsai section, which was considered a success.  Fifteen small trees were exhibited, of ten different species, in a variety of styles. (Fig. 1) Lack of space prevents a detailed discussion of each, but here are a few photos plus comments, just to whet the shohin appetite of all readers here.

This Pyracantha (Fig. 2) was “best of shohin”. Interestingly styled, with a good size trunk in relation to its height, good taper and branching, plus a nice movement, it was under 25 cm and could be held in the palm of one’s hand.

 There were two box, Buxus microphylla compacta, i.e. a species ideally suited to small bonsai. Fig. 3 shows a perfect, 11 cm. broom style tree with leaves no bigger than 1 – 2 mm., while in Fig. 4 the same species was styled as root-over-rock in a small saikei. An elegant little Kingsville box showed leaves almost as small.








Two Japanese maples, i.e. Acer palmatum, had leaves of no more than 1 – 2 cm, a remarkable reduction, with the tree in Fig. 5 showing a decent size trunk with a beautifully fluid movement. 
A small trident was styled as root-over-rock (Fig. 6),  with the roots clasping the stone in an exemplary way. (It ain’t easy to achieve this so well!)

We were indebted to Leigh Taafe (the only owner who can be named here) for contributing a dwarf Mugo pine (Fig. 7). A shohin section without a pine just isn’t complete. 

Also thanks to Leigh, there was even a Ginkgo (Fig. 8). This one is a dwarf cultivar with tiny leaves. In nursery trees it is grafted onto the full size stock and, from the looks of it, may help us to get away from the “pineapple style” so often adopted for this species.





Slightly above 25 cm was this Australian native, a dwarf  Baeckea virgata (Fig. 9 - name recently changed to Babingtonia virgata). Opinions vary, of course, but surely this was one of the most interesting trees in the whole of the club show. With the present fashion of “Big is Beautiful”, a bonsai like this is easily overlooked. One cannot help wondering sometimes what the excitement over “Big” does to objective bonsai appreciation in general….

There were also two charming Chinese elms (Ulmus parvifolia), a small dwarf azalea and a Potentilla fruticosa which was just coming into flower.





May I recommend as examples of suitable species, apart from the ones named above, the Shimpaku and other junipers, Cotoneaster of the small-leafed varieties, dwarf Chamaecyparis, and any of the small-leafed natives that you can get to survive in a small pot. But please remember that shohin is bonsai, and that the same aesthetic laws apply to  all bonsai, large or small!  A tree that is under 25 cm doesn’t become a shohin simply because of its height. Please refer to Fig. 1 for an example of desirable features. 

Special note: Pat Kennedy liked our shohin and has promised that the next time he appears in Canberra, it will be with a big selection of shohin pots! 


Fig 6


There is a chance that the shohin section will become a permanent feature of the CBS shows in future. Regardless, these little trees are worth exhibiting, be it in the traditional manner (Fig. 10) or in an open display (Fig. 1).


Lisa K                                                                  Canberra, October 15, 2008

























Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 October 2008 )
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