Post #500 – Kokufu-ten

Tony Tickle:

Great Blog, you guys should follow

Originally posted on Bonsai Tonight:

A little over five years ago I started this blog – and today marks my 500th post. I’ve come a long way since my first post , and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all for joining in the fun along the way. Now over 5,000 photos, 2,000 comments, 3,000 followers and a million post-views later, I’d like to share some photos from the world’s most prestigious bonsai exhibit, the Kokufu-ten.

Those of you who have visited the Kokufu-ten, or National Bonsai Exhibit, will recognize the scene below – lots of people vying for a better view of outstanding bonsai.


View from above – Kokufu-ten #88, February 2014

For those of you who have yet to visit the exhibit, I can say that it’s simply a treat. Hundreds of superb trees are on display in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum each February. For details about the event…

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Saving an ancient Oak tree in the 1950′s

Full Oak treeIn the 1950s my father-in-law Geoff Duckworth, was the assistance chief engineer for Ramsbottom District Council. One of his responsibilities was the construction of new roads as the town began to expand. The widening of Summerseat Lane was needed as a new housing Estate was in the planning, the route of the existing lane would have required the felling of an ancient oak tree. The idea of tree preservation was a introduced in 1947 and was yet to be widely adopted throughout the United Kingdom.

My father-in-law recognised this tree was important and also beautiful, and insisted that it be saved for future generations. This meant changing the route of the road, so instead of going behind the tree the new road went in front, is also softened the corner. The old lane is now overgrown (see photo) and runs behind a house built in the 1970s.

GrandpaI estimate that the trees over 250 years, it has been thoughtfully maintained over the last 50 years and has matured into a pleasing silhouette, with excellent trunk movement… quite Bonsai’ish. My son Sam considers it a tree perfect for climbing and as William, in the “Just William” stories proclaimed, “there are two types of tree, those you can climb and those you cannot.”

This majestic Oak is part of the history of the village, I am proud that there is a link between an ancient English Oak and my children, and the legacy left by Grandpa.

Take a look on Google maps here.

The Old overgrown Lane the New Road Sam and Grandpa inside the Oak

Potting an old Yamadori Yew to encourage growth

George Yew march 2014George 1This is a very old Yew collected in 2010, it is a tree that I visited on the hill many times before the tree was collected, and one that I took students to as an example of a ‘real’ yamadori in the wild. It was never my intention to collect this tree, as it was very long, it was growing directly in a rock crevice on a cliff face with no foliage close to the base of the tree.

Whilst visiting the tree at the end of April 2010 I noticed that it had fallen from its lofty position and was being held in place by a very small section, the fierce weather that winter had dislodged the rock that was gripping the tree and the whole could at any time fall to the valley below.

tree fallen out of cliffThere was only one course of action, ‘Save the tree’ and this took place the next day. Four friends, two on ropes and one helping with passing tools etc. helped me. The tree came away in less than ten minutes as 95% of it was hanging in mid air… But with little root as most had snapped off in the winter storms, what you see in the photo are dead roots that have been exposed to the weather for many months, you can see where the large rocks have fallen away.

After the second year I removed the top of the tree after encouraging new buds lower down the trunk, this was done by slicing the live vein 2cm above the buds to stop the flow of sap and force it to the weaker buds, this worked remarkably well and will callus over at a later date.

The new grown lower down the trunk is now very strong. I have planted the tree in a much larger container to give free root growth to thicken branches and to place the tree closer to the final design I am after. The potting mix is 60% Pumice 20% Acadama and 20% Kiryu.

Tony with Yew on his Backbig Yew other side

deadwood and thick vein strong new growth new growth deadwood and live vein

Listen to Mark Cooper talking about this Gekkou Ito shohin pot

Mark and Ritta Cooper has set the bar very high for the quality of their Shohin displays, I interview Mark about this amazing Gekkou Ito Pot that was on display at Willowbog BSA show March 2014



Creating a New Branch by splitting and repositioning on a Yew.

Yew Tanuki 1

I have been developing this Tanuki over the last six years and the live is thickening up well although it has many years of growth before I would consider this a ‘convincing’ bonsai. The host tree is a piece of Yew I collected on my travels and the ‘scion’ is also Yew, the perfect match!

Fitting the scion to the host was done via a ‘keyhole’ groove and the Yew whip inserted; it has grown out and is firmly attached.

The tree has been growing well however there was a very straight section that was disturbing to the eye; also all the foliage was at the top of the tree, I needed a lower branch! The solution was to split a branch away and strip it down the trunk creating a Shari, adding interest to the ‘boring’ section.

This was done using a small branch splitter working my way from the top down to the lower part. To ensure that the split section did not break away I secured a small piece of hose with wire this also held in place two copper wires that were fitted along the length of the split that would help keep the thin section from damage during bending.

The whole section was then tightly wrapped with wet raffia and then self-amalgamating black tape. Carefully bending and twisting I positioned the ‘new’ branch into position under the deadwood. All the exposed edges of live were then covered with cut paste to help callusing and to stop infection.


2014 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition– Part 2

Tony Tickle:

part two

Originally posted on Valavanis Bonsai Blog:




On Sunday, February 9, 2014 Part 2 of the 88th Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition opened in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno Park. On Saturday all of the nearly 300 bonsai were removed and replaced with new masterpieces. Now, I’ve been at more Kokufu Bonsai Exhibitions than I remember and I’m still amazed at the number of new bonsai which are displayed each year. There are a few repeats, but most of the trees are new. I wonder how many masterpieces are out there in Japan, but remember, new specimens are always being created while old masterpieces pass on.

Part 2 also had 170 displays, 26 important bonsai masterpieces and 55 medium size bonsai. There were again only 5 shohin bonsai compositions. The judges selected 6 Kokufu prize bonsai for Part 2.


Kokufu Sho Award, Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora



Kokufu Sho Award, Japanese black pine, Pinus…

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