Inspiration from Nature, Japanese Maple
Recently I took a visiting apprentice by the name of Lieuwe (from The Netherlands) to Nagoya Castle to look around. I’ve been there many times and thought that I’ve seen it all. It wasn’t till after we toured the castle that Lieuwe pointed out a group of Japanese Maples growing in the courtyard that caught his attention. I must have walked by them more than a dozen times and never even realize they were there. In a way, I felt embarrassed because it should have been something I spotted the first time I was there. I guess it’s better late than never and I have Lieuwe to thank. In this post, I’m going to share some interesting photos of these old Japanese maples and some characteristics they posses that we might normally not see. We can learn from these trees and perhaps if not already, incorporate them into our Japanese maple Bonsai design.
First Time Around
Lower branches of old Japanese Maples. From this first picture, what are some of the things you notice?…
My first impression and thought was, “what is this??” After a closer look, it turned out to be a group of Japanese maples and my next though was, “wow, they have individual pads and they are very flat.”
Here’s a closer look at one of the pads.
Here’s a side view of the pads. The weight of the pad has bent the main branches downwards.
Here is a look at the underside of the lower branches. Tapering branches to small branch tips. Elegant and serene.
A different angle of the underside of the main branches.
After I took these photos, Lieuwe and I walked around other parts of the compound and left for lunch. It was the end of July during that time and it was hot and raining.
We decided to reward ourselves with some steak! Lieuwe decided to go with the traditional Japanese pose for the photo. That was a nice day off for us! 😀 The restaurant was also air-conditioned which was just…. life affirming.
Second Go Around
When we got back home, I quickly showed the photos to Mr. Tanaka to see what his thoughts were. At first, I thought that the Maples were pruned that way, but Mr. Tanaka quickly said that that’s how old branches grow on Japanese Maples.
For the following weeks, I thought about those Japanese maples and wished I got more photos. The photos I did get sat in my computer for the time being until I could get more to write a decent post. 😉
So it wasn’t till the middle of August that I was able to get back to Nagoya Castle and get a few more shots of the trees. Lieuwe at this point has already gone back to The Netherlands. This time around, we have a new visiting apprentice by the name of Matej from Slovenia. Mr. Tanaka and I took him to the Castle and it was my chance to get more pictures!
Here’s Matej tackling this multi-trunk White pine!
The second time around, I was able to get much wider shots as well. Here is a bunch of flat pads that have formed close to each other. Again, these are the lower branches of the tree. Very pretty solar panels.
Here is a nice photo of the top of the trees. The middle and up of the trees tends to look more like the Japanese Maples I’ve seen at home. Branches growing upwards and some slightly coming downwards. For the most part though, many branches are growing up and out.
Here’s a shot of a tree trunk.
More shots of the underside of the branch.
Here’s the very top of the tree. Look familiar? This top portion is what most Japanese Maples (young) I’ve seen at home look like. Growing upwards and outwards.
Here’s Mr. Tanaka enjoying the shade
Every time I look at these pictures, I learn something more about Japanese Maples. This large example of an old tree gives me insights and thoughts to how I would like to style Japanese Maples in the future. Of course, depending on our personal taste, we can take these characteristics we see in nature and reproduce them in varying degrees. Some will accentuate different characteristics more so than others while some will demand the strictest reproduction of nature herself. Either way, I hope these photos have given you some ideas, changed or expanded your knowledge of Japanese Maples.
Here’s a tree at the nursery that reminded me a bit of the trees at Nagoya castle. The tree isn’t as wide but there are characteristics of lower branches hanging down and younger upper branches growing up and out.
Just for fun, here’s the tree last Fall. Where’s the extinguisher because this tree looks like it’s on fire!
Milwaukee in September
For those that don’t know, I will be back home in September for several weeks. During one of those weeks, I will be headlining the Milwaukee Bonsai Society 42nd Annual Show! It is a great honor for me that they would have me be their guest. So if you’re in the Milwaukee Area, please come on by and check out a great show, great events and great people. Events include, three workshops on Black Pines, Red Pines, and Shimpaku and two bring your own tree workshops. There will also be special night events for club members that include, A critique of the show, discussion on bonsai ceramics, and a discussion and demonstration on branch development. I hope to see you there!
For more information about the show, please click here
Thanks for reading!
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