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 Post subject: An unusual species: shohin horse chestnut
PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:37 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:06 am
Posts: 580
Location: Seattle, WA
Hello everyone,
In general, I like to work with speces that are proven to be good for bonsai rather than deliberately seeking out those species that people think are hard to work with. This is for good reason and like many I learned the hard way early on in my bonsai education. The vast majority of my attempts at iconoclasticism ended in mediocre bonsai, dead bonsai, or both.
That said, there are a few species that I find so deeply endearing that I'm willing to try to work with them. One of my favorites is the horse chestnut; it brings back wonderful memories of playing around these trees as a child, and the spring green of their leaves is practically unrivaled (though the linden tree gives them a good run for the money).
Here is an effort at developing a shohin horse chestnut. The tree is less than 8" from the bottom of the pot to the apex. It is not anywhere near one of my best trees, and it certainly isn't really ready for show yet. The pot is too big. The ramification (incredibly slow to build up at the shohin scale for this species) is only as far as secondary branching. Though I've got the root system finally into shape, that has yet to start producing any flare at the nebari. And so in all of those ways, this image might seem inappropriate for this website.
Nonetheless, I wanted to post this image to a website about bonsai as art for a very specific reason. For me, this tree exists to capture one thing for one brief moment in time: I love the unfolding spring leaves of this tree. Each year, the leaves of this tree grow and grow through the month of April until by mid May every leaf is roughly the size of my hand, the size of the entire canopy as shown here. As we head into the summer, those oversized leaves spot brown and yellow in the heat, the tree looks battered and unkempt, and the overall image has very little to recommend it.
But for just a few days each year --- a week, at the most --- while the leaves are just starting to fill with life like the wings of a newly-emerged butterfly, this tree represents something extremely beautiful to me. This afternoon, the tree was in precisely that state and rain dried up long enough for me to take a photograph to share with you.
I think of it almost more as accent plant than a traditional tree, in the sense that its time (1) so ephemeral and (2) that it is not all a scale representation of a real tree. For the rest of the year, I keep this tree around to enjoy that week, much as one might with a wisteria. I would not want most of the trees in my garden to be of this type, a non-traditional species in an atypical style with foliage that only looks good for a few days a year, before it really opens. Still, I enjoy this little horse chestnut, a volunteer seedling that I dug from the lawn on the first day I moved in my current home in Seattle, and this year it has finally come along far enough that I'm happy to share a photograph here.
With my best regards,

2006_04_leaves_emerging_small.jpg [51.35 KiB]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 12:02 am 

Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:29 am
Posts: 515
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Thank you, Carl. I derive a similar pleasure from my Ficus virens, when the new leaves come in. For ten days or so they are a gorgeous bronzed pink colour, which soon hardens into dark green leaves that are 5 to 6 inches (12 - 15cm) long.
Despite the fact the tree is a 5 trunk clump style that stands a metre tall the leaves still overpower it, as summer wears on.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 8:49 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
I am very glad to see this horse-chestnut tree here. I am also very fond of this species.
It's always up to the viewer's imatination, but to me, this young tree quickly becomes an abstract representation of a mature tree, if only had about three more leaves around the top, to make the crown fuller and rounder. In my mind's eye, the veins turn into secondary branches, and the lobes into tightly-grown foliage pads. And so, I don't see the large leaves as a problem anymore.

 Post subject: Pleasure
PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:20 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
Some trees give the kind of pleasure described, and only for a few days a year. It is worth growing them if it releases such emotions for the owner. The tree might lack all other qualities, but it does not matter if you are happy with it. That?s part of the bonsai joy too. Not all trees in the collection needs to be exhibit worthy all year round.
Kind regards
Morten Albek

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