In early 2018, Jonas asked that I review much of the materials he was preparing for his new book, "The Little Book of Bonsai". He wanted to have a second set of eyes from the bonsai perspective, which I happily agreed to provide. Off and on from early 2018 through late 2019 I would get an email from Jonas with some list of photos he was planning, or a chapter of manuscript that he had written.
Some of the great things about Jonas’ book are that the text is very approachable, easily read in snippets, and still densely packed with information. In addition, the photographer and Jonas did a great job capturing key points visually. Photographed by David Fenton, the images are really nicely textured and detailed, and Jonas procured high-quality trees for the photo shoots. It was largely at his expense in time and driving that I have a few trees in the book.
After its release a couple weeks ago I got a chance to thumb through a copy for the first time. What I noticed pretty quickly was that some of my trees have already changed a lot since they were shot for the book. In the case of my Zelcova, I trimmed back the tree earlier this winter to reduce the size and prepare if for next growing season. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s noticeable; in preparation for the photo shoot for the book I had left many twigs slightly longer and repotted the tree into a show container.
The small corkbark elm that was so twiggy last winter had a bit of a problem this past summer, which ended up being a dry block of soil in the middle of the rootball. By the time I figured out what was wrong, a few tiny branches had died, and one primary branch also. To correct that, and to make the tree a bit more compact again, I tried doing just a selective thinning and cutback hoping that this might stimulate the buds I needed to re-fill the holes in the crown. Unfortunately, the tree didn’t bud where I wanted. I left it to grow the rest of the season, but in December I made the tough decision to remove nearly all the fine twigs, that way the tree will have to back bud everywhere! Looking at the two side by side I think perhaps I need to cut the top back a bit more also…
The third example is my slant Norway spruce, which appears on page 8 as an example of that style. In October of 2019 Jan Culek visited San Francisco and after some discussion we decided that the tree was looking a bit too much like a pine, and less like a spruce. The subsequent cutback, thinning, and structural corrections left the tree set for future improvement but without quite a refined look as what appeared at the time of the photo shoot. (I’ll leave it to your imagination.)
We have copies of The Little Book of Bonsai signed by Jonas available - pick one up for yourself or send it to a friend who’s interested in bonsai! I’ve started recommending it to my beginning students as a great and up-to-date resource.