'Bonsai Life Histories'
by Martin Treasure
Firefly Books: 144 pp., $35.00
Reviewed by Paul Stokes*
Martin Treasure has won a number of bonsai awards, in his pursuit of bonsai artistry. He displays a remarkable knack for turning rough urban collected and nursery stock into bonsai.
This book 'Bonsai Life Histories' is not only easy to read but gives a brief overview of the design process of each of more than fifty bonsai trees, from urban collected stock or nursery stock which he has transformed into bonsai. Although, there are no "masterpiece" bonsai to be seen in this book, there are many on their way to being one. Whilst I feel this book could have done more, to cover the life history of each tree in more detail, I enjoyed the story Mr Treasure has added to each one. For those of us who already practice bonsai, we can easily relate to this personalization of his trees.
A third or so of the book contains very basic descriptions of the "bonsai basics" that so many other books have written about. These days, I feel this section could have been left out and more attention could have been given to the trees.
The best aspect of this book is the photo progressions portrayed, of trees being taken from acquired stock to bonsai. There are many color illustrations included by the author, as he takes you through the lives of his trees. Notes are included, describing some of the design processes employed for each tree. To me, it is always fascinating to see the life of a bonsai. This book will open your eyes to see what could be done with that nursery tree that you have just bought and cannot figure out what to do with it.
The author, or editor, has also insisted upon a number of small sections dedicated to displaying your bonsai, whether it is in you home or at an exhibition. They are really just a basic overview of each subject, and are good for introducing the reader to these other elements. They are of little interest to the experienced bonsai enthusiast, in my view.
By way of summary: This is a great book for someone who is new to bonsai or is exploring the subject. I have at times pulled this book off the shelf on the occasions where I need some encouragement with my own trees. It can be refreshing to see what can be done with rough stock.
*About Paul Stokes
This review was written by Paul Stokes, an amateur bonsai enthusiast from Madison, Wisconsin. A landscaper by trade, Paul has long been fascinated by the miniaturization of trees in pots. He has been involved with bonsai since 2000, when his girlfriend bought him a mini-bonsai starter kit for his birthday; he became a member of Badger Bonsai Society a year later. He is a regular and enthusiastic contributor to bonsai forums, and his current goal is to create a masterpiece bonsai.