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 Post subject: Book Review: 'Bonsai Todays' Master Series - Pines'
PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 1:19 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
'Bonsai Today Master Series - Pines
Growing & Styling Japanese Black and White Pines'

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Compiled and edited by Wayne Schoech and Michael Persiano and the Staff of Bonsai Today
Stone Lantern Publishing: 184 pp., $29.95
Reviewed by Will Heath*

When I first received this book and settled back to read it, I felt some slight regret that I had ordered it. A compilation of articles from previous issues of Bonsai Today did not seem very exciting to me, as I already have every back issue available and I use them often for reference or inspiration.

However, my reservations quickly disappeared when I realized that the book had been edited to include information not in the original articles. This work is aimed at the intermediate to advanced bonsaist, though it is easily absorbed, owing to the clarity of expression to be found in these pages. The layout, organization, photographs and illustrations all combine to make this book a great reference and informational tool for anyone growing Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora) or Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) bonsai.

In particular, the article on developing shorter needles was of particular practical importance. Originally from Bonsai Today issue #2, the eight pages of this section covers balancing energy, shoot pruning, needle thinning, and bud removal among other techniques. It also included a real life example, with pictures of the techniques being used on a pine over the course of a year. Pines are the hardest species to learn how to style and maintain, but the easiest to look after, once you have learned the necessary techniques.

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The book is divided into 16 comprehensive chapters on all aspects of the necessary skills for preparation and maintenance of pine bonsai, from needle and candle reduction methods to seed stratification, showing, superfeeding and shari. If there is an aspect of pine bonsai not covered in this manual then it's possible it doesn't deserve to be here. It's also nice to see some of the stilted language and jerkiness due to translation of the articles in the older, original material has been smoothed out, so the content flows much more readily.

The 300 color photographs and illustrations fill in where the text leaves off, helping to show the techniques used and to further explain the authors' thoughts. Although each article assumes a certain degree of basic knowledge, as did the original articles, the articles were obviously selected to cover complementary aspects of pine bonsai. Overall, it is a comprehensive guide and reference for the intermediate or advanced bonsai artist or for very daring beginners.

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Articles were contributed by such luminaries as Masahiko Kimura, Takashita Yosiaki, Michael Persiano and several other masters of pine bonsai. It also presents several galleries of both Japanese White and Black Pine bonsai.

For the artist in us looking to appreciate bonsai mastery or for those seeking inspiration, this book has galleries of both black and white pines filled with quality photographs of master class bonsai. Unlike many books that seem to showcase poorly designed bonsai or none at all, this book has the proof to go with the text.

In my opinion it is indeed "the definitive book on Japanese black and white pine bonsai." I certainly hope the other additions to the "Master Series" are as educational and informative as this one. This book is definitely worth the purchase price.

My only criticism is of the paperback cover. A hard cover, bound nicely, would be far more fitting for a work of this value.



* About Will Heath

[size=9]** Pictures used with permission of Stone Lantern Publishing


Last edited by Will Heath on Sat Mar 15, 2008 8:19 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 1:44 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 26, 2005 4:02 pm
Posts: 11
Location: Chester, NJ
My reaction was remarkably similar to Will's. I thought, I've read all of these articles and was was really hoping to learn something new about JWP, especially. And, I guess an organized compendium of this most important bonsai variety has great value -- I've already gone back and read it twice.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 11:18 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:29 am
Posts: 515
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Popular review, Will. Something remarkably similar has turned up at another online forum, in the last 24 hours.
Nice to see AoB setting the pace for the online bonsai community.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:32 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
Great review Will! I received my copy as a Christmas gift. As a novice not having read the entire Bonsai Today Collection, I was pleased that nonetheless someone took the time to compiled the information under one cover. It is unfortunate to see that information may be loss because of the snobery of some artist at times. The book was indeed posted on several sites, with reviews similar to the one Will provided us. Some folks chose to trash the book as merely a repeat of previous articles.

I believe we all need to remember that for our beloved passion to grow and be passsed down through generations, we need to nurture and educate the novice. I found the book well written and descriptive, two extremely important criterias, for someone starting out. It is further my opinion, "Pines" is indeed a must have if one is to cultivate pines and render bonsai in years to come.


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 Post subject: It's not worth it to me.
PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 1:23 pm 
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Posts: 5
I've seen people recommending this book on other forums and to friends at club meetings. For me, I can't get past the fact that I would be paying to read the same thing I have already paid to read in a different form. None of this information is new, and the fact that they included a few new photos and galleries, all of which have most likely appeared in one or another BT, does not persuade me either.

Black Pine culture is different in the US than in Japan, the tree is not as well adapted to weather in many parts of our country. If you take the seedling articles that appeared in BT#12 and #20 and try to follow them to the letter you will find yourself falling behind almost immediately. Is this because nobody can follow the instructions? No, it's because the tree doesn't grow as well in our climate. This applies to all the articles in this book. Not only that, there are no wild JB pines to be collected in the US, so it will be a hundred years or more before anyone has trees of comparable quality to the ones that appear in the galleries.

What we need in this country (Pardon, I'm in the US) is a publisher and writers that make original content. Bonai Europe makes original content, BT makes some, but for the most part simply translates Japanese articles. Look at the travel logs that Walter Pall is posting to various forums; there is enough bonsai going on in the US to make a magazine that is really from the US, not just a transplanted one. It could instruct people on how to cultivate ponderosa or lodgepole pine, so that the level of bonsai in the US could be elevated to an equal or higher level with Europe and Japan.


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 Post subject: Re: It's not worth it to me.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2006 11:45 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
Hi Eric,
You make some good points here and I hope you do not mind if I address a few of them.
Eric Schrader wrote:
I've seen people recommending this book on other forums and to friends at club meetings. For me, I can't get past the fact that I would be paying to read the same thing I have already paid to read in a different form. None of this information is new, and the fact that they included a few new photos and galleries, all of which have most likely appeared in one or another BT, does not persuade me either.


I thought the same way when I first received this book but my mind was quickly changed for a number of reasons, the first being that every article is not an exact reprint at all. The articles have been re-written and edited to a great extent. The older issues of BT used very poor translations from the original language which made them very hard to read and understand. This book is very easy to read and understand now and there was a lot of research done, and as a result, there is a good deal of new information in each article.

I have almost every issue of BT myself and besides the fact that the book contains re-written and more legible articles, it is worth the asking price alone for having all the articles grouped into one source which is far easier to use as a reference than trying to find the articles separately in a hundred issues.

Eric Schrader wrote:
Black Pine culture is different in the US than in Japan, the tree is not as well adapted to weather in many parts of our country. If you take the seedling articles that appeared in BT#12 and #20 and try to follow them to the letter you will find yourself falling behind almost immediately. Is this because nobody can follow the instructions? No, it's because the tree doesn't grow as well in our climate. This applies to all the articles in this book. Not only that, there are no wild JB pines to be collected in the US, so it will be a hundred years or more before anyone has trees of comparable quality to the ones that appear in the galleries.


This is of course true in the broad sense you mentioned but also in a more narrow sense of micro climates and even the climate differences here in the U.S. For example Black Pine Care in the Pacific Northwest differs greatly from that here in Michigan. Southern Michigan Black Pine Care differs greatly from that In the northern part of the state as well.

The experienced person can adjust the techniques and the timing thereof to their own climate, the inexperienced at least gets a nice reference book of the techniques if not the timing of such. Short of having a book that contains 60 or so articles on the same subject but all geared toward one climate each......I see no alternative.

Eric Schrader wrote:
What we need in this country (Pardon, I'm in the US) is a publisher and writers that make original content. Bonai Europe makes original content, BT makes some, but for the most part simply translates Japanese articles. Look at the travel logs that Walter Pall is posting to various forums; there is enough bonsai going on in the US to make a magazine that is really from the US, not just a transplanted one. It could instruct people on how to cultivate ponderosa or lodgepole pine, so that the level of bonsai in the US could be elevated to an equal or higher level with Europe and Japan.


We do need more of it, I agree. However, this can not be blamed so much on the publishers, they are more than willing to publish articles from artists in the U.S., the problem is that artists in the U.S. are not submitting articles. I know this first hand as I have had articles published in Bonsai Today, the ABS Journal, and many newsletters and have seen that the publishers are incredibly thankful and appreciative. They also all had the same thing to say about acquiring content, they have a very difficult time getting bonsaists in this country to submit anything.

As an administrator here at AoB, I can also attest to this, we have an open door for article and gallery submissions and yet the majority of submissions are from other countries. So the imbalance you mention is not the fault of the publishers but instead the fault of bonsaist. AoB is an international forum, so this imbalance does not bother anyone here, however, the U.S. publishers have two choices, print all the quality articles that are submitted, or publish a magazine with few if any local submissions.

Again, these U.S. Publishers would love to concentrate on the American scene, however, the bonsaists themselves need to take a stand and submit the articles, the pictures, the galleries.

It reminds me of the guy who always complained about not winning the lottery but never once bought a ticket. I am a firm believer that if we want to see more information on the American scene, we need to start creating it.

Kind regards,

Will Heath


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:32 am 
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Location: Los Angeles, California
I have almost the whole collection of BT magazines, but I wouldn't have the time and determination to try to go through thousands of pages and find the pertinent articles. This book saves me all that trouble.

And, how many of the newer bonsai enthusiasts have all the BT collection anyway. I suspect, very few. For them, the book can be a source of information that they otherwise could't get anywhere.

Japanese black pine, like any tree, doesn't grow everywhere, but here in Southern California where I live it grows like weed. And the growing season here is so long that I constantly have to keep an eye on them. The techniques described in the book apply to them very well and after reading the book I didn't think for a minute that this is information useful only to the Japanese.

If we were to follow Eric's opinion about writing only original content, there would be very few new books on the market today. Pretty much everything that I've read in the past 5 years has been written about or shown somewhere else before. Bonsai, unlike the information technology, isn't loaded with new discoveries every day. The body of information is slowly growing and improving, but does it at a snail's pace. People need this information to be presented to them in accord with a contemporary, practical, and common sense approach to bonsai. And this is where a new book can bring value to the reader.

I also think that the area having the best future in bonsai literature is the one introducing new species in the group of traditional bonsai species. I would like to see books specialized on certain promising species, written by people with a long experience with those species. Ponderosa pine, Coast redwood, or Bald cypress are just a few coming to mind. Each of these have particular characteristics that need to be taken into consideration when training for bonsai. And they are not necessarily found in the Japanese-centered literature. Here, as Eric said, there is room for new content.


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 Post subject: articles and publishers
PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:10 am 
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I'll admit that I have never submitted an article to Bonsai Today or any other magazine...I just don't think that I'm qualified to be telling other people how to grow their bonsai. But, I do write articles for my site which could probably be expanded into something usable in a magazine. I just need to start taking more photos to complement the stories.

Will, I think that I'm working up to exactly what you suggest. Give me a couple years and I can start writing articles, but I'll have to start taking the photos now.


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