Updated: Apr 13, 2020
RMBS Logo Ponderosa Pine circa 1980s. Artist Bob Kataoka.
The RMBS Logo Tree: Andy Berry
This legendary tree was widely regarded as international bonsai master Bob Kataoka's "best pine" by those who were fortunate to regard it's graceful beauty. The power of this bonsai derived from the near perfect combination of aged-worn gnarled bark, sinuous trunk movement and balanced semi-cascade style foliage arraignment (reflective of the traditional Japanese style). The pairing of these traditional Japanese sentiments with a Colorado indigenous pine (largely unproven as bonsai material during the 1960s) embodies the East-meets-West philosophy which master Kataoka lived by. As one could ascertain by delving into the history of RMBS (English-speaking) arising from the "senior" Denver Bonsai Club (Japanese-speaking), this is quite like the story of our genesis and how we continue to practice the art of bonsai today.
In 1976, Kataoka's ponderosa pine was adopted as the logo for the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society, and remains an emblem of our connection to the Denver Bonsai Club, and nearly a millennium of bonsai art in Japan and the East. Bob Kataoka's passing in 1986 was mourned by an entire generation of bonsai practitioners, but his legacy and spirit live on in the lives of those he befriended and mentored, his bonsai which he lovingly maintained. Although the "logo pine" has been dead for over 20 years, just like Bob's other bonsai, it continues to be remembered fondly and inspires new artists to this day.
Following Master Kataoka's death, this tree suffered health issues and did not recover.
Reviving a Legend: From RMBS Past President Tom Anglewicz
In early 2017 Jeff Sczechowski, a fellow Boulder resident, announced that he and his family were moving to Santa Barbara where his wife was assuming a position with UCSB. He would drive a number of his bonsai to California with them. In an all-day session, in April, we repotted several of his large trees at my house, prior to his departure. The “demo tree”, a Ponderosa, was deemed (by Jeff) to be too large and sprawling to take with him, so he elected to donate the tree to RMBS, with the understanding that it would be initially styled once it was established and healthy (when we removed it from a growing box and put it into the mica pot that it’s currently in, it looked pretty weak and droopy). At the time, Jeff indicated that he would be comfortable with either Larry or me doing that styling. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that one of our visiting artists should do so, and I made that recommendation to Jeff. After the tree was established in its new container, it was heavily fertilized with Biogold from spring to fall.
Jeff’s other thought was that the tree lent itself to possibly being a kind of “clone” of the RMBS logo tree, which was designed by Bob Kataoka. This was largely because of a very long and powerful feature branch that strongly suggested a semi-cascade design. By the summer of 2018 the tree showed very good progress, with ample back-budding; however, I felt that it should continue to grow for another year before any work was done to it. After pulling it from my cold frame in late April of this year, it was clear to me that the tree was well established and vigorous, which is why I suggested it be utilized as the subject tree for Bjorn’s demo.
Prior to styling with primary branch on left
I discussed with Bjorn Jeff’s notion about mimicking the logo tree with this design, but I emphasized that it was his choice to determine the most appropriate design direction. He indicated that he thought the tree lent itself very well to a semi-cascade design but that it might be a “mirror image” of the logo tree. I must admit that I was surprised to find that he elected to remove the large feature branch that I had always envisioned as the “leader” for the cascade direction, but I understand why he did so. In compacting the profile of the tree, the primary branch structure is in better proportion to the scale of the trunk and trunk base. In essence, the overall design seems more comfortable in its reduced form; but it still retains the basic profile and character embodied in Kataoka’s logo tree, albeit in mirror image.
International bonsai artist Bjorn Bjorholm (eisai-en.com) has visitied RMBS to provide workshops and demonstrations for RMBS for the past 3-years. Bjorn is regarded as one of the United States premier bonsai professionals and his teaching is highly sought after. Please visit Bjorn's site for more information on bonsai instruction, products and guided tours of Japan.
Principal branch removed (on table). Defining branch will come from back to opposite side of pine.
Pine following initial styling. Defining branch movement accomplished with a guy-wire and protected by raffia. Bjorn envisions an even more compact design in this tree's future
Presently, the tree is back at my garden, where it will live in filtered sunlight for the next month or so. If it thrives for the balance of the year and through the winter (in the greenhouse), We can evaluate whether to put it into a more appropriate container next spring.