Bonsai with Japanese Maples
Today it seems like many of the books written about our beloved bonsai hobby have one of two faults. Either they are too basic or too vague. While it is unquestionably important for beginners to have a simple and comprehensive resource from which they can learn the art, once they have advanced to an intermediate stage they find their initial material to be ineffective. These materials can also succumb to another defect. They are frequently too vague. It seems that the author tries to throw in a little info about every species known to man. This leaves much to be desired when the reader goes in search of species specific information.
In the realm of species specific material there are several qualities I look for. First, the book must contain basic care info that is specific to the species. Even better is when the author goes into detail about the care of the various cultivars of that species. Next, the author must include a complete and sequential development practice. Too often we find only information on styling “finished” specimen bonsai. Unfortunately, the majority of hobbyists (myself included), do not have the luxury of owning or working on established 60 year old specimen trees. Thus, it is important that the author start from seed so to speak. He must include a start to finish approach. Finally, in order to make a complete reference the author must include photographs and progressions showing REAL LIFE examples of the techniques detailed in the text. It is a rare thing when these things come together in harmony. Fortunately, this is exactly the case in Peter Adams’ Bonsai with Japanese Maples.
For myself, Peter Adams has created the most informative and useful species specific piece of material I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Bonsai with Japanese Maples contains all of the qualities previously outlined, all executed to perfection. Right out of the gate Adams gives a detailed account for the care of Japanese Maples. This includes positioning, correct soil mix, and watering techniques. Adams even goes above and beyond to detail these requirements for MANY of the available cultivars of Japanese Maples, including Trident maples.
While the care section of Bonsai with Japanese Maples is stellar it is not the book’s strongest suit. In his work Adams does an amazing job outlining the ENTIRE development of Japanese maples. From seed or cutting all the way to finished specimen Adams guides you along every step of the way. He does this by providing various techniques for achieving your ends and also includes several pitfalls that one might encounter along the way. Adams provides essential aspects of development such as the creation of perfect nebari using a drilled out china saucer as well as branch position, development and ramification; all of which is geared specifically to the Japanese Maple.
The final aspect of Bonsai with Japanese Maples that makes it stand out among all others are the case histories outlined. Adams includes actual photographs of the trees described as well as diagrams of the detailed work and even a representation for the vision of the specimen in 5-10 years. These real life examples illustrate the techniques that Adams describes so well and not only provide a visual frame of reference but also inspiration to the reader.
In conclusion, for ANY bonsai enthusiast that is looking to increase his knowledge of the beautiful and perplexing acer Palmatum, bonsai with Japanese Maples is an essential read. The detailed, complete, and accurate descriptions of care, training, development and styling techniques fully immerse the reader with knowledge of the techniques, the means by which to achieve them and most importantly, the inspiration and vision which will undoubtedly carry on to the reader and translate into success and understanding of their own endeavors with the Japanese Maple.