When I visited Aichi-en in Nagoya last winter I gained a new appreciation for the beauty and strength of Japanese Black Pines. I worked on a couple of them during my stay there and have been shopping around for one (or a few) every since I got back. However, good JBP are hard to come across around here. Bonsai nurseries don’t really exist in the Toronto area – the bonsai community is too small to support them so most of our good material comes from the Canadian Wilderness. If you can find a JBP worth buying in the USA, you have to deal with the hassle of importing it. Regardless, good ones are very rare and usually very expensive since they are usually Japanese imports. Field grown ones are often grown quickly and it shows in their bark characteristic, taper, and scars.
Probably one of the best sources for JBP in Canada (if not the best) is Shikoku Bonsai near Vancouver, BC on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Gerald Rainville is the proprietor and had the foresight to begin growing a variety of species from seed something like thirty years ago. The tree I got from him is over 20 years from seed and shows the characteristics of a slow, container grown pine (no scars, nice fine bark, no monstrous roots).
Gerald was very helpful in providing information and extra pictures. His shipping methods are excellent and I feel that his prices are very reasonable considering the time that has already been invested in his plants. While this tree still has a long way to go in its bonsai-journey, I think that the development of the trunk thus far is excellent.
I really think we as Canadians are lucky to have someone who is patiently developing material like this. The best part is that the vast majority of his stock is not shown on his website. Gerald has told me that they are “not ready for sale” which really has me excited to see what else he has. A taste of it can be seen on his Facebook page. I definitely hope to visit his nursery one day.
Anyway, lets look at the tree I got.
The focus of this growing season will be inspecting the roots, repotting if necessary, and encouraging backbudding on the branches which have gotten a bit lanky.