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  • Writer's pictureTom Lau

GSBF Convention Headliner: Bjorn Bjorholm

I have to admit, I was abit awestruck when I first saw Bjorn walk by me on Friday afternoon. I have been following Bjorn on his Youtube channel Bjorvala Bonsai Studio: The Art of Bonsai in Japan for the past 4 years. I have to say he is very down to Earth in real life and has the same personality as on his Youtube channel.

Some background on Bjorn. He is originally from Tennesse. Bjorn spent nearly six years working at Mr. Keiichi Fujikawa's nursery, Kouka-en in Ikeda City. In 2015, he became a certified bonsai professional by the Japnaese Bonsai Association. He is currently on a World wind bonsai tour of the world and is looking forward in settling down some where in the East Coast with his own professional bonsai studio.

Saturday Morning Exhibit Hall Critique

I was able to attend the critique with Bjorn on Saturday morning, along with a whole host of people. Everybody was excited to be at this critique especially at 8:00am in the morning. He started around the room going counter-clockwise from a large California Juniper. At this display he was critiquing the overall display of the Foemina Juniper of Jim Barrett. He stated that the tree is non-directional and the accent plant could go either way. But, how it was planted in its pot with the negative space to the right of the plant that should have been the side of the accent. Unknown to him, it was on the right side and was moved by someone else before hand.

Another stop was this Komachi Hime Japanese Maple by Lindsay Shiba. He can be seen right in front of the camera shot. Bjorn explained that this Japanese Maple is a bit overgrown and will need to be pushed back for more inner growth. He did make a disclaimer that most Japanese Maples are shown for their winter silhouette and this one would be a good candidate. He also would like to see the apex of this clump style more refined by reducing and compacting the right side of the tree. Using his fingers he said, in Spring in Japan they would reduce the two leaf structure by removing 1 pair of leaves. This is to help facilitate back budding and encouraging inner growth of this Japanese Maple. He also suggested some root grafting to futher improve the nebari of the tree.

I was helping Ann Erb maintaining the exhibit trees and was too distracted to remember the other details from the other trees. Some common threads were that we pot our show trees in way to large of a pot. Some trees could have been detailed wire some more for shows. Finally, he has no idea about tropical trees because they are uncommon in Japan.

Tak Shimazu - California Juniper (grafted Itoigawa)

Steve Valentine - Brailizan Pepper

Side Notes: Bjorn did mention he had two favorite trees in the show. One belonging to Tak Shimazu for the quality of Kokufu-ten type shimpaku. Bjorn was impressed with the quality of the deadwood and the expert grafting technique. The other tree was Steve Valentine's Brailizan Pepper tree. This tree has a powerful trunk and nebari. Bjorn says it can easy make it into the Taikan-ten show and as Fujikawa-san would say 50/50 for Kokufu-ten show with some detail work. Keep it up Steve and Tak! Btw, did you know there was different types of Itoigawa foilage?! Course, medium and fine?! mind blowing I thought there were only one type Itoigawa!

Saturday Afternoon Demostration

After lunch Bjorn was back at work with a demostration working a Harry Hiaro collected California Juniper. I did not get a before picture, but it was a multiple trunk tree with multiple apexes. So this tree was going to be a problem child. I was only in the room for a short bit. But, he spent a large amount of time working on the basic shape of the tree and the foliage that was left over would be the foundation branches for the tree.

He laid each branch from the lowest branch and working up to the apex. Bjorn spend very little time wiring; most of the time was spent cleaning and jinning the deadwood. It was amazing to see how fast this man can really work. Throughout this demostration, Bjorn kept referring back to Fujikawa-san. He explains that everything he does now is a reflection of his time he spent in Japan and the honor it brings to the Kouka-en Nursery and Fujikawa-san.

Finalized Demostration Tree - Saturday Afternoon by Bjorn Bjornholm

This tree sold for $1800 at Saturday Night's Auction

Finalized Demostration Tree - Friday Morning by Bjorn Bjorholm

This tree sold for a staggering $4000 at Saturday Night's Auction!

Bjorn Bjorholm thank you for everything you brought to GSBF 2015 convention and we will see you again at GSBF 2016 convention in Sacramento!

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