Bonsai trees in winter silhouette exhibits, are displayed without leaves. Showing trees without leaves may seem a little odd.
(I think you'll enjoy this page, however click here if you are looking for the Winter Bonsai Care page. )
“Grandpa, why don't these little trees have any leaves?"
"The idea is to observe and enjoy the amazing structures."
Young trees in nature rarely have lots of twigging in the branches and often have small trunks. Older trees overall have more detail to observe ... larger trunks, textured bark, strong branches with lots of ramification.
Silhouette is a special way of viewing these wonderful miniature trees. When there is an exhibit near you, take advantage of it.
(The bonsai photos in this section are courtesy of Baikoen member
Silhouette exhibits in Japan are not rare. Their introduction to the United States began in California.
The founder of the first Bonsai Trees in Winter Silhouette show in Los Angeles was Frank Nagata, a nurseryman and bonsai teacher who passed away in 1980 at the age of 90.
After Nagata's death, his daughter and son-in-law, Kay and Khan Komai, also bonsai teachers, decided to carry on the tradition of a winter exhibition of deciduous bonsai trees.
It is thought to be the first such show in the United States. Today it continues to be sponsored by the Baikoen Bonsai Kenkyukai study group.
In 1960, John Naka "saved" this pomegranate tree from destruction as the building of the Golden State Freeway was about to start.
John's wife Alice loved it and together they worked on it for many years. It was donated to the national collection in 1990.
Although beautiful in bloom, the winter silhouette is equally handsome!
I lived in South Florida for most of my bonsai life. There, bonsai in winter (for the most part) don't look much different than any other time of year.
Most of our plants were tropical, and the leaves stayed on all year. In the early days, tropical bonsai were never displayed without leaves.
The first time I saw a tropical presented this way, was by the late Joe Samuels with his Ficus nerifolia, "The Cloud."
Today, tropical bonsai trees in winter silhouette are more frequently shown (any time of year). The idea is not so much to look like winter, but to display the branch structure of well designed trees.