Studio Stories – National Bonsai Society Raft demo

Sometimes I work on nursery trees, sometimes I work on client’s trees……and sometimes if I’ve been a really good boy I get to work on my own trees. Hopefully these regular visits will give you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors……….

Studio Stories – National Bonsai Society Raft demo

A few weeks ago I was asked by the National Bonsai Society if I could help them out. A speaker was unable to attend their next meeting and as I had been running a bonsai school for the society this year they wondered if I could step up to the breach at short notice.

One of the topics they were interested in seeing was a raft style landscape planting and could I oblige? It’s not the ideal time for doing a raft planting because of the root disturbance involved so I had to try and look for something that would overcome this problem.

Amongst my pot collection I found a substantial landscape pot originally made by William Vlanderan and subsequently modified by one of my students. The large hollow in this pot would enable me to plant the rootball of the raft tree with minimal disturbance. Stones projecting at one side of the pot could be incorporated into the landscape design.

Next I had to find a tree which offered potential for creating a raft style forest. I was lucky…..almost immediately I stumbled on two Juniper Communis at the front of the nursery that had been there for several years. The branches on one in particular had been allowed to extend to promote vigour but now the foliage mass was really too far away from the impressive short trunk.

I reallly thought I could do something with this tree and it would be the best use of the material because almost all of the foliage would be retained. To save time on the demo evening I tried to identify which branches I thought I would be using and asked my helpers to wire them ready.

I was generally pleased with how the demo went. I encountered some problems……one was getting the rootball as far to the left as possible because I needed the forest to take up the whole slab and not just half of it. One of the trunks I wanted to use was too high out of the ground so I had to build it up to blend it in and create depth.

The whole thing was brought together with the help of keto, a few rocks and some moss. I am really pleased with the outcome considering the whole thing was prepared and executed at such short notice. Some windows of bark were cut away underneath the trunks to encourage them to form new roots so that the original rootball can be removed in the future.

The planting has a real natural landscape feel about it especially with the varying heights and trunk thickness of the trees together with their placement following traditional group planting guidelines. I must admit I get a lot of pleasure just looking at this new creation!

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Memory Lane – When the accent plant is not just a plant!

Looking back….we can tell a tree’s story…..admire an image…..capture a moment…..remember a special event…..be inspired – to create a memory for tomorrow.

I hope you enjoy this regular peep into some of John’s bonsai history.

Memory Lane – When the accent plant is not just a plant!

Bonsai exhibitors use an accent plant or kusamono as part of their display to help compose a picture for the viewer. To provide additional information such as suggesting a season or the location where the tree on display is growing.

The addition of a scroll to the display can provide even more information and help to complete the picture the exhibitor has in mind. it helps the viewer to study the tree on display in a completely different light.

Bonsai display accompaniments are not restricted to plants and exhibitors are constantly adding to their repertoire. This whole concept makes a bonsai exhibition much more interesting for the visitor and when the combination of tree, scroll and accompaniment really works the overall effect can be simply stunning…..you will know it when you see it!!!

Below are just a few pictures of some of the accompaniments that were used at our Newstead Bonsai Exhibitions in 2008 and 2010. Take note next time you visit a bonsai exhibition and see what you can be inspired to create yourself.

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Classroom Corner – Derek’s Tanuki Juniper

An open window into the comings and goings of students and their trees attending our regular weekend and midweek bonsai classes under the ever watchful eyes of John Hanby.
Classroom Corner – Derek’s Tanuki Juniper

Derek recently brought his Tanuki Juniper Blue Alps to a class for advice on it’s progress. This tree really has come on immensely.

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of some of Derek’s old photographs showing how this tree started out. A piece of driftwood from an aquarium shop and a Blue Alps Juniper from a local garden centre.

I believe he started working on this project some 6/7 years ago….and what an amazing job he has done. I have helped him in the past with some pruning and branch selection but the transformation he has achieved really is first class.

The tree had reached the stage where it could now be pinched on a regular basis and you can see the result with the density of the foliage clouds. The problem now is that some of the branches /clouds are simply too big. As you can see in the pictures I was soon able to take care of that!

The tree has now become lighter and much taller. It will be rewired over the winter so that the branches can be opened out and the foliage clouds clearly identified. We will then discuss a programme of growth, pinching and pruning for the next growing season.

Excellent job Derek!……..

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