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Topical Times – Can’t create a tree?…Create a landscape!

A regular update on the life and times of John Hanby’s Newstead Bonsai Centre……..

Topical Times – Can’t create a tree?…Create a landscape!

Two trees attending classes recently really stretched my imagination……and sometimes that is exactly what you have to do…..stretch your imagination. Look beyond the normal tree approach and open your mind to wider external influences.

The first tree was an old Privet stump, hollowed out and with about six very similar branches remaining. To create a good single tree following our normal principles would be virtually impossible. No taper in trunk or branches, branches all in the wrong positions and looking exactly the same.

If we orientate the trunk at an angle, treating it as though it were a rock, and then view the branches as though they were individual trees… we might just have something!

The trees are pruned accordingly and the angle/position of the trunk in the pot adjusted to create the best view….now we have the makings of a cool landscape. Mosses will be added to the pot and stump, some under planting with ferns and similar dwarf varieties will be introduced…..some small interesting rocks can be included…..just use your imagination!

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The second tree was a Juniper planted on a mound adjacent to a rock. There are heavy branches and finer branches growing all over the place and in all directions. To try and style a single trunk Juniper in the normal manner would be very difficult….especially when trying to relate it to the rock, mound and grass planting in its existing pot.

I suggested we do some pruning to try and define separate trees so that branches in effect become trunks. The student was happy to go along with this so cutters in hand….I don’t need telling twice!

Basically I removed everything I thought we didn’t need…..which as it turned out was quite a lot! I then sent the student home to wire most of what was left.

A glutton for punishment ( as most of my students are ) he returned ready for the next stage. We had to relate the newly defined trunks to the existing landscape features….mainly the rock! So using keto we extended the landscape by building up from the mound and incorporated the rock.

The wired trees could now be shaped and built into our new landscape creation. Some trees were given more height growing upwards on the top of a far away hill, whilst others were shaped to cascade from a steep rocky outcrop.

Moss was laid over the keto and I think the final image is quite a transformation from what we started with. Both students were really pleased with the outcome of their projects.

In both instances I was faced with difficult material from which to try and create a tree… you have to look elsewhere for a solution and use your imagination. In both cases it was not about trying to be spectacular or innovative… was simply a case of finding the best use for each tree and in this instance I think we succeeded!


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