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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Amongst my pot collection I found a substantial landscape pot originally made by William Vlanderan and subsequently modified by one of my students.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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