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Topical Times – Academy Class hits a “purple patch”…..

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

Topical Times – Academy Class hits a “purple patch”…..

Sunday was the last session of the year for the Academy group currently doing level five. When they arrived in the classroom they were confronted by some tall scraggy and scruffy Purple Beech trees. These were the last remaining trees from a batch of hedging material.

The Beech had been here for some 6/7 years and all the others had been sold for use as garden hedging. The challenge was for us to try and make something out of it. First job was to remove all the remaining brown leaves so that we could see exactly what we had in terms of branches.

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Considering them as individual trees, exactly what we had was basically not a lot….I suspect that the students would have been happier to see them in a bin rather than a pot! The only option was to try and bring them together as a group and create a small copse or forest planting. It just so happened that I had a long oval pot but it was very shallow and when you looked at the tall trees the students thought I was crazy…..nothing new here then!!!

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The students gently removed the outer soil areas so that the roots could be teased out leaving a central core of rootball untouched. I then had to go through each tree removing as much of the heavier root as possible but making sure adequate fibrous roots were retained.

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The students were then left to discuss the planting arrangement amongst themselves over lunch. In the afternoon it was a case of bringing it all together to get a result. I started by placing the largest tree and then explained to the students the reasoning behind the positioning of each subsequent tree.

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The pot had already been prepared with drainage mesh and abundant anchor wires. It was a case of securing all the trees in position….not an easy feat given their height and the fact that they had not been pruned at this stage. The compost, a mixture of akadama, pumice and peat was added as we went. Keto was used to restrain the compost where we had a steep fall to the rim of the pot.

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Some Chinese rocks and moss was added to accentuate the feeling of a natural landscape. Standing back and looking at our new creation everyone agreed that we had “a result”…..we had made something out of nothing! It really did look as though this group had been together and in the pot for a very, very long time. An amazing transformation from this morning’s humble offerings and a valuable lesson for the students about ‘judging books and covers!’

Can’t wait to see our purple patch of Beech leaf out in spring.