Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Bonsai Trompe l'oeil

We once had a prominent bonsai professional stay over during a workshop we were running during our club's Summer Show many years ago, and he did his utter best to persuade us to downsize on the number of trees we were growing.  While he may have made many salient points, this past winter has also shown me that having a very wide selection of bonsai on hand means that pulling out a half-dozen or so for a winter display means neither headbanging nor panic.

So here is the line-up I dragged out of the garden for the Swindon Winter Image Show, warts and all.  My first post on prepping a display for a show is here.  The only thing that's changed for me in 2010 is that, due to the really hard winter, we still aren't able to say what trees (and accent plants particularly) will be likely candidates for future shows this year.  So you could probably say that this is my 2010 starting line-up.

This shohin Kiyohime maple on rock has been shown previously on this blog and is in a shallow white Walsall pot; over time the white has faded to a very light grey, with a tinge reminiscent of celadon.  The tree has come out of the winter without incident.  The moss, on the other hand, is way more than manky.  Prepping this type of composition is a real pain, as I try to use as much of the old, established moss as possible. 

So I took 2 different types of moss, trimming off the back soil / leaves / crud to have as flat a moss 'sheet' as possible.  Then I broke it all up into randomly sized patches, some of them maybe only 2 mm wide, others several centimetres in length.  Then, using a toothpick, I 'patchworked' the pieces together onto the old moss.  The effect I was looking for was an established planting rather than a freshly laid-on topping.  The final result is this:
Work still needs to be done to this shohin to improve the trunk line and shorten some of the branches. 

And in this post is this Chaenomeles japonica just after Swindon show last year.  Fast forward to 2010 and just a few days before this year's show, the moss decided to give up the ghost and crumble off the pot, leaving this:

Again out with the toothpick and the mossy bitty bits.  A whole evening spent in a crate indoors brought out a bit more colour in the flower buds.  And just so you know, the plant cost a fiver about 4 years ago:

Here's a close-up of the moss 'weave'.  You can clearly see the 3 different types of moss used:

This Ivy was dug out of our last garden over 15 years ago and is planted in what we call the dragon's egg (potter is unknown, unfortunately).  In this post is what it looked like in the summer last year, and below is how it's come out of a winter in a cold greenhouse heated to 0 degrees Celsius. 

Later in the spring I'll try a bit of defoliation on the Ivy so I get some nice spring colour (and possibly smaller leaves).  Again, some patchwork retouching had to be done to the moss on this guy.

This Satsuki Azalea (damn if I didn't lose the bloody label somewhere so don't ask me what variety) lives outdoors all year long and had its head buried in snow like the rest of these guys.  It's come out of that with tons of new growth as you can see from its back...

...and from its front.  How do I tell the one from the other?  It's hard to tell from these photos, but the tree actually does 'bow' pronouncedly to you from this angle.

This is one of TOH's earliest Japanese White Pines and it started life as a formal upright.  Unfortunately the wrong instructions in a bonsai book led to the loss of both lower branches and it is now a literati.  It has also been knocked out of its pot twice in the past year, so it is now slightly overpotted. And in what to me is one ugly, clunky drum pot.

This view is not the precise front of the tree, but IMO it illustrates best how the trunk line runs up and 'bows' toward the viewer. 

I'll also have to say that my fave way of prepping a tree for display is straight akadama as it is dead simple.  I've now gone off the half-akadama (or soil) / half-moss look as I find it can look rather contrived.  So I either go whole hog and do a full moss weave thing or I do pure soil (like when I'm fed up of prepping trees and just want to get it over and done with).  I tend to let myself be guided by what the tree looks like before the blackbirds get to it.  Hurrr.

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