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Visit from John Marsh - Tree Critique and Workshop PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 July 2008

John Marsh from the Nepean Bonsai Society joined us at our July meeting to provide a number of members with the opportunity to have a conversation about one of their trees brought along to the meeting. 

The conversation was framed around the current style and possible future directions that may be taken. 



I was first up.  I hadn’t done this sort of thing before but took the plunge and with tree ‘under my arm’, strode up to the front and placed it on the turntable ready for anything.  It felt like I was going for a job interview. 







To cut a potentially long story short:

•    the back should be the front,
•    the foliage pads need to be  better defined, and
•    I need to thicken up the foliage with more aggressive and frequent pruning 

While the diagnosis of one of my favourites might seem a bit confronting, John managed to say all that in such a constructive way that I went away thinking I had got the job.  Overall there were five or six members trees discussed where the owners and audience all joined in and learned heaps in a session which ran for over an hour.

After the meeting and a bite of lunch, John hosted a workshop for 10 members who had brought along a tree that needed some major work.

In my case it was an oak – English.  I am at least the third owner of this oak and while it is reasonably old, with a base about 8 – 10 cm in diameter, it hasn’t had much development above the ground.  After letting it grow freely (in a black plastic pot) for about 15 months to give me some options up top, it was my aim to get it into a bonsai pot by the end of the day. 






I wanted to examine the roots and make sure that I was setting up the conditions for a good nebari with a fibrous root structure below the surface of the soil.  I expected that I would reduce the top of the tree to a few branches, establish a new leader and regrow most of the above ground structure – and that’s what John advised – although pointing out some better options than those I had considered – like making the back the front.  That’s twice in two trees in the space of 3 hours.  I might have to go back to the texts on styling and read about choosing the front.

While I was scratching around the root system of my oak, the other workshop attendees spent their time discussing options with John and putting their plans into action.

Gordon, who had brought along some challenging material for John, decided on a waterfall cascade with his juniper.  Gordon's tree

Barbara turned her tall juniper ‘nursery plant’ into a less tall formal upright.  It looked 20 years older in an afternoon.  

Barbara’s tree before / after

Lyn B's radiata pine was drastically shortened (about 60% !) and will become a lovely informal upright.

Lyn B’s tree before / after

Ian J, who was a late entry to the workshop, was inspired by John's critique and members ideas for an unpromising looking juniper that he had been given.  By the end of the workshop it was showing a lot more character and bonsai potential.

Ian’ J tree before / after   

Peter H worked on an advanced Shimpaku juniper with a lot of natural movement and by the end of the workshop had transformed it into a very nice semi cascade – pruned and wired ready for potting.

Peter H tree before / after

Neville worked on a windswept literati style juniper and then did some preliminary styling on a callistemon.

Neville's tree before   / after

Di P's corky bark oak had a make-over to create a newly styled top which with some new secondary branches will enhance the lovely base. 

Di P’s tree before / after

Janet I's Dawn Redwood looked a little lighter after some branch removal, especially near the top.

Janet's tree  

Lisa continued to develop a lovely white pine which she has been working on for a few years, continuing to define and develop the foliage pads.

Lisa’s tree before   / after

 By the end of the workshop I had achieved my goal of potting up the oak for this year’s growing season and I think that all the others had also achieved their aim of making an impact on the tree that they brought to work on.

More photos of the club meeting, the critique and the workshop can be found in the CBS photo gallery area

Last Updated ( Friday, 16 January 2009 )
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