Club member Jon B led a group of 19 members, spouses and friends on a guided walk around the parkland at Killerton House, near Collumpton, Devon. This event was essentially ‘non’ bonsai, but as with nature Bonsai is all about discovering what nature can create all on its own without the intervention of Bonsai enthusiasts.
Jon explained some of the growth characteristics of trees growing individually in open situations where they are not competing for light or space with other trees. He led the group to a number of very mature trees to point out these features, and suggested that they are the same features that we try to create in our bonsai.
Some of the trees at Killerton House are as much as 400 years old. These frequently have features of interest to bonsai growers. There were many examples of snapped branches (jins); damage caused by lightning strikes (sharis); and numerous dead branches devoid of foliage. Many of the trees had hollow trunks, and these continued to grow with the outer layers of living wood unaffected by the decaying heart wood.
Due to their maturity, most of the trees had a wide spreading root system and a well flared base to their trunk (nebari). Those growing on sloping ground had a well developed root system on the “uphill” side to anchor the tree in to the slope.
There were also interesting examples of trees growing parasite like on a different species.
One ancient oak had undergone major tree surgery, presumably to remove diseased or damaged wood. The trunk had been severely shortened with only a few branches remaining. It had two birches and an ash growing from the top of the severed trunk approx 15 feet above the ground. These had obviously grown from wind blown seed, or seed in bird droppings.
Another example was again a birch, but this had seeded on the outside of a fallen hollow tree trunk. The trunk had subsequently rotted away, exposing the birch root system. Some had grown around the outside of the fallen tree to reach the soil. Others had grown along the entire length of the hollow trunk to reach soil. When the rotting trunk eventually disappears, many of the birch roots will be exposed above ground (shohin).
All who attended are very grateful to Jon for organising the walk and for his very interesting and informative talk.
The evening was rounded off with a meal at a local hostelry. Many thanks to Andy for arranging the meal and reminding those of us with short memories, what meals we had actually ordered.