Words of wisdom from Chris Thomas the Bonsai wizard from Wales
A really interesting evening for our members this month, a demonstration of group planting by our guest speaker Chris Thomas which was interspersed with his numerous tips of the trade as a distinguished bonsai artist.
Chris took us through a number of methods of what to do to convert small potted Larches into bonsai. Bonsai, he said being the stage when art and design factors are incorporated into the structure of a tree.
Using small trees that Chris had previously wired ready for the evening he took one tree and with a few twist of the hand at the speed of Windy Blow the chap that used to make creatures manipulating balloons he showed us the effect of ‘Compression’ creating the overall composition in the outline of a pyramid. The bends and turns taking advantage of the branch growth, where possible on the outer edge of the curve.
Tip: It pays to ‘over wire’ a tree to get the purpose of wiring to work best, that is to say , thicker wire rather than finer wire usually works best.
Chris then took a taller tree and within a few minutes had made the basis of a promising Literati.
Tip: bend the branches down to give the appearance of age but support them on the underside just where they leave the trunk so the bend is a small distance from the trunk to avoid any breakage.
Using a drawing pad Chris illustrated techniques of bonsai using the ‘ branch, line and taper’ . The ‘twig off, twig off, branch,’ developments of a tree to improve ramification and ways of getting movement into the design of a single tree or group.
Tip: to achieve the Branch line and taper effect to it’s best remember to bend the branch in two planes from side to side not just downwards alone. The inclination of each branch to be consistent.
The next demonstration was a bit more demanding, it involved planting two trees in a piece of bog wood which were then bedded in with some flourishing Welsh moss .
Tip: Use the spaces between the branches consistently in the design and to reflect the shape of the large tree in the lesser one. Also in this case Chris bent the existing leader down to add to the shape and took the next small branch up as a new leader which also helped to exaggerate the taper better.
Using a lot of what we had learnt by then Chris went on to create a large group on a handsome slab of Welsh Slate.
Tip: a sloping slab such as the one Chris used would not need drainage holes as the water would naturally run off, it was however drilled to take a number of wires to hold the trees in place.
Placing the largest tree to the front with the smaller ones to the back gave the group a natural perspective and when they were all in place he then snipped quite a bit more off all around the group to further that shape.
Tip: when fitting retaining wire to a slab mark each end of the same wire with a label ,a kink, a double kink or at least some way of identifying which wire starts where and comes up where to save a lot of trouble later.
WE could all see that the group which was finished off with Moss and a very small fern was going to look super in a very short time. The advantage of group planting being that with something like Larches a splendid display could be achieved in two or three seasons.
The only real trouble with this demonstration was that he made it all look so easy.
Members were then invited to submit their own groups for a critique.
Tony’s Group of Larches
Tony bravely consented to Chris chopping away at his treasured group but who wouldn’t take advantage of such sage assistance and the two photos show the before and after outline of the group.
Geoff’s Korean Hornbeam
Geoff welcomed words of advice on this handsome group and Chris made a few suggestions which we look forward to seeing the result of one day as Geoff puts them into action.
Tip: Chris illustrated a new way of promoting extra growth on something like a Beech. After that fresh young growth of leaves first hang down limp, as soon as they extend defoliate all but the leading leave which can be reduced by half, Chris and friends of his have been trying this method and it has usually resulted in more budding further back nearer the trunk.
Sara is a very talented bonsai finder and picked up these lovely little trees complete with seasonal Christmas decorations at a Tesco supermarket for a very modest sum and apart from suggesting differing their heights and the placing a bit Chris was quite taken with them, noting the Celtic stone feature within.
Thanks to Bill P for taking most of the photos again this month and welcome back to Club Chairman Howard after his tumble on Exmoor.
Tree of the Month Competition
Results, photos of members trees and Ade’s critique will follow later in a few days
Next Month Nov 9th don’t forget it is AUCTION NIGHT