June 2018 Meeting

A Critique Meeting


Every so often we have a Critique Meeting when two of our bonsai elders share their years of experience and offer advice and tips to other members who bring their trees along to be the subjects of their deliberation. At our June meeting we had combined knowledge of Roger and Clifford to help us improve our trees and understand why and when certain things should be done.

Tony brought along an Azalea (above) to be the first tree to be the subject of their inspection. He has had it only a few years but was rather concerned as it was a bit lack lustre compared with some of his other trees which we know are real gems.  Roger and Clifford pointed out that though it was sad in parts there was plenty of new growth showing signs of fresh life and that the remaining blooms could now be remove to conserve the tree’s energy and that thinning the crown a little would encourage energy further down where it was needed.

One of our newer members, Adam, submitted a Chinese Elm for R & C’s pearls of Adaams teewisdom, a really sturdy and healthy tree which he obviously looks after but could do with being in a smaller pot the present one being far too large.





Paul Y  managed to get two trees dealt with at once as they were both in the same pot together, a couple of Junipers which frankly needed sorting out and bravely he was Paul R Yates Junipersconfident enough to join Clifford  with the cutters and get to work. He had obviously not seen Clifford wield his pruning tools on earlier occasions as he is fond of a good chop. Always to the benefit of the tree concerned and it’s owner once they get over the shock.

R & C pointed out a number of improvements that could be made and drew attention to the movement of the two trees one above the other and where foliage should be removed to   good effect.


Dave G’s Japanese White Pine and Richard M’s Oak were next for the panel and both  MIchael PInewere able to go home with some ideas of what to do over the next few months to improve their trees.
Dave was shown where best to cut and reduce the trunk to and how to bring in the growth nearer the trunk to create pads of needles. Richar Oak




Richard received praise for his very healthy little oak which they were most impressed with but suggested that it was time now to get it out of it’s training pot and into a popper bonsai pot, Roger pointed out that the pot colour might do well to pick up the silver grey of the trunk.

One of the really welcome things about the evening was that we welcomed five new members into the Club, faces that we hope to see frequently at our gatherings in the future.

Aime 2

One of these new members was Aimee who turned up with her first bonsai, a flourishingly healthy Carmona, also known as a Fukien Tea from Southern China. R & C showed her where best to trim it now and what steps to take in the spring.

MIchael PIne

Michael brought another  Pine along  which seemed to amuse Roger and Richard P showed us all his group planting of Hornbeams

Richar P hornbeam group






Both members came away with some sound advice to follow over the next year or so.


Audrey another of our new members on the night brought in an anonymous indoor bonsai which she has had for seventeen years ,I think Audreys mysteryshe said, so yes Audrey you can certainly keep trees alive longer than a lot of folk do when the get their first tree.

R & C pointed out the mat of roots underneath and look forward to helping Audrey at re-potting time next year. Let’s hope we know what it is by then folks.

I should think the first correct suggestion should deserve a free drink , from club funds, at our annual night out next month.


Howard brought in a windswept Hawthorn that he had acquired at our club auction in HOward Hawthorn 1November.  Personally I am very fond of Hawthorns and Windswepts and if it wasn’t for the fact that Howard’s pockets are much deeper than mine I would have given him a better run for his money at the auction.

R & C showed where cuts could be made bringing the branches more into the windswept design and varying the lengths as too many were the same.

HOwardf Hawthorn 4

Looking good already and one could also see that it had great potential and I was quite prepared to offer Howard a small loss on his purchase by now.

The next tree was  Andy’s Acer which had suffered badly this last year but was now suddenly leaping back into life sprouting forth vigorously, a bit of tidying up and it was soon looking even better.



The last tree was Jon’s Escallonia an evergreen flowering shrub which he had purchased at the Exmouth Show and which attracted a number of differing opinions, should or should not the dramatic root system be so exposed? What is to be it’s main feature, the trunk textures certainly look worth making something of.Jon Escalonia

There had been a couple more tree during the course of the evening when members brought more than one along but I think the selection shown here gives a good illustration of what such a night achieves and how worth while it is to join a club and benefit from the experience of the ‘old hands’

So thank you to all who brought in their trees to face the  inquisitors and our special thanks to Roger and Clifford for making it such an interesting evening.

My Wife wonders how I remember some of the small items of the evening’s proceedings with so few notes when I can’t remember a shopping list between Sainsburys car park and their store.

Theme- Shohin Class trees under 8 inches high

Advanced Class
FIRST  (by members votes)

M.C.’s Pyracantha

MC Pyracantha


Second- Jon’s Larch and Third -Tony’s Juniper                                                                                                      



Novices Class
Sara’s Larch
Sara's Larch

SecondAimee’s Carmona and Third – Richard M’s Larch                                                                                        


The in depth and well worth reading judges critique for Tree of the Month can be viewed via this link.
Bonsai score sheet June 2018


Club President John Trott could be seen briefly on TV being interviewed at the Chelsea Flower Show where he came away with his 11th Gold Medal making it a grand total now of 86 RHS medals, congratulations John.


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I also happened to hear him being interviewed on BBC Somerset Sound Radio and if John ever needs another career he has a splendid radio voice.

Our next meeting is our Annual T. & S. B. C .Night Out.

Which this year is to be at
The White Horse Bradford on Tone to mix and mingle from 6pm prior to our evening meal.  Members meals will be paid for out of our special outing fund up to a certain level, members guests will have to be paid for in full.


White Horse Map

See you there folks!




Posted in News Blog | Tagged , ,

2018 Our Annual Show


I think this is the fourth or fifth show that I have helped with and every year I think it  gets better. For what I always think of as a small club I reckon we put on a jolly good show and when you also think that we   put it on for a whole three days, perhaps we are not such a small club after all.

As usual a team of keen helpers set to on Friday evening putting up the marquee at The Willowbrook Garden Centre, due to medic appointments I couldn’t get there myself until Saturday morning to do the labels so I asked Ade if there were any particular names that should be mentioned in thanks for all their work. His reply was that there were too many to list and that this report might end up looking like and Oscar presentation acceptance speech. He did however mention of Brian for his lead in organising the show and Roger for the use of his van and collecting the tables . Adrian went on to say that so many members did their bit and that we were never short handed, thank you everyone.

There were some very small exhibits such as the Accent plantings many of which I suspect were the work of our busy Club Secretary Andy who has made this section her own speciality corner though I am sure there my have been some other entrants as well.

From minute specimens in charming little pots one could move along the tables to see the larger entries as well, such as this Japanese White Pine seen here between a pretty little Ace and a Larch.

IMG_20180526_122630 (1)


E Larh and Sutsuki Azalea

Or this handsome pair from opposite sides of the world a European Larch and a Sutsuki Azalea.

A  variety of Acers were there to compare their delicate forms and foliage colours


Howards HawthornNative trees from out own countryside were not neglected with this windswept Hawthorn and  a handsome HornbeamHornbeam







White BeechFrom the Antipodes a White Beech and more trees  originally from the Far East  with oriental ancestors such as this Japanese Larch Jap Larch group and a nice little Japanese White Pine








Chinese Elms of course, which bore little relationship to those mass imported garden centre ‘indoor bonsais’ Though it is easy to make such remarks one must remember that it is often through such purchases that people take their first steps down the pathway that is Bonsai and find an art and hobby to keep them fascinated for years.

In my enthusiasm to get back home and get some of the photos up onto Facebook in order that it might bring in more visitors over the three days it seems that I missed out on some trees, trying to take photos whilst people are viewing and doing the labels at the same time must have brought on another of my senior moments.

Fortunately Andy from the Exeter Bonsai Society had come  to view the show and has allowed me to use a few of the picture he took to add to this selection of exhibits , thanks Andy greatly appreciated.




Having returned to the lap top today to add these photos from Andy I was quite relieved to see them safely added as in the interval Microsoft had undertaken a major update evidently. I wonder if I could get an update with new hardware and software for myself it might be just what I need at the moment.
finishing touches

This report unlike our usual monthly meeting reports does not contain a critique on members trees from Adrian, though his eagle eye for perfection , the right pots and arrangement was still in action and may be seen here as he put the finishing touches to the displays. 

This show is Club Chairman Howard’s last one before he passes on the chain of office and he would like to  thank everyone involved for all the work that was put in to make it such a success and to the family and staff at the Willowbrook Garden Centre for making us feel so welcome.



We will be having a display there and from the reports I heard of last years event it really is well worth going to. Just ask Sara she came home with some amazing bargains.


Show flyer2018A4.jpg Exmouth


June 13th

A Critique evening with Roger and Clifford passing on some of their bonsai knowledge and experience as they cast their eyes over member’s trees.

Tree of the Month Competition – Shohin trees under 8″ high

Posted in Annual Show, News Blog | Tagged

May 2018 Meeting


Sadly it was not a very well attended meeting this month though as you can see there were enough folk there to offer David a number of opinions on what to do with his tree.

Studied concentration was in the air as Tony and Jon contemplated the specimens that they had brought along to work on.

It was good to see Tony looking happier as he progressed with his little Lilac later

Happy bonsaier

If everyone thought bonsai could make you this happy we would have people queuing up to join.

A welcome addition to our club this month was a new member, Jack, who comes from Weston and who seems very keen and anxious to learn more about bonsai and who was soon hanging on every possible word of wisdom from both Jon and Tony.



Not a new member but taking  it just as seriously was Dave who had a real think tank session with professional forester member Jon over what was the best thing to do with his tree. I couldn’t hear what the suggestions were but it seemed to get very animated at times before settling down to a tea or coffee..


Meanwhile Sara was mulling over the future of her elegant variegated Acer and Andy was busy creating some Accent plantings for our show

Andy accent making

Howard seemed to be looking on with some concern at  what ever advice Ade was giving David.

Ade advises

The evening was supposed to be preparation for our annual show at the end of the month but obviously many members must be preparing their exhibits at home in their own gardens and workshops.

NOTICE —     LABELS for trees at the show

This year trees at the show will be labelled as to what they are and what variety if possible.   As muggins here is writing out all the labels I would be very grateful if members could let me know in advance what their exhibits will be in order that I may get some of the labels done prior to the day we put the display up.

I live at the further end of our area from the show, I will be there on Friday evening and will be doing some then as we put the display up but  with family health problems I can’t go there on Saturday morning just to do a few labels.  It will be great help if I can get most done before though, thanking you in advance.

Howard is making stands for the labels so please don’t let us be wasting our time. 

Michael Cooper   coopersstudio@btinternet.com

TREE of the Month Competition

So few this month I hope we can get back up to the level of entries we have had recently again soon.

Advanced Class ( By members vote)

Tony’s Hawthorn Tonys Hawthorn

Brian’s Chinese Elm Brians Elm

NO Novices Class this month




Adrian brought along an Azalea that he has been nursing for some time from dire straights to this splendid specimen



Judges Show of the Month Critique notes, ToTM Critique sheet May 2018 always well worth reading.


Our own Annual Show at Willowbrook Bonsai show poster.2018.mark3








Exmouth  1st July where we will have a display (Brian ,Sara and Jon)
June 10th

Exeter Bonsai SocietyShow flyer2018A4.jpg Exmouth








Salisbury  1st July where we will also have a display ( Ade)

Sailisbury Bonsai Show
Salisbury show













Bonsai in the Park We we will have a further display ( Roger)
South Devon Bonsai SocietyDevon bonsai





Next Meeting

JUNE  13th
Critique- Roger and Adrian to advise on your trees
T of the M – Shohin Trees under 8″

JULY 11th
Our big night out- Evening meet and meal (members only)
at The White Horse Bradford on Tone



Just hear that Club President Johns Trott – Mendip Bonsai Studio has just won his 85th RHS Gold Medal at the Malvern RHS Show. Congratulations again John



That’s all for now folks, got to go and water my trees


Posted in Club Meeting, News Blog, Tree of the Month | Tagged ,

April 2018 Meeting


You know when you start to take your bonsai seriously, it’s when you start to worry about the pot as well as the tree.
At our Club meeting in April we were fortunate enough to have an up and coming young bonsai pot maker Dan Butler, make the journey from Wales to  Taunton  to explain the basic methods and principles of pot making and show us what is involved in creating apot to compliment our precious trees.

Dan photo


Dan  has his pottery at Penlan  near Swansea and started his career studying a Fine Art Ceramics course at the University of Wales and after much initial encouragement from Chris Thomas and the members at Dragon Bonsai  is now making quite a reputation for himself.

Dan’s visit to our club in Somerset he said was the first time he had addressed a group of enthusiasts to tell them how he goes about his work and it proved to be a very interesting evening for us all.


Dan told us about the different basic methods of producing a pot and managed to demonstrate each, only having to resort to a couple of examples that he had made or half made ‘before the programme started’ as they used to say.

Pinch Pots

Pinch pot

Photo ©Dan Butler

The most basic way of all where the potter takes a piece of clay and working it in his or her hands shapes and hollows it in to a bowl, this method being most suitable for accent pots.Dans Mark






Dan’s potter Chop Mark
Photo © Dan Butler




Slab Built Pots

Slab Built Pots
A simple method requiring little in the way of equipment where the clay is rolled out on a board then cut and assembled. The example Dan made was a rectangular pot where he joined the sides to each other and the base at a mitred angle rather than a butt joint to give a stronger construction.

Coil Built Pots
This method uses long sausages of clay built up upon each other a few layers at a time, allowing time for the lower layers to dry before further height is  added. The clay is usually extruded in a press to achieve even diameter at a chosen  size.

(Above) Dan building up a coiled pot and then blending the coils. On the board beneath the turntable one can see the flat sheet of rolled out clay that had been used for the Slab process.

A coil is added to the ones below building up a wall of clay and when ready can be smoothed into each other taking care to exclude any air between coils and the shaping can be refined by the use of a small scrapper cut to desired shape giving perhaps a slight curve, rim or foot ledge. Over a period of time these pots can reach quite a size provided the structure has dried enough to support the higher coils as they are added.

Slip Casting Porcelain

Dan also showed us a most delicate little porcelain bowl that was made by running a very liquid slip of clay into a previously made mould which can be used many times. I doubt that it would be suitable for a tree but it was a delightful little item.



All the above methods are the most simple requiring little equipment at this stage, once made the items must be dried to a degree which will depend  on the ambient temperature and humidity before they can be fired.

The bonsai pots are stone ware rather than earthenware as it can be fired to a temperature of around 1270C degrees which makes them frost proof.


The Potters Wheel.dav

Now this is what many of our older members remember, the Interlude scene on the telly in the old days, before Dan was even born I should think.

I tried it at school myself years ago and the clay had a life of it’s own and took ages to centre even whereas Dan just plonked it down and within moments was transforming it into something which was definitely a cascade pot, where did I go wrong?




Wheel workpg

At this stage I was going to impress members by inserting a video live action clip of Dan at work until I found WordPress our hosting service would require a premium subscription fee upgrade for the site, so you will just have to use your imagination folks.

Of course one advantage of dealing directly with the potter is that the continual debate of how many feet you want on a pot can easily be decided.

         ‘Ok what do you want three or four or even more?’

Altogether it was a must successful evening with thousands of years of one of the worlds oldest crafts being explained to us in a couple of hours, an evening I can thoroughly recommend to any other club wanting to learn more about the pots we put our trees in.


Dan brought with him a selection of finished pots which demonstrated the various techniques and glazes etc that he uses to achieve these impressive results .

The following two photos are  © Dan Butler and are taken from a feature on Dan in a recent Esprit Bonsai magazine as are a few of the others in this report which are credited to Dan.

Thank you Dan for a very interesting evening and I am sure that members will now have a greater appreciation of what goes into creating a good bonsai pot.

Dan Butler Contact details       Email: danielbutler@mail.com
Facebook Page : Daniel Butler Facebook



Advanced Class

Tony’s Crab Apple
FIRST ( by members votes)



Brian’s  Katsura Maple dav

Third Equal
Richards P’s Acer Disectum 
Michael C’s  Lonicera Pileata


Novice’s Class

Dave G’s Cypressdav

Sara’s Larch Groupdav













Adam’s Acer Deshojo







The usual searching judges critiques notes on all the evenings entries can be found via this link, which even if you did not enter a tree yourself are well worth reading for the constructive advice therein.    ToTM Critique Apr 2018 sheet.


Ades forsythia

Though unable to enter Ade our judge brought along a touch of spring colour himself with a Forsythia and a Blackthorn which he brought along to consult with Dan about regarding a new pot.


The sad tale of this tree is, that after Adrian’s recent move he looked out one day to see his Blackthorn in it’s John Pitt pot lying damaged under the weight of a large umbrella which had evidently blown over the fence  into his garden from a neighbour’s and smashed the pot which is here shown with the assistance of a tube of Araldite. As next door  denies any responsibility we wondered if Dan might make some little clay effigy which with the help of some sharp pins might help Ade exact some revenge.


Next months meeting is on May the 9th when we will have an evening preparing trees for our Annual Show at Willowbrook. Tree of the Month will be for one of those trees.

Posted in Club Meeting, News Blog | Tagged , ,

March 2018 Meeting

Show intro

Last November John Trott our Club President made a bonsai pilgrimage with his wife Anne and a couple of fellow enthusiasts Mark and Phil to Taiwan for the Bonsai Clubs International Convention  and the Asia- Pacific Bonsai and Viewing Stone Convention and Exhibition JT8and at our March meeting we were lucky enough to see some of Johns splendid photos of just a few of the amazing trees that he saw there.

The Island has an average temperature of  22cwith a warm humid climate which lends itself to the successful growing of bonsai.


JT 1


The trees  grow so rapidly that they can achieve in thirty or forty years what would take far longer elsewhere and they may well leaf prune many times a year to encourage extraordinary ramification as seen in the Hibiscus tilaceous  (above) .

JT3The convention had displays in various venues the main one at Xizhou Park: Where there was the  large bonsai exhibition and demonstrations including Hua Feng, Style Creation, National Bonsai Exhibition, and Taiwan Suiseki Exhibition.JT13

A further exhibition was at the National Museum of Natural Science: Bonsai Demonstration & Exhibition of Pine & Cypress Bonsai as well as Flowers & Fruits Bonsai. 3. Wan-Jing Art Garden: Bonsai Exhibition of Valuable Collections, etc.


Trees came in every size.

As did the pots

It was good to hear that the art of bonsai is evidently followed by young people as well in Taiwan as there are growing concerns in Japan and elsewhere that it is only the older generations that are keeping it going.  Many  of the trees grown in Taiwan are sold to Japan or the wealthy Chinese collectors and the crowds at the events showed how popular bonsai still is.

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John and his band of bonsai pilgrims must have had a wonderful time provided it was not marred by tucking into these platefuls of delicacies they saw one day.

JT20                           As all these tempting dishes are in fact made out of stones

I wouldn’t be surprised if they are not already planning their next expedition
to experience the extraordinary bonsai of Taiwan again.
JT19 John and Anne with Mark, Phil and Ming

Thank you John for showing us such an amazing display of photographs of your journey.



Advanced Class 

FIRST  (by members votes)  – Brian’s White Pine dav




Second Equal
dav   Howard’s White Pine (above)

                                                                 and  Michael C’s  Larch Groupdav



  Third Jon’s Juniperdav








Novices Class


Sara’s Scots Pine


Dave Gl ‘s White Pine







Third Equal

Dave Gr’s  and  Richard M’s  Scots Pines


The detailed Critiques of the trees may be seen at the following link. Jon joined Ade in the task this month by casting his professional  forester’s  eye over the Novices Class.
 ToTM Critique sheet Mar 2018

Once again it is  interesting to notice the difference in the critique ratings of the trees compared with members votes on the night, probably down to the fact that members stroll along the table and make a quick vote whereas our critique judges take a chair and sit down on front of each  tree carefully noting both it’s good points and it’s flaws.


Next Month  April 11th 

An evening with talented young potter Daniel Butler from Wales so don’t forget to bring some money along and treat yourselves to a new pot or two. (Photos from an article in Esprit Bonsai the international bonsai magazine)



Your website compilers further notes.

Every month I struggle to take the photos of the trees as best I can in the circumstances, my most high tech piece of equipment being the folding white board I use to try and mask out the background it is usually held in place for a few minutes by some member press ganged into assist.dav

This month as often before it was Club Treasurer Roger who I lumbered with the task, who can be seen here in hysterics watching me battle with the controls of my new camera phone which was only acquired the day before. Thank you Roger.



Posted in JohnTrott Mendip Bonsai, News Blog | Tagged , , ,

February 2016 meeting

Re-potting workshop


Every spring a young man’s fancy lightly  turns to love and here in Somerset some young and not so young members of our club turn their thoughts to the spring re-potting of their  precious trees.

The view above of our meeting at Taunton is probably very typical of bonsai club nights throughout the country at this time of year as the longer days with their few extra hours re-ignite the flame of enthusiasm and we urge to get on and do something with our bonsai.

IMG_0426             Photo courtesy Bonsai Empire at their Noelanders 2018 demonstration  stand

This year of course we were lucky enough to have amongst us some members who had just returned from the bonsai pilgrimage to Noelanders 2018 in Belgium where they can be seen in this photo above advising Michael Tran what to do next at  his demonstration workshop.

As seen above left to right Michael Tran from  Heidelberg,
Dave, Geoff, Ade, Jon and Sara from Somerset

Not only did that lucky crew come back inspired but they also came back with some splendid purchases and like Dave (Below) brought some of them along to show them off to their IMG_20180214_193441fellow members and seek advice and opinions as to what they should do with their new acquisitions.

Firstly Dave just sat and pondered, contemplating his tree, his plans for it’s future and trying to remember how much he had spent.


IMG_20180214_193419  Sara, one of his fellow travellers to Belgium was very ready to offer her thoughts, after all it wasn’t her money, was it?

John Trott our Club President fresh back from his own professional display at Noelanders was next to hand with his suggestions.IMG_20180214_194224


And Dave now inundated with advice soon set to work cutting away much of the tree he had so recently spent many of his Bonsai Pounds on.IMG_20180214_193432






Meanwhile the two Richards and Brian plodded on with their re-potting. It was interesting to se the different stages various members Larches were at, from dormant right through to green budding.

A very valuable group of members, valuable to the Club that is, were working away at another table. Andy our hard working  Club Secretary with  Howard , her husband and our worthy Chairman, watched over by Roger our  Club Treasurer who is obviously keeping an eye out for any unnecessary  waste.


At the other side of the room our professional forester member Jon was sharing his years of arboreal knowledge with Adam one of our newer members. Though Jon had been to Noelanders the tree he is actually working on is a Siberian Elm that he snapped up at our club auction in November.

Jon RP 1

Jon’s Siberian Elm had quite a large,  deep and very dense and  solid root area which needed clearing out and reducing to get into a much shallower pot at this re-potting

Jon RP 2Jon RP 3Jon RP 4Jon RP 5 In the end after cutting some very hefty roots well back Jon made some real progress and I know a number of us watching him at work learnt a thing or two at the same time .



Sara worked away at a Juniper Toshio Blue while Ade attended to one of hisIMG_20180214_203721 Noelander purchases.





and IMG_20180214_201809Tony applied himself to a thick trunked Lonicera. That looks very promising Tony.


I hope it came from his own garden and not a neighbour’s hedge.

You may have noticed that many members are wearing name badges, for some of us it is to inform visitors who we are; for others at my age it is to remind ourselves who we are, that is if one remembers to wear them.


RAFFLE PRIZE for 2018, whilst at Noelanders Adrian purchased this JuniperIMG_20180214_193608 on behalf of the Club to be used as our main raffle prize together with a workshop day to start work on styling it.

Club member News.
Sadly Jack who had recently had a new knee fell and smashed it and also broke his arm at the shoulder so will not be able to attend for some while. Best wishes from us all Jack and let’s hope it heals faster than they expect.

New member
We also welcomed Dave a new member on the night,  another new and welcome face.

John Trott’s Noelanders 2018 Tree 

Johns noelanders tree

John’s tree this year at Noelanders was this amazing  Itoigawa Juniper, flying the flag for Mendip Bonsai Studio and we also like to think, for bonsai in Somerset.


Group Plantings

Novices Class

FIRST Dave’s Hornbeam Group                                          SECOND  Richard M’s Alder

Advanced Class

FIRST a runaway winner Tony’s Elm Group

Tony's elm group


SECOND Jon B’s Beech Group                                       THIRD Richard P’s Larch Group

Adrian precise and informative critique can be viewed via this link
 ToTM Critique sheet Feb 2018

Club News

Next meeting
March 14th Club President John Trott’s report on his visit to see 
The Mind Blowing Bonsai of Taiwan 2018.   Tree of the Month – Pines

April11th Talk and or demonstration by talented Welsh potter Daniel Butler.

Photos Copyright Daniel Butler, published in 4 page feature on Daniel’s work in April/May issue of Esprit Bonsai Magazine.
Better start saving some more bonsai pounds for that meeting.

Swindon Winter Image Show Sunday Feb 25th
Details of the biggest bonsai show in the South West
Via this link   Swindon Winter Image

I think that really is all folks, see you next month or at Swindon perhaps.




Posted in Club Meeting, News Blog, Tree of the Month | Tagged , , ,

Noelanders Trip 2018

Noelanders 2018 a report by club members.
Text by Jon B and Photos by Geoff unless stated otherwise

After many months of meticulous planning five members of the Taunton club set off on a pilgrimage to the Noelanders show in Belgium, hoping to witness some of the very best trees that our European bonsai friends have created. However the meticulous planning was shown thrown when one anonymous person realised that they had forgotten their passport



Michael Tran demonstrating to the  Taunton and Somerset Club contingent
Photo courtesy Bonsai Empire

After a whole day of travel we pulled up to the accommodation, stiff and tired from the journey – this had better be worth it! The anticipation over dinner that night was IMG_3313apalpable. As the weak winter sunlight dawned next morning and we all enjoyed the delight of a traditional Dutch breakfast (I had joking warned my friends that this was likely to consist of a boiled egg and chocolate sprinkles, it was with a wry smile that I realised I was right and was pleasantly surprised to find that a prune yoghurt had centre stage). Anyway, on to the trees…



Our meticulous planning was again to come to the fore when two of the gang found out that they should have printed off their tickets in advance and brought them along with them. A very nervous journey ensued where they thought they may have to pay for their ticket again. However the kind people at the entrance seemed prepared for this sort of thing and soon we were all inside the venue. The first thing that struck everyone was the simple scale of what we had walked into. Brought up on a diet of bonsai shows in Britain that might just be able to fill a village hall, the enormity of this venue was hard to comprehend, three huge halls that each could house a rock concert, all filled with the most amazing trees, pots and trade stands.

We had settled on a strategy that we would spend the first morning round the trade stands in the hope of picking up a bargain before the vast crowds stripped the best stalls clean. At 1pm the demonstrations were due to start which would give us a chance to have a sit down and recover. The morning of the second day would be devoted to the show trees themselves, followed by a second afternoon of demonstrations.



We had a strict limit set by the height of the cars that we could only acquire trees a maximum of three feet tall but had not set ourselves any limit on size – lessen learnt for any future trip as the regular trips back to the car to offload seeing it slowly filling up, and then double stacked and nervous jokes about ‘oh well, I can leave my luggage here and just take the trees home’. In the end our spending money ran out just in time with a very full car.

Demonstrators from Bonsai Empire including
Konio Kobeyashi, Milan Karpisek and Bjorn Bjorholm

The demonstrations were great with some of the world’s leading artists sharing their knowledge. By 5pm we were all pretty exhausted and decided to call it a day

Over dinner we were all very pleased with our purchases and were so inspired started work on them.


Well to be honest, we all started work on Dave’s maple. I was so keen to try out my new very large knob cutter that we might have got slightly carried away. However after the accumulated opinions of four trusted colleagues and Dave’s natural enthusiasm there was not much left of his tree by the end of the night – but the bit that was left will clearly be a spectacular tree (when it has regrown!). I think it must have been the beers that we drank but I am sure the conversation whilst working on the tree descended to a level hovering near the crude with comments such as Dave’s “I need a slightly larger blade to get deeper penetration” to which Sara responded “if you are not careful you will come out the back end”. I am too young and innocent to truly understand, but simply record this as a matter of fact


The Sunday morning crowds were very much reduced and the whole exhibition was much quieter. This provided a very nice atmosphere to view the show trees without any hustle & bustle. The sheer quality of the material on display was breath-taking, and whilst we have all seen plenty of photos of exhibition trees, seeing them in their 3D glory just does not compare. There was a clear ‘no photographs’ policy at the show, but they didn’t really seem to mind a few illicit snaps, as long as you didn’t interfere with other spectators.



We worked methodically up and down the rows of trees discussing the merits of the trees as we went, and after 2 hours were just approaching half way and had all clearly raised our standards as we found ourselves critiquing quite harshly what on any other circumstance would have been stunning trees.

We were saved a bit of time when we came to the suiseki display by Adrian “they are just IMG_3297astones we don’t need to look at them” (although a couple of us did sneak back later and take a quick look!). Dave returned to the trade stands with the parting comment “I hear the Euro’s whispering to me, they are saying ‘spend us’”

So after two very full days we retired to the accommodation for a good night’s sleep before the day long journey home. This was meant to be a simple drive, home in time for tea, but the warning signs started when we had to bump start the car, but we put this down to the cold frosty weather. All seemed to go well until we arrived at the tunnel. We were a bit early and got offered an earlier train which we opted for, however something seemed to be amiss in the second car. When they eventually got through they were a bit perplexed, until they realised that they had booked a ticket for the previous day. Things got more sinister as we met with the border control. The normally relaxed French staff suddenly seemed to get quite excited when they saw Geoff and Dave, and his van packed to the rafters with trees. The last we saw of them the guards were putting on a pair of latex gloves!! They had obviously agreed that ‘what happens in customs, stays in customs’ as they were not very forthcoming with details. Once we passed through the tunnel Geoff and Dave raced off and we next heard from them to say they had arrived home safely.

It was now time for the shoe to firmly change feet. Whilst we had made it uneventfully across several countries, as we left the M3 and onto the A303 for the final leg home the car decided it had had enough and all the electrics went to bed one system at a time. After waiting for four hours the breakdown finally arrived to take us home, and found us huddled together for warmth. I finally got home after midnight.

All in all, the eventful journey home did very little to take the shine off what we all agreed had been a brilliant weekend. We are already beginning the planning for next year, and this time it will be meticulous.


The Bonsai Empire You Tube report is available at Noelanders 2018



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January 2018 Meeting


A Winter Workshop Evening


Tony contemplating his Crab Apple 

Tony is a dedicated member of our band of bonsai brothers who travels a fair  distance to attend our meetings and I think this photo illustrates the pleasure and satisfaction we derive from tending our little trees.

The January evening was a hive of activity as members started to prepare trees for the coming spring and  re-potting, indeed it as been so mild of late trees are showing signs of life already. Tony was just tidying up his Crab Apple and had marked out the trunk ready to hollow part of it out and was getting rid of some parallel, crowded growth and dead twigs. 

Adam a recently joined member had brought in a Japanese White Pine that he had invested in last year and was looking for some tips from the old hands at the club as to what to do next. _20180110_230046It will be interesting to see this tree in  a couple of years when Adam has put his stamp on it.




Meanwhile Richard P was busy cutting away with deep concentration.


_20180110_225826 Adam then took  time from his Pine  to watch some of the ‘Old Hands’ Howard and Roger offering their opinions on a handsome Hawthorn that Ade has brought in for us all to admire and pass judgement on  whilst Dave peeped over to see what they were all going on about.

A branch off here,  a branch off there, or should we tilt it the other way ? It was now getting really serious as Club President John Trott our proud winner of many Golds at Chelsea RHS, joined in the deliberations.

Is Adrian looking a little nervous?  I know last time he brought in a mature specimen that after John’s input it went home a very differently shaped tree from the one he brought in, after treatment that would have put many a member into deep shock. 
I think by now though we know that the combined knowledge of those two usually will result in something pretty impressive.

Stop Press added after publication 
Having spoken to Adrian to recall that evening he has supplied a recent photo of the tree mentioned, which was his Chantilly Pine, so here are the before and after photos that are the result of that evening’s work.


It was very encouraging to welcome Max, a young visitor to the Club, who seemed to be watching Tony very carefully as he explained what his plans were going to be for his next tree of the evening._20180110_225954

Just for the sake of keeping the Club archives up to date there was a presentation made on the night to the old codger who looks after the website and knocks it together every month. It was a splendid pot for a cascade tree  he has that has always been criticised by our judge as being in the wrong pot every time he sees it. No excuses now, thanks everyone, very touched..



Novices Class 

FIRST   Dave’s Hawthorn 

Second  Richard M’s Azalea


Advance Class

Jon’s Beech

This particular Yamadori was found in the wild by a member who is a professional  qualified forester and nurtured there for some years before being removed and trained more seriously.

Yamadori= Japanese for Tree collected from the wild.



Richard P’s Hornbeam


Third Equal

Tony’s Oak and M.C.’s Hawthorn

 Adrian’s usual highly detailed critique of the trees may be found via this link and even if one did not enter his comments are always full of tips and suggestions that most of us can benefit from     ToTM critique sheet January 2018



April Meeting   11th April
Dan Butler a talented  young potter from Wales is coming to talk to the members,  show us his wares and hopefully demonstrate some of the secrets of his craft, further details to follow. Dan specialises in some very  attractive slab pots so it’s time now to save up for the evening.

Swindon Winter Show  Sunday 25th February details at 
Swindon Winter Image Show

Our own Taunton & Somerset Bonsai Club Show 
May 26/27/28 at Willowbrook Garden Centre nr Wellington

Exmouth Bonsai Show 10th June

Bonsai in the Park Sept 9th at Lupton House Brixham
South Devon Bonsai Society

Should you be new to bonsai as some readers of this website are here is a warning of something to avoid.

On E  Bay and some other sites you may come across offers of seeds for  trees such as a ‘Blue Japanese Maple Bonsai Tree’ with leaves of the most extraordinary colour of blue.
NO SUCH TREES EXIST it is a scam achieved with Photoshop trickery 

Firstly  ‘Bonsai Seeds’ there is no such thing, we grow our bonsai with love and care from natural tree varieties, there is no Bonsai Tree as such.

Secondly You can see that the photos above are actually the same tree altered to different colours by computer photo software.  I  know who owned that tree in real life it was a reddish leaved tree but never pink or bright blue and all the time he owned it-and  it NEVER HAD SEEDS.

It seems cruel to me to market such a fraud, it has been reported by various enthusiasts to Ebay and trading Standards but little seems to have been done to prevent it continuing. What really annoys me is that these seeds, which are sold in great numbers, are probably purchased by people just starting out to discover bonsai and in many cases for young children as a starter and introduction to a hobby. The pathway to bonsai should be a straight and honest one not a crooked one.                       Editors opinion.


Next Meeting February 14th Re-potting Workshop 
Tree of the Month – Group Planting













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December 2017 Meeting AGM

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Our Annual General Meeting started with the Chairman’s report from Howard who thanked the Club Committee and Officers who had helped throughout the year. In particular his wife Andy who as Secretary  keeps us all in order, runs the raffle and organises our annual dinner. Thank you Howard and Andy.

Howard went on to thank all those who so enthusiastically entered our President’s Shoebox Challenge and the members who did so much hard work putting on our annual show at Willowbrook and the shows elsewhere such as Exmouth, much of that work being down to a few doing such a lot.

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Club Treasurer Roger then reported that we are financially sound, that the auction brought in some welcome funds and that we can consider spending perhaps on some speaker’s fees. Thank you Roger for looking after our books, the pennies and the pounds.

Club President’s AddressIMG_3895
Club President John Trott, has as Howard pointed out, added to his collection of Gold Medals at The RHS Chelsea and other shows this year. John thanked the team that helped run the club and congratulated us all on having such a friendly atmosphere at Taunton. John also urged us to continue taking part in shows elsewhere flying the flag for bonsai in Somerset and to consider showing at the larger Heathrow Show in 2018. John expressed his great pleasure in seeing how enthusiastically so many members had taken part in his Shoe Box challenge with  such imaginative entries as Ray M’s display capturing the links between the area and the long gone Somerset and Dorset Railway.
Rays John then threw down the gauntlet with the  Shopping Basket Challenge
Members will have to use a small replica shopping basket supplied, as their container or incorporate it into a planting as a feature. The member’s rose to this fresh challenge, they approved the purchase of the little baskets and  the  August meeting was set for the next tournament.

Election of Officers

All club officers and the committee were re-elected with the addition of Michael Cooper to the committee this year.

Programme of Meeting
We reviewed the forthcoming meetings for the next six months and considered further ideas. Details of which are always available on the website Link to 2018 programme

In addition to our own annual show Adrian said we had been invited to show at Exmouth again,  Bonsai in the Park nr Brixham and a new invitation from Sailsbury Club. Heathrow would also be considered if possible and enough helpers were available.

Collecting Trips
Jon is organising another tree collecting day on March 24th  either on the Blackdowns or nearer Honiton.

Roger and Adrian are running another whole day bonsai workshop on April 14th, there are only a couple of places left on it they are so popular. Much of the success of those days is also down to the hospitality of Andy and Howard who host them at their  place and provide such a tasty lunch. Homemade soup with Howard’s homemade bread.

Presidents Presentation
John made his Presentation this year to Jon B. for organising such successful tree collecting days.

The agenda for the AGM having been dealt with members then went to vote for the December tree of the Month Competition before tucking into the selection of plate, packets and platters of Christmas nibbles members had brought in.  I thought that Roger must have been on commission the number  of times he recommended his local butchers Scotch Eggs until I had one and realised how good they were.

At this point Andy ran the raffle and we had so many prizes brought in that she threatened dire punishments for anyone brave enough to return another  lucky number again into the draw rather than go home with too many prizes.

December Tree of the Month Competition
Result decided by members votes

Novices Class

FIRSTRichard P Scotts Pine


Richard P’s Scots Pine






Advanced Class

                                   Tony’s Mugo Pine.and Michael C’s White Pine
Tony always presents trees so well with a suitable stand or some other added attraction whilst Michael’s wife is still wondering where that ethnic table runner has disappeared to!

Jon’s fine Beech in a fine John Pitt pot 

Jon B Beech

Was it my imagination but I am sure that I heard no mention on the night that the pots were too big but then I am a little mutt and jeff.
Adrian’s detailed critique of this months entries may be accessed here
ToTM Critique sheet Dec 2017                          

Many thanks to Adrian for organising the competition which now ensures that there is always a number of trees on show at any one meeting for visitors to see and for his critiques which teach us all a thing or two about our trees. 
It does seem a shame though that a number of the long standing members don’t bring a few more trees along for these competitions I know they have some splendid specimens and we would all love to see them.

Tree of the Month   THE YEAR’S RESULT
Based on members votes

Both Classes were extremely close fought indeed in the Advance Class there was only one point in it after a year of competitions.

Novices Class
In THIRD Place : Sara,     In SECOND Place : Richard M.
and in FIRST PLACE : Richard P who was presented with his trophy by Adrian on the night.Ricard P Novices award

Advanced Class
Result for the year   THIRD place : Geoff. SECOND place  Michael C. and in

FIRST place
Jon B. who was also presented with is trophy


As I look back over this report to check that I have included everything I can only think what a good crowd we are and what a good evening it was.

If only I hadn’t inadvertently hit the wrong key
at the last moment and lost the whole bloomin’ lot.

So on this Mark 2 version all that remains is to wish all our members and visitors to our site a very Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year

Snow everywhere except Somerset when you want it!






Posted in Club Meeting, News Blog, Tree of the Month | Tagged , ,

November 2017 Club Auction Night

Table of lots

Once again it is auction night, a Wednesday or so later than our usual meeting day as Club President and  auctioneer John Trott was away on our usual day. His excuse was that he was in Taiwan at the Bonsai Clubs International Convention

I suppose that is a pretty good reason, we must ask them to avoid clashing dates in future. 🙂

Considering this was our third year running of auctions there was a little concern as to whether members would bring along enough entries, well there was no disappointment on the night  as we saw the trees brought in and numbered ready to go under the hammer.

Ades lucky dipAuctioneer’s assistant Adrian drew the lot numbers at random from the bucket and aided by Dave they kept up a ready supply of items for Johns to deal with.Whats next John






And keeping a tight eye on the money matters was Club Treasurer Roger as this is an important fund raising evening for the ClubIMG_20171122_202549

A most varied selection of lots followed, a number of which I managed to focus on whilst bearing in mind what I might buy myself .


‘Now what have we got here?’



‘Is that a bid or are you just scratching you nose?’


‘Do I hear £25?









Every year John has charmed, or sometimes squeezed ,every last penny out of us and it is a good night to acquire some seedlings, starters or some well established trees like the windswept Hawthorn which came up next, a really nice tree. I only wished my bonsai pocket was a bit deeper when I saw this.


‘Now here’s a real beauty’



There were a number of lots of pots, these larger ones usually being particularly hard to find at a reasonable price. Tools, wire, books and display stands, the evening provided a useful selection for both beginners and the old hands alike.

Large pots

There were small trees and larger trees and with one of the country’s leading bonsai professionals as auctioneer there were also some handy tips on what to do with ones purchases if need be.

Nice lttle one

‘Any advance on £22?’


Nice larch

John looking serious over a seriously good Larch

just do this to it

‘Now what you should do with this is..’










‘Here’s an elegant looking little Juniper, start me at £30 then’


A good solid trunk and a sturdy tree as well.

Club Chairman Howard thanked members for bringing in their trees to sell and  John for his auctioneering skills which had made it  a most successful evening, the Club’s bank balance helped along a bit and many satisfied members taking their purchases home  to add to their collections.





Ade reminded members that the December meeting on the 13th which is the AGM is also the last Tree of the Month Competition of the year which as both classes are running neck and neck should decided the winners in each for the awards for the year.



December Tree of the Month Competition will be judged on ‘ A Pine’

On the auction evening Tree of the Month judge Adrian said that the December competition  would be on the theme of ‘Winter Image’ forgetting that it had been listed for six months in our programme as   ‘A Pine’ When reminded later of this Ade decided that it should stay  as advertised.  



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