Some Random Thoughts on Bonsai Design

One of the great advantages of keeping a photographic record of your trees is that it allows you to consider and plan their future development as well as recording their actual development. When a tree is outside on the benches, we may only study it closely 2 or 3 times a year but if we photograph it and place that photograph prominently on our computer desktop then we see it and think about it every time that we go online. I do this all the time with my own trees and those of my friends and I find that it helps me to see and understand the strengths and weaknesses in their current state of development.

Here is an example that I have been studying and admiring today. It is not my tree. It is a recent acquisition by my friend and fellow club member, Gordon.


When I look this picture I see a  little white pine with good potential in a lovely unglazed Japanese pot. Two things stand out for me at the moment.

The first is that the direction and movement in the tree is a little ambiguous. The lower trunk and the lower left character branch are suggesting a left facing movement, while the apex suggests a movement towards the right. Consider it this way. If you were displaying this tree in a show and planed to complete the display with a small accent plant, on which side would you place the accent ? At the moment you could place it at either side and it wouldn’t make much difference but if the trees’ movement and direction were more clearly defined, the position for the accent would be obvious and the overall image would be stronger for it.

Using photo editing software we can visualize both options without harming the tree, to help inform any choice we might make in the future.

The next picture shows the apex reduced to strengthen the movement to the left.


And the next picture shows the bottom left character branch reduced, reinforcing the movement to the right. I personally prefer this one.


The other issue that is very apparent is the relative proportion of the tree and the pot. While the pot is very nice, it is definitely too big for this tree. Using the photo editing software again, we can alter the scale of the pot to bring it more into balance with the scale of the tree.




Potentilla and Cotoneaster Re-Potted

This Potentilla  Fruticosa was planted in the pond basket just over a year ago as an experiment to stimulate quicker root development. At this stage I wasn’t sure what it was doing for the roots but it certainly was attracting a lot of weeds.


When the tree was removed from the basket I could see that the roots were growing quite well but some of the deadwood in the bottom of the trunk had rotted leaving a very obvious cavernous hole.


I have re-potted it into the ceramic pot you can see in the next picture and filled the hole with a stone which is the same colour as the trunk.


This cotoneaster has been in that small green pot for a year now and it hasn’t put on much new growth.


Today it has been re-potted into this larger blue oval to speed up the ramification of the foliage pads. It can be returned to a smaller pot once this has been completed.



2 Deciduous Shohin Trees

Here are 2 shohin trees that I have been working on today.

The first is a cork barked elm in an Erin pot. I have had this tree for about 4 years, it grows well in our climate and is relatively trouble free. It lost a lower branch on the left hand side over the winter but there is plenty of new growth in that area to replace it.


The next one is a small trident maple root over rock, which I am looking after for my friend Gerry. This little tree was re-potted in the Spring and was slow to leaf out afterwards. It’s doing well now and will need partial defoliation in the next few weeks.


Lanarkshire Bonsai Club Meeting 12/6/2016

Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the Lanarkshire Bonsai Club at Wattston Bonsai. It was a busy day with lots of people passing through the workshop. Some of the members were involved in a number of seasonal tasks including defoliation of deciduous species and the re-potting of trees that respond better to this process when the weather is a little warmer.Here are a few pictures that sum up the day.

Gordon and Stuart discussing a larch.


Dougie and re-potting a juniper with Maurice looking on.


Gordons’ White Pine


Dougies’ defoliated trident over rock


Maurices’ re-potted juniper in a new Bigei pot.


2 Cotoneasters in Flower

Here are some pictures of 2 cotoneasters in development that have come into flower this week.

The first one was re-potted in spring with a slight change of angle to make the tree more upright.


This is how it looked last autumn.


I have been developing this 2nd tree for about 5 years. It was re-potted into the green pot last year and since then growth has been slow. I may re-pot it into something larger this week to speed up its growth..


It is 1 of 2 shohin trees made from the stump shown in the next picture.


Bonsai at Gardening Scotland Part 3

The third and final part of this post will focus on the trade displays.There were 2 bonsai traders at Gardening Scotland in 2016 and both put forward a display for judging by the Scottish Horticultural Society, both were awarded gold medals.

This is an overview of the Watston Bonsai display.


and here are more detailed pictures of some of the trees. Click on any image to see a larger one in gallery mode.

This is an overview of the North of England Bonsai display


and here are some detailed pictures. Click on any image to see a larger one in gallery mode


Bonsai at Gardening Scotland Part 2

The Scottish Bonsai Association take over a considerable floor are within the flower pavilion for their  event. Competition is divided into 2 categories. Members select the best trees available and display them together. These are judged by the Scottish Horticultural Society along with all the other stands in the pavilion, medals and cash prizes are awarded for this competition. 2 of the displays entered by the SBA were awarded gold medals. Here are some overview Pictures of the medal winning displays.

Large tree display


Shohin Display


The other competition is an open event, where individual trees are judged by the SBA in different classes. Here are some overview pictures of the display stands for this competition.


Here is a Gallery of detailed pictures from the 2 competitions. Click on any image to see a larger one in gallery mode.

Throughout the weekend members of the public could buy a small tree for £5.00 and have it wired and styled by SBA members


These ladies in traditional dress were from the Japanese Consulate


Getting hooked ?



Bonsai at Gardening Scotland Part 1

Scotlands’ premier gardening and horticultural show is running this weekend and and it has a large bonsai content. To many this is the big bonsai event of the year as it attracts large numbers of visitors. Displays are judged under horticultural society rules rather than bonsai show rules so displays may be a little unconventional to some people. There are a lot of aspects to cover in this event and a lot of photographs to edit, so it will be broken down into parts, which I will post in the coming days.

There are 2 distinct competitive bonsai events at this show. The first is for large bonsai displays and it is judged by the Scottish Horticultural Society. The second is an open event, where anyone can enter a tree in numerous classes and have it judged by the Scottish Bonsai Association. This second competition is a very inclusive event, which allows enthusiasts at any level of competence the opportunity to show a tree and have it judged. The set up is on the Wednesday with judging on the Thursday and the event is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This means that your trees are away from home, in the care of others for 5 days. For this reason myself and some others don’t put trees into this event because it is not possible to get there every day to check up on them.

This year, Ayr Bonsai Club won a large gold medal and a significant cash prize for the club for their large display, which premiered last year at The Ayr Flower Show. Their display is in the form of a large square area, split diagonally into four separate triangular compartments each with a separate theme.Well done chaps, a terrific display and a well deserved win.

Here are some general shots of the four compartments.






Modern Display


Large Trees


Here are some detailed pictures of individual trees within the display. (click on any image to see a larger image in gallery mode)

I will be posting many more pictures covering the different facets of this event in the coming days.


Juniper Squamata in Development

Today, I had a look at a piece of raw material that was collected from my garden 2 years ago. It is a procumbent needle foliage juniper, commonly found in gardens, that given time, makes a really nice bonsai.

This is how it looked when it was removed from the ground 2 years ago.


And this is how it looked one year on from the previous picture. They are relatively slow growing trees and in its first year of pot culture it didn’t put on much new growth. I decided at this point to leave it for another year.


After another year in the large pot it is looking a lot stronger, so I can do some more work on it now.


Today I took it out of the plastic pot, removed the remaining old garden soil and re-potted it in a good free draining soil mix, in this round drum pot. It will stay in this pot for the foreseeable future while its’ development continues.


Here is another of the same variety that was started about 12 years ago.


my juniper