I set off at 06.00 am on Saturday morning to travel a hundred miles north to the city of Stirling, to help set up our clubs’ display stand at the Scottish National Bonsai Exhibition. This show is organised by the Scottish Bonsai Association; an organisation of about 120 members. It’s a one day event and the entire show is set up in a 2 hour period prior to opening at 10.00 am. With 3 unfit retired members available to erect our club display, we struggled to complete the task within the allotted time period. This year, judging was carried out by all the attending association members using a voting card system. Our club, the Lanarkshire Bonsai Club took 5 of the 7 available awards.
Here are some general pictures of our 2 sided display followed by a gallery of detailed shots.
Click on any picture in the gallery to see a larger one in gallery mode
The Ayrshire Club’s display featured 2 large trees in development as well as a number of fine finished specimens. Here are some pictures of their display.
A large Yew in development
Large Field Maple
Deshojo Maple forrest. This tree received the members favourite award.
Acer Palmatum. This tree received the general public’s favourite award.
Lovely Potentilla originally created by Robert Atkinson
Large Hawthorn in development
I have to say that the Perth Club’s display was colourful, well thought out and well presented; the trees were well chosen and well worked. It’s the sort of display that could easily pick up a gold medal at a flower or gardening show. Though it is unlikely that this type of display would be rated highly in a prestigious bonsai show.
Here are a few general shots of some of the other displays
As a general rule I tend to avoid controversial statements in any of my posts online but I feel so strongly about what I am about to say now that I am prepared to make an exception here. The standard of bonsai display at this show falls far short of what an informed person might reasonably expect to see at a show which is billed by the organisers as a “National” bonsai event. The Scottish Bonsai Association, who organise this show, pride themselves on their policy of inclusiveness, where a complete beginner can bring a tree to a show and have it displayed on the show bench next to one of the best trees in the country. They demonstrate this policy admirably and effectively at their Gardening Scotland event. A National Bonsai Show is something quite different. It should be an inspiring showcase for enthusiasts and the public alike, where the best trees in the country are brought together and displayed to the highest international standards. It should be a statement by a nation telling the world where we stand in terms of bonsai development. The Scottish Bonsai Association is the only organisation with the resources to make this a reality. If the will is not there to do it, then the organisation will be failing those members who desire to take their trees to a higher level and it would be an open statement to all its members that there are limits to what you might expect to achieve within this organisation.
Rant over for the moment, unless of course I develop a taste for this type of commentary
Nice pics Robert looks like you guys had a great time it’s nice to see my
Old potinttila on someone else’s display, hope to be there next year if it’s
At Troon and on a Sunday.
Thanks Robert, I liked that tree from the moment I first saw it at Barnsley, 3 years ago
Thank you hoechuah
Reblogged this on futterwithtrees and commented:
An excellent post from Robert Nocher. Thanks Robert.
Thanks for sharing the photos Robert. You guys have some amazing trees at that show. 🙂
Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.
Hi Robert, first of all I must congratulate your success at SBA 2017 Show.Well done. I must also reply to your comments on the show. This is not a traditional competition for bonsai it is described as by the members for the members and is to encourage members to show trees by their group. The only show showing bonsai traditionally is Bonsai Europa. I also think we should be judging trees as imports against imports and home grown against same. Bonsai people are collectors or creators some cost thousands of pounds so money can buy success. Not quite a level playing field. I also note no other group is rushing to stage the next one as it takes members commitment and lots of money. Ian McDougall
Hi Ian, thank you for posting your comments on my blog. It lifts my heart when people from the Scottish bonsai community take the trouble to communicate with me.
You have made a couple of points and I would like to respond to them.
You say that its not a traditional national show and that its for the members and by the members. I cannot see why, improving the standards of display would make it any less for the people or by the people.
You suggest that the only show in the UK showing bonsai traditionally is Bonsai Europa. By “traditionally”, I assume you mean, displaying trees in an uncluttered manner, in single rows against a uniform plain backdrop. Bonsai Europa is not the only show in the UK doing this. There are a number of annual events in the UK, where this is already the case. Two of the best the Swindon Winter Image Show and the Wirral Bonsai Society Show are not run by national institutions but by clubs. To achieve this in Scotland, the SBA would be required to provide the tables and backdrop for all the participant’s trees. If they purchased these materials they could them available to the clubs to enable them to organise their own shows at different times of the year.
With regard to your comments on judging, you do have a point. Some people buy expensive trees and immediately put them in shows and others prefer or by necessity grow their own. This is true all over the world and its not likely to change anytime soon. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the most expensive purchased trees will always win. The best deciduous tree at the last Bonsai Europa was a home grown beech raft by Terry Foster. At this years Noelanders Trophy, the best deciduous went to Tony Tickle’s home developed hawthorn raft and my little home grown cotoneaster even took the first place shohin award at the Scottish Show.
Your last point on cost of shows and commitment of members is also very valid. In my opinion the best way to encourage commitment and increase revenue is to invest in people and give them something to strive for. Robert Nocher
Hi again Robert ,this is getting never ending anyhow here are some more hurdles to cross. I agree with you entirely about how to display trees. In the SBA constition I’m sure it says members have the right to display trees at SBA shows. in all of the big bonsai shows the trees are displayed by invitation after vetting by the organisers.I wonder who would choose the trees for an SBA Show perhaps the group conveners? I also think it would be expensive to build a lot of tables and where would we store them. It would take a lot of tables for the number of trees we had at the last show. Another thought, how many people come over the border to see our show and have our shows ever broke even. I am with you all the way in our aspirations about better shows,but reality kicks in and I accept the fact that at least we have a Show. All the best I’m sure it will sort itself out Ian
Hi Ian, thanks for getting back to me. As I read your latest comments, I am thinking how good it would be if we could have had this debate published in the SBA newsletter, more people from the Scottish bonsai community may have read it and possibly more would have contributed to it; but that’s not to be at the moment because no one came forward to keep it going.
I agree entirely with you that there are many obstacles to overcome before we could display our trees better at the National Show but none of them are insurmountable. It only takes willingness to allow it to happen and commitment to see it through. Sure it would be costly to acquire the necessary materials and their storage would also have financial implications. They wouldn’t all have to be purchased at once the costs could be spread out over an agreed time period.
The revenue and footfall through the door is also an important consideration. The location and timing of the event would be critical to this. I am certain if we worked towards a higher standard of show we would get support from the wider bonsai community, we already get a good degree of support from the north of England already and we also have had support from Northern Ireland.
The only thing that can make this happen is a higher degree of commitment and support from the membership to the SBA than it enjoys at present. To get that commitment, I feel that the SBA has to be more pro-active in meeting the needs and aspirations of all of its members……All the best…Robert