Bonsai week workshop 2

The final workshop will now be under way at Bonsai week in Canberra and I’m sure today’s group will get as much out of it as we did yesterday.

Saturday’s group had representatives from across NSW and Victoria, representing a range of bonsai clubs. We presented a range of tree species and development for the visiting instructors to work with.

before the workshop

I had help from Sandra Grlica in the morning. She chose to work with this juniper which has a couple of tight turns in the trunk as a feature.

She identified 2 good options, both using the same side of the tree as front but with different balance for the proposed bonsai. One had more foliage to the right, the other, which I chose to follow, moved more left.

This side was chosen for the more subtle view of the tight bends. The twist will be emphasised with shari to be developed over time.

part styled
Final result

A slight change of angle to emphasise the left movement.

As with most workshop trees, branches will need to grow and fill in. Future development will probably include: widening of the shari and possible extension to emphasise the twist in the trunk; development of the apex, currently made from a single, thick branch.

Thank you Sandra for your help with this great tree.

As an interesting aside, Heike commented that she would have chosen the other side of that tree ( see picture below) as her preferred front because of the more visible bends. Another example of different preferences – not right or wrong, just different possibilities. Which side would you have emphasised?

The other side of this tree before styling

Heike van Gunst worked with me in  the afternoon session. Heike chose to style the other upright tree that I had on hand.


There are 2 opposing spiral branches at the top of the tree. Heike chose to use the other side of the tree as the front and used thicker branch going right to develop a semi cascade bonsai.

reduce the larger sacrifice branches to short jins

Initially the the larger sacrifice branches were reduced to jins. Later more were removed to give even  more emphasis to the right movement. The resulting jins gave a natural path for a connecting shari of dead wood.

Heike connecting the jins with a narrow shari

The end main part of the trunk already had nicely flowing, natural curves so did not need wiring. Remaining branches are long with lower parts quite bare of foliage but the twisted trunk means that dramatic twists in the branches to bring foliage closer to the trunk don’t look out of place.

A guy wire was enough to compress the main trunk a little more and bring the end of the trunk down just under the level of the trunk base.

Plans for future development: remove the larger root on the left when tree health and vigour makes this possible; Develop 3 main foliage areas with some spaces between; continue to develop the shari over a number of years to give more natural texture to the dead wood.

Bonsai Week Workshop 2019

Our National Bonsai and Penjing Collection is hosting another week of bonsai activities in Canberra. Workshops with international practitioners allow us to exchange ideas and learn new techniques and ideas.

This year we have expert advice from 2 visitors – Heike van Gunst and Sandra Grlica.

I have been lucky to get a place in one of the workshops this year. With an entire day to fill we are able to take several trees to work with. I’m having trouble narrowing down the possibilities so I’ll take a few extras for the ladies to choose from.

Here are the trees I’ve selected

These junipers have all been developed over the past 9 years with repeated wiring, bending and twisting to produce wild looking trunks. Some have also had initial shari started. Experienced readers will note some long sacrifice branches that I’ve been using to increase trunk thickness and, in some cases, to develop thicker branches that may be used for additional jins.

Really looking forward to the weekend activities and to whatever the ladies can develop from the trees.

follow up report and photos after this weekend.

2019 Wodonga show

Our local bonsai club put on a display of bonsai at this year’s Wodonga show.

We talked to plenty of people and hopefully opened a few more eyes to the great art of bonsai.

Trident group, Seiju elm, olive, Seiju elm, Shimpaku juniper, Shimpaku juniper, trident maple Japanese black pine
Japanese red pine, Olive, Deodar cedar, Japanese red pine, Azalea, trident maple
Willow leaf fig, trident maple, Port Jackson fig, Trident group, trident maple Root over Rock
Shohin display – Japanese maple, trident maple, cotoneaster microphylla, Seiju elm, Port Jackson fig, Japanese black pine
Japanese black pine, Japanese maple, Leptospermum(?) sp, Shimpaku juniper (phoenix graft) callistemon sieberii
Kunzea parvifoila, European(?) black pine, Ficus rubiginosa

Thanks to Theo for organising the venue and passes and to Ian for contributing trees and spending the day helping to promote bonsai.

Olive carving

Our bonsai club has access to some areas with lots of feral olives so we have had several ‘digs’ to obtain advanced material. One of the paddocks is quite steep and rocky so I suppose these are literally ‘yamadori’ (Japanese word meaning from the mountain).

club members at an olive dig

Here’s one a couple of years ago. You can see that the original middle trunk was converted to dead wood to leave room for the better trunk to develop. A small stub was also left on the smaller left trunk.

A couple of years ago

Last year I felt that the branches had developed enough structure to merit a proper bonsai pot.

I also decided the jin was just a bit boring. Looking at images of ancient olives I saw impressive old trunks with hollows and dead wood. A little carving on the trunk below the jin adds a whole new dimension to this tree.

I can see an opportunity to add some more texture and character to the jinned branch itself but that will have to wait for another day.

While checking another of these developing olives I noticed a dead patch on the trunk