Club Meeting May 2015

by Kevin Kelly

The club president Trevor Venables opened the meeting by welcoming a visitor and noted the apologies of Frik de Jager and Kobus van Schoor.

Dorothy Franz was congratulated for her Juniper procumbens nana receiving a SABA award for best tree.

Trevor and other members who had attended the Kat River Kai Autumn Festival reported back that it had been a well-organised and most enjoyable meeting. The well-known international bonsai artist Steve Tolley was in attendance. It was noted that there was not much focus on deciduous trees at the meeting.

Phil Levitt reported that planning for ABC4 is proceeding smoothly. He noted that there are still some spaces available in workshops. Carl Morrow said that hands will be needed in setting up the exhibition at ABC4 and made a call to members to consider which of their trees to exhibit and begin preparing them for show. He noted that it would be good to focus the exhibition on Western Cape and specifically Southern Cape trees.

Vicky Petermann filled the 'Tips of the month' slot with a presentation on how she keeps a photographic record of how her trees have developed over time. She emphasised the value of appreciating the 'story of the tre'e, and how knowing this assists in appreciating "where it is going".

Andries Havenga was the bush-to-bonsai artist for the evening, and retreated to the back of the room to work on a juniper after explaining what he hoped to do with the tree. When he presented the result of his work at the end of the meeting his efforts were positively commented on by the members with some suggestions were made regarding the development of the tree.

Tony Bent (self-characterised as 'Lazy Tony') presented on Juniper procumbens nana, and showed six charming bonsais in different styles (leaning, informal upright, three trees, twin trunk, penjing, phoenix graft). He pointed out what he has considered in developing the trees over many years and pointed out his vision for each tree. Members of the audience commented on the trees, and it was noted that Juniper procumbens nana is an excellent bonsai species for both beginners and experts. Tony commented on the value of dosing trees with Kohinor twice a year (3ml per litre of water) as an efficient way of putting plant pest concerns to bed. Trevor expressed some concern about systemic insecticides eliminating 'good pests'. He cited the example of infestations of red spider mite in areas where it was not previously found, which is reportedly a result of unintentional elimination of their natural predators.

Francois Voges demonstrated the planning and planting of a forest; which he achieved remarkably efficiently and effectively with a group of Chinese maples.

He showed how to develop a 'floor plan' for the forest and emphasised the importance of dealing with the challenge of light in planting a forest. It is quite common to lose small trees due to them not getting enough light. Leaning of trees, particularly on the edge of forests, can help to limit this problem and consideration should be given to how each tree receives light.

Francois also pointed out the importance of seeing the forest as a whole. The canopy creates binds the individual trees into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It must be carefully crafted, with attention given not only to its form, but the negative spaces surrounding the foliage mass.

He emphasised that the relationship between the trees is important. Each tree has "a job". It fills a space and the trees need each other.

Wonderful forest plantings may be made up of trees that have significant flaws as single trees, and the way that they "complete" each other creates the sense of unity in a forest. Francois emphasised that working with forests brings to the fore the illusionist in the bonsai artist. He said that viewing a bonsai forest should evoke "bird song... the murmur of a brook".

He also pointed out that it is important in developing a forest to realise that Westerners read from left to right. They tend to find it more aesthetically pleasing to have the weight of the forest (main tree) towards the left of the planting, and finer design elements towards the right.

The 'tree of the month' for the evening was 'forests'. Rudi Adam was the judge and brought three forests to the front for comment. He said in relation to wild olive forest that in his view the character of wild olives does not lend itself to forest plantings, while some members disagreed. He also noted in commenting on a well -proportioned forest presented by Cindy Rodkin, that it shows the importance of considering the balance of young and mature trees in a forest.

The evening ended with some members lingering over a glass of wine or coffee.

The meeting was once again a reminder of the privilege of being part of a club that has such a wealth of expertise and artistry among its members.