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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spruce, Ponderosas, and Larch, Oh My! (Part 1.)

(With apologies to A.A. Milne.)

     Four days ago, the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club gathered at the home of our club president, for a Styling and Refinement workshop with Andy Smith. Andy is a bonsai teacher and artist, and one of the best-known collectors of native bonsai material in the USA. He and his two sons had attended the 2nd US National Bonsai Exhibition in Rochester, New York, and stopped on their way home to South Dakota.

Andy starts with some general remarks
For those who are unfamiliar with Styling and Refinement workshops, this format is typical. The teacher starts with one tree; evaluates it, points out strengths and weaknesses, and gives recommendations for styling. (If the tree's basic style is already set, the recommendations are for refinement.) If the tree's owner is uncertain of a necessary technique, the teacher will demonstrate. Then he or she moves to the next tree, while the first workshop-er (to coin a term) gets started.

Participants are usually asked not to start working on their own trees until the teacher has seen them. This isn't bad: it means you watch, listen and learn until it's your turn.

Giving Bruce a suggestion.
Once the teacher completes the circuit of all the trees, he or she will go around again, answering any new questions, and giving further advice and guidance. This continues until all the work that can be done at the time, on each tree, is finished. Sometimes work on a given tree is limited by its present health; sometimes a tree needs to grow out for several years before further work is done.

While Andy is a fine artist and a good hands-on teacher, he's best known for the yamadori that he collects and sells. A number of the workshop participants ordered trees from him in advance of the workshop, and he brought them along. (Which saved our people the shipping costs.) In fact, of the 11 people in the workshop, nine worked on trees Andy had brought with him! And while the workshop wasn't limited to a particular species, nine of the 11 trees (but not quite the same nine) were ponderosa pines, Pinus ponderosa. The other two were spruces. (One member did buy a collected larch from Andy that day. But I threw "larch" into the title mainly to complete my mangled version of Winnie-the-Pooh's famous line!)

As it happened, each of the trees in the workshop received its first major styling (sometimes called creation styling.) Some of our members were confident working on their own, after the initial discussion. For others it was the first such project. Andy was always quick to give more help if needed. Safe to say that all of us went home happy with our trees. I know I did!

Consultations done, Bruce and Bob work on their trees.
I think this is Bob's first attempt at this level. Looks good!

Andy's business, Golden Arrow Bonsai, is listed among "Bonsai Vendors I can Recommend." Give it a look! I've never been dissatisfied with anything I've bought from him. :-)

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