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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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

38th Annual Mid-America Bonsai Exhibit, Chicago; Part I

     When I'm late with a birthday or anniversary greeting, I just say that I'm trying to extend the celebration. Can I get away with that excuse now? The Mid-America was in August!

But, as always, it was well worth the time to attend. Here are some visual highlights.

"Best-of-Show" went to this 3-point display exhibited by Gary Andes of Tennessee. The main tree is a trident maple and
the secondary bonsai is a 'Kokonoe' Japanese white pine. At first glance I thought the secondary tree too big in relation to
the primary one, but after looking again (a few times) I can accept the judge's decision.
Close-up of the primary bonsai. Two features I especially appreciate: the very natural look of the root-to-rock
interface, and the superb match of the pot color to the bark!
Bill Valavanis makes a habit of going home with the "Best-of-Show-Professional" award from the Mid-America. But
he earns it. This larch raft planting has been in training since sometime before 1983.
Mark Fields' award-winning Rocky Mountain juniper will only get better with time, but it is already an
outstanding example of a bonsai that is balanced without being symmetrical.
I'm not sure whose display of mame this is (my apologies to the artist,) but he or she
has certainly come up with a creative and effective display stand!
Just a nice hornbeam. The judge thought so too, obviously.
This bunjin Black Hills spruce by Andy Smith almost gives the impression of being
windswept while being upright - a combination, by the way, that does occur in nature.
I believe this small neagari tree is an azalea. Whatever it is, it is well-done and the display is creative.
I came back to this quince bonsai several times, just to enjoy the skillful match of the pot color to the tree!
And speaking of pot color, only on my second look did I realize just how brightly colored this Chinese pot is!
Yet, within the composition, it doesn't overpower the other elements or pull the eye away from the pyracantha it holds.
That took a well-trained eye. Another tip-o'-the-hat to Bill Valavanis.
Who says the art of bonsai can't be whimsical? The accent plant at the top of the "slide" is a juniper seedling.

The American Bonsai Society always has a presence at the Mid-America, selling books and other items as well as offering free bonsai information in various ways: such as this demonstration of a raft-planting-in-progress. The tree is a Thuja, probably T. occidentalis.

The original rootball is on the left; you can see the measures that have been taken to keep it intact and easy to water.
The small blue arrows point to the section of lower trunk that still connects the rootball to the developing raft.  Once
the half-buried  upper trunk has enough roots, it will be separated from the original rootball and the branches
developed into the trunks of the new multi-trunk planting
Regrettably, the scheduled headliner for this year's Mid-America had to withdraw a few weeks before the event. Ivan Watters, long-time bonsai artist and teacher and a former curator of the Garden's own bonsai collection, was asked to stand in, almost literally at the last minute. In my opinion, he did an outstanding job, especially under the circumstances. Kudos, Ivan!

Here are a few pictures from the headliner's styling demonstration on Saturday afternoon. Please forgive the quality of some of the pictures; my little camera still doesn't always play nice in the Regenstein Center auditorium.

The demo tree was a collected Rocky Mountain juniper with an estimated age of 125 years. Ivan was particularly taken
by a smaller branch that can't be distinguished in this picture but that itself resembled a tree. He believes in
"Let the tree tell you what it wants to be" (Jokn Naka) and planned his design around that branch.
Detail work.
Ivan explains a point while Tim Priest and Steve Jetzer, two of his former students, assist with wiring.
Finished for the time being. The blue arrow points to the smaller branch that Ivan decided to feature.
I look forward to seeing this tree again as it develops over time.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised when Ivan mentioned in passing that he had just turned 80! I just hope I'm that active, involved, and mentally sharp when I reach that age! (If God wills that I do.)

:-)  :-)  :-)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

MABA 2015 Convention - a fine job!

     I'm writing this post about three months after the event, but late post or not, MABA 2015 was a convention well worth writing about! From choice of headliner to the display to the workshops, critiques, and demos, the Indianapolis Bonsai Club, in partnership with MABA and assisted at times by other bonsai enthusiasts in central Indiana, did an outstanding job. William Valavanis of the International Bonsai Arboretum, renowned bonsai teacher and artist and well-known for his expertise in bonsai display, was outspoken in his praise. Special kudos are due to Paul Weishaar, Mark Fields, and Scott Yelich, who together led the effort.

(For any who don't know, the Mid-America Bonsai Alliance was formed a number of years ago to promote the knowledge and practice of bonsai in the Great Lakes region (loosely defined!) and promote the use of indigenous trees and shrubs for bonsai. The Alliance has struggled in recent years, but if the July convention is any indication, it's coming back!)

The headliner was Suthin Sukosolvisit, originally from Thailand, a bonsai artist and teacher with many awards to his credit. Suthin has a ready sense of humor and makes it a point to get his audience involved during a demonstration.

And he's not afraid to think outside the box, as his design for his first demo tree demonstrates. Please forgive the quality of the first two pictures; I'm afraid I have no better ones from this point in the demo.

Suthin with his Friday night demo tree, a boulevard cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard.') Looking at the
twin trunks, I completely failed to guess what he would do with it. I wasn't alone.
After getting a number of suggestions from the audience for a design, Suthin showed us what he had in mind.
Suthin was clearly pleased with how the tree turned out. And what a transformation! 
A closer look.

The display was actually somewhat crowded, but that was because the convention planners expected about 135 trees and got about 175! I can think of worse problems.

This magnificent yew, Taxus x media, met you when you first stepped into the display.
Purchased a few years ago from the Kennett Collection by Paul Weishaar.
Of course you can have fun with bonsai! Composition by Paul Weishaar.
MABA, true to its mission, gave an award for the best bonsai created from an indigenous species. This native elm took that award. The label said it was a winged elm, but it must be a wingless variant. It's still an excellent bonsai.
I kept coming back to this composition - it's just so well put together! The main tree, a Portulacaria afra, and the accent are both visibly desert plants, with different but harmonizing forms; and the stand for both is a stone slab with  a complementary color.
This bougainvillea won Best-of-Show at the 2010 Mid-America show in Chicago. Nevertheless Ryan Neil, judge at the show, pointed out that in Japan it wouldn't considered show-ready, because the ramification was not yet very developed. The owner has obviously taken Ryan's remarks to heart since then. I look forward to seeing it again from time to time in coming years.
Jack Wikle remains the master of mame display! He also continues to successfully grow trees under lights year-round.
Jack is also a consummate bonsai artist, as this mame cypress shows.
Another angle on the same tree. Notice the carefully-developed structure.
Jack gave me permission to pick the tree up for this picture.
This veldt fig (Ficus burtt-davyi) reminds me of some of the trees I knew in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Owner and artists is Scott Yelich.
They don't show well in this picture, but there are rocks on the soil surface that put the finishing touch on
this composition. I felt like I'd been carried to a rocky New England hillside. William Valavanis has been developing this larch forest since sometime before 1983.  
A scoop pot allows a very natural-looking slope in this spruce forest. The branching of the trees is still very undeveloped,
but this could be an outstanding bonsai composition in the future.
Jim Doyle, in his Critique, couldn't say enough good things about this choice of pot color and finish for a trident maple.
I took two Critiques, with Pauline Muth and Jim Doyle. Both of them enthusiastically recommended Thuja occidentalis,
another native of the MABA region. Common names are "American arborvita" and "northern white cedar."
Because of the underground configuration of the roots of this yamadori Rocky Mountain juniper, it will be a few years
before Mark Fields can plant it in a better position in the pot. But I think he's done a fine job of matching this desert juniper
with a desert-looking accent!
Paul Weishaar's willow-leaf fig (Ficus salicaria) on a stand Paul carved from a block of walnut.
He used a chain saw for the first rough work!
Another of Jack Wikle's mame displays. The cartoon is from a past issue of BCI magazine.
I usually buy a few raffle tickets at a convention or show like this; even tho the odds of winning are low, the money helps support the event. This time, tho, I won something I really wanted: this shohin-sized yew. I suspect my grin didn't fade until the next day!

Taxus x media 'Densiformis'; around 25 years old (plus or minus 5 years,) from a cutting.
This tree was one of a group of yews that Mark Fields purchased from Mark Comstock in Connecticut, for his yew workshop. Mark (Fields) bought a few extra trees, to be sure to have plenty for the workshop; after it was over he donated one of the unused trees to the raffle. I'm going to have fun working on this beauty!

:-)  :-)  :-)