Monday, October 30, 2017

Multiple Pine Experiments and Projects at ACBS Meeting

by Michael Rusnak

Randy with his dynamic scots pine
Greg discusses a wild tree
During last month’s meeting I thought of the saying that there is a real quality in quantity.  The sheer number of pine projects that Greg and Randy Pepper had going on created a certain excitement for what these tree would look like in future seasons.  Additionally, their presentation was a reminder of how the art as well as the skill in creating a bonsai is a matter of doing. It is learned by doing.  Talking and reading are fun and helpful, but nothing substitutes for the act of working with trees—and in these case lots of them.  That was for me very exciting.  To go from tree to tree and talk with others about how it might develop, creating dynamic trunk movement, it’s future crown was just plain fun. 

I read an article once that said UK bonsai artist Kevin Wilson ( ordered a couple of hundred of young larches, and worked on them one after another in order to learn how to create dynamic and interesting bonsai. 

Starting a new bonsai project is just and exciting venture. Greg and Randy’s excitement grabbed everyone in the room.   Bonsai is always like looking to the future.  How will this tree look next summer, in two summers? What movement can I give it and what line should it follow? Where will the apex be?  Greg and Randy fed our excitement for pine projects and the kind of things that can be developed from simple nursery stock.
Pine from a construction site
a small literati develops over time
And there was more. The story of this large pine (right) was a great one.  Greg related that the tree was dug from the end of a driveway on a construction site, and that it had actually been run over by several times. They pulled it out of the ground, and have managed to bring it back to health. In addition to its terrific lower trunk, it has some good deadwood sections, and plenty of possibilities for creating something exhibit worthy out of this piece of raw material.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bjorn Bjorholm Visits the Cleveland Club

The Cleveland Bonsai Club recently hosted internationally known bonsai ace Bjorn Bjorholm for a member workshop. 

Bjorn rotated between members, who brought several different species, including pine, juniper, maple and spruce.   He offered design ideas and assisted them with initial styling, as well as some refining on these long term projects.  He also fielded questions and gave  tips on pruning, wiring, training, as well as horticultural information on keeping their trees healthy.

The dialogue that went on along with styling work was detailed and informative, and well worth an afternoon's work.  Some brief clips of the discussion can be seen on the Akron Canton Bonsai Youtube Channel at this link.

As our bonsai traditions here in Ohio are, of course, relatively new compared to those of Asia, working with such recognized artists as Bjorn to improve  skills --and ultimately our trees-- is a rare opportunity.

Much thanks to the Cleveland Club for inviting our members to this event.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dan Designs by Committee-- a Novel Format for Club Meeting

Much of the fun --and art-- in bonsai comes from the process. The process involved in taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary. The art of bonsai could be defined as the process of turning raw material to a show worthy tree.

But how does someone accomplish such a process--or even begin?  How are ideas generated for a good design?

ACBS's own Dan Tullius tried out a different format to answer such questions at the August meeting.  He attempted to illustrate this design idea stage of creating a bonsai from raw material. 

Working on a healthy nursery stock yew project, Dan presented a drawing on how he envisioned the tree as a bonsai.  He then called on other club members to propose more design ideas for the yew-- a sort of "design by committee" or idea sharing approach. This meant for much discussion.

Ideas flowed. The tree was rotated to consider different possible fronts. Options for how trunk's planting angle might be changed were looked at. Each design vision for the yew was discussed in detail.  Proposals included 1)a cascade, 2)a neatly curving informal upright, 3)a slightly taller more literati style, and 4) a very short shohin style tree.

This kind of discussion illustrates the value of taking time to study a piece of raw material.  It also showed how things like altering the trunk angle and looking at several possible fronts might aid in planning a design. Additionally the exercise brought home the point of how collaboration can sometimes launch into new ways of looking at the stock, new considerations and ways of envisioning how the tree might look after four or five years of development. It was also valuable to see such discussion involve a specific piece of stock and not just in the abstract. 

This style by committee format was a concept well worth repeating at future meetings. Much thanks to Dan for offering this novel concept and leading this discussion for the club.

A video compilation of some of the discussion ideas is posted our the ACBS Youtube page at this

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Visit To the Cleveland Bonsai Club Outdoor Show

Big Juniper
Part of the outdoor walkway and display
Larch Forest
I drove up to the our neighboring Cleveland Bonsai Club’s annual July show recently, and took a few pictures of some of the trees they had on display. The Cleveland Club had an awesome venue for an out door exhibit. The Rockefeller Gardens had an shrubbery enclosed u-shaped walkway next to the green houses where they set up tables for the display. This area allowed for a nice relaxing sort of bonsai stroll. They had some great trees in the exhibit, including a large rosemary, some pines, a sizable juniper, and a terrific larch forest. 

The Cleveland Club is one of the oldest bonsai clubs in Ohio and the mid-west. The Cleveland bonsai guys did some nice work, and the unique outdoor setting made a real summer time treat. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bonsai Down by the River Side

An unexpected flood on the lower levels of the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center, almost spoiled our regular July meeting.

Thanks to some quick thinking by our VP Kevin Fey, who scoped out the neighboring area, we moved across the street to the riverside amphitheater. The move  turned out to be a pleasant surprise and a pretty good bring your own tree workshop. It was a gorgeous summer evening.  The steps and benches made for plenty of seating, work space and clean up from pruning and split soil was not a problem. Anyway, we had good some tree work. Maybe we should make the outdoor, down by the river side meeting an annual event.  

The Art Center director said that the lower level was flooded with 8 inches of flowing muddy water, and disrupted their classes and operations for a couple of weeks. The flood was caused by work crews in the area who broke drainage lines. We are OK in our regular meeting room for August.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Yews and Youtube

By Michael Rusnak

My kids always shake their heads a little in one of those "No Duh" moments when I point out what an incredibly great resource Youtube is.  Of course they already know.  But I still marvel at it. I mean if you need to fix a faucet, put up dry wall or change the head light on your Civic and you aren't sure how, there probably a dozen videos there where someone shows you the way.

June 15 before wiring shaping
My point is you there are some great videos there too for helping with your bonsai skills--and specific skills.  There are some really good videos on yews, for example. English bonsai guy Graham Potter has this excellent one that leads you though the stages of how he works a stump into a specimen.  Or this one on making a bonsai from something out of the trash, which he calls a sort of "blank canvas" for learning bonsai, the type of material on which he "cut his teeth." In addition, the series that Tony Tickle posted is also excellent.  He shows some great ones in his garden and for dead wood don't miss his little video tour of yews in the wild.  As I've never been seen yews in the wild, this video provided some models on how the dead wood on yews is shaped by natural forces. 

June 17 starting to look presentable after wiring & thinning
Here in northeaster Ohio, yews are commonly used for shrubbery.  It's not unusual to see some sizable ones laid out for the trash. This of course is a great opportunity, if you can get them to live in a pot.  Sizable trunks, the price is right, the digging work has already been done, and they have such wonderful reddish purple bark and deep forest green foliage.

Anyway, I've been watching these yew videos over and over again to learn how to make something out of some of the massive yews I've grabbed on trash nights.

It has taken a couple of years. First to get them healthy (they usually weren't pulled out of the ground carefully)  and into good bonsai soil, and to the point of throwing out nice new shoots.

 Another view of yew
With the help of the videos by the English bonsai guys, I am starting to bring them along.  The process of preliminary wiring, thinning, letting it grow wild, and wiring again, is making this one start to look like something.
Anyway, it's great that some of the world's outstanding bonsai artists have taken the time to post such quality videos.  And help people in clubs like ours improve their skills.  Kudos Graham, Tony and many others.

It's always exciting to start a new bonsai project.  It's good karma too, these unwanted shrubs will have a whole new life as a bonsai. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

ACBS 2017 June Show --Bonsai Eye Candy

2017 Show Entrance
This year's ACBS June exhibition drew a steady flow of visitors at the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Although we had fewer trees this year than in some of our shows in the past, we still had a good sampling of different bonsai styles and also a good mix of species, both tropical and hardy, evergreen and broad leaf varieties.  The the bonsai also provided a good sampling of member projects with trees that suggest stories, provided delights, color and serenity.  It remained celebration of why we love bonsai. 
Top view of colorful azaela
Awesome azaela
With Dan Tullius' majestic juniper greeting visitors at the entrance to the exhibit, along with the club's 11 section penging landscape at the center, the exhibit brought you right in and then surrounded you with bonsai eye candy.
This time of the year there is such a great variety shades of early season foliage and the vibrant green colors
Old yew keeps getting better
that come with it.  In addition, ACBS's own Ken Huth came through again this year with two azaleas that were both covered in blossoms.  We had some large old yews that just get better every year. Mike's grape too had multiple grape bud clusters this year, and the penjing, designed by Carlton Buck just looks, as one young visitor put it "like a place of fairy tales." We also had several neat little mame
80+ year old concord grape
plantings included in the show, including erodiums, small leaf Japanese maple groves and other exotic accent arrangements. In short there was something in the exhibit to appeal to everyone. 

ACBS' Penjing landscape
We invite our internet friends to take a look at this video tour of the exhibit posted on our Youtube channel. 
More pictures of the trees at this year's show can be seen here on our picture place.