Demonstrations by John Armitage
Demonstration on junipers and advice on how to display trees, 8.5.2017
John had brought some small Chinese junipers - juniperus chinensis - to show us. Junipers need plenty of light to grow well. They should be re-potted in May, after they have started to fill out. The compost should drain well to allow for air exchange. John now uses a compost containing hard pumice, biosorb, a little lime and Biochar, which contains charcoal, mycorrhizal fungi and fertilizer.
Juniperus chinensis 'Itiogawa'
John removes 'blind' foliage, tips of branches with only one leader, to encourage bushy growth, cutting with scissors, not pinching. He then wires the 'Itiogawa', spreading out the branches to best effect. He uses copper wire because it stays in shape on conifers, which are wired for many months before the branches have set in position. Aluminium wire is too pliable and may change shape in the wind or if the tree gets knocked.
John went on to explain how to display bonsai, using oriental shohin stands.
Usually there is a conifer, often a pine, at the top and a small accent plant below. The trees should not all face the same way and each tree must be given enough space so that it cannot overpower another tree. Trees on different levels face each other.
Demonstration on shohin junipers, November, 2014.
John explained that shohin trees are between 10 cm and 25 cm (4" - 10"). Mame trees are even smaller. If the tree is a cascade or semi-cascade the measurement is from pot to tip. John demonstrated on a tiny common juniper and a Japanese juniper. He styled both into semi-cascades, using copper wire.
The common juniper had been wired into a curved shape and left to grow. John wired all the branches into a semi-cascade. He then re-potted it into a tiny pot using a mixture of Akadama, biosorb and grit. He advised that pinching tips of branches stops the growth and used scissors to reduce the length of individual branches, which results in bushier regrowth.
The Japanese juniper was an imported shohin bonsai which had grown slightly over the size limit, so John re-styled it from an upright to a semi-cascade and wired every branch. The pot was carefully wedged into a larger pot at the desired angle before the tree was wired and restyled. The tree will be re-potted into a shohin pot at a later date.
A talk on John's travels to Japan - June 2011
John described three visits to the same bonsai nursery south of Tokyo. While he was there, he worked on small and large trees, using many techniques, including grafting small trees on to established bonsai to form new roots or foliage pads. He helped to stage bonsai exhibitions. Copper wire is always used on conifers as it holds branches in position better than aluminium over a long period.