The doldrums of this April’s showers were broken by the antics of our club’s own favorite bonsai duo, Chris Ross and John Doig. In their usual style where Chris does most of the talking and John does all the work, the pair brought form and energy to an otherwise common cotoneaster and smiles to the faces in the packed audience.
With his opening volley, Chris jumped right into his well-known banter about what makes a bonsai. He mentioned “emphasizing the vagaries of nature” and called the goal in bonsai “what a tree could be if it went to tree college.” Meanwhile, John, who had been in the background hungrily fondling tools, busted in at this last comment, eager to get chopping on the bushy cotoneaster before them.
A few notes about the subject matter: This cotoneaster came from John’s favorite, “secret” landscaping tree source, so it had been raised so far in its life to become a shrub, hedge, or some other large-scale plant. As is, it was a sturdy, bushy, even attractive little shrub, but a clear path to a bonsai it had not. But after caring for it for a few months on his property, and some prior consultation with Chris, John had a reasonable idea where he was going to take this tree’s bonsai potential. The trunk quickly split into two, and branches of various sizes, some appropriate and others not so much for their locations, were copious all over the tree.
John was so eager to cut some obvious inappropriately located branches off that he had to be interrupted by Morris Dailey, who asked, “What about choosing the front?” Although they explained that there is just so much that is crying for removal from this tree that it’s not important just yet, Chris and John nodded to tradition and stopped what they were doing to go about selecting the front for the tree. There was some disagreement in the audience, but one side was chosen as the front, with a nearly opposite location indicated for secondary consideration once some of the clear-cutting could be done.
With the formalities aside, John proceeded to lop off two substantial branches. The first was too twisty throughout the tree, the other was puny compared to branches above it and would never catch up, no matter how much the branches above it were to be pruned. Then a small branch was cut from among some larger ones and Dan Keller took issue with that decision. The gist of his argument was: why take that weak branch and leave so many strong branches that might contribute to a lump or “knuckle,” some early signs of which were already beginning to show? John was so intent Continue reading