A few weeks after this year’s BIB exhibit in January, I started thinking hard about what trees to display in 2010. Depending on the work a tree needs, twelve months is not always enough time to prepare it for exhibit. I’d been thinking about showing a large Sierra juniper or a large corkbark Japanese black pine, but as the months went by, I realized that neither tree is ready. Considering the effort required to show a tree I like to make the most of it whenever possible.
I can’t say the Western juniper below is ready either, but it’s closer. Only wired twice now, it’s been growing like gangbusters and will fill in nicely for its first exhibit. The big question, as is so often the case with trees this size, is whether the tree shows best in a two or three point display.
At 22″, one might consider it a large tree – the cutoff for medium trees usually falls between 16″ and 18″. But for bunjin style bonsai, one can push this guideline. We put this principle to test by setting up several two and three point displays. Here are the results.
This accent was too small for the tree
This accent was too large
This accent was appropriately sized, but the display still appears empty
The large grass and stand help fill the space.
Adding a second tree is better yet, though it makes us yearn for more appropriate stands – for both trees.
The same setup with a mondo grass accent was our favorite.
Setting up practice displays frequently makes me want to have an extra dozen stands on hand so I can get everything to look just right. As a result of this exercise I now realize that between now and January I have to find a show pot for the pine and stands for both trees. I also have to repot the juniper and refine its silhouette. Which is part of the fun. A single display entails a surprising number of variables – inattention to any one of them can detract from the whole. Fortunately I have six months and not six weeks – let alone six days! – to complete these tasks.
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I really liked the 3 point over the 2. Something about Bunjin that makes them take up less space. I also liked both the juniper and the pine, but not as much together. I think its a prejudice against too many similar trees in a display. I was trying to think of what I would ideally like to see with that juniper and was thinking along the lines of a kifu deciduous tree like a maple or stuartia. Having much more experiance than I do, whats your thoughts on the trees involved in a 3 pt display? Thanks!
@Alex – I too think a small deciduous tree would be a good fit. I don’t, however, think that I’ll have one ready in time for show next year. Although it is ok to show two confiers together, it’s more common to see a fun mix of decidous/evergreen broadleaf/coniferous trees together. Another issue is that both trees have slender, curvy trunks. Increasing the variety of shapes, colors and styles represented in the display can be an improvement. It can also create a more compelling story – black pine grows near the water at low elevations, western junipers grow in the mountains. Displaying two trees that have more of a relationship, whether stylistically or otherwise, can also make for good display.
@Scott – You’re spot on about the slab. It’s about as large as I’d want to get away with in an exhibit, and I’d prefer a slightly smaller slab given the choice. Other alternatives could include a low round stand, a square stand, or maybe even a root stand. It’s an important detail you picked up on – I sometimes think visual weight is more important than style, color or other considerations. It’s fun because it’s so subjective. It’s what makes a 22″ bunjin look good in a three point display and it’s frequently the most challenging aspect of selecting an accent plant. It’s also something that can be perceived by artistically inclined visitors to bonsai exhibits who don’t know the first thing about bonsai. Above all, it’s something perceived internally and refined as we continue to work with bonsai display.
Scott Straley says
Great post, I like the 3 point display as well. With all displays, I feel my opinion is a bit unlearned, as I am still just learning to take proper care of my trees, let alone make decisions about displays. That being said, would a smaller slab for the bunjin and a small stand for the pine be what you are after in the display? I’m just wondering if the bunjin would look more appropriate that way. You thoughts?