This month’s Bay Island Bonsai meeting featured some of my favorite activities – evaluating bonsai and bonsai display. Boon regularly gives members opportunities to hone their understanding of judging by bringing trees for us to evaluate and having us score them. Scoring trees forces the viewer to look closely and think about a tree’s characteristics in light of specific criteria. The learning comes when we review the results as a group.
When Boon asks what score a trunk might receive on a scale of 1-10, answers range from, “I didn’t like it, I gave it a 4” to “Wow – I gave it a 10!” This gives everyone a chance to share what they do or don’t like about a particular characteristic and then learn how – and why – others respond differently. Goodness knows we don’t always come up with the same scores as each of us has different tastes, standards and understanding relating to bonsai, and that’s fine. (For more information about how Bay Island Bonsai approaches judging, see previous posts on judging.) The goal is to promote careful inspection of trees and to broaden understanding of what characteristics matter to which varieties.
For scale junipers, good movement in the trunk and deadwood are important. The trunk below is interesting and attractive, and there are plenty of full and healthy branches, though the silhouette could use some improvement.
At first glance the chojubai below looks full and wonderful, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear there’s not much of a trunk and the various shoots sometimes cross at awkward angles. It’s a good start and there’s room for improvement.
The black pine below is in pretty good shape. For pines, we look for good bark – a great sign of age. The silhouette is mature and the surface roots are good. This tree scored well.
Although it’s hard to see in the photo below, this Japanese maple has a nice trunk.
The procumbens below has good movement and a full silhouette, though the foliage is currently fuller near the apex than it is at the lowest branch – time for some thinning to restore balance. This tree also scored well.
Boon making a suggestion to remove the first branch
After the judging, we turned our attention to display. Each month members bring trees to be displayed at the upcoming exhibit and we practice setting up displays with the material on hand.
Adjusting the display
The set-up below features a pyracantha and the procumbens juniper pictured above.
The pyracantha is being considered for exhibit as it’s covered with flowers – a good sign that fruit may be on the way.
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