Last weekend the Bonsai Society of Portland held “Farm to Table,” an event that focused on techniques for developing field-grown material.
About 100 participants from Oregon, Washington, and California enjoyed two days of education at the Milwaukie Community Center from bonsai teachers John Eads, Michael Hagedorn, Matt Reel, Andrew Robson, and me.
Andrew Robson critiques a black pine with John Eads (left) and Michael Hagedorn
On Saturday the group met outdoors for a panel discussion, critique, and workshop for trees that had been grown in the field. During the breaks, attendees caught up and shopped for field-grown and collected pre-bonsai and ceramics from from Vicki Chamberlain and Nao Tokutake.
Sunday kicked off with four simultaneous demonstrations plus presentations from Tom Fincel and Chris and Lisa Kirk of Telperion Farms.
Matt Reel demonstrates techniques for developing field-grown trees
Tom’s talk on “Top-down” repotting is easily my favorite technique of the year. Instead of bare-rooting the front or back half of the rootball, Tom suggests bare-rooting the top half in the first year and removing the bottom half two years later. The technique saves time over traditional approaches and allows for greater manipulation of the surface roots. (I’ll say more about the technique when I give it a try next repotting season.)
Tom Fincel describing “Top-down” repotting
The Kirks shared the history of Telperion farms from the very beginning up through the present.
Chris and Lisa Kirk of Telperion Farms
Black pines grown at Telperion Farms
Although the Kirk’s nursery closed last year as a result of fire, plenty of the trees they started can be found throughout the bonsai community. Some of the best examples of their work appeared in a mini-exhibit of field-grown trees that were nearly show ready. The event panel plus special guest David De Groot critiqued the exhibit trees to wrap up the event Sunday afternoon.
Liquidambar and black pine in the event exhibit
Kudos to club president Andrew Robson of Rakuyo Bonsai for coordinating the event and to the many club members and friends of BSOP whose contributions made the event a success.
The weekend was easily among the most fun bonsai events I’ve participated in. There’s nothing like working with an enthusiastic group that shares the same goal – to make the most beautiful bonsai they can starting with material that was cultivated in the field.
I’m optimistic that more events like this will pop up in the coming years, and I’m looking forward to attending when they do!
If you’d like to hear more about the event, co-host Andrew Robson and I reflect on our experiences at Farm to Table in the most recent episode of the Bonsai Wire Podcast.
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