Display aesthetics – a practical discussion

A few years ago I did an article in the BSA Newsletter about  a display that had been put together by Hans Vleugels and subsequently commented on by Morten Albek.  With the permission of those two august gentlemen, I thought it might be a good idea to open the article up to the wider audience that we now have to see what others think.  Here goes.

When Hans Vleugels posted this shohin display on the Internet Bonsai Club many people would have thought that it was already a fine offering. The trees were individually superb, and together they seemed to create a restful and unified

Hans' original display

Hans’ original display

The display was created as part of a photo session at Hans’ bonsai club Eda Uchi Kai where members were asked to bring some trees for a professional photo shoot by Jan Dieryck. The trees in the shohin display are a Juniperus chinensis, an Acer buergerianum, and a Zelkova serrata. Hans’ request for possible improvements brought out several responses, mostly in favour of the existing display but also with minor suggestions such as moving the Juniper slightly off-centre on the rack. But the most enlightening response came from Morten Albek. Regarding the issue of positioning of the top tree, Morten wrote: “The bonsai in my opinion should always be placed in centre of the table, and not to the left or right to achieve balance. The tree must be in balance itself, and need not to be placed off centre to do this. Of course it is the choice of the artist to neglect this, but stability and peace is more often achieved with the trees centred.

Morten continued: “Good choice of trees, and simplicity and peace is achieved.The season, that is the main theme of the shohin display is clear, and there are good trees chosen that harmonize well with each other in size and visual volume. You must consider the balance of the display though. It is of importance that the main trees and the assistant tree point towards each other, and towards the centre of the display to get the right balance. To achieve the balance completely it is also necessary to flip the owl too.”

Morten used a photo virtual to create his own version of the display as follows:

Morten's amended display

Comments and thoughts welcome of course.


Close up of the owl figure



Graham Walker gives us his report on the first official engagement of the BSB

The BTA autumn event was held at the Heritage Centre at Elsecar, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire this year for the first time. This move was forced upon them as the original venue, used for many years, had been demolished.

The Heritage Centre is on the site of the old National Coal Board Engineering Works, and includes many small and varied units, together with an operating historical railway.

The day started early for me with the alarm going off at 5.00am (never realised there were two 5.00 o’clocks in one day). After a quiet drive I arrived to be joined shortly afterwards by the two Johns – Armitage and Brocklehurst. The display units were all set out awaiting dressing with cloths before we set up our Shohin displays. As the space was limited we each put one display on the British Shohin Bonsai stand. We also took the opportunity to advertise the next Shohin event in the UK, ShohinUK 2 in March 2015, together with our new Facebook page and website.

(Pause for a bacon sandwich and a chat with various friends met over the course of many years in the hobby.) Then there was just time to have a quick look round the sales stands to see if anything caught our eye, before the event was open to the public. The club displays were then judged, but the results not announced until after lunch. All displays were of a very high standard and it was encouraging to see several clubs exhibiting for the first time.

The new venue provided a large hall around which all the traders were spread, with the Club displays back to back along the centre of the hall. This made a very impressive show of trees.
During the course of the day there were many conversations and banter with friends both new and long standing.

There were people from many parts of the country, including a large number down from Scotland.

In the afternoon the results of the club displays were announced which were as follows
Gold award Lanarkshire Bonsai
Silver award Aka Matsu School of Bonsai
Bronze award Bonsai Collective (all students of John Hanby)
Highly commended York Bonsai Club

All displays were of a high standard and proved difficult to separate by the Judges. Unfortunately British Shohin Bonsai did not get a mention, disappointing. but it is being there and taking part that counts.

Corin Tomlinson of Greenwood Gardens gave a quick styling demonstration with a Chinese Juniper which was then raffled off to a lucky ticket holder.

All that was left at the end of the event was to dismantle the stand, pack the cars and drive home!

I would like to thank the BTA Committee for all the organisation and hard work that goes into putting on an event of this size. Most people I talked too seemed very pleased with the new venue and had an enjoyable day.

Some pics of the BSB display












Note to self: work out how to put images side by side. 😉
second note to self: remember for future reference that there were bacon butties at this event 😉 😉

Lanarkshire bonsai at the BTA event

While we await pics and a report on the BSB’s official participation at yesterday’s Bonsai Traders’ Event, here is an article written by BSB supporter Robert Nocher about how the Lanarksire group got on at the event. I don’t wish to put in a spoiler, but “Well done, chaps!” 😉

Robert Nocher Shohin Bonsai

I am still recovering from what was for us, a very satisfying but tiring 2 day trek to the BTA bonsai show in Elescar, Barnsley. Guess what? To our great surprise and delight, our shohin display was awarded first prize.

Here are a few pictures of our display at the event. I must apologise for the quality of some of these images. Lighting in our part of the hall wasn’t ideal for photography and the public interest around our display, throughout the day left very little time for me to take pics of each tree individually.




The Lanarkshire team from left to right are myself, Robert Porch, Jim McMaster, Andy, Maurice Maidment and Ian McMaster


The following 3 pictures are courtesy of Robert Porch




Individual images of most of the trees displayed can be found in this earlier post



 I managed to take quite a number of pictures of trees that…

View original post 13 more words

Sizing again. With pictures

Yesterday we put up a couple of posts regarding the vexing matter of bonsai sizes which you can read in the Articles section.

Just to add to that, here is a pictorial back up featuring trees that have won their classifications at BSA shows:

Bob B’s splendid mame juniper – approx height 3.5 inches

Bob B's mame juniper - approx height 4inches

John A’s stunning shohin juniper – approx height 8 inchesJohn A's stunning shohin juniper


John A’s Kifu juniper – approx height 14 inch

JA Chuhin-IMG_7150











John B’s kifu juniper

John B's kifu juniper

Interestingly, although John B’s tree is quite a bit taller than the other one, it is the foliage mass that gives it its classification.  Both are considered kifu.


And, last but not least, Ian S’s chuhin juniper which is around 18 inches tall.

Chuhin IS 2

Ian S’s chuhin juniper

As seen in its three point display.

As seen in its three point display.











Capel Manor 2014

This gallery contains 70 photos.

Originally posted on Bonsai Eejit:
Thanks to Dan for sharing these photos from the Capel Manor Show last weekend. The exhibition is hosted by the Enfield Bonsai Group. Here are some of the winning trees, displays, club displays and even…

By fionnghal

Continuing the autumn theme

I posted yesterday about how the weather even up here in Scotland was, shall we say, “confused” at the moment.  I popped outside this afternoon (in tee shirt, shorts and sunglasses it must be noted) to see how my shohin and Kifu Potentillas were getting on against the march of Autumn. (Yes, I know mentioning march and autumn in one sentence is confusing but try to keep up. 😉 )  In their case, “confused” is most certainly right.

First below is my kifu Potentilla in its Peter Krebs pot. As you can see, it is more certainly autumnal. The same goes for my favourite one which has been in the BSA Exhibition a couple of times as part of a five tree display.  It is the next one down – pot by Ian Baillie.


So, both doing exactly as I’d have expected at this time of year. But when it comes to the ones I have in development, well the story is rather different:


This one is even still putting out flower – two open flowers and three more buds ready to open.


I wondered if it was to do with the fact that these two are in oversized development pots, but still fairly green of leaf is this one:


They all sit in the same area on the bench so there is no micro-climate difference. And they have all received pretty much the same amount of fertiliser over the summer so I cant put the leaf drop difference down to that either.

It just goes to show how hard it is to do any sort of comparison between  trees as they don’t always behave uniformly.

Autumn colour

While bonsai is a passion that grips us all year round, I think that many of us have a special love of this season – especially those of us who have deciduous bonsai. The azaleas can do their big girls blouse stuff in the early summer to their hearts’ content and I will oooh and ahhh accordingly.  But a stunning display of autumn colour is, in my opinion, something unsurpassable.

As we speak my Ginkgo is turning to its autumnal hues from its summer garb. And with the bit of sunshine we are currently having here in mid-October (please do not raise your eyebrow so quizzically: we DO get sun in Scotland. Just not often in the summer)  is giving it a delicious golden syrup tinge.

And because of the long summer (yes, WITH sunshine and Mediterranean temperatures) many of my trees are hanging on to their leaves to eke out as much of the Indian summer as possible. As a result, none of my bonsai maples have dropped leaves and my shohin one is only today showing any inclination to change colour.  My chuhin one has even thrown out some young growth in the past few weeks.

All this is giving me a slight problem in that it is usually about now that I start moving trees into their winter storage. Last winter I splashed out on an indoor set-up for the shohin trees and felt that they benefited enormously from the extra “daylight” that they got in my garage.  But I am a bit reluctant to pop them into the garage at the moment as it is still sunny and reasonably mild at the moment.

Ah well. This may of course all change come next weekend when the clocks go back.  We will wait and see.

Maple as it was this time last year.

Maple as it was this time last year.

By fionnghal