Clothéd all in green …

There was a post on Swindon and District Bonsai’s site this morning showcasing the evergreen trees on display at Shohin UK yesterday and, while these were undoubtedly superb  (the word “sublime” was used in relation to at least one of them in my hearing yesterday), I have to admit it has got me thinking. Yes, I know – that’s a rare and unusual phenomenon and may have something to do with this week’s eclipse. But rattling around inside my generally empty cranium is the question of what will it take for a deciduous tree to win a major award at a show?  I am of course excluding those shows such as Swindon Winter Image that have separate categories for Best Coniferous and Best Deciduous.

Now can I say straight out that this is not a criticism – bonsai exhibitions are meritocracies (or at least they should be) so it should always be a case of the best tree(s) winning.  And I would have to add to the mix the simple issue that on this occasion there was not a lot of option for non-evergreen to win at least in the chuhin category.

I would also have to add that my understanding of what wins at shows is merely a perception based for the most part on reports rather than attendance.  So I am not stating the following in any way as a “fact”; rather, they are merely questions for discussion. So here goes:

  1. Is it actually the case that evergreens win top awards more frequently than deciduous?
  2. If so, is that a UK and European thing or is it the same in Japan and the US?
  3. In any case, what is it about evergreens that seems to give them more “appeal”?
  4. And finally, how can we “boost” the appeal of deciduous bonsai – a question which of course hinges on the responses to the other questions.

I’d welcome folks’ insights into this, especially those who attend major shows here or abroad.

Have at it.

Comments welcome on this post or on the BSB Facebook group.

The link to the Swindon article is here:

By fionnghal

Shohin UK 2015 is all ship shape and Bristol fashion

The 2015 Shohin UK event was a resounding success at the weekend and delivered clear evidence that the standard of the smaller sizes of bonsai has yet again run itself further up  the bonsai flagpole in the past twelve months.

The village hall at Failand near Bristol attracted nearly 200 visitors from as far afield as Paris and Paisley to see this quietly understated but nevertheless highly professional exhibition. This throng (which had significantly increased since two years ago) were augmented by ten traders all offering visitors a fine range of trees, pots and other bonsai items.

The stars of the show were of course the bonsai. A total of eighty trees were on show, spread among twenty six displays.

And what superb displays they were too.

It was interesting to read the “mission statement” on the BSA’s banner which states that we intended to push the standard of shohin bonsai in the UK up.  There is no doubt that this has happened and I’d like to think that the BSA and now the BSB has played a major part in that.

With professional hands at the rudder in the form of Marco Invernizzi,  John Armitage and Peter Warren, the shohin ship has hoisted its sails in all sorts of new ports of call.  And it has picked up crews along the way of seasoned hands and new conscripts alike.  Those who now take up the king’s shohin may be a mixed bunch, but all seem determined to set a course for excellence.

But the success of smaller sized bonsai in the past few years has also been due in some considerable part to Mark and Ritta Cooper.  I cannot remember when I first became aware of their presence in the bonsai armada, but I have absolutely no uncertainty about their impact.  If Messrs Warren, Armitage and Invernizzi are the captains, then the Coopers most certainly are the admirals of the fleet.   Their high level of knowledge, the sheer quality of their trees combined with their drive and enthusiasm is a catalyst for all things good in shohin circles. It is no accident that Shohin UK has set itself up as a beacon.

As yet there is no promise of a repeat event in two years time, but I am sure everyone in attendance – exhibitors, traders and visitors alike – sincerely hope that we see a Shohin UK 3.

But enough of this merry badinage and on to the pictures from the show so all you poor ratings who weren’t able to make it can at least live the show vicariously

And before anyone asks, I have absolutely no idea why I have elected to use so much sea-based imagery in this article.  I must have had too much time to sit and contemplate my naval today.

Ship ahoy.

The Winners

And the winners are...

And the winners are…

John Armitage's Best Shohin Display

John Armitage’s Best Shohin Display

John also won Best Shohin award for this superb juniper

John also won Best Shohin award for this superb juniper

Kit Bowns Best Mame display

Kit Bowns Best Mame display

Award for Best Mame went to Kit Bowns for this larch

Award for Best Mame went to Kit Bowns for this larch

John Pitt's fabulous Best Chuhin display

John Pitt’s fabulous Best Chuhin display

Steve Tolley's sublime Itoigawa juniper - winner of Best Chuhin

Steve Tolley’s sublime Itoigawa juniper – winner of Best Chuhin

Steve McKee's Best Tress and Pot combination (with the artist lurking in the background)

Steve McKee’s Best Tress and Pot combination (with the artist lurking in the background)

The Runners Up

Award of Merit - Shohin Display went to this exhibit of Andy Jordan's

Award of Merit – Shohin Display went to this exhibit of Andy Jordan’s

Martin Shepherd's Award of Merit in the Chuhin category

Martin Shepherd’s Award of Merit in the Chuhin category

Thanks to Mark R Cooper for the pics – mine were all rubbish


From Kath Hughes on behalf of Malcolm Hughes, Chairman of FoBBS:

It is with a tremendous sense of loss that we have to announce the death of Paul Goff, on Monday November 10th following a severe stroke last week.. He will be very greatly missed by all in the bonsai world in the UK. Known most especially for his skill with photography and his ability to teach us all how to display our trees in the best possible way. He was a scroll painter, photographer, rock musician and bonsai artist. And at 62 was still a man young in heart ready to enjoy life to the full. His spirit of enjoyment and extensive knowledge will be missed by all who knew him

Our thoughts and wishes go out to his partner Vivienne as well as to his family and friends at this very sad time.

For those wishing to express their condolences, the e-mail address is:

For those who may wish to attend, Paul’s funeral will be at 3.30pm on Thursday November20th at Milton Malfor Crematorium, Northampton  and after to celebrate his life at 4.15pm at Walnut Tree Inn, Blisworth, Station Rd, Blisworth, NN7 3DS

Flowers will be from family only, donations will  be acceptable at Paul’s funeral made payable to  the Stroke Association or to The British Heart Foundation.


On behalf of all at British Shohin Bonsai and also at the former British Shohin Association, I would like to add that Paul and Vivienne were staunch supporters of the BSA and Paul’s fantastic scrolls were a regular feature at our shows. There have been many award winning exhibits in which one of Paul’s scrolls has formed an integral part of the design – my own included.  And of course Paul was instrumental in setting up the BSA Show book we produced a few years ago – a task we would not have achieved without his skill.   We will pass our condolences to Vivienne but nothing can possibly describe what she must be feeling right now. I hope there will be some event in the future to mark Paul’s immense contribution to bonsai in the UK.  For the moment, let us remember this bonsai “great” for his skills and also for his incredible personality and off the wall character.

Paul Goff

By fionnghal

Shohin the way in Denmark

It’s always good to see the magic of shohin spreading across the globe and we here at British Shohin Bonsai are delighted to see Morten’s new shohin association in Denmark taking off.   We wish him every success with the association – the more people who are spreading the shohin love the better in our book.   Here is how Morten announced the new venture.

morten 1

We are glad to announce that the national organization [url=]Shohin Bonsai Danmark[/url] is now established. We look forward to see you at our events and workshops, were everybody are welcome. The website is on air, with all content in Danish and English language.

The interest for Shohin bonsai in Denmark has grown considerably through the later years, and today more people have a special interest in this part of bonsai. We find the time right to help developing this further through workshops, exhibitions, online information i.e., and taking part in bonsai activities.

An international network also has pushed this from idea to realisation, and we now look forward to exchange knowledge and enjoying the beauty of Shohin in a friendly community.

First activities planned in spring, and next autumn our main event will take place. We look forward to a future gaining more interest in Shohin bonsai both nationally and internationally. We look forward to corporate with you, and share the beauty of the seasons with Shohin-bonsai.

A Danish and English language electronic newsletter will be send out regularly to members. Join us and be part of Shohin Bonsai Danmark through the website.

Morten Albek
Shohin Bonsai Danmark

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.