Christmas came early in April for me and bonsai throughout South Africa. I got to go to two shows. On the 14th of April, I was invited to a BRAT meeting held in Edenvale, Gauteng. I am always amazed at the bonsai we have in South Africa and I would rather travel around the country and see all the beautiful trees that, in my opinion, are often not showcased enough, than go overseas. Of course it is lovely to travel to other countries and cultures too, but a lot of what you see, especially in the East, does not work in our harsh African climate.
Jessica Jonker spoke about the direction bonsai in South Africa should take and for the most part, I agreed with her. Jessica raised some very pertinent points and and had some valid suggestions for regional competitions.
1. A 10 - 15 minute recess should be had before announcing the winners at each show. In this time the winning trees of each category can be brought onto stage, with help. Then we can professionally call out every artist/owner, see their tree and congratulate them and also take good photos!
2. Have a purely exhibition category at the show, for people that do not want to do competition, but just want to show a tree.
3. New Talent participants should stand with their tree at the end, so one can see who got 3rd, 2nd and 1st.
4. It will also be nice if New Talent judges can introduce themselves and maybe explain the scoring sheet and how they will be looking at a tree, at the beginning of the day before demos.
5. Participants of New Talent should receive their score sheets at the end off the day, so as to improve their trees.
6. Stock for the New Talent competition should be of a comparable standard.
I talked about my bonsai research project and how we must not loose the "meaning of your tree" in the "must get it right". (People are welcome to contact me for more information - Caroll)
Next, at the end of the month, was the Autumn Bonsai Festival in George. The weather was much kinder than last year, not that it would have stopped us in any case. The display was top class as usual and we had kykNet there to film Tobie Kleynhans' beautiful bonsai garden and promote bonsai in South Africa. (Preliminary viewing date is the 13th of May, but keep an eye on Facebook for when Tobie Kleynhans, Kat Rivier Kai and Bonsai will feature on Kwela.)
The programme was jam-packed with good information and first up was Kestitus Ptakauskas from Lithuania introducing us to a little personal history in bonsai, as well as bonsai in Lithuania. Various Kat Rivier Kai members introduced a variety of subjects and Inge Redelinghuys talked on selecting the right pot and the colour wheel. Without reinventing the wheel, there is a very good article on selecting the right pot and the colour wheel on Bonsai Tree's website that was also covered by Inge. Just click here.
One does not have to stick to formal brown pots and she showed (and sold) some amazingly colourful and playful pots. Something to consider when selecting a pot for your bonsai. Try to think outside of the pot (Ha-ha). Inge also sold some pots at the Festival.
After Inge, came Michelle van den Burgh with an interesting talk on accent plants. Sometimes totally underused in South African formal bonsai displays. There are so many varieties that one can use in harmony with your tree. We have so many different species in South Africa, that we can really play around with it. There are of course, also many different types of accent plants and or kusamono and one should be familiar with the different applications in bonsai. The internet is full of useful information.
There is a nice Facebook page, Kusamono and a website full of ideas, that are current and of value, can be found here.
Day 1 was concluded with lots of hello's and long-time-no-see's and so the rekindling of friendships over craft beers, wines and good food started.
Shaun Murphy, from Durban Bonsai Society brought a huge Ficus natalensis to work on and it did not take long for the "take it off", "no, not that one!", this is the front", "No, NO - Yes, yes!'s to start.
After much deliberation, the front of the tree was selected and the necessary and offending branches were removed after Kestitus casted his expert opinion. We were all in agreement that it was a stunning specimen and that the new owner can cut off whatever he/she feels might be unnecessary afterwards.
There are some live videos of Shaun's demo on the SABA Facebook page and some good discussions, too. Shaun is a Ficus expert and has many adventurous stories on finding that perfect fig. Shaun is affectionately known as Mr. Miyagi, not because he is so old, (:-) but because he looks like the character from Karate Kid. The finished tree was later auctioned off.
Before tea, Kestitus started working on a crazy, Juniper specimen and he turned it into a masterpiece! I would love to have a Juniper like that, only they do not grow that well in Natal where I live. It is always fascinating to see a real artist at work. For a short live video on Facebook, click here.
After tea, Tobie Kleynhans talked about how to photograph your bonsai and the reasons why and how. I obviously did not pay enough attention, because my phone camera was on a 'cool' setting and I only noticed last night. The photographs below are only a small taster of the trees on display. It was really world class.
Lampie Schoeman's Acacia had everybody enthralled with the ant hill and little bird's nests.
Carl Morrow's talk on "Feeling with the Eyes" put a new spin on looking at old bonsai and finally, Freddie Bischhoff spoke on unusual indigenous bonsai species. There are so many interesting and untried species, that a great debate followed. It was decided that SABA should start keeping record of tips and care of specific species. As soon as the site is set up, and working, we will make it available to all SABA members. (If anyone knows or has any ideas on how to do this, please contact me.)
The photo competition this month, is a bit of a disaster with the town of Mtunzini being without ADSL and me not being able to download emails on my Telkom account. My apologies to anyone who entered and i did not get it. It will be carried over to May and feature in the May competition.
As you may know, there was a big discussion on Facebook with regards to when a tree can be shown after it has been purchased, etc, etc. The majority of people stated that once a tree has been bought/given away, it now belongs to the person who bought it. SABA cannot prescribe to clubs and guidance in this regard must happen at club level. Please let's remember that bonsai is about the tree.
The SABA EXCO pride themselves for being open to suggestions and we consider all emails and correspondence. Please let us know what you want SABA to do for you. In return, please only do these two things for SABA: 1) read the emails. It is very frustrating when people do not respond, and 2) if you do not get sent emails, please know that I am one person doing everything. It is not too much to ask to send me an email asking me to put you on the mailing list. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the blog and you will be informed every time a new item is being posted.
Do not forget to link to the SABA Google Calendar. You will be reminded every time there is a bonsai event. Also, pleased send us your events to be included.