Show them off – Preparing a tree for a show

To prepare a tree for a show starts a long time out from the show. It actually starts with your general maintenance regime, your design philosophy and daily dedication to your overall collection. The normal sequence for getting a tree in a show is to decide on which tree will be entered and then an acceptance from the organisers to have that tree in the show. This could at times be problematic as the time between the acceptance and the show could be very short. My advice is to start the show preparation before the tree is entered as it should be of a more than passible quality when entered.

The Tree

The tree must be in excellent health and show the characteristics of the species. Al dead and not so healthy looking leaves and needles must be removed and all excessive and not needed wiring should be taken off as well. It is OK to have some wiring, but this must be discrete and only used to refine minor things. Wiring must be applied correctly as it can detract from the overall scoring if not done so. Also ensure that all leaves and needles growing downwards (species and style specific) are removed and that foliage clouds are distinct and neat.

Ensure that the main trunk line is clear and clean (the whole tree must be clean). Look out for insects and spiders and remove these. A smooth trunked tree can be cleaned by spraying a little bit of vegetable oil on it and rubbing gently with a paper towel.

The nebari and roots must be checked as well. All of the above apply to this area also.

Deadwood (Jin) should be clean. This can be done by brushing it with a toothbrush and using tweezers to get small pieces of debris out of narrow and hard to reach places. Lime sulphur should be applied a few weeks out from the show to allow it to settle. If needed give it a brush for the colour to settle in with the rest of the tree.

Soil

All weeds and fine protruding roots must be removed. Take weeds out and the finer roots can be covered with moss if it cannot be removed. Moss should be in pristine condition. This is one of the tasks that cannot be left to the last minute. If you do not have moss ready, you can grate old moss and apply this to the soil surface, even better if it is on a layer of fine sphagnum moss. Pay as much attention to this aspect as you would a prize-winning lawn.

Pot

The To prepare a tree for a show starts a long time out from the show. It actually starts with your general maintenance regime, your design philosophy and daily dedication to your overall collection. The normal sequence for getting a tree in a show is to decide on which tree will be entered and then an acceptance from the organisers to have that tree in the show. This could at times be problematic as the time between the acceptance and the show could be very short. My advice is to start the show preparation before the tree is entered as it should be of a more than passible quality when entered.

Display

All components making up the display must be clean and in good condition. The so-called three-point display technique will compliment your tree. This usually consists of the tree on a stand, an accent tree or plant and a scroll. One of the two non-tree elements could be a Suiseki. The dimensions and placing of the three elements are crucial to get a view of one, but to still emphasise the tree as the main focal point. My best advice with this is to have a few stands, scrolls, accent plants and even Suiseki at the ready and to try different combinations.

One of the best things you can do is to study as many displays that you can get your hands / eyes on. This is not difficult with the internet at our fingertips. All the top shows across the world are represented in thousands of photos on the internet. Happy showing!

Sphagnum Moss and Bonsai

Sphagnum moss is used in a variety of ways in conjunction with growing Bonsai. The main characteristic of Sphagnum that makes it useful to Bonsai growing is its ability to hold a lot of water. Sphagnum moss plants can hold 16–26 times as much water as their dry weight.sphagnum

Sphagnum also does not decay easily as it contains phenolic compounds in its cell walls. It therefore can be used in applications that can take a long time to complete. It does not break down as easily as other growing mediums. Sphagnum originating from peat bogs is known to aid in preservation of substances due to the phenols, but also due to the fact that it grows in an anaerobic environment. Less oxygen means less decay. It is a well-known fact that bones and the remains of living organisms that end up in peat bogs tend to be quite well-preserved after a long period of time.

These mosses can also acidify its surroundings. This is something to keep in mind when the moss is used as a growing medium or part of a growing medium. It is therefore advised that sphagnum moss is not used with plants that prefer a more alkaline environment.

It is also a natural antiseptic. Sphagnum Moss was used extensively during the World Wars in field dressings to pack out wounds and under bandages to keep wounds clean.

Harvesting these mosses is hard work. It also comes from areas that could be ecologically very sensitive. These facts can contribute to the fact that good quality sphagnum moss can be quite costly. There are environmental concerns about the sustainability of moss harvesting.

In Bonsai cultivation, Sphagnum moss is mostly used in conjunction with roots and root growing. It is a well-known fact that when trees are harvested from nature (Yamadori) that it is a good idea to pack wet sphagnum moss amongst the roots. The reason for this is obvious due to the water holding abilities of the moss. During a recent dig, I not only packed the moss amongst the roots, but also wrapped it in hessian before it went into a plastic bag for the trip home. This not only held the moss in place, but aided in keeping the moisture in. I am also at the moment experimenting with two similar trees, one with Sphagnum in the soil mix and the other with normal soil mix. The question to be answered is whether the one shows more and better root growth than the other one. More on the results in a future blog.

Two Olives

Sphagnum moss is also used for air-layering. Again the moss is tightly packed around the wound created for the purpose of providing a medium for root growth. The water-holding capacity is again the main reason for using the moss. In this case it also helps to allow air flow through the medium which will aid in root growth as well.

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