Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This post is a bit longer than others—it’s a reprint of Ryan and Chelsea Neil’s super informative email about Artisans Cup submissions. If you didn’t get that email and are thinking of submitting, this is a very helpful read-

Submissions FAQ

It’s May 12 which means there’s just 3 weeks left to submit your trees to be shown at the inaugural Artisans Cup! We’ve written answers to some of our most frequently asked questions to help make your submission process smoother. This includes sample essays for your artist statement. Read below and submit your trees by June 1 to be a part of this historic event!

WHAT KIND OF TREES ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Any and all bonsai trees are welcome for submission. The goal of The Artisans Cup is to celebrate and accurately represent the bonsai movement in North America in all of its shapes, sizes, and skill levels. If you have a tree, we’d be thrilled to see it.

ARE TRADITIONAL JAPANESE-STYLE TREES PERMITTED, OR WILL YOU ONLY ACCEPT AMERICAN BONSAI?
Yes, Japanese- and even European-style bonsai is welcome. Our focus on the American bonsai movement is primarily based on location (bonsai that is being done in America) rather than a particular style.

I’M FAIRLY NEW AT THIS. CAN I SUBMIT A TREE, OR IS THIS FOR PROFESSIONALS ONLY?
Yes, please submit your trees! You might be surprised. And keep in mind: the very nature of bonsai is that a tree is never “finished” – it is a living, breathing thing that will evolve for (hopefully) hundreds or thousands of years. We love seeing bonsai at all stages.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY TREE ISN’T SELECTED?
We’ll notify you personally by email in a timely manner to let you know. The beautiful thing about submitting is that even if your tree isn’t selected, you’ll have the option (for a small fee) of receiving a rationale for the decision from our jury. Our hope is that this can provide valuable insight into how you might improve your practice and work toward having award-winning trees in the future. Plus, you’ll have access to detailed critiques of exhibition trees from our judges after the event closes.

I’D LOVE TO SUBMIT BUT I CAN’T AFFORD ALL THE COSTS INVOLVED. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
We hear you: bonsai can be a costly endeavor. We’ve seen a number of cases in which local bonsai clubs have supported artists by covering the $250 entry fee and $200 round-trip transportation fee for using the Artisans Cup truck. This is a fantastic opportunity for clubs to feature bright artists in their communities, and for artists to make a big leap by having their trees shown. If you’re an artist, we encourage you to reach out to local organizations. If you’re a club, please consider organizing some funds to support artists in your community.

I HAVE SOME TREES AND I THINK THEY’RE UP TO SNUFF. WHAT DO I GAIN FROM ENTERING?
Well, first there’s the prizes. First, second, and third prizes are $10,000, $5,000, and $3,000 respectively: Nothing to sneeze at. But there is far more at stake than money or placement. Bonsai in the United States has been hungry for a venue and show that presents bonsai as a respected art form. The Artisans Cup is that event. It promises to offer the ultimate proving ground for serious practitioners to show their best and carve a unique niche in the art canon for bonsai in the United States.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN MORE ABOUT THE “INTENTION ESSAY” IN THE EXHIBITOR FORM?
Bonsai artists and patrons alike have definitive reasons bonsai appeals to them. This is your chance to tell the jury and the judges what those reasons are for you. If you created the tree yourself, why did you make the stylistic decisions you made? If you purchased the tree styled or hired a professional to style it, what about the tree do you find inspiring? What do you identify with on a personal level? We’ve included some sample essays for reference:

ESSAY 1:
When I bought the tree it was an informal upright. I thought the best course to bring out the best of the tree would be to develop it as a cascade.I started the process about five years ago while getting suggestions from artists along the way. My goal for a my trees is to use their basic form to create a living sculpture.

ESSAY 2:
This tree represents the resilience of plants in nature.  It was grown from seed and trained in a field as a formal upright.  During work on other trees, it was accidentally run over, giving the tree its present angle.  The original trainer thought the tree would die but it didn’t and has thrived.  During its training, a bonsai “master” recommended the removal of all of the dead bark from the trunk.  This caused a very unsightly front and the challenge of this tree was to distract from the bare front.  This was achieved by extensive wood carving, repetitive burning with a flame and allowing full sun exposure.  The final distraction was achieved by bringing the extensive foliage on the back forward to cover the upper 1/2 of the trunk.  The final composition was meant to be light and airy and express a more natural appearance avoiding the prim and “perfect” pad foliage structure often seen on Junipers.

ESSAY 3:
Rather than just being a substitute for the earth the container is the artistic mechanism, the human element that stages the drama of bonsai. As a sculptor I am inspired by visual relationships in nature especially where they intersect with the manmade. Architectural space is a perfect example of this intersection.  I relate to the power of elemental forms and the simplest primal shapes that have evolved as archetypal symbols.  In this tree, rather than attempting to imitate nature I wanted to reference the abstract almost architectural setting of a lone tree taken root at the foot of a high butte. Frequent trips to the Southwest inspired this modular site that was made for this specific tree.

YOU ASK FOR PHOTOS OF MY TREES. DO THEY NEED TO BE PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS?
Not at all. We just want to be able to see the tree from all angles in order to evaluate it against our rubric for acceptance to the exhibition. Our decision will not in any way be swayed by or based on the quality of the photos, so don’t let that be an obstacle to submitting your tree(s).

HOW WILL YOU ANNOUNCE WHAT TREES HAVE (OR HAVEN’T) BEEN ACCEPTED?
Both will be notified individually by email after submissions end. Submissions that have been accepted will receive an email congratulating them on their acceptance and notifying them of further details. They will also receive a physical acceptance packet in the mail with relevant details and materials in preparation for the event. Submissions that have not been accepted will receive a personalized email notifying them of the decision not to accept the tree. If desired, an option will be available for a small fee to receive a rationale for the decision and an explanation of how to achieve an acceptable submission in the future.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE JURY PROCESS?
Bonsai Professionals Ryan Neil and Mike Hagedorn have a broad exposure to bonsai in all its forms around the world. As jurors, they will apply their experience to evaluating all bonsai submissions and choose the bonsai that represent the quality, artistry, and craftsmanship that make bonsai a beautiful art form. Together, Mike and Ryan will select the trees that best represent the caliber and diversity of bonsai across North America.

HOW WILL TREES BE JUDGED AT THE EXHIBITION?
We are currently finalizing our judging rubric, which will be posted to our website in full once finished. Our five judges will use this rubric to judge all trees at the exhibition.

I LIVE IN CALIFORNIA WHERE THE PHYTOSANITARY STANDARDS ARE SUPER RESTRICTIVE. HOW WOULD I BE ABLE TO SHOW A TREE IN THE ARTISANS CUP AND GET IT BACK ACROSS THE STATE BORDER? 
All trees from California being transported on The Artisans Cup truck will be inspected and approved for re-entry before leaving California. The certifications will stay with the tree when it is shipped back. Bob Shimon is the point of contact on this issue.

IF I PURCHASE BONSAI/PLANT MATERIAL FROM THE VENDORS, CAN I TAKE THEM BACK TO CALIFORNIA?
An agricultural inspector will be present in the vendor area to inspect and certify any purchased material destined for California.

Here’s a sampling of accent plants in my backyard doing fun spring things…

I love this time of year. Well enough into the year to see leaves at their fullest size, but not far enough to see damage from insect, sun, or disease—all those things that say, ‘Yep, this ain’t spring no more.’

But not yet. Nope. Today we celebrate clean, unsullied, pristine spring-

DSC_0385

Dwarf Iris. One of the odd perennials that won’t bloom unless repotted.

DSC_0413

Sword fern (right) and Lady fern. Both of these were volunteers, I rather liked their placement. Free beauty always accepted.

DSC_0391

Coral Bell, a saxifrage. Dug out of my front yard. Been blooming nonstop for about four weeks.

DSC_0408

A rush, and a number of Giant Helleborine orchids coming up.

DSC_0411

Juncus and Giant Helleborine in a lump of roots. Later there are usually some spiral orchids popping up in this one.

DSC_0417

Twin flower (the thing snaking off to the left), which isn’t blooming yet. This one I planted in there. The saxifrage, the upright thing, blew in from somewhere so I kept it. It doesn’t eat much. Or snore. Adoption can be a good accent plant policy…but only if it adds to and enhances the design.

DSC_0419

Sword fern, Licorice fern, and Fragile fern growing on a mound. I think this was a chunk of bark I broke off with ferns in it years ago. Ferns are nearly indestructible. They fall in with cockroaches and things like that.

DSC_0421

Collected this years ago, not sure what it is. Makes a very simple, innocuous accent that can be quite useful in display.

DSC_0422

I was so surprised to see succulents and ferns growing naturally together when I collected them, near the coast. Just seemed like an oxymoron.

DSC_0429

Evergreen penstemon with an indigenous small fern called Parsley fern (bright green) and Polytrichum moss.

DSC_0398

Evergreen penstemon about to bloom (purple dot) and Sword fern. Lava. Wood. Painted backdrop. Bobby out of the picture to the right, preparing another accent plant to shoot. Lunch in about 30 minutes.

DSC_0399

Collected this in the mountains a couple years back, not sure what it is. I do like using pots with some green in them sometimes, like this olive colored one. It can often show off the foliage and make it a brighter, more accurate, green.

DSC_0401

A rush in a Gary Wood pot. Gary is tall…the rush is tall…do other people make decisions this way?

DSC_0405

A rush, a grass, and a hiding (rather shy) orchid. The ‘pot’ is a lid from a rice bowl. It has a nifty steam hole in it so, in this orientation, excess water drains out. Perfect!

DSC_0406

Hawkweed. Once, long ago, I made the mistake of accepting one of these from Boon Manakitivipart, and its progeny have been pestering me ever since. Ah well. It’s pretty though. Bright yellow. I don’t remember planting it in here, I think it moved in and slaughtered whatever was peaceably growing there. Only the strong survive in my yard.

DSC_0392

Dwarf Iris. The pot is boat shaped, so it’s not actually on there askew, the pot is just built weird. Blame the potter. I do every day. (I made it).

DSC_0393

Fern, heather, huckleberry.

DSC_0394

A small clumping Saxifrage and a curious spidery non-thalloid liverwort, possibly a Porella. At any rate, it’s a green terrestrial cryptogam.

DSC_0397

Vetch, grass, Giant Helleborine, and a yellow flowered thing that blooms in the summer. With older, fuller accent plantings such as this, often our most powerful design choices are by subtraction with a scissors. There was an ugly poof of grass growing off the top of this one, before this photo was taken.

DSC_0388

Lily of the Valley. (Mary was busy elsewhere). Curiously, these all grew pointing left. Or right, depending on where you’re standing.

DSC_0389

Nice tall Lady ferns! A few tiny Licorice ferns near the bottom, too. This accent is beginning to look old, with fern growth adding bumpy mounding from year to year, roots pushing it out of the pot, moss growing down the sides—all things we want in an accent plant. Many accents such as this are not repotted more than once every 10 years.

DSC_0403

One of my favorites this spring. Very springy and wild-looking. Actually, of the four things in here, I only planted three. The saxifrage (blooming) decided (without asking) that this was home. Fair enough.

…since we’ve been on the subject of watering earlier this month, why not keep at it?

This one is rather simple to relate. Sometimes, when watering our bonsai gardens, we might notice a tree that is always dry. It seems like minutes after we water it, the darn thing needs water again.

This should set off jangling alarm bells in our heads! Loud, nasty, persistent ones.

When a bonsai dries out this fast, there is often a very simple reason. The interior of the soil mass is not getting saturated. Very old established bonsai sometimes have this problem. It can happen with nearly any soil type, but is very common with Turface, Oil-Dri, and any soil containing peat moss. All of these have rehydration problems when dry.

7784_10486250284b927d043a75c

Clearly the result of mismanaged watering

A combination of issues can cause the interior area to become bone dry:

  • soil choice
  • erratic watering schedule
  • compacted interior soil
  • ‘veneer watering’ (watering with only a light pass that does not completely saturate)

Of the issues, an erratic watering schedule and veneer watering are the worst. Inconsistent watering can cause some pots to get too dry, and then light watering simply runs down the sides of the pots and into the bottom after encountering very dry interior soil.

Once the interior becomes bone dry it can be hard to rehydrate. The best way to restart hydration is to soak it from the bottom up. In my yard, I might see a couple trees a year that need a soak. After the soak, usually with more attention to watering afterwards, the problem is fixed.

  • The reason this is such a serious issue is that eventually all the interior roots will die, leaving only those next to the sides of the pot and the bottom—which are really the worst places for a bonsai to grow roots.

To rephrase and sum up, when you see a tree that seems always to be dry, consider rehydration with a bottom soak. Usually this only happens with very established, old bonsai that have a mature root system. Most trees that have hydration problems need an extra pass or three with the water hose to keep from revisiting the ‘dry death zone’, which would be a pretty good title for a bonsai horror movie, come to think of it. Likely somewhat limited audience.

 

My friend Jonas Dupuich writes the bonsai blog ‘Bonsai Tonight’, which frankly is one of the best bonsai blogs in the English language. On it is a forum of which, today, I am a part. It’s the ‘Ask Me Anything’ forum (well, about bonsai, not literally anything) so, if you have a question about bonsai please post it there and I’ll try my best to answer it. We’ve had a great series of questions so far:

http://ask.bonsaitonight.com/t/i-am-michael-hagedorn-ask-me-anything/215

Being a thin-trunked bonsai, most Dwarf Flowering Quince ‘Chojubai’ would naturally make us think, ‘Shallow pot!’ but we’d be just causing grief to our tree…

…or shrub.

Because that’s really the crux of the matter. Chojubai is a shrub, a fact which influences everything about its care and maintenance, including pot choice. You’ve probably noticed photos of beautiful old azaleas in Japan in rather deep pots. Almost all shrubs do better in deeper pots.

DSC_0062

Chojubai in a deepish pot, fine for general, year-to-year cultivation. Many pots for Chojubai are even deeper than this.

Why is this? Why do they prefer deeper pots? Shrubs tend to have surface feeding roots rather than deeply seeking roots. Which sounds like they’d do fine in a shallow pot…except that shrubs like Chojubai prefer even moisture on their roots, not overly dry or overly wet. And shallow pots easily create those more extreme conditions.

In some cases a shrub’s root system in a deeper pot will only colonize the top 2/3 of the pot, but don’t worry about that. The bottom 1/3 or so is like a bobber, to float the roots above the area most likely to stay too wet.

IMG_3673

Chojubai in last year’s Kokufu show, in a shallower pot for display. Most of these trees are transferred back into a deeper pot post-show. Love this tree. Beautiful natural styling, sucks you in, more about natural beauty than man-made beauty—

Shallow pots might be used with Chojubai, but care will be more exacting, and mostly they are only used for show. The care of many plants in shallow pots, even for those plants we tend to grow in them, like maples, is challenging. For usual care and growth, a Chojubai should be planted in much deeper pots than you’d think.

To sum up, pots for Chojubai should be:

  • Shallow: For show
  • Deeper: Best for year-round growth

More posts about Chojubai:

http://crataegus.com/2011/12/22/chojubai-quince-diminutive-jewels/

http://crataegus.com/2013/09/13/chojubai-notes-part-i/

http://crataegus.com/2014/04/23/chojubai-notes-part-2/

http://crataegus.com/2014/08/02/chojubai-notes-part-3-why-is-my-chojubai-weak/

Spring Watering Tip-

There are a lot of things we might say about watering bonsai. I’ve tried a few times on this blog to mention some of them. Some are hard to make sense of in words, but as ever I’m willing to try. This one is about watering recently repotted trees.

At post-repotting time we need to be awake to one change-up, and that is that the interior soil mass (the part that was returned to the pot) may dry out much faster than you’d think.

  • If that interior area is full of fine roots, it will dry out fast after repotting.
DSC_1145

This pine is beginning to develop a solid mass of soil and roots, and this is the area that we’ll take our moisture ‘read’ from when deciding when to water. When dry, it will look very light colored compared to the surrounding new soil.

If you cut all the fine roots off in repotting your tree, shame on you, but that’s a different issue. For the sake of this example, we’ll assume you have fine roots, and that we’re talking only about established trees with a solid mass of roots and soil. There are myriad other situations, such as proto-root balls with stringy roots that don’t yet hold soil together, but these photos show what we’re hoping for and working towards.

DSC_0714

A deciduous tree with a very mature ‘loaf’ of roots and soil that is returned to the pot, to be surrounded with new soil.

Especially with conifers, we usually don’t prune any branches at the same time as repotting. And so…

  • In repotting refined bonsai, we’ve created a situation where fewer roots are going to be supplying the same upper water need.

This interior mass we’re talking about, this is the area you should watch to determine when to water. Ignore, for a few weeks at least, taking your moisture reading from the new soil you’ve settled in around the original mass. There’s no active roots in the new soil yet and it won’t be drying out fast.

  • Another thing to keep in mind when repotting is to keep a portion of this old soil mass exposed, not covered with new soil, so that you can see when it’s drying out.
IMG_3653

Freshly repotted beech, showing the two zones of soil—the older soil that is a bit green and mossy near the roots, and the newer soil that is gray (sphagnum moss covering new soil, actually). The older soil will be our indicator when to water, and is not covered with new soil on top but is exposed.

In many cases you’ll be watering when the new soil is still moist. So we ignore that area. Again, I’m only commenting on watering repotting bonsai with more mature root structures.

  • To sum up, only read the moisture level where there are roots to determine when to water.

Wordy post. Hope some of that made sense!

Here’s a previous post about watering that might spread a broader net around the issue of watering:

http://crataegus.com/2013/04/08/spring-watering-tips/

~ Flaunt your best ~ As of April 1 the Artisans Cup bonsai exhibition is accepting submissions. The deadline for your entries is June 1! For submission you’ll need:

  • Four photos of each submitted bonsai
  • A brief essay of your display decisions
  • Pot information
  • Accent information

For full details about your submissions including where to send them, please go to The Artisans Cup. Again, your deadline for your entries is June 1. Submissions received after that will be tragically ignored. Don’t do this to your bonsai. They’re counting on you ~

Three special bonsai will be selected during the exhibition by the judges for the top prizes. First prize ($10,000), second prize ($5,000), third prize ($3,000). There will also be a People’s Choice Award and an award for the Best Companion Planting.

Personally I’m really curious and eager to see what artists have created and will show up at the Cup. This is your showcase, use it. And then definitely come and see for yourself what Ryan Neil has dreamt up, it should be really something. I’m very curious…

The Artisans Cup: Sept. 25-27th, Friday-Sunday, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, USA

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,254 other followers