For our May general meeting BSSF and Marin members alike were treated to a battle royale where six teams of bonsai artists took to Garden Stadium (the library at the Hall of Flowers) for an Iron Bonsai challenge. Maestro Tim Kong was on hand to narrate the action for the audience as the team members did some deadwood work and styling on a batch of small collected landscape-variety junipers.
Tim, in his vociferous style, cajoled all available information from the stylists as they attempted to better their competitors. Members used various deadwood techniques including fiber pulling, a Dremel rotary tool, branch cutters and everything else that was on hand.
The junipers generally lacked any backbudding and had only larger primary branches so the contestants used larger aluminum wire for bending and reduced the branching to simultaneously give the trees some style and create more deadwood.
Tim advised raffle winners to leave the trees to grow for a full season to recover from the round of work.
When working with junipers dug from a landscape or collected that do not have desirable foliage characteristics it is common to graft a more easily-worked and aesthetically-pleasing variety onto the larger trunk of the collected material. After a year of good growth on these plants, using either approach or scion grafting on the lower trunks would give an opportunity to style the tree using the small branching that is needed to create a good bonsai canopy.
Grafting can both rescue a plant from mediocrity and highlight the wonderful deadwood aspects of the lower trunks that our competitors worked so hard to create.
Congratulations to Marin for their win (which was determined by who had the most raffle tickets of course!)