Twenty-nine numbers were read aloud at January’s member meeting, and one-by-one Juniper Practicum participants picked up the tree they will develop across this innovative two-year program. The idea for the practicum came to Eric Schrader in 2015 during a trip he made to the bonsai community in Portland, Oregon. The concept of a group working on similar material, under similar conditions across multiple years is hoped to address shortcomings endemic to other approaches to learning bonsai techniques. The phenomenal interest our membership has shown in the practicum certainly suggests Eric is onto something. Eight people were on the waiting list when the practicum began.
Forty-four members were present for Eric’s opening lecture on January 14th.
In small urban spaces, developing batches of trees of similar age and type isn’t practical for most, but batch development is a great way to experiment, in the great scientific tradition, to discover what works and doesn’t in your bonsai practice. The practicum allows a batch of trees to be cared for by multiple participants and for all participants to learn from the results.
On Thursday evening, Eric gave a broad survey of juniper care. We can give you a copy of the handout if you missed the meeting. Then Eric shared photographs of juniper in the wild from his own hiking trips. He encouraged discussion of which aspects of the different trees people liked. He shared a photo of the cross section of a 2600 year old Schofield Juniper. Eric described how you could reconstruct the experience of the tree by interpreting the areas that had vigorous growth and where it had died back. It was clear why carving and bending are important to imitate the natural aging process.
Examples of juniper in the wild can be found in this post by Eric on his blog along with an example of how they guide his work with bonsai. http://www.phutu.com/too-straight-for-a-juniper/
The following Saturday, it was time for practicum participants to begin work on their trees. The day was divided into two workshops. We began and ended each workshop by photographing each tree. Twenty-eight trees had root work done and were put into identical plastic trainer pots. One tree was shaped such that it had to go back into its nursery pot. It was a mentally strenuous day for Eric, who worked individually with all twenty-nine participants to reach initial decisions about the future style of each tree. With that in mind, final trimming to the root mass was done and the tree tied into its new pot. Eric was assisted by Bernard Marque and me. We learned a lot about what worked and didn’t at this first practicum workshop which will help us structure the next four workshops.
If you are in the practicum, decisions about how you care for and develop your tree are yours to make going forward. We have four more workshops in the practicum, but you can also do work on your own, with each other, with Eric or with the bonsai masters we bring to the club. It will be fascinating to see the variation of results. It is a good idea to keep a log of your work along with pictures of the tree as it develops. Bring your trees to monthly member meetings so we can all stay in touch with the changes.
We wish everyone that was interested could have made it into this practicum. The practicum is relevant to experienced and new bonsai enthusiasts alike. Several people in this practicum have been developing their skills for years, so you will still benefit even if you wait a year or two to join the next one. Please avail yourself of other options to develop your bonsai skills in the meantime.