How to improve club members ability to select good bonsai material?


(Frank Corrigan) #1

When one has the responsebility to provide leadership for a local Bonsai Club inevitably the question arises. How does one plan activities, exercises that will improve club members ability to select good bonsai material? I would be interested in hearing about positive experiences that have helped your readers to select better bonsai material.


(Jonas Dupuich) #2

Super question - have been thinking about this lately. Based on BIB’s experience, I think one of the best activities is bonsai evaluation. Line up a few trees, have everyone score them (BIB scores trunk, roots, branches, pot, overall appearance) then review the results as a group. Doing this regularly helps develop a language for how we talk about the differences between trees of differing quality.

There are a number of ways to set the activity up. Using several examples of the same variety is good for refining where trees fit on the quality spectrum. Evaluating different varieties or styles can teach the different characteristics we look for - or overlook - in a given tree.

Honing one’s evaluation skills is useful for judging exhibits or selecting material to buy.

Outside of BIB, I’ve led the activity for a few clubs - it makes for a fun program.

Workshops are another great way of addressing the topic. Clear comments from workshop leaders about trees’ good and bad points can help members develop their understanding of what to look for.

I’m planning to write on the topic later this year/early next as I have several posts lined up on the topic. There’s a lot to say about it and I enjoy the subject!

Really looking forward to hearing what others have done in their clubs.


(Frank Corrigan) #3

Thank you Jonas i appreciate those suggestions.

I recall an activity from a seasonal with Michael Hagedorn. Some instructions were given with respect to desireable traits and common faults. Students were then taken out to the Bonsai on display and asked to rate a variety of trees on a scale of 1 to 9. And then explain their reasoning for the rating. The teacher then gave his rating and explained what it was based on. Part of this exercise was to encourage students to work on understanding how to select higher potential quality for their collection and eliminate trees in our collections that were of poorer quality. such as trees that clearly exhibited faults difficult to correct or mask. The direction was an intentional focus on improvement with a conscious decision to keep only those that rated 7 or higher on the scale.


(Jonas Dupuich) #4

Sounds like a nice way to do it.

Having seen people rank trees over a number of years, it’s clear that it’s hard to pick a number when one is unfamiliar with what each of the scores might look like. It takes some practice with reinforcement.