Finally another post ! I’ve been quite busy with work and family lately. This post is a sort of journal entry covering our group meeting and a few new trees.

Last fall, local Bonsai enthusiasts including myself founded a study group called the Progressive Bonsai Collective or the PBC. We share and discuss online and in person, organize group buys’ on materials, inspire and help each other out in our practices. With each of us coming from different work and Bonsai backgrounds, our study group has committed to meet regularly, bring our forces together and push our practices further.

We recently had a nursery stock styling day. It was Rafi’s awesome initiative, we chose a date and set some loose guidelines: The material had to be originally from a nursery, coniferous and unstyled.

I decided to start fresh and grab a nursery tree that morning. We went to a nursery near Rafael’s home called Jack Vincelli’s. A little nostalgic for me as, I haven’t been there in about 10 years since we moved to the east end of town. Vincelli’s has been open for over 100 years and is the oldest nursery in Montréal. A cool place with lots of material and character. We looked at a lot of potential Bonsai, but three trees particularly struck me. Étienne also bought some material and we were excited to dive in!

Carting our haul back to Rafi’s place.

I picked up a hemlock, a false cypress and an Alberta spruce I couldn’t say no to (I know , I know..)

The Jeddeloh hemlock
The Alberta spruce. I’d just love to enjoy this tree in a nice pot as is ! I’ll clean it up and maybe move a couple branches for now.

Chamaecyparis pisifera, sungold false cypress. The tree I styled for our jam.

The old bark is a nice feature

Once we all got settled in, we took some time to evaluate our respective trees and form a concept for the design. As a group, we put the trees up one by one and discussed the design possibilities. Sometimes we agreed, sometime someone would offer an alternative front or drastic change in design. It really helped to expand my artistic toolset and gain more experience through discussion. Here are some photos taken during the analysis and discussion.

Taking a look at Patrick’s larch
Miguel is really talented with styling these small conifers. Here we are discussing the direction of this juniper.
Étienne’s gnarly juniper beast
Rafael’s awesome cascading juniper
Wilson had a wicked cool thuja heading for a natural clump look

After the discussion period we all had clear direction and set out to work on our trees. Often walking around, sharing technique and styling knowledge and just being a cool supportive setting to create new trees. Only briefly stopping to enjoy some of Rafi’s solid BBQ porc shoulder sandwiches. Yum!

I had a direction in mind for the false cypress and the end point was clear to me. The question now was, how do I get there. When at the nursery Wilson and I were talking about how this tree would lend well to an elegant weeping design with its light and lacy foliage. While some drastic work could be done to chose an alternate front. I decided to go with my gut and style the tree the way I originally saw it. Time to clean and start selecting branches.

Here it is after the better part of the afternoon. Made some branch choices and wired out most of the primary and a few secondaries. It was admittedly hard to fight the instinct of positioning branches like the classic pine bonsai. I am happy with the end result. The problems/issues that catch my eye are the jinned bottom right branch, creating a four way intersection and the straight portion in the middle of the upper trunk. Both issues can be fixed of course and will be a step in the future of this trees development. Probably not however, until I get it into a training pot and begin adapting to Bonsai soil. Either way it is already an enjoyable tree to look at in the garden , the trunk becomes almost second to the weeping canope that has since begun to fill in to the design.

It was a great day and I learned a ton. Being different than what I am used to and have in my garden, this tree and design were a new challenge for me. I don’t think I’d have come out with as nice of a tree without the support and collaboration of the PBC. I was so jazzed from the day, I cleaned the Alberta spruce when I was back at home. Here it is after a first cleaning.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post !

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  1. Hi Matt, love your Modan Bonsaï blog. I have à busy family and professional schedule but I’m very passionate about Bonsaï and taking the Time to read your makes my day

    Liked by 1 person

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