Show Prep – The Final Mile

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 | 2 Comments
Show Prep – The Final Mile

As a bonsai enthusiast I was introduced to show prep almost immediately after I started doing bonsai. My first teacher was preparing more than 15 trees for an annual show and put me to work adding moss to a saikei. Years later I was doing the same thing to my own trees. When I teach, people sometimes indicate that they just want to grow bonsai, not show them. My advice to them is to take it one step at a time; and not to limit themselves in what they will do until they understand the entire process.

My decisions on what trees to show and when are driven each year by the success and failure involved in growing trees into top condition. When a tree really starts to look great I start to think about showing it. The road to that point can be long, somewhat like a marathon. But, in the final year leading to the show, the tree will typically take much more time and effort than it has leading up to that point.

Show prep starts with the decision to show a tree. Then continues with the wiring, fine branch setting, and trimming. If the styling comes out well, not ending up with the tree needing to fill in again, then it’s getting close. Finding an appropriate container and getting the tree to fit into it is a major hurdle. Then the last one is to spit shine, shoe polish, and moss the tree.

For my Blue Atlas cedar, after having grown it for a long time, then getting it largely prepped and into the container; the final step is to apply some moss and clean up any remaining issues. This year I am showing four trees in the Bay Island Bonsai show, and they all need final prep.

After repotting the tree you fill the pot with soil.   When I prepared to moss it a few weeks later I remove enough of the top soil to make room for the moss.   Adding a small amount of shredded sphagnum moss will help keep sand, mud and debris from the moss from filtering into the bonsai soil below.

After repotting the tree you fill the pot with soil. When I prepared to moss it a few weeks later I remove enough of the top soil to make room for the moss. Adding a small amount of shredded sphagnum moss will help keep sand, mud and debris from the moss from filtering into the bonsai soil below.

Applying the moss is a mixture of rote application and a bit of artistry.   Fitting it between the roots can accentuate parts of the nebari while hiding other minor problems.

Applying the moss is a mixture of rote application and a bit of artistry. Fitting it between the roots can accentuate parts of the nebari while hiding other minor problems.

In the case of my exposed root pine I did a maintenance repotting to freshen the soil.   The pot did not change.

In the case of my exposed root pine I did a maintenance repotting to freshen the soil. The pot did not change.

After applying a layer of fresh moss for the show.

After applying a layer of fresh moss for the show.

The small pine, in the show.

The small pine, in the show.

The Cedar, mossed, in the final container, sitting on the stand at the show.

The Cedar, mossed, in the final container, sitting on the stand at the show.

2 Comments

  1. Jim Merrell
    January 25, 2016

    Great work! I love keeping up with you and your work. I love the lighting and the detail in your photography. What a beautiful process and gorgeous trees too.

  2. Juan
    January 25, 2016

    Very, very nice. I enjoyed watching your process as you went through and selected the pot for the Cedar. The beauty of the tree andpot in combination is sublime.

    Nice work. Thanks for sharing.