BILL JUMPS A BROAD– Down Under

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This is my fifth trip to Australia to teach classical bonsai art. I arrived on Thursday and my friends and hosts in the Brisbane area, Ian and Shelia Glew picked me up and took me to their new beautiful home. This time Ian took me around before my formal programs to show me the local interesting sights. We took a drive into the mountains where we went past the famous Crocodile Hunter’s Australia Zoo.

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Giant pineapple landmark near the growing fields

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Nearby was a pineapple plantation which was interesting, in spite of no fruit during this time of the year. Magnificent mountain top views of the Pacific Ocean and the rolling hillside reminded me of parts of California. But, most of the landscape was similar to Florida with the sand, palm trees and other sub tropical plant material, mostly unknown to me, but quite interesting.

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Ian Glew and Tess Simpson with a Bougainvillea bonsai beginning to blossom

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Tiger bark fig

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Bald cypress grown from seed

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We took a visit to Northside Bonsai an excellent and clean bonsai nursery run by Tess and Shelby Simpson with a wide variety of plants and pots too. I’ve visited the nursery before and selected the great Seiju elms used for the 2009 convention where they were used for my demonstration. Their nursery continues to shine and has loads of good bonsai for bonsai enthusiasts as well as a large assortment of trees for the general public to start them off on the wonderful world of bonsai. One of their large bougainvilleas, small for Chinese standards, was just beginning to come in blossom. Tess showed me some interesting new plants she is propagating for future introductions.

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Outdoor teaching area for workshops

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Interesting stone lantern base

Ian took me to the lookout where the whales were spotted a few days ago migrating to the southern areas where the water is cooler for the hot summer. Next to that area, but around small-secluded woods was the famous nude beach of the Australian Sun Coast… Too bad my cast and stroller do not like sandy beaches or rocky areas.

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Saturday was spent with the Sunshine Coast Bonsai Society beginning with an open workshop with about ten students. The plant material was quite good and I was particularly impressed with the size of a Lavender Star Flower or Grewia which had quite a large, but curved trunk. Another old Japanese black pine had been trained for over thirty years was unwired and trimmed and will be rewired this summer. It had already been candle pruned for the year and the second crop of smaller needles were opening.

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Bald cypress forest four years old from pencil size cuttings

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Bald cypress

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Queensland small leaf fig

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Benjamin fig from seed

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Japanese black pine

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Dwarf fig

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Juniper

When I arrived at the venue the society had a small display of fine bonsai for me to enjoy, and I really did. I was particularly impressed with the work of Shannon Young one of the younger members of the society. He showed me a small leaf fig which I saw at the 2009 Australian Associated Bonsai Club convention where I taught and presented him with an award of encouragement for the same tree. I guess it worked, because the tree has developed quite nicely. He also had a Benjamin fig trained in a slanting style shohin bonsai from SEED which was impressive.

Although Bald cypress is not native to Australia is it commonly used for bonsai, and they must really like this climate. I saw old looking trees, with rough bark and well developed branching where were under ten years old, from seed! Quite impressive! Shannon had a large forest set up in a corner display which was a two man bonsai. The trunks were magnificent as was the group planting composition. I found it difficult to believe he started the forest only four years ago from pencil size cuttings. He had another larger thicker specimen with quite a bit of dead wood as well.

However during the workshop there was a large Trident maple which was recently drastically pruned and had long new shoots, just right for initial wiring. So, before my demonstration after lunch I showed a section of my Maple Bonsai Program on how to drastically prune and subsequent care and training. Having my laptop with me containing over one hundred PowerPoint programs comes in handy when trying to present a comprehensive educational seminar. Its easy to quickly pull out an appropriate program to illustrate an important point.

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Selecting and explaining the Trident maples for the demonstration

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Basic composition

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Adding more trees

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Ian Glew assisting

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Crystal bowls used for cleaning moss, a high class organization. I should have brought my gold plated tools, they would have been appropriate

After the workshop I presented my Power point presentation on Forest Bonsai which was followed by a demonstration of creating a Trident maple forest. The society had selected an excellent assortment of trees to select from. One had a strange trunk with two heavy branches opposite each other so it was not used, as was another tree with excellent roots and branching, which I considered too good for a forest. Everything was prepared ahead of time including a beautiful new container hand made by the president Tony. It was exactly my design, I wonder how he knew? The unglazed oval pot had short wide flat feet with an outer lip. Tony has some South African relatives including a great great grandfather who first discovered and introduced the Gerbera daisies.

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Messy floor after cleaning roots, but the forest came out great

Ian Glew presents bonsai demonstrations throughout Australia and is well known. I’ve known him for years and he always helps me with my demonstrations when he is around. He assisted me in China in 2006 and in Puerto Rico as well as in the United States and Australia. He knows how I work and does great wiring too, but there was no wiring today. After discussing the assortment of trees he began to bare root them. We could not find a suitable trash container or box, but did have a couple of blue tarps so we simply opened them up and worked on them, dropping the excess soil and branches on the floor. Now, I’ve never worked like this before, nor made such a mess, anywhere, but I went along and got through the uncomfortable situation. As trees were added to the composition the positioning was explained. After planting the trees, I never counted the number as it was not important because more than eight trunks were used, soil was added and moss was applied to the surface. The society had great moss and they even “borrowed” some additional moss from the bonsai on display. After mussing came the interesting part where each tree was trimmed to height then thinned out to allow light and air to reach the inner branching. My design was then explained where asymmetrical balance is important. The copies of my newest book “Classical Bonsai Art- A half Century of Bonsai Study”  quickly sold out and Ian began to take orders for shipping.

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Completed demonstration Trident maple forest

Tomorrow I move on to the Gold Coast Bonsai Society then on to Canberra before ending up in Perth next week. I have not yet seen a kangaroo, but hope to. In Japan there is a saying that if you happen to view Mt. Fuji you will return. I’ve applied that saying to kangaroos in Australia and every time I’ve visited, I’ve had the good fortune to see a kangaroo and then return.

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