The workshop at the last Toronto Bonsai Society meeting was to create a larch forest. There were more demand than available workshop placements, so all interested participants put in their name to the lottery for a chance to win a spot in the workshop. Ricardo, Mike, and myself were the three lucky members who won a spot at the workshop. The larches were all donated by Larry, and the trees came in various sizes.
We each partnered with a seasoned club member. I partnered up with Mike R., he showed me some of his tricks in anchoring the trees in place. The number of trees in a forest planting should always be an odd number, and they should be arranged in an irregular manner, such that there will be movement among the trees. Just like any art work, one should also take advantage of both positive and negative space to add interest to the scene. Mike suggested to leave a plane of open space to the left of the pot, to suggest the idea of open space. I really like that idea, and I think it further adds to the movement of the whole composition. We first started with the bare rooting all the trees, this allowed us to inspect the roots, and to ensure the most pleasant nebari is exposed to the front. We then started arranging the trees into the pot, in the order of biggest to smallest. The biggest tree and the second biggest should balance each other, with the other remaining trees complementing the two bigger trees. Positioning the smaller trees towards the back of the pot also conveys depth of field. After we were happy with the arrangement, we proceeded to trim off the branches which ran into the adjacent tree, in nature, these branches would not have survived, so leaving them would seem abnormal. The final step is to fill in the pot with bonsai soil. Care is taken to use the chopstick to ensure the soil fills in all air gaps among the roots. For forest plantings, the soil is usually mounded a bit higher than the very shallow pot. This looks good, but presents some challenges in terms of watering, since the water will wash away the soil. Mike suggests to put some moss or cloth on the soil, to hold it in place. Since I didn’t have sufficient moss to perform that function, I opted for landscape fabric. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional. I also wondered whether the black landscape fabric will pick up more heat on a sunny day, thus maybe even help the roots develop further. For now, I will let the tree grow, and hopefully it will develop some nice roots. I am especially worried about the smallest tree, it really needs to put on more roots. Only time will tell whether they’ll all make it. But so far, they’ve been doing very well in full sun. There are small buds emerging from all five trees.