My interest in bonsai and the value of being in a club.

My interest in gardening can be traced back to my youth, my dad was a very competent gardener growing a wide range of vegetables and flowers. He also grew exhibition leaks, chrysanthemums and dahlias.

I was encouraged to help out in the family garden as well as the allotment!!!!!! Collecting sheep’s droppings for fertiliser for the leaks was one of my tasks.

In my early twenties I entered my first leak show at my local pub where I won a sterio system on coming second in the show.

As with any competition there are rules and standards which have to be complied with, just as in bonsai.

So that is where my interest in gardening originated, SO WHAT ABOUT BONSAI

It was as a young apprentice in the local steel works engineering workshops that I first heard of small trees in pots. Several guys who worked there were interested in various types of horticulture, growing caccti, fuschia, exhibition flowers etc and two or three guys talked about having small trees in pots, bonsai.

Fast forward to around the early nineteen nineties and my interest was sparked by the purchase of ‘an indoor bonsai’ at a garden centre, unfortunately it did not survive very long. Not to be deterred I bought another and a book and started buying a bonsai magazine as my interest started to take off.

Greenwood bonsai was my next venture into this hobby and I bought my first outdoor bonsai, an Acer and a larch group. (Both of which I still have).

In 1998 one of my sons moved to Reading and I found a bonsai nursery nearby and my collection started to grow. Willowbog Bonsai was my next nursery visit and another two trees were added.

I first heard of North East Lincolnshire Bonsai Society at one of their annual shows at a local garden centre but it would be several years before I decided to go along. I was aware that I was a new guy , others had been founder members or members for years and I found it difficult to integrate.

My interest in bonsai and the realisation that I could learn through club activities kept me going together with encouragement from my wife.

Around 2004/5 I started to go to workshops and bonsai events such as Newstead and Greenwood Bonsai, together with Bonsai Traders events and was now a regular at the club which was going through a bit of a transition as some of the founder members moved away etc.

Over the years the quality of my trees has improved as a result of the learning I have acquired both through the club and my own activities. I get a lot of satisfaction from working on my trees, none of which are hugely expensive and several are developed from low cost material such as this pine which I recently started on its bonsai journey from garden centre material. I had been to a Bonsai Traders event and not having anything that interested me decided to call into a garden centre nearby which specialises in conifers. The pine caught my eye and looked interesting.

As with any new material identifying a possible front is one of the first things I do, this is done by scraping away the surface soil to see the trunk line and position of the lower branches. Next I get rid of any dead or unwanted growth before wiring the primary branches to create the basic structure.

Initial styling

My involvement in the club has certainly helped the development of my knowledge and skills, which is in perfect keeping with the club’s principle of supporting the interest and development of bonsai in North East Lincolnshire and the surrounding area.

The club itself has continued to evolve, establishing links with other bonsai groups and changes to the annual programme including the range of speakers and workshops. As a result the quality of some members trees has doubtless improved.

As with any community group not everyone who comes along to the club has the same level of interest, some are keen to improve their trees and knowledge, others treat the club nights as purely social events and the interests of everyone need to balanced.

For any club to meet the interests of all its members or potential members it needs to offer a varied and balanced programme catering for all levels of knowledge, skill and interest.

If you are interested in bonsai and there is a club near you. Give it a try, hopefully you will be made welcome and enjoy being part of it.