It was good! Really good! Well organised, lots to learn, great demos and a good sale area.

Friday was an optional bus tour of a major bonsai nursery and Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. The nursery was chock-a-block with VERY interesting stock plants and it was hard to say no, but plants could not be taken from Queensland to other states due to their fire ant infestation. They had a selection of interesting rocks of all sizes but the pots were standard commercial. Mt Coot-tha was beautiful and there were several hours to walk around the large gardens.

Saturday the sales area opened to delegates at 8 am and was flooded immediately with eager buyers. A most interesting and very large selection of plastic bonsai pots in all the shapes of traditional ceramic pots, half the price and a quarter the weight. See the separate article on Kate’s Bonsai Pots. Pots, stands, suiseki – all you needed was money and room in your luggage.

Koji Hiramatsu was the lead demonstrator, a wry, smiling Japanese bonsai master who made the audience laugh when he said his father had died last year which ended Koji’s 35-year apprenticeship. Koji’s English was good, his humour was good, and his twinkling eyes and smile drew everyone in. He deserved his Master title as he manipulated a juniper into a lovely bonsai.

Koji Hiramatsu and his juniper at the start of the demonstration

Koji was partway through his demonstration and doing the wiring, so, Martin Walters came on stage to work on making a large slab from chicken wire and tile cement. The two worked together giving the audience lots to watch and absorb. Cameras and screens ensured all could see the details of the demonstrations with the camera swivelling from one workplace to the next as work progressed on the tree and the pot.

Martin Walker is a New Zealand bonsai addict who has been doing bonsai for well over a decade but only making pots for three years and it tickled him that his first overseas demo was on pots and not bonsai. But he knew what he was doing and it was fascinating to watch him work.

By the end of the first day Koji’s juniper was looking superb and Martin has at the stage of letting the top of the slab dry before turning it over to work the bottom the next day. The juniper was auctioned that evening at the convention dinner and the gavel dropped at $900. The next day the slab went to the bidder who offered $1500.

At the end of the demo

Koji also styled a large Melaleuca ‘Claret Tops’ with 4 trunks. He showed his mastery of bonsai as he had never worked on an Aussie native before but styled the tree in an Australian style, leaving the four trunks which was interesting.

Melaleuca ‘Claret Tops’

On Sunday Koji spent the day styling three small junipers, creating a lot of jins while Andrew Sellman styled a large Clerendendron that he had dug up several years earlier and was now ready to start its bonsai journey. The tree was a jumble of branches that he had let grow with only a bit of shaping on the major cascade branch. He had had a good chance to study the tree and his styling was informative and excellent. He was keeping the tree and had great plans for its future development.

Andrew Sellman and his Clerendendron at the start of his demo

And at the end

First styling done with some preliminary carving to bring more interest to the wood and tie the jins to the jinned roots

In the afternoon Lindsay and Glynis Bebb styled a large camellia and also announced that they were retiring and this was their last major demonstration. The Bebbs have been extremely prominent in Australian bonsai and Lindsay has demonstrated at a major Japanese bonsai show as well as other international shows.

In 2025 the AABC Bonsai Convention will be held in Canberra. It is a weekend well worth attending if you are enthusiastic about bonsai.