The Noelanders jubilee edition: again a massive show - Iconic olive wins
Text and photography: Farrand Bloch
Everybody seemed very happy at the XV edition of the Nöelanders Show. The weather wasn't a spoil, no storm, no snow, it was extremely mild, so no excuses for not going to Europe's major bonsai show. When strolling round the exhibition area it's always the same question that turns up: are the trees of a higher standard than those from last year? As always, answering this question is difficult, but maybe yes, in a sense that the top level of trees is well presented, but what is remarkable is that the so-called middle section has improved in quality too. Therefore you could say that, as a whole, the level is still rising. There are always major eye-catchers or massive trees which impress at this show, but this year showed that the smaller and quieter, less spectacular trees were a real joy for the eye, too.
The big Nöelanders Trophy prize always goes to the tree which has that iconic bonsai quality. Like it or not, this year's winner is the olive by Erasmo Garcia Fernandez because his tree has all it takes to capture the Nöelanders Trophy: maturity, impressive trunk line and a high level of refinement. Other trees had those qualities too, but this olive is very strong and iconic. View it from all sides, and see how it has an amazing dense branch setting and trunk tapering. It looks as if it has been there for a long time and looks just perfect.
One of my personal favourites is the Buxus balearica by Luis Vallejo. Of course I am a bit prejudiced because I know the history of this tree and seeing it at the show again, I was really surprised at how it has matured —almost unrecognizable. The foliage has become really dense, but still reveals the roller-coaster trunk line inside. It was good that for the first time the audience was not allowed to take any photos. When this was announced there were many complaints on Facebook — there was even a hilarious protest video — but as it happened it gave so much more tranquillity to the show. Instead of stepping in front of someone trying to take a photo, or almost tripping over a tripod, you could quietly enjoy the beauty of the trees.
Overall winner: Olea europeae silvestre, by Erasmo Garcia Fernandez (60 cm / 23½") photo: Willy Evenepoel
At the traders' stands there were positive vibes as the crowds headed over to see their wares. It was business as usual and all the traders were very happy after they had a less than good show last year due to bad weather. The trade section improves and extends ever further and further; where will it stop? Marc Nöelanders told me that maybe next year the venue next door will be included as part of the show because it's all becoming a bit too cramped in here. This year's show would definitely not fit back into the old 'Muse' theatre.
Discussions on the stage
Demonstrations were given by Kevin Willson (UK), Sandro Segneri (Italy), David Benavente (Spain) and Ryan Neil (USA). These were held in the basement theatre space and the demonstrations were animated and translated by Marc de Beule and Walter Pall. A large selection of great material was supplied by the organizing committee. All had interesting trees to work on, each telling a different story, but the huge pine worked on by Ryan Neil on the first day really caught my eye — a garden sized pine made into a splendid cascade. Who's going to make the pot for that, I wondered. Kevin Willson had a fine discussion on carving deadwood and using a carving machine without any protective stopper. Walter Pall started to worry about this, but Kevin assured him that 25 years of experience will kick in and after the 'don't do this at home' message, all comments were silenced. It was just the same with David Benavente's tree on Saturday which he did without a 'potential branch', as Walter teasingly mentioned, but David had already decided it had to go and made a great tree without it.
Nominated for deciduous category: Zelkova serrata by Alain De Wachter (46 cm / 18") photo: Willy Evenepoel
Every year all the trees are being captured for eternity by the amazing photographer,Willy Evenepoel, who works many, many hours to get the job done. The organising committee of the Nöelanders Trophy are most grateful to all their bonsai friends who have worked for years to show us the most impressive bonsai and to all those members of the club who gave their spare time to make this such a successful show. We can't wait for next year's Nöelanders Trophy; we'll keep you posted.
Nominated Rhododendron indicum by Udo Fischer (54 cm / 21¼") photo: Willy Evenepoel