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  • Writer's pictureTom Lau

Mel Ikede the Raft Master

At our last club meeting in June. Mel came out from the beach early so he would not hit traffic for the demonstration for the night. What he brought out was an established juniper raft a student gave back to Mel because he was downsizing and moving. Mel decided to bring it in because the extreme hot weather did not co-operate with his planned raft rock planting.

It was nice to see a full house and everybody was excited on what Mel brought in. Mel has been known for his unique initial raft styling and seeing what stage 2 of this type of styling was an eye opener. The species tonight was a procumbens nana juniper from a 10 gallon nursery can. Already established in a cedar fence custom box. This juniper has been in this box for at least 2-3 years and this will be its 2nd styling. Mel explains that the final design should be in a low shallow pot or on a stone slab because of the size of the planting. He also says who ever the winner is can easily separate this raft into 2-3 smaller ones.

(Mel starts to jin a branch while Ed looks on up-close.)

Mel pre-wired most of the trunks of the raft before arriving to the demonstration to save time, but more importantly to explain the movement of the over all composition. He continues saying that with the current state of the raft that a windswept style be most appropriate and convincing.

In the photo above, the arch in the raft is the center piece of the movement. Every single trunk is or will be moving to Mel's right side as this is a photo from the back. Mel also states that a good raft material is tree with good size caliber trunks near the middle of the tree rather then the extreme ends. It makes it easier to make the bonsai triangle while of the heavy trunks or branches are at the ends it going hard pressed to have that asymmetric look.

During this time, Mel continues to shorten every single trunk on the raft. He had a bit of trouble figuring out weather or no to shorten the 2nd large trunk in the raft because it could at a later date become the main trunk. Either way, Mel slowly but surely nipped away at all the apexes until he was satisfied.

After securing some of the trunks to the frame of the pot. Mel continues to refine the composition by added rocks and gravel. He expresses that this is just to give the viewers what this display should look like when everything has set and ready for a bonsai pot or slab. He also states, that the rocks shown in the next picture was collected in Santa Barbara County near the old Michael Jackson Estate.

Unlike rocks collected in our local areas. Each rock was extremely dense, yet had movement and character in each piece; not like the typical river stone we see. The texture of each stone had a similar look of granite formation of our local San Gabriel Mountain vistas. If you look closer to the picture above, you will notice that textural importance in selecting specimen stones do make or break a composition.

So, Mel has do use his magic on every single demonstration for our club. This time it was with the mossing. With the week's temperature hovering above the 116+ degree mark. All the moss that Mel had prepared has dried to a crisp, and he doubt he find anything that survived in that heat. So, Mel came up with an idea of using sphagnum moss and using green food in a spray bottle. The idea would have worked like those green spray on lawns during the Southern California drought. The problem with the green spray on moss is the overspray that Mel came across. He states that the idea would work better if he had some type of board to stop the over spray. I have to say on a personal note, if you don't have any moss ready it could be an alternative.

Here is the final product! Its pretty good looking and almost ready for its own display pot or slab.

Mel graciously donated the raft to the club and in his hands is the lucky yellow ticket! Well, they are all yellow but that beside the point! And the winner is...

Ed!!! Congrats on a future master piece in the making! I like to thank Mel Ikede for the time that night and driving several hours early. We do appreciate the time and effort you give to Baikoen Bonsai Club. Until next time!

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