Tony has been working with bonsai since 1983, he specialises in native European trees, in particular; Hawthorn, Yew and Pine. Here you will find Lots of articles of my exploits with Bonsai, collecting Yamadori and fun attending exhibitions and doing demos throughout the bonsai world.
Over the past 20 years, technology has dramatically transformed how we live, how we work and how we connect. How we learn is no exception. So when I was asked to review The Advanced Bonsai Course 2 the long awaited sequel to the The Advanced Course from Bonsai Empire, I was in no doubt as to the quality of the content. Instructor Bjorn Bjorholm guides you through the long-term impact of techniques on a wide variety of tree species. Learn about pad creation for exhibition, branch splitting on conifers and establishing a great Nebari with air-layered deciduous material. Understand how to fertilise trees in different stages and the effects of macro and micronutrients on plants.
But this course is
not exclusively about advanced techniques. It also discusses the aesthetics of
traditional and contemporary Bonsai display, from the tokonoma to the
This may be a surprise to many but on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving instruction in a workshop environment. A workshop setting can stifle learning by allowing dominant personalities to take the bulk of the time from the professional artist. Quieter individuals become limited in their engagement and may even be embarrassed to ask questions. Learners can take a course from the workplace during lunch or from the comfort of their home and learn at their own pace with 24/7 access. An important factor in the production of these courses is the sophisticated way Bonsai Empire use technology. Breaking down lessons into video segments and running interactive discussions, in which students can engage with other users. Nobody will sit through a 6 hour-long lecture online (yes it’s 6 hours of solid information and learning), so you have got to chunk things up. The flexibility the course from Bonsai Empire is very attractive for a generation where time is constantly being squeezed and the demands of work heightened — you can fit the distance-learning around your life.
Bjorn Bjorholm teaching style is easy on the eye and because you can revisit as often as you wish easier to understand and review. I particularly like the detail in ‘Advanced fertilisation’ and ‘Myth busting’ I found myself making written notes (I rarely do this) you can get a preview and purchase here: https://www.bonsaiempire.com/courses/advanced-course-2
The section on Contemporary Japanese Bonsai display is really detailed and the explanation as to how to place and why the elements are displayed in a particular way. Bjorn gives you a guideline to follow on how to create a basic display and build from there.
It was an absolute pleasure to be be involved with Ray Egan at Bud Garden Centre in Bunratty and watch the first (and not the last) Bud-ten exhibition come together.
Bud Garden Centre in the Shadow of Bunratty Castle
Ray is one of guys who works hard in the background to push bonsai forward in Ireland and do it in the right way. From a chat last year over a few beers when he talked about hosting a Japanese Gardening Weekend at Bud including bonsai, to what just transpired last weekend, it’s been a rollercoaster.
Ray hard at work
Bud is nestled away in a corner opposite the historic Bunratty Castle and although small, offers plants missing from most garden centres. Ray hosts monthly meetings for the Munster Bonsai Club of which he’s a founding member.
The use of photoshop can be great for helping you NOT make costly mistakes when choosing pots or plantings. This virtual helps me decide if removing the tree from a pot and placing on this great natural stone from MojoBonsai will work as a complete design.
Combining the two images in Photoshop and adding ‘moss’
The tree in it’s current pot
Today I removed a major branch from this Han Kengai Yew, I replaced with a branch that was to the rear of the tree and brought it around to the front, the old branch was ‘jinned’ and used as a wire anchor. The pot is a virtual image and the pot is by Jack Hoover in the States.
Last weekend I managed to meet up with some of Swedens bonsai enthusiasts, I was met by Torsten Ryman and his partner Eva at the biggest flower show in Sweden where Svenska BonsaiSallskapet had a booth. Over 50,000 people visit the show over three days, when we arrived it was PACKED and there was a lot of interest on the Bonsai on show. Some great examples of trees were displayed and club members were on had to talk to the public.
The next day I visited Bigbrit Ashley Almström and her
husband Brian at there amazing house and studio in the centre of Stockholm. Big
had the beautiful Maple in the display at the festival, I am sure that everyone
will agree with me that Big is the mother of Bonsai in Sweden and she has
welcomed may of the worlds bonsai artists to her garden. Its always an honour
to visit, and this time it was with my extended family who live in Stockholm.
The Fortingall Yew, a heritage tree of international importance situated in the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall, eight miles west of Aberfeldy in Scotland.
Fortingall Yew 5000 years old - YouTube
On a VERY windy day in October, I visited TheFortingall Yew in Glen Lyon the tree is at the geographical heart of Scotland and stands within Fortingall churchyard. It is thought to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old and has connections to early Christianity in Scotland. It is also believed to be one of the oldest living things in Europe. In 1769 the circumference of the yew’s multiple trunks was measured at 52 ft, but this has vastly reduced over time and what remains are the relics and offshoots of the original tree.
The tree is supposedly Pontius Pilate’s Birthplace, this from an early publication (Lloyd’sWeekly Newspaper)
“One of the strongest links with the past which can be found in this country is supplied by the obscure village of Fortingall, in Perthshire, which tradition points out as the birthplace of Pontious Pilate. Fortingall lies in a beautiful and sequestered mountain vale some ten miles west of Aberfeldy, in a district rich in memories of Finga), Wallace and Bruce. Near the village are the remains of a Roman camp, where, at the beginning of the Christian era, the soldiers of the Empire were posted to guard the passage from the Highlands through Glen Lyon. This encampment is probably not earlier than the time of Agricola, and before it was made the Scottish king Metellanus held his court at Fortingall, and received an embassy from Augustas. One of the ambassadors, we are told, was the father of Pontius Pilate, and here the future Governor of Judea is said to have been born shortly before the Nativity if our Saviour. The embassy* to Metellanus is sufficiently well authenticated in the following passage from Hollioshed.”
This tree is an air layer created by my great friend Hans van Meer, it’s been 4 years in the making and was styled by me in March this year. The potting took place as it was strong and ready to go into a bonsai pot. Prior to repotting work was done on the deadwood, it was ‘punky’ as they say in the States… so after cleaning and removing as much of the soft rotting wood, hardener was used to preserve what was left. This styling may appear strange to some but this tree is shown mostly in flower and the wiring is done to accentuate that.
Morten Albek has a very relaxing voice perfect for introducing you to Shohin Bonsai, that combined with VERY high production values and detailed content make this course a pleasure to watch and understand.
The course starts with a 4-minute video overview of the course contents and from this short introduction, you quickly realise that the course will bring your shohin to a high level.
Pretty much most aspects of Shohin bonsai care and creations are covered including; Repotting, Pot selection, Wiring, styling, display and so much more.
I particularly liked the section on pot choice, Morten humorously stated that as bonsai artists we always buy beautiful pots even when we do not have a tree available to plant in them, this is so true! Did you know that the thickness of the pot wall affects the health of the tree due to heat retention? Morten explains in detail why!
Exhibiting bonsai seems like a ‘dark art’ to the inexperienced this section alone is worth signing up for. You can do that by clicking HERE