Friday, 14 September 2012

A bonsai weekend to remember

We had a really good bonsai filled weekend down in furthest Cornwall a few days ago. Peter Warren had made the epic journey down to my place to take a couple of small group sessions on the Saturday and Sunday, and each day 3 friends and I were entertained and captivated by the best bonsai teacher we have had the pleasue of working with. This first trip was completely open regarding species, tree stages and what the owner was hoping for - so we had Scotts Pine, Black pine, san hose junipers, white pine, hawthorn, juniper sergentii ..........and that was just day one !

We spent the morning session looking at each tree, discussing options and absorbing a medium sized books worth of information, while steadily Peter was pruning a bit here and there, preping trees for the next styling stage. After a quick lunch out came wire, tools, turntables and a hive of activity gave the material trees initial shape or the required tweaks and pointers for their next stage. All the time a wealth of information flowed, and through clever questions everyone was thinking too. All too soon evening arrived, trees were loaded up and the BBQ fired up, bonsai and non bonsai chat flowed until ???o'clock before the next morning came all too soon.

Famous tree - The late  Ruth Stafford Jones's black pine - japanese import from the late 1950's
Second day came with junipers, cryptomeria, Scotts pine, Black pine and satsuki., plus local made pots, display tables and another wealth of great help and advice. Trying to make bonsai from just books and the internet will give very 2 dimensional results, but to make really good bonsai needs far more - Being reminded how to look properly again, and how to make a tree that you like more than making a tree you think just looks good to others were good lessons learnt on day 2.

I think this is the type of 'workshop' I've wanted for years - the large group of people styling a pre bonsai and going home with a tree none the wiser isn't really that helpfull - not that I've been to one of those! These days we want accurate and up to date information - not rehashed old folk law from 30 year out of date books, and Peter certainly delivered a wealth of hints and tips relevant to the trees and people present.

Day two came to an end with everyone happy, heads full of info and buzzing with the bonsai bug. Trees were loaded up and the BBQ was fired up again to do a whole smoked chicken, and while we waited one of my junipers was changed from a tree done for last week to a tree set up for tomorrow. Peter saw the conflicting bits and complicated bits that were going against the trees better features so  branch angles were changed, the foliage re-arranged into softer open pads and bits that were not needed were pruned out. Soon it was dark so we got some light shining through the windows to see what was  going on, and then the smell of bbq chicken wafted across the garden and it was time to finish.
Personally I think Mr Warren is an asset to this country and his quiet modern style was a breath of fresh air in the current bonsai world - The biggest thing I learnt ?.........When a tree is not at the final stage you need to style it so it reaches that level of refinement and can be maintained easily - there is no point making hard fiddly work for the future, or making a tree that will be a struggle to maintain. And make sure a proper tree has a proper pot  - haha, and do the right jobs at the right time, and dont fiddle about for the sake of it................but luckily i am happy to sit back with a beer and watch the buds grow rather than pinch them off .......... 
We all gained a lot from the days, and I'm pleased to say it will be the first of many.
March 25th, 26th and 27th 2013 (that last one is news to you Peter haha)
We have a dedicated conifer repotting session starting with my Cuspidata on Monday then a group day with a max of 5 people for the Tuesday, primarily looking at juniper and pine root pruning, root placement, soil mixes, tree position in the pot etc. Wednesday is a surprise atm.
**3 places already booked for the Tuesday**
Special thanks go to:
Peter Warren
Satomi & Mandy
Frank, Phil, Roy, Owen, Colin & Gordon
Peter Norris Pasties
Stella Artois
French Chardonnay
Californian Zinfandell
Tesco Food counters
Illy coffee
Yorkshire Tea
Willowbog Bonsai Copper Wire
eco deck Uk
weber BBQ's


  1. A good weekend then :-) Can't wait for our turn next month!

  2. sounds like you all had a great time , I know PW enjoyed it also , teaching bonsai how it should be taught ! how much of what he told you could you have gained in any other way ! communing with nature for example :-) you do alot of that down there in the west country don't you ??

  3. by the way have you submitted a tree/trees for the Trophy yet ? have you got the necessary forms ? oh and thanks for the above plug :-)