Hawthorn Winter Wiring

This Hawthorn has been with me a while. It’s one of the finer growth species and thus not quick to flower as a bonsai. I’m spending a little time to get the placement of primary, secondary right and then build a nice canopy of ramification. The aim with this one was always a natural image of a Hawthorn commonly seen in the Irish Landscape.

Before Wiring


and after





played about with the time lapse app on my new camera and was please with the results. Check out the video.

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Berberis First Wiring

This berberis was ready for it’s first wiring. I wanted to give it a first wiring last year but it budded out before I got near it.


I wanted to make a few further decisions about trunk selection and get the basic branch structure going in the right direction. A very brittle tree to work with and covered in tiny thin thorns, painful. This was the result. Early days with this being it’s first sighting of wire but great potential going forward.


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For earlier posts on this tree see: Just acquired  and Berberis Clump Repot

Seen here in 2014

Steve’s Bonsai Garden

When I was over at Suruyama Towers the other week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Steve McKee who was visiting. Steve and I have a fair bit in common and it was good to get a walk around the trees and chat bonsai.

Steve picked up a nice Literati Scots Pine from Peter when he was there and I have been following what’s happened since on Steve’s Facebook page ” Steve’s Bonsai Garden”.

This is the Pine as bought.

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Steve has since worked on the tree with Paul Finch and this is the result. More photos over on his FB page.


Steve has a fantastic collect of trees and and great garden layout.


Well worth a follow over on Facebook to see more of his trees and follow his exploits around some of the exhibition in the UK.

Here’s a link to his page again to save you a search:  Steve’s Bonsai Garden



World Bonsai Convention Coming Soon

Valavanis Bonsai Blog

PrintThe 8th World Bonsai Convention will take place on April 27-30, 2017 in Saitama City, Japan. Saitama City is the new name for Omiya, famous for high quality bonsai gardens. This promises to be the finest and largest bonsai convention to date, anywhere. The World Bonsai Friendship Federation has been holding conventions since 1989, the first in Japan. Since then the convention held every four years has been held in the United States, Korea, Europe and Puerto Rico.


Top Japanese bonsai artists will be demonstrating including: Masahiko Kimura, Hiroshi Takeyama, Kunio Kobayashi, Shinji Suzuki, Minoru Akiyama, Shigeo Isobe, Chikaru Imai, Taiga Urushibata, Kenji Oshima, Isao Omachi, Takashi Sakurai, Masayuji Fujikawa and Mitsuo Matsuda. Additionally international bonsai artists from each region of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation will also demonstrate: Werner Bush, Hannes Fritz, Jyoti & Ninkunj Parekh, Zao Quingquan, Mike Siow, Lindsay Bebb, Bjorn Bjorholm and Juan Andrade. That’s a…

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Steve’s Work

During my time with Mr Warren, Steve Salisian from LA was busy working away beside me. I thought I’d share his work here for you to see.

The first tree is a Sabina Juniper with great deadwood and movement.






Portuguese Oak









Another Portuguese Oak


A raft style Yew










Japanese Maple



Thanks for adding to my experiences for the week Steve, look forward to catching up with you in LA in May. 🙂



Sabina Juniper

Peter told me to pick something out to work on and I fancied a Juniper. With lots of great material to pick from both large and small, I opted for this Kifu sized one. I was left to figure out what options we had for the tree and if possible make it good from both sides. Most of Peter’s smaller (shohin) trees are good for either side, a great option for shohin display stands. Be nice to do the same with this one even at Kifu size. I gave the tree a preliminary clean up allowing me to study the trunk movement and branch structure a little more. Steve and I had a play around with it looking at a few possible angle changes both up and down. However what drew me to the tree in the first place was the angle it was at now. I gave my ideas to Peter just adding a possible tilt forward. I wanted to try and get two apexes on the tree but more separation was needed between the two main branches. As the lower one had shari, we opted to split the deadwood from the live vein a little to allow us to lower the branch further. A slightly risky procedure but fun. First Peter explained that before we carried out the split and bend that we should first look and see what other options we have if it goes wrong as a back up plan. There was a nice tree even if we lost the branch that was to be split.

The back..


and front…


Vein to be split from deadwood.


Making a start


Raffia applied


Wired up.


Initial bend put in place with an option to drop further if required.



Showing the amazing movement and twisting live vein.


During the wiring process


After wiring and lime sulphur was applied. Again the tree was not styled to look refined now. This is a Sabina with flower buds. As the foliage that is flowering now will die back when finished, we leave more of the fresher growth in behind to allow the foliage mass to be rebuilt later this year. There’s no point in fine wiring flowering areas when it will be removed within a year. What is important is the placement of the primary and secondary branches that will form the structure of the tree in years to come. A lesson learned from Peter all week – no point wiring what is being removed soon. An enthusiast may like to create the best image possible right now but is it good for the tree and a speedier development? No it’s not. Do what is required and move on to the next challenge. I still probably wired branches in this one that didn’t need it. A hard habit to break.


A check to see that it still falls within Kifu size.





It looks good from the other side too, but I forgot to take a photo 😦  A great tree to play with and I learnt a few things about Sabina along the way. Win Win.

Iwasaki Japanese White Pine

I posted on this last week but I wanted to revisit the tree here and get all the photos in one place. As stated, this tree was part of the Iwasaki Collection in Japan. I have pinched Peter’s text from his Facebook page explaining a little about how he came to have the trees.

Last May I took a very short trip to Japan as I was invited by Mr. Morimae of S-Cube Bonsai to have a sneak preview of the sale of the Iwasaki Collection.
As you may or may not be aware, Mr. Iwasaki was one of the premier collectors of bonsai in Japan over the last fifty years and he amassed a huge collection. He passed away several years ago and after lots of issues were resolved the collection was put up for sale and it was purchased by S-Cube

Due to my long standing relationship with Mr. Morimae, he let me get into the collection before 95% of the Japanese Bonsai world, let alone anybody from outside of Japan. As a result I got to choose a number of very special trees for a number of clients as well as some for myself to sell or style them and keep until someone wanted them. Finally, they got back here after a long process of quarantine. As they are trees with history and pedigree, some of them will be for sale, some of them not. There are a couple that I want to restyle this year but most of them are suffering a little from the importation and there are a few blind buds and branches so major work will wait until next year.

What you can’t tell so easily from the photos is the depth of character in the bark, the struggle these trees have been through giving them genuine old school bonsai flavour. These aren’t average pines which have been grown quickly and made to look pretty, these have age, character and class.
There are another bunch of trees that didn’t make it into the van this time but I should have them by the end of the week, as well as some non Iwasaki collection pines.
As with most of the trees that I put up, 95% of them are for sale but not to somebody I do not trust to look after them and not until I am 100% happy with their health.

On arrival at Peter’s last week I was given the task of clearing out the dead twigs and branches on this tree. Some had been lost during quarantine perhaps due to the fact that they were over due a repot and maybe watering was difficult to get right. Peter has turned the health around and there were many strong shoots on the tree.

This is it as I started.



Here after I cleared out the majority of the dead branches. Some left for jin as required.



Peter then informed me that I would be working on this tree for the first few days. A great honour to be trusted with the work on such a tree. My first job was to go through the tree removing shoots that were too strong, mostly towards the apex and then do some bud thinning. This is it before.


And after that process.


I then worked my way up the tree wiring each branch after discussion with Peter. So many little tips were given during this process. Information on JWP, wiring, branch placement, health etc. Below is the tree as we finished the work. This was not styled to look it best now, but shaped for the health of the weaker lower branches and gaining better structure in the next 5 years. A new front was selected due to brach removal but Peter was keen to point out that it must look good from all angles and we constantly spun the tree during the whole styling process.


Final tweaks





Structure from underneath.


A happy me, tired but happy 🙂


Covetous eyes…


Check out the video clip…

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Reflection On a Great Week

Back home a few days now after a week away studying at Saruyama Bonsai. I’ve been giving some thought to all the little things that I learned in my time with Peter and also a few bigger things that are more concepts or approaches to creating bonsai. In all I think I got what I wanted from my time and I think Peter was happy with the work I did on his trees. I will now use what I’ve learned here to help progress Bonsai in Ireland and I hope to get back to Peter’s place again soon.

I’ve been through all my photos of the week and want to add them here as a reference for my work and also a memory of the good times had. I did a little posting when I had time during the week, usually in bed, but I’d like to be a little more comprehensive now I’m home. There’s a lot so I’m going to upload them as albums here and split them up over a few different headings. I’ll start with a few general shots from around the nursery.

Thanks to all those who I met at Peter’s place. It was great to work with Steve Salisian over from the United States  and see his approach to bonsai, much of it gleaned from his sessions with Ryan Neil. Also to Jose, Steve and Les, who popped in for a few hours during my stay. Good to have time to actually chat to them rather than during the manic atmosphere at Exhibitions. And of course a big thank you to Peter, a great host, teacher and artist and Satomi who made me feel so welcome.

Steve McKee visiting for a few hours


Steve Salisian hard at work.


Jose stopping by for a cheeky beer after a hard days work.


Les spending a few hours with us on Monday, great to catch up.


And the boss, cheers Peter.


The rest of the general shots from the week….

What Day Is It?

This week has been flat out so far with bonsai learning, I can’t even remember what day it is! I say learning as opposed to styling for a reason. Yes, trees have been styled but always with a view to what is best for them in both health and future development. This isn’t a workshop were you bring a tree to be completed, this is about making better bonsai. I can’t stress enough that Peter really cares about the trees first. Benches full of material of all types but each is being progressed with a plan, not just sitting for sale.

Yesterday was mostly about deciduous trees with Portuguese Oak , Maples, Japanese Apricot, all getting some work. A little carving was in order and a lot of discussion about how to develop the best tree for the future and using different techniques to achieve this.

Below are some of the trees in various states of work. Not all my work I’ll add, Steve, my new American friend, has been hard at it too. 

We spent some time studying images of trees in books, in particular Japanese apricot, and seeing what the great ones look like. Even art work depicting the tree shows how they grow in nature. We then looked to emulate that when working the tree, always looking to the future. 

 We’ve now moved on to look at Taxus with some Yamadori trees being brought into the studio for discussion and work. Again it’s not a styling but the step by step work that needs to be done to create healthy trees with growth in the right places to create quality bonsai. Work on these continues…

In the photo Peter is looking for an older shot of the tree to show us, not browsing on Facebook 🙂 

More as I get time to share. 

Japanese White Pine

My first tree completed in my week with Peter Warren. This Japanese White Pine had recovered from its time in quarantine where sadly it had lost a few branches. My task initially was to clear out any of the dead twigs and branches and then remove any strong growth in the upper portion of the tree.

That done I was given the task of wiring out the tree in a way that was sympathitic to the needs of the tree. Helping it regain vigour by opening out the branches for good light and balancing the density of the foliage between the vigorous areas and the weaker lower branches. With Peter’s guidance I learned a lot from this tree.It’s that last 10% of tweaking that makes all the difference and is probably the hardest bit to get right for me. You think it’s right and then you see a Japanese trained professional  tweak it! With some good pointers and corrections I think it turned out well.