The Wild Atlantic Way

A few snaps taken on my Donegal trip.

 

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Donegal Visit

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, how can retirement make you busier?!

Anyway, I was up in County Donegal a few weeks back with family checking out the scenery and I managed to make time to call in with John Dickie. This was a first time visiting John and I’m sure it’s not the last. John was  previously a chairman of the North East Lincolnshire Bonsai Society, and now is enjoying his retirement in the stunning countryside of Donegal.

The main reason for my visit was to sound him out in supporting the creation of a club in the Northwest based in Omagh to begin with. John was quick to offer his help. We are still doing a round up of anyone interested in Donegal, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Please get in touch.

It was a flying visit with both of us trying to get to know where we stood in our approach to bonsai. I was able to grab a quick walk around his garden and see some of the trees he’s brought over with him from the UK. Hope to see you again soon John.

 

Nice to find a fellow mini hosta lover.

Bonsai Inspirations at Lake Tahoe

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Like a kid in a candy store I was drooling in awe of the scenery and especially the trees during this recent trip to Lake Tahoe California/Nevada.   I jokingly commented to my family that if I only had a shovel, I might be going home with one of these gnarly trees.  I didn’t get any laugh but rather dirty looks,  they know I’m crazy enough that I might do it.   But rest assured, I didn’t do that, instead, I took some photos.  The photos however will not do justice to translate the awesomeness of this place.  I saw many ponderosa pines, manzanitas, very old cedar (incense cedar), oak type of shrub with beautiful crackling bark.  There were trees that would have taken very little work to make them into a beautiful bonsai.   In fact, there is a place I will visit before leaving Tahoe, it’s called the “bonsai rock”.  I will include…

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40th Mid-America Bonsai Exhibi

Valavanis Bonsai Blog

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The Midwest Bonsai Society held their 40th annual exhibit on August 18-20, 2017 at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Having attended, exhibited and selling all 40 of the exhibits (except for two when our home burned down seven years ago) I can say the quality of the trees is improving, especially with the professional category in my opinion. There are many more companion plantings displayed with the bonsai and this year there are many more suiseki on display.
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Best of Show: Twisted trunk pomegranate by Dr. Gary Andes
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First Prize in the professional division: Kahima Japanese maple by Wm. N. Valavanis
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Second Prize in the professional division: Japanese black pine by Mark Fields
Kathy Shaner from California spent considerable time, all day on Friday, judging the bonsai and making comments for improvements for the exhibitors.
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The many parking lots were full on Saturday, but crowds visiting…

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Travels Down Under

I’ll be on my travels again in November, this time heading to Perth in Australia. I’m staying with family and will be travelling south of Perth on a camping trip. I’d be keen to meet up with some bonsai enthusiasts while I’m there. I also want to visit some big/old trees on my travels. Anyone following this blog who lives or knows the area, can you help with a few pointers? Private collections, clubs, it doesn’t matter, I just want to see bonsai and trees Aussie style.

Bonsai Club in Tyrone Anyone?

I’ll do whatever I can to help promote bonsai in Ireland, and have done so across the island in recent years, both locally here in Northern Ireland, and in Leinster and Munster. I’ve tried to get Tim up and running in Connaught but the rural nature of the area has made that hard work so far, but we won’t give up. Come on Galway!

So, over the last few months I’ve been chatting with Paul up in Omagh, County Tyrone and he’s keen to try and get a club or small study group off the ground. He’s just made a Facebook page to help garner interest and I said I’d give it a push from this end as well. I’ve committed to helping him get it off the ground with a few sessions and see how it goes. It will be based in Omagh town itself and will cater for those interested in bonsai on that side of Northern Ireland and indeed, Donegal as well.

If you follow this blog from the North West of Ireland and have always wanted a bonsai club in your area, this is your chance, don’t miss it. It takes someone with the motivation to get the ball rolling, and Paul is that man in that place right now!

This is a link to the Facebook Page, go and say hello and express an interest and we’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening as things progress.

A Slice of heaven in Wales

After two wet days in Wales, we had two days of sunshine. On the day that we were heading home we were lucky enough to be invited to visit the garden of Mark and Ritta Cooper. I’ve gotten to know Mark and Ritta over the last 10 years in the UK bonsai scene, mostly through bumping into them at exhibitions, usually congratulating them on some award or other. At Noelanders this year, when they heard I was coming to Cardiff, they were quick to invite me for a visit. I wasn’t passing this up 🙂

On Thursday the morning, after an amazing night with Coldplay, we drove over the Mark and Ritta’s garden.We got a warm welcome and I was warned that the garden wasn’t quite finished.  I can only wish that one day my garden isn’t quite finished like this one. It was clear to see the quality of material used and the knowledge that was required to get it so perfect. Mark and Ritta of course pointed out what wasn’t finished or what they weren’t quite happy with, but that’s the way with gardens, are they ever finished?

The bonsai were just superb and Mark very kindly gave me a guided tour of each tree and it’s history. A nice mix of Japanese origin trees and some of more humble origins that have been worked to a high level over the years. Known for shohin, the Coopers certainly had a great collection of small trees, but the larger trees were to a high quality level as well.  As a kusamono lover it was great to chat with Ritta about varieties etc and I’m really looking forward to hearing their talk at Bonsai Europa in October. I’m not even going to dwell on the koi! See for yourselves in the gallery below.

Thank you both for making Allison and I so welcome and for the hospitality you showed us. A highlight for me was Ritta’s cake 🙂 The four hours flew in and in the end we just about made it to our ferry back home on time.

Bonsai as a hobby is full of wonderful people and these two are certainly on that list. See you both soon.

Snowdonia

I was on my travels again last week, this time in Wales. We were popping over to see Coldplay in concert in Cardiff but added on a day to take in Snowdonia National Park and visit with a few bonsai friends.

These were taken in and around the park, not great weather sadly but sometimes the mist adds to the mystery. Some nice hawthorn in the valleys and of course great views.

Pacific Bonsai Museum – Part 2

My last post looked at the Natives Exhibit specifically but I wanted share a few thoughts on the venue and people I met there and share the rest of my photos taken of trees outside of the Natives.

Having seen both Huntington Gardens and Lake Merritt on my travels I was expecting big things from this place. I’d been told, on good authority, that this is the pick of them all. Big praise indeed as the others were impressive albeit in different ways. Pacific Bonsai Museum was the same, impressive in it’s own way. As a stand alone attraction I could not fail to be impressed with the set up, layout, trees, staff, and it’s all free. The Natives Exhibit and the thought that had gone into it made this special but there were other things for me to see too.

On entering we got to see some of the fantastic artwork created for the Natives exhibit and we got to check out the tokonoma set up with a Satsuki azalea. There is also a small tropical exhibit as you enter and I had the pleasure of seeing a tree that I’d seen before in the States, last time in Florida. Paul Pikel’s Buttonwood was sitting there as I walked in. Last time I saw that was at the side of his pool in his back garden in 2011.

Within the main exhibit area were some other trees that I’ve included in the gallery, some natives, some not. Apologies if they should have been included within the Natives section.

A highlight of the day was getting to meet Tony Fajarillo aka Bonsaiko, a fellow blogger who was keen to hook up on the trip. Tony was keen to show me a few other sights in Seattle and made me very welcome. Sadly time was tight at this point and we had to settle for a meeting of the bonsai minds at Pacific Bonsai Museum. He brought some of the family as well and we couldn’t have been made more welcome. Next time Tony, next time 🙂 Check out his Blog if you already haven’t BONSAIKO 

While wandering the exhibit with Tony I bumped into Jak, one of the staff and asked after Aaron. On hearing he had the day off I was disappointed but on instruction from Mr Neil I asked if there was any chance of getting into the back lot for a look at the bonsai currently not being exhibited. Zak, was a gentleman and took us straight there. Many of the photos in this gallery are from that area. Some great bonsai that emphasise that a repeat visit is necessary to see the rest of the trees. Tony pointed out the Nick Lenz Larch with the many hidden deadwood faces. It’s little things like this that create the memories for the visit.

Another treat was getting to see the Domoto Maple, a tree with great history that can be read HERE.

It’s free folks, but donations are essential to help keep this thriving. If only the UK had something like this, don’t take it for granted. I bought a T- Shirt of course, quite the collection now after this trip 🙂 Here’s the Gallery.