Raft Maple Progression

Back in 2013 my good friend Stephen bought this Raft maple from Willowbog Bonsai. The tree, Acer Palmatum Anyropurpureum, had previously been started from garden Centre material having. Even laid horizontally in a box for a few year to create the raft image. It had been displayed in John Hanbys Newstead Exhibition in 2010. These are some of the photos from the trees creation through to around 2012.

Stephen exhibited the tree in Bonsai Europa in 2015.

In 2019 the tree moved about 200 yards from Stephen’s home to Kris’s place. The size and weight of the tree meant that Stephen moved the tree on and who better than a friend who is easy to visit. Today we masked up and got down to the task of repotting the tree. It got a trim first. A good time to make cuts as having the roots worked means they won’t bleed. Here’s the full process step by step.

A few branch adjustments to be made once the tree has settled. A pleasure to have helped work this tree for the last 8 years. A unique tree and an awkward species, Antropurpureum is not often used for bonsai as it’s larger leaf and courser growth can put people off. I look forward to seeing Kris progress this tree in the years to come. It’s nice to record the provenance here for all to see.

European Larch

The owner has had this tree a long time and it only needs a nudge in the right direction now and again.

Before work

The tree needed a good clean before work to clear the last hold out needles and remove the algae starting to clog up the branches.

Using the softest setting on my jet washer. As you can see the full power would carve wood
After clean up.

As many branches had risen a rewiring of most of the primary structure was needed. I find larch need this every 3-4 years even when established. Other work included the removal of branches that had over thickened and replacing them with younger finer ones. Probably the biggest issues with larches is their ability to fatten fast if over fed or left to run too long during the year. Building up a good structure to allow these to be replaced on a cycle over the years by younger finer branches is so important on larch, more so that other species.

After wiring above. Not every fine detail is wired just what was out of shape or needed to be moved to fill space crated by branch removal.

This tree back in the 90’s had the trunk split down the middle to allow more flexibility and had the movement you see now created by heavy wiring. Over 30 years later you’d be hard pushed to see it amongst the flaky bark. Here’s a few other older photos of the same tree dating back to 2012-13.

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.

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.

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



Tenerife – Centro Bonsai Tenerife

Whilst in Tenerife I had the pleasure of finally meeting up with Jose Acuna. Jose and I have swapped a few plants over the years and chatted on Facebook but I never crossed paths with him until now. Jose kindly picked me up from my hotel and showed me around his collection. I had a great few hours with him chatting all things bonsai. Interesting to chat about the major differences in climate, watering, species etc, between Ireland and the Canary Islands. They have heat and light but crap water. We have no heat and poor light but loads of great water lol.

Here are some of Jose’s trees, some fantastic shohin among them.











This great little juniper won the 2nd World Shohin Photo Award  The submitted image can be seen below the one I took on my visit.



A stunning little maple.






A little bit bigger 🙂




Some of Jose’s awards displayed on his workshop wall.





I also fell in love with this pot. Truly beautiful carving.



I’m kicking myself for not taking a few photos of the pots that Jose made himself recently. Some very nice work.

Thank you Jose for taking the time on your one day off to show me around. I’ll maybe see you again soon 😉



Steve’s Bonsai Garden

Just a shameless plug for my friends Facebook Page. Please pop over and give his page a wee like.

Steve’s Bonsai Garden

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Big Bonsai

I popped over to a friends house on Saturday with a view to helping him select a tree for entering in Bonsai Europa next Autumn. It was nice to see some of these trees for the first time in Winter image.

This Beech is a monster.

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This Acer Campestre or Field Maple isn’t much smaller.


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And a little smaller again, this Ulmus Glabra or Wych Elm. Hard to see with the poor backdrop but again, you get the idea.



And last but not least is a Hazel, it’s covered in Catkins for next Spring and even produced 6 Hazelnuts this year past.

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Tree selected and plans made. Josh in one of the nicest bonsai people I know but then the rest of us are all oddballs 🙂

Contorted Hazel

This is a Contorted Hazel in my care at the moment for a friend who’s on Holiday. This is it’s first year in a pot having been field grown up until this point. Better in Winter or Spring with catkins, but an impressive bonsai of this variety.Best I’ve seen anyway.



Initial Working #3 Privet & Hawthorn

Two more getting their first direction. First is a hawthorn with great bark and second is an unusual variety of privet.