You learn Something New Every Day

Well, you should strive to at the very least. When I was offered the chance to review Bonsai Empire‘s latest joint effort with Bjorvala Bonsai Studio, ‘Bonsai Intermediate Course’, I was keen to learn and intrigued as to what the course contained.

Is there a place for this on-line learning concept within bonsai?

Would I learn anything new?

Is it good value for money?

The course is available here  from today, but I’ve been able to check out the content over the last couple of days and form an opinion. The deal was I’d be honest in my review, this isn’t a free promotion and Oscar was happy with that. After all the hard work put in by Bjorn and him, they are  probably confident in their product.

I think the best way to describe the course is to walk you through my experience of using it. I had already viewed the trailer which you can watch below. It’s obvious from this that the production quality was going to be high.

I was given details on how to register and the process is painless, an easy interface with easy payment methods and an invoice received via email. I then gave the course format a look and saw some things that caught my interest and a few that I thought might not be of much benefit to me. Eg. Dwarf Kumquat. I doubt I’ll ever have one of these in my collection but I thought, in the interest of a fair review, I’d need to watch it just in case 🙂


Looking down at the course curriculum I got a better idea of the actual breakdown of the content and could see that some species such as Junipers, Pines and Maples did still hold the majority of the allotted time. I was tempted to jump straight into the ones that interested me the most but I behaved myself and and started at the welcome video. As expected production quality was top notch, indeed it is throughout all the video content lasting 4 1/2 hours.




During my first sitting I watched the first 6 videos. I hadn’t watched any of the content of the previous Beginners course and I wondered if that would mean I’d get sections that referred to older content that I’d missed, and cause confusion or knowledge gaps for people jumping straight in to the Intermediate course. Within minutes my question was answered with previous learning being mentioned and covered again to bring new users up to date. I watched one of the best explanations on how to wire with ‘step by step’ clear instructions showing  how and why. I show people how to wire on a regular basis and I saw several teaching techniques that I’m going to use myself to simplify the process.

When I started into the juniper content I was hooked. All you need to know for each species is there to view. Great information on Polar Auxin Transport explaining clearly why it’s important to understand PAT when it comes to recovering the health of weak junipers. This is just one of many learning moments that happen frequently during the course.


I’ll not start going into a constant blow by blow account of my experience from each topic or species video clip, indeed I haven’t even managed to view all the content yet. I constantly found myself stopping and clicking back to repeat certain sections to ensure I took it all in. The audio from Bjorn has been well scripted to ensure every single sentence is concise and packed with learning and is often worth listening to several times. Or maybe I’m just slow to take it in the first time 🙂

The highlights of the course for me were the various species guides with some great info on care with Junipers and Pines being the stand out lectures.

The negatives were few and probably petty on my part. As you probably guessed all the species are Japan- centric. No Larch or Hawthorn for example but then what else would you expect. That said, much of the learning can be transferred to other species. A few of the Progression lectures were a little slow paced for me in places, but mostly it was only because I had seen that content before elsewhere. The music at times is a little out there but I even found myself foot tapping away. That’s it, all pretty minor and if anyone else can tell me a negative, I’d be interested to hear it.

Getting back to the three questions I asked myself at the start of this blog post.

Would I learn anything new?

The short answer is yes. I’ve been playing with bonsai for 23 years, I’ve worked with numerous bonsai artists and professionals in this time and I’m always amazed at just how little I actually know. Bonsai is a massive area to study with that fantastic mix of art and horticulture and a never ending knowledge base to explore. I think many people will see the term Intermediate and wonder what that actually means in bonsai learning terms. One man’s intermediate level is another man’s beginners level or even expert. I guess you’ll have to judge that for yourself to your own standards. What I can say is that the content of this course inspires me to study harder and learn more. I took copious notes during the videos to help retain what I had viewed and even teach others.  The beauty of the course is it’s a one off payment with content that you can return to again and again.

_DSCJpanese Maple

Is it good value for money?

Ok, so $50 full price or in real money to me £34 ish. This gets you well over 4 hours of content and learning from a Japanese trained bonsai professional and produced to top level we have come to expect from Bjorn as previously evidenced in his Bonsai Art of Japan series on Youtube. You can also ask questions direct via the site and take part in discussions with other content users.


Is there a place for this on-line learning concept within bonsai?

The world’s a changing, magazines still have a place and the newer books especially the gallery ones will still be good to have to top up our learning and enjoyment of bonsai. But I think most people reading this now will probably get most of their bonsai ‘Fix’ browsing the net. I personally sit and wade through photo after photo on-line looking for styling inspiration or seeking information on some aspect or other regarding bonsai culture. We can’t believe everything we read on-line sadly, but here is a product for bonsai learning that I feel fills a gap. Expert instruction you can trust, with an easy interface made to a high quality that you can view again and again and ask questions that arise. What’s not to like. I can only imagine the efforts that have gone into creating this and what is being asked for the content is small compared to the learning available. There are people out there learning to create bonsai on their own who are not in any club or taking any professional workshops, this course is made for them. There are also people out there learning bonsai in clubs from people who have picked up bad habits and teach inaccurate technique. This course can be used as a reset so you can recognise BS when you hear it 😉



I guess it’s safe to say that I was impressed with the course. Well done Bjorn and Oscar, and probably a host of other people who assisted in the creation of these videos. Keep up the good work. The question is, will there be an ‘Advanced’ course? Jeez I hate these ability level course names 😀









Bonsai Art of Japan 44

What a great overview of an Exhibition

Bonsai Art of Japan 42


Four Seasons of Japan


Bonsai Art of Japan 41

Watering Bonsai


Bonsai Art of Japan Ep 39


Fujikawa Kouka-en 2013 Vol 1 (DVD Promo)

Excellent 🙂

MTV Cribs Kouka en Style

‘We got all the Fu’s Y’all 🙂

Enjoy, I did 😀