Building an Empire – Advanced Course 2

Oscar Jonker has been working his magic again on Bonsai Empire. He’s been teaming up with Bjorn Bjornholm again to bring us the second part of the Advanced course.

I’d been wondering where Empires quality content could take us next and I wasn’t disappointed. Having early access and little time of my own to watch so much content, I sat down one evening to speed review the sections. Well, that didn’t work of course! I ended up binge watching it like a season of Game of Thrones 🙂 Addictive stuff this bonsai thing.

If you have watched any of the previous courses on Bonsai Empire you’ll know that you will always get high quality content filmed to a very high standard and edited well cutting to the chase every single time. Advanced Course 2 Didn’t deviate from this in any way.

Highlights for me were the section on display and I hope this will be taken further in the future. Some great case studies in there too looking back on previous work and bringing us up to date with were these trees are now in their development. This covers both conifers and broadleaf species.

Here’s a preview

What’s next Oscar? 🙂 Keep them coming my friend.

Sign up for Advanced Course 2




Shohin Course With Morten Albek

Once again I was delighted to be asked to review the latest Bonsai Empire Course. This time we have a new face in front of the camera. Morten Albek is well known in the European bonsai community and more specifically the shohin side of things. The course was a pleasure to watch, and as we’ve come to expect from Bonsai Empire, of a high production quality and content.
For a non native English speaker, Morten’s English is probably easier to understand than my Northern Irish accent 🙂 He has laid out the content in small easy to follow lessons that you will be able to dip in and out of at your leisure. Content feels a little different to the preceding courses in that you are with Morten in his garden looking at the bonsai and displays with him. A refreshing change. The course covers a lot of basics of bonsai that refer not only to shohin but bonsai in general. We see wiring, repotting, care, and pruning all covered. The highlights for me though were the sessions on display and pot selection. Another plus point for many people out there will be his use of humble material for his creations showing what can be achieved with a little time and effort. Not all bonsai enthusiasts have the ability to afford top quality yamadori, indeed most people reading this blog with be on a tight budget.
If I was to be critical , only two things come to mind. I would have loved to have seen the display lecture being more extensive and perhaps with more content coming in 2019, this may well be part of the expansion. The other thing I noticed was a little bit of repetition in some areas. Morten even acknowledged this by stating that he was saying it again as it’s important. Either way his points were well made. I look forward to seeing what’s added next year and at the $44.99 price, one off payment for life, I think the course is a great starting point for anyone wanting to delve into the world of  shohin bonsai. Morten will be a good guide to get you going in the right direction. Well done Morten and Oscar, another bit of quality content for online learning. Interested, HERE is a link.

Advancing with Bonsai Empire

I always feel privileged to be asked to review something on my blog, as long as the person asking expects to get an honest and fair review. When Oscar asked me to review Bonsai Empire’s latest course I was delighted to accept and as usual he stipulated, ” It goes without saying that we expect you to be completely honest in your review. ”


With that in mind I sat down to watch as much of the new Advanced Bonsai Course as I could to give a fair reflection of what’s on offer. I knew what to expect having been a big fan of the previous courses, especially the Bonsai Fundamentals Course with Michael Hagedorn.

I was interested to see if the approach had changed, we all know that in the last year there is plenty on offer for bonsai learning via live streaming. I had talked to Oscar about this at Noelanders back in February and we both agreed that there is room for both live streamed and archived content paying per month via Mirai and a concise online course such as those offered by Bonsai Empire for a one off payment. It’s a bit like trying to compare conifers and deciduous bonsai, both are great to have in your collection.

As usual, The Bonsai Empire website layout for the course is easy to use and allows to to start at the top and work your way through the content as intended, or skip to the bits you want to see.

Course highlights
– Advanced techniques – including grafting, heavy bending, detail wiring, nebari development, applying moss for display
– Wide selection of tree-species, in different stages of development
– Background information on philosophy and aesthetics
I started at the top and watched most of the content on philosophy and aesthetics and design. It’s obvious that Bjorn has put a lot of time into this section and as a lifetime resource, it will be a nice option to dip back into, especially the history and aesthetics portions. I did find it a little heavy going at times but a course should cater for all.
I then moved on to the techniques sections looking at Junipers, Pines and broadleaf trees. I was interested to see at what level this had been pitched. To call a course advanced, is a big decision, after all, what is advanced in bonsai terms? We all know the ladder of bonsai learning has more rungs than we can count and what’s advanced for one practitioner is perhaps common knowledge for another. I think the best way to state how this course is pitched is that it’s a perfect follow up for the Intermediate course. I’d be surprised if those who purchased the intermediate course weren’t the first to pre-order the advanced knowing the quality of content. I know a few friends who certainly did.
The techniques sections were well laid out, had top quality video content and were easy to follow with all the main points recapped at the end, but then we’ve come to expect this from all the Bonsai Empire content. Highlights for me were the design elements and Bjorn taking you step by step through his thought process. All the actual techniques were concisely explained and would be a good reference to revisit if you were trying these out for the first time.
It’s now clear after watching 90% of the content that there will be a Part 2 coming later in the year and as much as it would have been nice to see an instant follow up to the techniques used on the subject trees, we will have to be patient.
Have you watched all the content already? Here’s a challenge for you, who’s the first to comment below that’s spotted the amazing appearing then disappearing Ladybird/ Ladybug 🙂 Yes, I need to get a life 🙄
I’d normally at this point take the time to point out what I didn’t like, but Oscar has stuck with the tried and tested Bonsai Empire standard of quality and content which we have come to expect. We know what Bjorn delivers and it was nice this time to see species outside of Japan get covered in the content.
Bonsai Empire brings us Exhibition and demo content from all over the world via Youtube and is fast becoming our Bonsai News Channel and keeps us all informed of what is happening across the world. I’d love to see this network of contacts getting the opportunity for further bonsai Artists to deliver course content. It was great to see Michael Hagedorn’s different slant on bonsai and I’d love to see other artists step up and take the challenge, however, that’s Oscar’s call and to be honest, they have a hard act to follow.
Thanks for the opportunity to review this Oscar and Bjorn. I look forward to the next instalment.

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 😀