Bonsai Empire – Coniferous Bonsai Course

When Oscar over at Bonsai Empire offered me the chance to review the latest online course, ‘Developing Coniferous Bonsai’ I was intrigued to see how it would match up with the previous course on deciduous bonsai.

The same line up of artists are back, Mauro Stemberger, Walter Pall, Jan Culek and Harry Harrington.  A wide range of knowledge and all with their own unique ways of creating bonsai. There is a lot of knowledge shared and for beginners signing up to the course, you will benefit from their own past endeavours and lessons learned the hard way. Walter as usual was a great listen and his approach and honesty is always entertaining.

The course is set up to show a range of material being worked much of it very affordable and perfect for beginners. The species covered are Pinus, Juniper and Spruce, the most popular coniferous species used and the most readily available. Although the artists are all European based, Is Harry still European? 🙂 , the knowledge given works worldwide, indeed Walter even covers some American species in his sections.

I haven’t managed to watch all the content, there’s a lot! However I’ve sampled every lesson to get a feel of the course. After 27 years of playing with wee trees a lot of content wasn’t new to me but I still enjoyed watching and seeing each artists approach to teaching. Not easy to stand in front of a camera and talk especially when English isn’t your first language. Mauro’s wiring lessons were well thought out and I enjoyed the pot selection for the Sabina. I’d have used the John Pitt pot though 🙂

Jan’s Rock Planting lesson was excellent and his approach differs from my own experience and I look forward to trying a few of his ideas out in the future.

Both Mauro and Walter cover substrates and have a slight different approach but for beginners this is an import lesson to watch and learn from. So many enthusiasts just don’t get substrate right and it has a massive impact on the health of your trees.

Comparing this course to the previous Deciduous Bonsai Course is hard, apples and oranges springs to mind, but on the whole I feel this one is even better than the last. For enthusiasts studying bonsai in remote areas without clubs or nearby professionals, this course will save you a lot of heartache and mistakes. For a one time fee and lifetime access it should be an easy decision.

Sign up HERE if you are interested in 10 hours of content and learning.

 

Jackson Conn Ceramics

Last Saturday I organised for some of my study group members to visit the home of Jackson Conn a local bonsai potter who has been making bonsai ceramics on and off for over 20 years.  I am a firm advocate of supporting local business and I encourage all enthusiasts to do so when the product is right. Yes, sometimes you can shave a bit off the cost by shopping elsewhere, but when your local suppliers and artisans no longer are in business and you have to buy the same product as everyone else and pay through the nose for delivery, don’t complain. Jackson is a prime example of this and it was a pleasure to spend a few hours with him and see him giving the guys a guided tour of his set up and see so many pots going out the garden gate at the end.

 

Pinus Nigra

I picked up this Pinus Nigra back in 2014.  It had previously been a bonsai but when the owner died it spent about 5 years in open ground before being transferred into this large pot and kept as you see it for many years.

below we see the tree being removed from the pot. No easy task as the owner wanted to keep the blue pot intact which caused us to have big issues getting it out with roots attached!!

This is the tree potted up and removal of some unwanted branches.

This is the tree in September 2019 after several years getting it to regrow roots and start the process of back budding.

And after a wiring of the primary structure and another chasing back of terminal buds to induce further back budding.

Close Up

A few trees in close up from European Bonsai San 2019

Accents of European Bonsai San 2019

Some of the accents that caught my eye at the show.

European Bonsai San 2019

I’ve put most of this up on social media during the exhibition but I wanted to record the event here on my blog with a few words about the event.

This was my first time attending EBSS and I was blown away with the standard of the exhibition but more so the relaxed atmosphere in which it is run. Others exhibitions could learn from this. You could walk the display area and take photos and not once did I feel others doing this was an inconvenience to me. In fact I think photos being shared on social media probably attracts more of a buzz around the event and gains more visitors year on year. I know I was one of them this year.

Here is a rather large gallery of photos from the event all taken off my phone. Apologies if the odd shot was taken from someone else on social media as I saved a few to my phone. I’ll do a few separate posts covering the demos and accents etc just to split it up a little. Enjoy.

Beer & Bonsai 2019

On Sunday I cooperated in an event with Boundary Brewing in Belfast. ‘Beer and Bonsai’ brought together two of my favourite things and helped spread to word about both in the local area. This was not about sales or money for me, just friendship and promotion. Starting at 4pm I arrived a little early and set up trees for those attending to view. I had three large window spaces to fill as well as wanting people to get up close with table displays. I selected trees for the tables that I knew would be robust enough to take some handling but I need not have worried as everyone was well behaved.

I did a demo on a raw Scots Pine in a corner which saw most people coming up and asking questions. The tricky part was wiring and styling a tree as it got darker under poor light conditions and under the influence of some pretty decent craft beer. I think in the circumstances it turned out alright.

Below is a gallery of photos taken at various points during the night and some cleaner photos of the trees used.

Sitka Spruce

My Sitka Spruce got another wiring, the second time this year. I’ll not be wiring it in Spring again that’s for sure.

2017

2018

2019 before wiring

and after

and back in 2012 as a reference.

and before collection.

Adam One to One

some recent tweaking and tidying up with Adam’s trees.

Japanese White Pine before and after.

Chinese Juniper before and after

A few others.

 

 

Bjorn Workshop and the 9/11 Scots Pine

A week yesterday, where does the time go! I was taking part in a group Workshop in Belfast with Bjorn Bjorholm. I missed him the last time he visited due to a holiday but this time I grabbed a slot with Belfast Bonsai’s event.

My tree for the day was only a recent addition to my collection but a tree that I have a special connection to. It belonged to my best friend Stephen who was letting a few of his bigger trees go due to the fact that they were bigger than him. Sorry Stephen, I can’t resist 🙂 The tree was originally purchased as raw material from Willowbog Bonsai back in the late 90’s.

I helped Stephen with it’s first styling on 11th September 2001, a date that will forever stay in my memory and why I call the tree the 9/11 Scottie. I can remember standing wiring this tree with Stephen when my wife knocked the window and told us to come inside. We watched the horror unfold.

When Stephen told me he was selling it all these years later I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I have a few trees that have sentimental value to me because of who used to own them but this tree resonates for a different reason. I’ve dealt with a fair bit of stress in my life including Post Traumatic Stress and, for whatever reason, this tree seems to echo back to a time where those involved and survived no doubt have many of the same issues I have. This probably sounds stupid unless you’ve experienced something similar. Anyway, it’s my tree for my reasons and I suppose that’s all that really matters. It seemed fitting for an American Bonsai artist to carry out the work some 18 years later nearly to the day.

This is the tree back in 2001\2.

and a few other pics of it over the years.

and how it was prior to the workshop.

And this is a gallery of the workshop day with my tree.

The finished tree.

A massive thank you to Bjorn. It was pleasing to see that he was as enthusiastic about the tree and result as I was.

A new pot in the Spring more suited to the style and the tree will live on as a memory for me.