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.

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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.

 

 

Pacific Bonsai Museum -The Natives

The last Bonsai stop of my journey took me to Pacific Bonsai Museum in Seattle. Check out the video below for an overview.

I had been looking forward to this after seeing the Mirai Live overview of the Natives exhibit and the panel discussion from the involved artists. I had hoped to catch up with Aaron Packard on my visit, but someone gave him the day off! Probably himself 🙂 Well deserved too. Next time Aaron.

Again, I was a little camera happy on the visit and took a serious amount of photos. After spending longer editing them than it took to actually take them, I’ve decided to split it into 2 separate galleries. One about the place and people I met there, and the other, this one, about the Natives exhibit. My photos as per usual, don’t do the trees justice as the sun was shining bright that day and put a lot of the tree detail into shadow. Whoever said it always rains in Seattle missed a great few days.

The ‘Natives’ was a great concept for a bonsai exhibit in the United States. Having been inspired for 3 weeks travelling, by some stunning trees in the landscape and some amazing collections of bonsai, I could see the attraction of getting so many species from so many great artists, together in one place. Add to that a funky art concept capturing the landscape from each trees habitat and even accents that reflect what can be found there, and you have yourself a great exhibit. I walked it twice, in company and on my own. A great experience. It was great to see and compare styles of work from the different artists. Some of Dan Robinson’s rugged trees caught the eye. I’ll have to get back and go see Dan’s place in person next time for sure. I got to see the bonsai that were missing from Ryan and Michael’s place as well. All the artists deserve a pat on the back, or maybe even a man hug for allowing their trees to be displayed here for the duration of the exhibit.

I have added snaps of the name cards were I remembered to take them. Only fair to give the artists credit. The info boards in each bay also were very informative and I have added those too. You’ll need to do a little zooming to see the text though. This may well be the biggest photo gallery yet from this trip. Simply put, go there and see them for yourself if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Bonsai Mirai: The Broadleaf Trees

At last, a smaller gallery 🙂 I wasn’t expecting a crammed deciduous/broadleaf section at Mirai but still some nice trees hiding on the benches. I know looking at the photos that I missed a few. Disttracted by those darned conifers 😀

Bonsai Mirai: The Junipers

Such a wide range of Native species Juniper on view here that I had to ask a lot of questions. What’s this one? What’s that one? Serria, Western, Utah, Rocky, California etc. Again the main feature was deadwood. Many are in early stages and some in the pics are totally raw but all have quality.

The first thing Ryan said to me was actually an apology for how the garden looked! I looked back wide eyed, you can see for yourself how it looked. What he was referring to however was the phomopsis issues on some of the junipers. He’s been discussing this on Mirai Live and the success so far this year in the use of nematodes to treat the trees to stop the roots being damaged by insect larva which in turn lets the phomopsis in. (I think I got that right!) Combined with the weather in the North West in the last few years, this had an impact on many junipers in the garden. All that said, it looks like he got it figured out as I couldn’t see much evidence on the trees now. Professionals doing the hard work and study on this sort of issue and then passing that knowledge on, has to be commended. It makes life a lot easier for the rest of us.

Here’s today’s gallery. I’m trying to do one a day so I can get this never ending trip finished on here. I’m sure you’re all bored by now.

Bonsai Mirai: The Pines

Here’s the first installment of the trees from Mirai. I’m starting with Pines. All the natives and some grafted species as well. Some top end deadwood to be seen.  All shapes, all sizes, raw and refined, an epic collection of trees and pushing the limits of what species can be utilised as bonsai.

Bonsai Mirai: The Place, The Team

Mirai. What can I say that can conjure up just what this place is like to visit? Some single words spring to mind, inspirational, awesome, mind-blowing, all over used words that truly fit this place but none actually can sum up my visit to Mirai. I have so many photos I’m going to split them up over multiple posts, but they don’t even start to express this place. I have spoken to people who’ve there before I made this trip and watched them struggle with the same lack of words. Simply put, just go there yourself.

I arrived late on in the afternoon with my head still buzzing from Michael Hagedorn’s trees but also thinking about how I’d be received by Team Mirai. It is a team for sure especially after the launch of Mirai Live back in March. You watch the streams, hear the voices, hear mention of names, and catch the odd glimpse of someone other than Ryan. But they’re there working hard in the background. I was about to land in on them, with my accent and interrupt their day. I needn’t have worried of course. Like every other stop on the Bonsai road, we were both warmly welcomed.

First I heard that famous voice from the streams, Kendall was there somewhere. Little did I know that it was her saying goodbye and walking to her car in the opposite direction. Are we destined to never meet Kendall. She wasn’t there the next day either. Where were you Kendall? 🙂 Joking aside, I was gutted I missed getting to see you.

As I walked into the garden I saw two things. Instant impact of stunning bonsai was the first and second was Troy finishing off his day’s work. Some people you click with instantly in bonsai. We are all over the world, living in different countries, doing different things, but bonsai attracts, in the main, quality people but a few of these are kindred . Troy was one of these people. He’d obviously been warned that the Irish were coming! He knew who I was. I got to spend a little time with him later on talking bonsai, and about our trip and only wish he’d been about the following day to get to know him better. Every time he went to go home we ended up chatting on. Great to meet you Troy.

Ryan then appeared on hearing voices and man hugs ensued . I’ve met Ryan before at a rather special weekend in the snow at Willowbog Bonsai back in 2013 so man hugs were allowed 🙂 We had a quick catch up before he sped off to collect his son from day care. This gave me a chance to roam the garden, look at the trees and meet up with Arthur and Ricardo the techie guys behind Mirai Live. These guys are kept busy and the quality of their work is evident for all to see every week. It was great to grab some coffee time during my visit and sit chatting with these guys about Mirai Live and the plans for the future. What a great place to work. As you can see I managed to get a shot of me in the sweet spot that is the live studio 😉

Another Team member was Lime, and I’m gutted that I didn’t get a photo of us mate. What a story this guy has, but it’s his to tell. We had a lot in common and bonsai to connect us. A Portland Timbers fan as well, so we got to talk Football. Yes football, not soccer! I look forward to your Ireland trip in the near future my friend.

I have suggested that a ‘meet the team’ portion be added to Mirai Live, I think they were already headed that way but hopefully this post, more wordy than usual, fills in a few gaps for those of you who are Super Tuesday fans.

When Ryan returned we were all invited out for a meal in St Helens in a great spot called CCB, Columbia County Brewing. Food was amazing and the craic was mighty, if they knew what craic was of course. A great way to finish off a busy day. The plan was for me to spend time at Mirai the following day. Ryan had a Pines 1 study group there so I got to spend the day wandering the garden. I have so many photos it’s obscene. As a result I’m splitting them up into a few posts. Below is the gallery of the The Place and the people of Mirai. I’ll make a start on the trees in the next post.

My time at Mirai was special, both Allison and I were made feel at home and part of the team. We capped it all off with a trip into Portland with Ryan on the second night for a great meal at Jakes. Portland is my kind of City, I’ll be back. Too many friends, not enough time.