EUK Bonsai Ten in Diepenbeek, Belgium

The teamLast weekend I attended the rather special EUK Bonsai Ten in Diepenbeek, Belgium. I attended with a friend from Italy. I was a trader and a demonstrator and this being my first time at this club I did not know what to expect. What very quickly became apparent was the incredible organisation and planning that had gone into the staging of this ‘club’ bonsai show. It was Friday evening, the whole show was staged and ready for business, a few traders had set up their shops and the excitement was palpable. I finally met up with Tom Benda an amazing potter from Czech Republic, we are working together…watch this space!

The exhibition featured an excellent club show with many superb trees worthy of a national exhibition and a show from Mario Komsta that was literally breathtaking in presentation and quality of trees, each being in a black Tokonoma individually lit. This was a benchmark for bonsai in Europe.

untitled-6942The demonstrators Viriato Oliveira and Márcio Meruje from Portugal,  François Jeker from France, Enrico Savini from Italy, Mark and Ritta Cooper and ME! Most of the guys worked on trees however Mark, Ritta and I gave digital presentations that were very well received with many people standing and crowding the doorway.

A Huge thanks for inviting me to this amazing show to the guys and girls of Bonsai Club Eda Uchi Kai, in particular Hans Vleugels, Inge and JP Polmans for their generosity and opening their house to a bunch of renegade bonsai artists.

All photos supplied by Roland Petek, take a look at his extensive blog and lots more photos of the Bonsai Club Eda Uchi Kai show http://roland-bonsai-eng.blogspot.co.uk/

Burrs Bonsai workshop 2012 amazing experience

Its two days after the biggest Burrs workshop I have staged, and this being the seventh occasion I wanted to make it extra special. Special for the participants as they had the opportunity to work with some of the best bonsai artists in Europe, and special because I wanted to pay tribute to my dear friend HarleyRider who passed away suddenly earlier this year.

Day 1: Things started early on Thursday Morning at Manchester Airport collecting Hans van Meer who was flying in from Holland, we had a fun day in my garden relaxing, working on trees and preparing for the weekend. Hans has been a close friend for over 15 years and we can work closely as each understands the other. Later in the afternoon I collected Enrico and Rita who were arriving from Italy. That evening was spent along with Terry and his wife Charlotte, Will Baddeley, Simon, and Mikey at a nearby hostelry.

Day 2 Friday: Was focused in the garden working on the large Yew (more about this in another post) a Chuhin White Pine, and catching up with European Bonsai gossip! A few participants from the UK and Pavel Slovak arrived around midday with his group from the Czech and Slovak Republics; they had travelled over 2000km to be at the event. Burrs was coming together nicely, everyone arriving on time and enjoying being in the garden IN THE RAIN!  As day moved into night we all made our way to the workshop venue 3km from my garden… and to the Brown Cow country pub for food and refreshments. All evening long folk arrived and joined the bonsai throng… until we were forty persons strong.

I was very pleased when Erik Križovenský wanted to partake in the Burrs experience and he gave an amazing presentation on exactly how he makes his wonderful  pot ‘creations’ his surprise at the end of the show was to unveil 3 of his pots that were swiftly snatched up by ME! I left the assembled bonsai gathering and returned home to my bed.

Day 3 Saturday part 1: Whilst I looked after Enrico at my house for Breakfast, Bob Brunt was busy cooking up breakfast for over 30 hung over guys and a few not so. Arriving at 9.00am and after brief introductions a day of intensive bonsai was ahead for everyone.  Lots of trees were worked, some styled for the first time, some refined and some starting their journey to being a great bonsai.

Burrs participants range from complete beginners right the way through to artists with years of experience, all come because they want to learn, share, enjoy, laugh and have fun with like minded individuals. What makes Burrs that bit special is they come from across Europe and this year was no exception: Holland, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Israeli, Slovak Republic, and from the UK… Welsh, Geordies, Southern softies and even Yorkshire folk.

Day 3 part 2: Saturday Evening starts with everyone sharing their local/regional/national foods or drinks. I do not think I have seen such a selection of beers and spirits on the long table before. Carolyn along with helpers put together quite a spread. Once the tables were cleared of food the fun really started with the Czech guys singing Kde domov můj? (National Anthem) quickly followed by the Slovaks, the Welsh gave us The Oggy Oggy Oggy chant (NOT the national anthem) followed by Jose Redondo and ME doing the Tachinch (National Anthem) then Rob Atkinson and ME (again) giving a rendition of “Fog on the Tyne” this was later followed by a parade of tattooed men!

Day 4 Sunday: I arrived at 9.00am and was greeted by a few of the guys looking worse for wear, Will and Mikey simply had not gone to bed, choosing to stay up all night working, drinking and chatting. Most had gone to bed at a reasonable time (before 2.00am) and were fresh ’ish and ready for another full day of bonsai. Some new Trees were worked and some of the larger trees completed. Terry worked on a large pine that needed AT least 10 hours of wiring, fortunately this is possible at Burrs as the total time available to work is over 48 hours (if you do not sleep) Ian Stewartson turned up at 11.00 to see what all the fuss was about and was overwhelmed by the scale of the event and the enthusiasm of participants. The event was rounded off with a group photo.

Trees that were created will feature in a post shortly.

 

My Thanks goes out to:

  • My wife Carolyn who looked after artists, friends and fed 42 hungry participants
  • The artists: Enrico Savini, Hans van Meer, Pavel Slovak, Will Baddeley and Terry Foster for all their hard work and inspiration!
  • My Helpers: Bob Brunt, Mikey, David Barlow, Rob Atkinson
  • All the participants, without them it would not happen

Against all odds in only three years my Myrtle is ready to show

It seemed like an opportunity too good to miss, an old tree with a wonderful trunk that could eventually be a great ‘mother and child’ bonsai, and the price was not expensive, problem was it was a Myrtle Communis. It came from a Mediterranean climate that was sunny, warm and dry for most of the year, I live in the North of England where it is cloudy, wet and cold for most of the year. The previous year I had experimented with a Majorcan Olive from Angel Mota and against all odds it actually did quite well. Should I part with my hard earned cash? Should I risk working with material that (as far as I knew) nobody in the UK had worked before? Should I take a risk? Three years later and the results speak for themselves.

The tree was purchased in the spring of 2009 as a stump with very little growth; it was potted in a VERY open mixture of pumice and bark. When I took a closer look at the base of the tree I noticed that there was a random ‘trunk’ growing across the space between the two main trunks. I pulled this out and planted it in a plant pot; it thrived and is now a sweet Shohin Bonsai in its own right. The base of the tree also had a very severe chain saw cut through the nebari (I guess this was the reason the tree was not expensive)

I needed to investigate the nebari and roots to see if I could rescue the situation of the saw cut, and repot in a mixture more suitable to my climate.

Once removed from the plastic container I discovered a much larger base and far fewer roots than expected, however the tree seemed healthy enough. I carved out the BIG cut and created a ‘deadwood’ area that would finally form part of the nebari. I also removed stumps around the top of the tree and created a ‘natural’ looking taper. At this stage the main concern was health, the creation of mature branches and the development of good ramification.

The tree was left to grow untouched by wire but pinched back to two leaves throughout the growing season, that being from May to December. The growth proved to be quite dramatic this was due to a lot of feeding and keeping the tree in the glass house for 9 months of the year, only moving to the open garden during the warmer summer months. This year in the UK has been the wettest on record and the glass house has been my saviour for many trees.

After the first year I wired the main branches and created a crown for both trunks and the last two years this has been the task. Constant vigilance ensuring that the ramification is correctly maintained, pinching out long growth, keeping the shape in check and creating a pleasing silhouette.

I doubt whether that I will ever have a hot summer long enough to force the tree to flower and even fruit,  this being one of the best features in Myrtle. Maybe I let the tree have a holiday at my good friend Enrico Savini and his garden in Bologna.

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens Bonsai Show & Conference 2012

I have left this a few months since early in May to post as I wanted to reflect back on the warmth and exotic experience during the wet autumn months back in the UK. If you want to read more of my time in Israel take a look here.

My good friend Ofer Grunwald invited Enrico Savini and me to work with him to make the event more than an exhibition. Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is in the middle of the ‘New City’ in a Valley surrounded by offices and apartments. It is an oasis of green and calm in what is a rather drab coloured conurbation.

By European standards the show was quite compact, consisting of 13 native trees and the standard was very good. Israel is an ‘emerging’ nation of Bonsai enthusiasts and if this show is where they have come to in such a short time then the future looks bright. Ofer worked hard to include all ‘factions’ in the Israeli bonsai community and from my perspective he did a great job. One of the ‘highlights’ at the start of the conference was a very vocal bonsai protester  An ‘apparently’ well known Israeli octogenarian conservationist stood up and voiced his displeasure at ‘interfering’ with nature. Ofer let him have his say, then the proceeding commenced with Enrico and Tommy styling a Pine, after half an hour and whilst they worked I presented a few items with the help of the digital projector. The remaining time was filled with an open forum whilst the guys continued and finished the tree.

The bonsai community of Israel is very fortunate to have such a young and enthusiastic organiser as Ofer and the support of the premier horticultural centre of the nation offering such solid support for the art, would it be such in our countries things would be very different.


Disguising large cuts on a Prunus Spinosa Video

Whilst on my European Tour this year I stayed for a few days with Enrico Savini and the
Progetto Futuro Bonsai School in Bologna, Italy. It was great fun working with the guys in the sunshine and doing some preparatory work on the yamadori trees that was selling at the EBA event in Ljubljana  here is a Prunus Spinosa that I worked. The trunk split into two about 20cm from the base, one trunk having wonderful movement and the other none whatsoever! After removing the offending trunk I set about creating a deadwood area as natural appearing as possible. Prunus Spinosa are becoming very popular with Bonsai artists throughout Europe as they are easy to work, display beautiful small white flowers in Spring and create good branch ramification quickly.

The tree is now in the ownership of Hungarian artist Sándor Papp who I am confident will create an amazing literati Bonsai from this tree.

Photo courtesy of Sándor Papp