The Dead Sea and staying overnight with the Bedouin

As part of my tour of Israel we visited the Dead Sea the lowest place on Earth, its surface and shores are 423 metres below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land… and it is everything that you have read about and seen on TV. IT IS VERY HOT! 40c when were stopped the car to go bathing. It is very large although not as large as 10 years ago as it is being drained by industrial processes for its mineral content, the bank showing ‘contour’ lines where it has dropped in level, with one ‘coastal’ town now almost a kilometer from the edge of the water! Prior to bathing Ofer invited us to smear ourselves with the Black Dead Sea Mud Black mud found along the shoreline is also rich in minerals and is often used in skin treatments although it did not reduce my tummy cellulite.

After the Dead Sea we made our way to a Bedouin Camp for an over night stay and meal around the fire. The camp was in The Negev, which extends over Israel’s southern region and accounts for over half of Israel’s land area. Due to its desert character, however, this region is sparsely populated.

The next day we visited Beit-Govrin Caves, located deep in the Negev Desert in Israel lies the dwellings of an ancient people who once populated the inhospitable locale. Approximately 6500 years ago the Negev received more rainfall than it does today making it more fertile and livable. In 1977 Shiqmim was discovered by a group of archaeologists revealing large underground tunnel systems and dwellings we took a look around these and they were quite amazing. BIG chambers, small tunnels and whole living areas built underground.

Wild flowers on Mount Herman, Israel

We visited Mount Herman today and it was hot in the Valley 38c AGAIN but it was nice and cool on the top 22c! the whole of the mountain was alive with wild flowers, amazing colours in the bright sunlight. And there was snow… this is a Ski resort in winter.

Now I am in Israel for a week at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens Bonsai Event

Yesterday I arrived at Tel Aviv airport right in the heart of Israel. I was met by Ofer Grunwald who was dressed as a large white rabbit with a pink tummy! This was the start of my Israeli odyssey. When I left the UK it was 28c and very hot for May. Here in the north of Israel it is also unusually hot for May… its 38c! Enrico Savini and his student Tommaso Triossi are here to as we are doing a demo at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens later this week. Today we were blessed with a yamadori hunt, not to collect as it is way too hot… but to investigate and recommend to Ofer what to look for and what to collect. Here are a few images from the trip so far…

Perhaps you should not collect yamadori here

Enrico Savini’s amazing ‘The Eye of The Cyclone’ Juniper Bonsai

One of the best parts of staying over at a Bonsai masters house is that you can get up close and personal to the trees, this video shows ‘The Eye of The Cyclone’ Juniper Bonsai from all angles. It’s an amazing tree and the work done is superb. I first saw this tree when It won the Noelanders Trophy in 2010.



Was it worth driving for 21 hours and 1122 miles (1805 km) one way to participate in a bonsai show? The answer on this occasion is a resounding YES as THIS was no ordinary show. Arco Bonsai Club and UBI invited the cream of Italian (and invited guest… ME!) to the XVI° CONGRESSO UBI and XXVII° ARCOBONSAI.

Almost 100 trees were exhibited with sixty selected to be featured in the annual book. There were a few trees familiar to me but most were new trees that I had not seen before. As you would expect the majority of bonsai were Mediterranean species, Olives, Pines, Junipers and Myrtles however in the show were a few oaks, hawthorns (including mine) and beech. The exhibition was made up of many large and VERY large trees. I counted only 10 trees that were Chuhin or smaller. There was only one display of Shohin. The judging of the trees took EIGHT HOURS and was headed up by Enrico Savini, great care was taken as the previous year a lot of controversy surrounded the selection of prizes.

The venue is the Casinò Municipale (it’s NOT a Casino) in Arco, Trentino which is in the far north just south of the Austrian Border… and what a great venue! The exhibition halls are baroque and very ornate the demo rooms (15 Italian artists all working at the same time) were large and well lit. A huge bonus was a café/bar on site (Superb Coffee 1€) that was the meeting and chilling place for the event. When the sun did shine everyone sat out on the veranda.

Over 45 traders selling all things Bonsai filled the outdoor and the entrance to the show. Noticeably there was the very large amount of Yamadori sellers however the stock on sale was surprisingly poor…any real quality was over 2500€. There was a great selection of potters but NONE from the UK (see my opening sentence) Next year the show is in the south of Italy, this will add a further 800 miles to my journey! But when good coffee is only 1€ I’m not complaining.