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.


Did I really climb so far for Yamadori?

I went collecting in the mountains of Slovakia with Pavel Slovak and a few guys from Slovakia, these guys are hard core that’s for sure. A total of 4 hours climbing made me realise that I was a lightweight when it came to seeking out Yamadori. The longest time I have taken to get to a site in the UK is less than one hour and requires an elevation of under 300 mtrs. This video shows how unbelievable I found the climb to be, and when Roman filmed this we were ONLY half way there!

The Yew I gave to my Sensei Dan Barton

Way back in 1992 over 20 years ago I bought this yew tree off Gordon Duffet, it cost me the two weeks wages and Kevin Willson said I was a brave guy to take on this tree as it did not look very well at all. The tree was positively sick; the needles were yellowing and much of the deadwood rotten. The box was an old beer bottle crate that was held together with a rotting strap… the whole assembly ready to fall apart at any moment. The tree appeared to be planted in garden soil, BUT I could see potential in the tree.

This is a tree much admired by Dan Barton and… at an Event that I held in 2006… I gave the tree on permanent loan to Dan, to be returned to me at some (indeterminate) point in the future. Good trees take time, great trees take years…Here is how the tree looks today.

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.