If it’s Thursday it’s Bonsai in the Czech Republic

Display of pots at Isabelia

Display of pots at Isabelia

My trip to visit Pavel and Czech Republic started on Thursday last week. I arrived at Bratislava airport at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and was met by Pavel and Jakub his son who fortunately speaks great English. We then drove for a couple of hours to Isabelia Bonsai which is a large nursery in the Czech Republic. What really surprised me was the scale of this nursery certainly some of the very best Scots pine and I have seen in Europe. Trees that were raw material available for sale and many trees that were styled, I will be writing a separate blog post about this visit along with a video. Here we met with Mirek who is a good friend and client of Pavels after visiting Isabelia we went to a restaurant en route to Pavels house.

what would you like to drink

Beer, Slivovitz, or Coffee your choice

No matter what time of day every house that you visit in the Czech republic of Poland or Slovakia you will eat and it’s normally cooked meats breads and there is always beer! And the hospitality is second to none, great care was made ensuring that I had enough to eat, drink and I never left anywhere without a small gift!

Stone shopI am amazed at the amount of miles that Pavel is prepared to travel to find good trees. The next day we toured North, on route we visited a stone shop this was a big surprise me because I have never seen such an amazing place to buy stone. Again I will write a separate blog post about this shop just to say that they had stones from all over the world including China India and Turkey! we then visited Bonsai Centrum near Prague, this is a long established nursery specialising in small indoor and outdoor bonsai for those living in the city and surrounding areas. The owner is well traveled and has recently published his book in many languages, the gardens a extensive and very mature.

We then went on to a friend of Pavel’s who collects Yamadori Larch and Hawthorn, we drove for over 2 1/2 hours Mirek came along to look at a large Yamadori Pear that he wished to buy… most of the material was beginner stuff but there were a few choice trees tucked away that caught my eye.

Pavels bonsai garden

Pavels bonsai garden

This trip has proved to me that the UK is still way behind many European countries when it comes to connectivity. Every restaurant and bar, public place had free Wi-Fi even now I am sat in the airport at Bratislava using free Wi-Fi. All of the time that we were travelling Pavel had 3G throughout the whole country and he created a personal hotspot for me so that I could surf the web while we were driving… that is the reason there were so many of my checkin’s on Foursquare and Twitter… normally I would not use the web on my phone whilst travelling as the cost is usually so high.

On the subject of connectivity… Pavel’s house has numerous laptops, iPads, mobile phones all connected to the net 24 hours a day, the moment anything worth broadcasting (and sometimes NOT) its on Facebook or their blog.

Mireks garden

Mireks garden

The next morning we set off early to work in Mirek’s wonderful purpose built bonsai garden and studio. After a second breakfast I set to work on a tall juniper. This was only the second tree that Mirek had bought in his collection. It required rewiring and a few branches being moved, the crown of the tree was well established and only required trimming and thinning in parts. I then moved on to a Prunus Spinosa that I gave to Mirek when he visited my garden in 2011. The tree had established well and was ready for first styling, I believe that the Japanese style their Prunus specifically for the flowers and as such the style is very ‘free’ and NOT ridged… Most branches start off growing downward and then curve upwards, almost the opposite of a weeping Willow. We spent the whole day with Mirek in his garden, working, chatting and relaxing over good local Muscatel white wine.

Josef taking THAT photo of Tony

Josef taking THAT photo of Tony

Various friends arrived throughout the day including Josef who had the previous year visited Burrs. Josef is a great photographer and never stopped making photos all the time he was around. He chose to embarrass me by constantly uploading compromising images of me to Facebook… One is now my profile picture 🙂

We took time out to visit the Japanese garden Mirek had built for the local community. Mirek described the garden “This garden is a reflection of my soul”  That kinda knocked me over! Alongside is a Galley that shows the work of Czech artists, many pieces loaned by Mirek.

Mireks Japanese Garden

Mireks Japanese Garden

Outside cooking

Ziemniak po cabansku (potatoes on the fire)

The next day we visited a Scots Pine Yamadori collector, again very old great trees with deep fissured bark the guys bought a few trees choosing to collect them on another day as there was little room in the car. This was the day when the sun decided to show it’s face so we were treated to a traditional Polish meal cooked on an open fire in the garden.

On the way home we called at Pravoslav Dorda an amazing Bonsai Potter doing fine work that is rarely seen outside of the Czech Bonsai scene. Pravoslav or as EVERYONE calls him “Mr. Dorda” specializes in BIG pots that are high fired. I was invited to ‘have a go’… its been 35 years since I actually worked clay… to my surprise I could still throw a half decent pot (well I thought so)

Me actually throwing a pot!

Me actually throwing a pot!

wild flower seed head

wild flower seed head

On the last day Pavel took me to a place close by another place that we had visited before, I’m being vague for obvious reasons and these areas are closely guarded secrets. We were not there to collect any Yamadori… what we did was photograph wildflowers because this is the perfect time… late May.

The hospitality offered by the many people I met on this trip is difficult to explain let’s just say I made lots more new friends and I’m looking forward to my next trip back, my thanks goes to Mirek, Pavel and Jakub for his wonderful translation services.

A gentle walk up a Bonsai Hill to take a beer with Matija

It’s not actually as Bonsai Hill it’s just that it’s WAY smaller that the mountains that surround it! This is how the conversation went:

Matija: “you fancy a beer”

Me: “Yeh sure”

Matija: “we need to take a short walk… up that hill”

Me: “What’s wrong with the Spa store”

Matija: “the view is not as good”

So we set of as at a gentle pace. Matija is 1.83m tall and long legs run in his family so I was a bit slower…and older.

And he was right the view was amazing, definitely worth the walk/climb… and the beer was welcome too!

On the way down I wanted to take the Tractor… for some reason it would not start!

European Bonsai Tour #1 report Belgium to Italy and Arco Bonsai

I started my European Tour at 6.00am on Wednesday, made it to the Eurotunnel on time after meeting up with Stone Monkey (this is another blog post to follow). The gods were not looking favourably as the weather for driving was terrible and the ring road around Brussels at rush hour is NOT the best at any time! I arrived at the Noelanders’ Club at 7.25pm only 5 minutes before the start.

Bad weather in Belgium

A ‘friendly’ crowd at The Noelanders Club

It was a good turnout of 60 members considering the weather. I stayed the night with Stéphane Van Lind and his family and the next day held a workshop for six guys. Some nice trees were worked! Then it was a six hour drive to my overnight in Stuttgart.

My GOD the Germans drive fast! So I had to join them. My AVERAGE speed being 105mph sometimes driving at 120mph! At 5.15 am I set off for Arco, I had six hours FAST driving ahead of me, through some beautiful countries.

I had no time to soak in the beauty

Italian Police want to what is in my car

Getting into Italy was ‘interesting’ the Border police wanted to know what I had in my car. As you can imagine they were fascinated… they held me up for 25 minutes, and I was already on a tight schedule. I arrived in at 11.00 with one hour to spare to have my tree registered for the event, and it is from here that I am posting.

Outside the venue at Arco Bonsai

Arco is a beautiful town about 2 miles from Lake Garda in Italy. The venue is in the Municipal Casino (it’s not a casino) I will be posting a full report about the event soon.

Juniper on a rock at Arco

British Shohin Association Annual Show 2012 photos and movie

I have just returned home for the BSA Show at Willowbog…Willowbog is in the wilds of Northern England 5 mile along a single track road off the main road network. It took me a total of seven hours travelling to get to the show and what a show. The Quality of display and the excellence of the trees is the best we have ever seen in one show in the UK.

The BSA has really come into its own with the group producing a wonderful event with a great friendly atmosphere. John Armitage and Peter Warren were on hand to offer advice and they gave a ‘trade secrets’ demo/talk in the afternoon. Andy Hardman (who was celebrating his 50th Birthday) gave talk on Accent plants, the room was so full I could not get in!  I also managed to interview two more potter for my potters showcase series.

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