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.

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

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!