This blog replaces the old Bonsai Chat newsletter that we produced for many years in both on-line and printed copy versions. Over the years I wrote a number of articles, the intention of most of which was to raise topics and make folk think about them, rather than instruct. This is one such article.
First we see Marco Invernizzi in front of one of his Bonsai school groups here at Willowbog.
This is a question that is of particularly interesting to us at Willowbog because the teaching of bonsai at every level has been central to all we have done in the development of the nursery as a bonsai centre that does more than just supply trees ans related products. The short answer has to be that you do not NEED to be taught bonsai at all ! I have met many folk over the years who have been doing bonsai, often for a long time, often with only books or magazines to guide them, sometimes with literally no guidance at all. Many are perfectly happy with what they know and what they have achieved with their trees and I have no problem with that at all. However, as many again do admit that they feel that greater progress might have been made if they had been the recipient of more help and advice. Would not have suffered so many set backs had they not had to rely so much on trial and error, might not have lost trees that would have made good or even great bonsai over the years !
Marc Noelanders who has taught many workshops at the nursery, here talks through participants trees at the start.
Why imagine that you can somehow ‘ spontaneously know ‘ even a small number of the literally thousands of bits of information that are to do with the application of the range of practical bonsai techniques , or grasp the vast amount of horticultural knowledge required to make the best of each species in each particular situation ?
Really the key to the question is in that last phrase ‘ make the best of ‘ . We have used our own knowledge and experience as well as that of our most capable regular enthusiasts to get folk started on the right path and then have followed this up with bringing in some of the best bonsai professionals available to take the level of teaching forward for those ready to take that next step. Our aim is to get people to learn how important it is to apply the word ‘ optimum ‘ to all their bonsai activities. Also, to acquire techniques to the best of their abilities, to learn how critical a basic understanding of the horticulture will be to the successful application of those techniques. So they end up keeping their trees in the optimum conditions, that they apply techniques in the optimum way. This is how they will make optimum progress with their trees. We all know that for many aspects of bonsai, patience is a requirement , but we are not masochistic ! Why take ten years to achieve what could be achieved in five ? Why settle for second best ?
More recently Peter Warren conducting a workshop for us. The teachers featured in all three photos are Japanese trained in one way or another and have a wealth of information to impart.
I may run a nursery [ at least I try to help Jean to do that ! ] but I am still an enthusiast and I know that no two enthusiasts do bonsai in exactly the same way , the time we devote to the hobby varies , for some it is just one of many things they do, for others it is their main occupation other than work! Some are happy with few trees , others have far too many ! Some have a big garden, others a small back yard , and so on and so on , the variations are as numerous as the people themselves. But there is no reason why folk should not expand their knowledge and experience to an optimum level that accords with their personal circumstance. To do this you need to gain from the expertise that is available from either the ambitious amateur and or the bonsai professional.
Certainly in the case of the main professional teachers that have come regularly to Willowbog for some years now, you have the insight and knowledge that comes from someone who themselves have been taught by the very best in Japan. But more than that, they have built upon this basis as they have taught at all levels, with many species, all over the world.
Another Japan trained teacher, Ryan Neil, will work here next year for the first time in January.
Why deny yourself the advantage of being taught by the best ? Of course it comes at a price, but you might be better spending your coveted allocation of bonsai money on being taught rather than that extra tree for your collection , and this is being said by someone whose main purpose in life if to get folk to buy bonsai ! Think about it !