I had the opportunity to visit Boon’s workshop last week during a Bonsai Intensive. For those unfamiliar with the program, the Bonsai Intensive is a series of three day workshops that combine bonsai theory and practice. Boon started the program in 2001. Since then, many have graduated the 10-course program that culminates with a course focused on show prep. This year’s exhibit-oriented intensive, or Winter IV, will begin tomorrow as Bay Island Bonsai’s annual exhibit is this weekend.
Last week’s intensive focused on season-appropriate tasks including styling and repotting.
Cleaning out old foliage from a field-grown shimpaku
The repotting in particular was in full swing when I visited. The first step after removing a tree from the pot is combing out and cutting the roots on the bottom of the rootball.
Starting with the bottom of the rootball
While this work is completed, the tree must be held horizontally to ensure the rootball is perpendicular to the ground.
Keeping the tree level
Once the roots on the bottom of the rootball have been addressed, work begins on the top and sides of the rootball.
Combing out roots – root work is fun!
In an effort to maintain tree health, old soil, when present, is removed to make room for bonsai soil.
Removing old soil
Replacing nursery soil with bonsai soil is a common first step when working on material developed as nursery stock.
Removing old soil
Once the old soil has been removed from deciduous trees, the rootball can be rinsed off with water.
After hosing off the rootball
Even trees that have been developed for some time require good soil. Here’s a black pine after removing a patch of old soil.
During the repotting process, intensive participants practice the steps they learned with Boon’s guidance. Once the tree gets the OK, it is carried out and watered.
Repotting complete – time for water
Recently repotted trees
If you’re curious to learn more about the Bonsai Intensive program, see the Course Description or contact Boon at bonsaiboon dot com.
Bay Island Bonsai’s annual barbecue last weekend offered ample opportunity to wander through the marvel that is Boon’s garden. There are trees everywhere representing different sizes, shapes, styles and varieties of bonsai.
Small and medium-sized bonsai
As Boon’s garden is not open to the public, BIB events and Boon’s Intensives are among the best ways to visit. One tree worth checking out is one of the larger specimens in the garden, a massive Sierra juniper.
As many of the trees in Boon’s garden are collected, rebar is a common sight. Collected trees often go through significant transformations, and rebar is a useful tool in this transformation.
Rebar on a juniper
Accent plants fill many of the gaps between trees, as do a variety of fun non-bonsai-related specimens.
Pine foliage is never far away.
Likewise, trees at every stage of development. Some of these are in their first bonsai containers awaiting initial styling.
Other trees are fresh from the field.
After spending enough time in Boon’s garden, these undeveloped specimens begin to resemble trees we’d like to show. Here’s a black pine that’s about 20 years old after no more than 10 years of training.
Of course, there are many refined bonsai too.
In all, there are more trees than one can rationally catalogue in a day. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse!
Some bonsai are born great, others are made. Just because nature – or a nursery – doesn’t provide a tree with graceful lines or dramatic features doesn’t mean that it isn’t destined for greatness. Of course some trees are best left alone. Which is what many thought when they walked past the juniper pictured below.
Halfway there – Jeff and Boon convert force to grace
Jeff thought otherwise. I don’t know if he had a plan in mind when he acquired this tree, but he saw something that others didn’t. Maybe he saw the opportunity to do some carving and put jackie to use – a fun way to spend any workshop.
I look forward to seeing how the tree turns out – and I hope I recognize it when the time comes!
Patience, perseverance, and humility can help us become better bonsai artists – so long as we have good teachers. Their lectures, workshops, demonstrations and guidance form the core, for many of us, of our bonsai knowledge. For inspiration, perspective and reference, we can thank the publishers.
For more than 10 years, René Rooswinkel, as Publisher, and Farrand Bloch, as Chief editor, have made an awesome contribution to bonsai literature with what is today known as Bonsai Focus. Now published in Dutch, German, English, French and Italian, Bonsai Focus defines the mainstream bonsai media in the West.
Boon working on a Rocky Mountain juniper
Michael working on a Sierra juniper
As you can see, they are working on great material. So much so that upon returning home I immediately subscribed to Bonsai Focus so I can see the results beautifully laid out in its glossy pages.
We talked, while Mike and Boon worked on deadwood, about bonsai clubs, exhibits and professional work in Europe and the U.S. We agreed things are looking up.
René, Boon, Farrand and Michael
Thanks in no small part, of course, to the work of folks like Farrand and René. Thank you both – and keep up the good work!