Although I like teaching workshops with approximately ten students, considerably more attention and instruction can be individually provided if fewer are present. Private study groups with limited members or, even better, one-on-on workshops are the best way of teaching bonsai because additional time can be spent instructing each student and questions are more easily answered. This situation is best however, if everyone is on the same level of bonsai understanding and skill techniques. Of course, having no “trouble makers” make it even better.
I had the rare opportunity to have such a private workshop for only four friendly students, on the same level in a relaxing environment for everyone. We had the all day learning session in a shade house of a bonsai nursery which had closed to the public a few years earlier. Everything which could be desired was present. When discussing container selection there were a large number available for examples as were bonsai to illustrate design and techniques.
Although each student was experienced and proficient with wiring, several specifically wanted to improve their techniques for wiring effectively as well as be aesthetically pleasing. As most people know I do not prefer to use “sissy wire” and only use copper. Three of the students have never used copper before and wanted to try their hand with the best wire available for training bonsai. After showing why copper is best, and demonstrating on a branch of each bonsai they were let go to completely wire their own trees. I reminded them of the sign my dentist had hanging in his office “you only have to brush the teeth you want to keep”, and in keeping with that theme, they knew if they wanted to keep a branch, it better have wire correctly and beautifully applied. We did not concentrate on training wiring, but wiring to refine bonsai for exhibitions.
Everyone finished more than one tree, which was NOT the goal, but rather to learn new techniques which could be applied to other specimens, as well as answering difficult questions on bonsai training, aesthetics and personalities honestly.
Display area on top of a buried round water holding tank
The private study group was organized by Carole Waller who established and recently closed her Bonsai World Nursery. Her private collection was beautiful, and as everyone, had many bonsai in training and some just being allowed to grow to see how they developed. It was most interesting for me to see that she had large reservoirs of buried water tanks for watering her bonsai. Many have this situation in aired and dry areas. This creative lady has created some beautiful artificial rocks for bonsai planted in the clinging-to-a-rock style. Several of the bonsai were also planted in interesting pieces of wood.
Theft is a problem with bonsai growers around the world. Carole has minimized the problem by wiring each bonsai to the stand using a bicycle or motorcycle cable. Each cable has its own individual keyed lock, which must be protected from water by wrapping in a plastic bag. Yes, individual keys are necessary for each bonsai which can be a problem if the identification numbers wash off.
She had a “memorial bonsai” Trident maple for her brother who passed away a few years prior. Carole took a large heavy trunk Trident maple and bored a good size hole in the front of the trunk. Then she buried his ashes in a container which as imbedded into the trunk.
Bonsai are to be enjoyed and appreciated and that’s the most important reason to be in this hobby. Many people simply want to enjoy the form they create with the plant material, others want to “show off” prize specimens or compete with others. I find it rare that some people are sensitive to life, the plant material, and while respecting life, want to memorialize close friends and family. I’m certain Carole would not want to publically display her Trident maple in a club show, but that was not the reason for creating this bonsai. She wanted to remember her brother in a special private way. I’m sure others have similar trees. One of my friends wants to be cremated and have his ashes mixed in with organic fertilizer cakes. Others want their ashes spread on the surface of their bonsai when they pass. But, personally, that’s not an option for me because as a Greek Orthodox Christian we are not allowed to be cremated. But, I would not object to having a rare dwarf Japanese maple planted near my grave as a small garden tree.
A small mattress placed on the floor of a garden wagon to protect bonsai containers, and a bottle of ice tea
Long time friends, Lindsay and Glenis Bebb were my next hosts in their comfortable home. I have never taken a shower before and looked out the window to enjoy a beautiful bonsai garden view. Recently retired from a successful bonsai nursery in Brisbane they are now concentrating on their own personal bonsai collection, as well as limited teaching. They are also, more importantly, giving back to the bonsai world by becoming leaders in world wide bonsai organizations sharing their many decades of bonsai experiences so others can improve the art as well as improve the bonsai community.
Lindsay Bebb will be one of the three international judges at the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition on September 13-14, 2014 in Rochester, New York. Additionally, he will be joined by his wife Glenis, another skilled bonsai artist, in presenting an educational lecture demonstration at the highest level exhibition in the United States. In addition to showcasing some of the finest bonsai in the country for others to enjoy this exhibition is important for many bonsai businesses who depend on exhibitors for handmade containers, display tables, supplies as well as instruction for displaying their finest trees in this world class event.
Many of the bonsai in their garden are on the large size, but not as huge as those I recently studied in China. But they do have one large Bougainvillea which is over six feet tall in a six foot wide container which has never been moved since placed in their garden seven years ago. Photos do not do justice to the beauty of many bonsai, and this specimen is one of those. In China I had my photo taken with many trees only to illustrate their size (plus I’m short and make the trees appear larger,) in spite of not being in the habit of putting my face in bonsai photos for publicity.
My teaching in the Brisbane area, including the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast has been rewarding and enjoyable for me as well as helping me to understand sub-tropical plant material. All of the club activities were well organized, meetings conducted efficiently and on time with friendly people. My long time hosts were hospitable and me feel welcome to their country. Lindsay and Glenis took me to see some kangaroos, so it looks like I’ll be returning to the land down under in another two years time.
My teaching trip throughout Australia is not over yet, I’m just flying away to another city to share my love, passion and techniques of classical bonsai art with others.