Classical Bonsai MasterClass Session 1

Yesterday we had the inaugural session of my new three day Classical Bonsai MasterClass which was limited to four students. The detailed instruction and individual help with the student’s bonsai will reinforce the principles and techniques learned from the program.


We begin each day with an explanation of the display alcove with the main bonsai, accessory and scroll discussing how they relate to each other and the season of the year. After questions are answered a PowerPoint program is presented on the topic to be studied. The first program discussed aspects of Classical Bonsai design.


Next came a critique where each student brought a bonsai for discussion and a bit of work. Diego Denair from Brazil did not bring actual trees, however brought many photos of his bonsai for advice. The Trident maple which Kip Neal brought needed an thread graft to place a branch in a needed area. So, out came the drill, tools and we proceeded to discuss and demonstrate how to thread graft using Kip’s bonsai.


Joe Moore from Rochester, New York worked on a Japanese maple


Dr. Diego Denari took a six hour bus ride from his home to the San Paulo, Brazil airport then spent the next day and a half traveling to Rochester. He worked on a Sargent juniper


John Wiessinger, who writes the interesting column “Right Before Your Eyes” for International BONSAI magazine came from Ithaca, New York. He worked on a collected Engelman spruce

During the workshop which followed, each student worked on their own bonsai with my assistance. Great bonsai were brought in for advice and work, some for structural design, others for refinement.

After a short lunch break another PowerPoint presentation was made on pruning theory and techniques, which was followed by another workshop. Some of the bonsai from the morning session needed additional work, while other new trees were worked on. Each student brought several trees to the Classical Bonsai MasterClass which are protected in the garage and only brought into the studio at the right time. This way the studio was not crowded and everyone had ample room to work with the many tools.

Kip Neal from Main continued to work on his Trident maple bonsai we thread grafted earlier and also on a huge Forsythia he has been training



At the conclusion of the first day the group went to a nearby Chinese buffet for dinner and we next all proceeded to the March meeting of the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York. At the meeting I presented a PowerPoint presentation on the history, care and appreciation of Shohin Bonsai. This was followed by a short demo on a Little Gem dwarf spruce and explanation of the many shohin bonsai members brought in to share with others. We had over 50 members and two guests (from Brazil and Maine) at this meeting. Next I conduced a workshop for 11 students and Harvey Carapella and Marc Arpag assisted me.


It was quite a long day for me, but the four students and 50 some members of our bonsai society enjoyed and more importantly had the opportunity to learn from my five decades of bonsai study. We still have two more intense days to study Classical Bonsai art, and I’m all ready and prepared to assist the four students.

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