Classical Bonsai MasterClass Session III


Today the final session of my Classical Bonsai MasterClass began with a discussion of the alcove display. In addition to exposing and teaching bonsai shaping techniques as well as horticultural tips to grow healthy beautiful bonsai, I feel it’s important to appreciate bonsai in a formal setting. It is not necessary to have a Japanese alcove, only an area in your home with a plain background so the tree is isolated so one can truly enjoy the beauty of the bonsai which are created and refined during workshops and grown outdoors.

As mentioned in during the previous sessions, seasonality is an important aspect of bonsai display and appreciation. The bonsai, scroll/painting or companion usually indicates the season. During the first two sessions of the Classical Bonsai MasterClass, a bonsai in flower and a deciduous tree just leafing out clearly indicated springtime, even though it was snowing outdoors. The scrolls which were displayed with the flowering and leaf emerging bonsai also featured flowers fading and cherries blossoming.

Today’s display was different however. An evergreen species bonsai was the main element on display and was combined with a scroll painting of the rising sun. Neither of these two objects indicated seasonality. So, the companion planting was used to convey the season. It was a bit difficult to first notice, but a small planting of Acorus sweet flag was combined with an overly large figurine of a Canadian goose. But, upon careful examination a young gosling was under the mother’s wing, thus suggesting spring time.



After we discussed the formally presented display we spent a few minutes on the importance of suiseki when combined with bonsai. My well-known natural double hut stone from Puerto Rico was compared to a contemporary commercially produced hut stone from Japan, which was “enhanced” to appear natural.


The group was offered several different options for the topic of the PowerPoint program. Everyone wanted to learn a bit more on the refinement of bonsai, so I showed my Refinement of Maple Bonsai program which covered trimming, shaping, container, soil mix and growing conditions for refining a bonsai which is the next step after developing a bonsai.


The four students spent the remaining of the last day completing the shaping of their bonsai, starting the shaping of future bonsai and critiquing established trees. As interesting shaping techniques were used everyone gathered around to learn from the other trees.


Before wiring and shaping collected Engelman spruce by John Wiessinger

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After shaping by John Wiessinger

To conclude the first series of the successful Classical Bonsai MasterClass sessions wine connoisseur, Joe Moore, brought a bottle of fine French champagne, complete with crystal glasses. Everyone partook of the liquid treat, including me, although I personally thought McDonald’s sweet tea tasted better.

I look forward to a new group of students in my next Classical Bonsai MasterClass.Image

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