Over 30 years ago Corin Tomlinson became my first (and only) formal bonsai apprentice. His father, Harry, established Greenwood Gardens Bonsai Studio in Nottingham, England 40 years ago, and became an accomplished bonsai artist, author and demonstrator.
I first met Corin when I was teaching in England and he helped with my demo in 1985 when he was only a youngster. On one of his visits to Rochester Harry brought his first born son Corin with him to “check us out.” Things clicked and he wanted to return to live with my family and study with me.
After high school Corin went to Merrist Wood Horticultural College in England. As part of his training he had to do a formal apprenticeship. So he applied to Ohio State University and said he wanted to apprentice in a small family operated bonsai nursery. At the same time I wrote to Ohio State University and requested a student apprentice with a background in bonsai. Well, they matched us up! The formal apprenticeship required examinations and written reports. It was also necessary to pay him a salary and provide insurance for him. I did not have a salary (and still don’t) but Corin had a modest steady income.
As was the custom in Japan at the time, Corin lived with Diane and me and became a member of our family. During his stay with us Nicholas was born in 1989 and later on Chris in 1991. Yes, Corin also helped raise our two boys, but never had to change a diaper. As most know, bonsai is more than a 9-5 job five days a week. So, in order to fully understand, appreciate and train bonsai an apprentice must really live at the bonsai garden. Weather can change, especially in Rochester, New York, during the night and spring which required 24 hour attention to the bonsai.
Harry never trained Corin in bonsai but wanted him to continue in his business and asked me to train him. It’s interesting that he grew up in a bonsai nursery but was never taught how to wire. I had to teach him and needed to decide to teach him with the proper annealed copper wire or sissy (aluminum) wire, which is commonly used throughout the world. Copper was used because it was a bit more difficult and precision is necessary in application for the holding and shaping. I figured if Corin learned with copper it would be easy for him in his future bonsai career to switch to the easy bending sissy wire. But, if I had taught him with sissy wire and one of his students had copper wire, it would be a bit difficult and embarrassing for him to work the copper.
Greenwood Bonsai Studio
During his study here he had to write regular reports for college and also a few research papers. Well, they ended up being a regular column in International BONSAI titled “Corin’s Study Notes.” While here my teacher, Yuji Yoshimura, visited on several occasions and Corin was able to also study with him. Corin was a quick learner and had an artistic graphic art flair which be brought to his bonsai art. He worked on many of my masterpiece bonsai and also created many new specimens. He was good!
Corin went back and forth from England to New York and also spent a bit of time with Chase Rosade and Jim Doyle. He traveled with me around the country assisting me with my demonstrations and workshops. When I demonstrated at the Noelanders Cup, and the Ginkgo Award in Belgium Corin traveled from England to help me and translate my American English to “proper” English.
Corin finally returned to England and eventually took over Greenwood Bonsai Studio with his brother Paul who primarily takes care of the business, mail orders but also knows about bonsai and assists when necessary. It’s great friendly team and has become of the finest educational bonsai centers, and provider of fine material in England. He has taught in the United States on several occasions and also in Europe and throughout England. He has joined one of my Japan Tours to see the Japanese bonsai community first-hand for his background on the understanding of Japanese bonsai.
Many years ago I traveled to England for Corin’s wedding and saw the impressive changes to Greenwood Garden Bonsai Studio Corin and Paul had implemented. In 2018 he invited me to present a weekend full of programs for his nursery’s 40th year celebration. The nursery had even developed more and began a mail order service for trees, supplies and books (and magazines as well, guess which one.)
Recently Corin has begun a regular Free YouTube Channel with demos and detailed information on many different bonsai topics such as restyling a tree, Japanese maples, forests and more. I was particularly impressed with his last presentation on Koto Hime Japanese maple. He did everything perfect! In fact one of his research papers was on the propagation and training of Koto Hime maples which became a feature article in my magazine. I’m so proud of this young gentlemen who lives in the bonsai world and is sharing his knowledge and skill with others throughout the community. I highly recommend watching and subscribing to his free new YouTube channel:
Great Work Corin! I’m proud of you and your accomplishments and look forward to watching your long successful bonsai career.