Studio Stories – Yamadorii Larch

Sometimes I work on nursery trees, sometimes I work on client’s trees……and sometimes if I’ve been a really good boy I get to work on my own trees. Hopefully these regular visits will give you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors……….

Studio Stories – Yamadorii Larch

I acquired these two trees approximately 7/8 years ago as part of a batch of trees. I believe they originated from the Alps.

In 2007 they were transferred from large plant pots into these rectangular heavy duty plastic training pots. They were pruned on a regular basis and both had an initial styling some 4/5 years ago.

Last year they were allowed to grow freely with very little maintenance pruning.

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In February 2013 a branch selection was made and then the trees were totally wired. On larch number two a shari was introduced and work was carried out at the apex to try and lighten the top where the tree had been chopped down. it was a case of trying to give an illusion of taper.

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You can see why a shari on a larch needs to be wide or re-made each year because the callous it produces is so strong it can heal the shari completely.

Larch number one also needed some shari work to improve the trunk line and deal with a problem of slight inverse taper. The shari started previously would have to be extended.
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The front and planting angle of the tree is also changed slightly.



Letting the trees grow unchecked has given us a great result as there are plenty of fine branches to choose from and after the wiring the trees form will appear much more refined….. Not easy to really appreciate until the tree produces its lush green foliage in Spring.

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For the first time we are really seeing a difference in these two trees with obvious foliage clouds and spaces that should be much easier to refine further. You can see in the centre pictures just how well these trees have back budded and how dense the foliage clouds really are…..there are literally buds everywhere.

If these trees have not sold before spring next year they will be repotted into ceramic bonsai pots……….I am certainly not ordering the pots just yet!!!

Topical times – Spring Promotion

A regular update on the life and times of John Hanby’s Newstead Bonsai Centre……..

Topical Times – Spring Promotion

I would like to say this promotion is to celebrate the arrival of spring but I’m not sure it’s here yet. With more frost forecast we may well finish up going straight from winter into summer……..assuming that we are actually going to get a summer?

Depending on the severity of any cold winds/frosts keep an eye on any deciduous trees with new emerging tender young shoots.

Walking around the nursery so many trees are just bursting to get growing and being held back by this long cold winter. I have selected just a few to include in a promotional offer.

From the 27th April to the 12th May there will be 20% off the trees pictured below. If there is a tree which is the same species and obviously in the same “batch” at the same price, then this will also be included in the promotion.

Just remember……when they are gone,they are gone……..and when the period is over, it is over!!! ………

Crab Apple

Crab Apple






Kiyohime Maple

Kiyohime Maple

Juniper Chinensis

Juniper Chinensis





Deshojo Maple

Deshojo Maple




















Classroom Corner – Academy Six – Tanuki Bonsai Part Two

An open window into the comings and goings of students and their trees attending our regular weekend and midweek bonsai classes under the ever watchful eyes of John Hanby.

Classroom Corner – Academy Six – Tanuki Bonsai Part Two (April 2013)
Part One of this series was originally posted under Classroom Corner on the 30th January 2013 and introduced the tanuki project being undertaken by level six students of myIMG_1085 bonsai academy.IMG_1088
Since the session in January the bases of the driftwood have been treated with preservative and the whole pieces of driftwood have been treated with lime sulphur.
The previously selected Juniper Ittogawa are now ready to be attached to the driftwood.
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   The proposed line of the trunk on the deadwood was established and then a channel was cut using power tools.
The trunks are then securely fixed in the channels using cable ties. Branches in the wrong places causing fixing problems are removed. The bark and cambium layer is removed from the side to be placed into the channel.
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The trees are then potted into plastic training pots into a compost mix of 50/50 akadama and bims with a larger granule size in the lower section of the pot.  I am really pleased with the result and the progress so far.
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       You can already anticipate how the foliage will develop and where the pads will be formed. My students are already eagerly awaiting the time when they can undertake the first wiring……I will keep you posted….

Memory Lane – New Zealand Bonsai Convention Workshop 2009

Looking back….we can tell a tree’s story…..admire an image…..capture a moment…..remember a special event… inspired – to create a memory for tomorrow. 

I hope you enjoy this regular peep into some of John’s bonsai history.

Memory Lane – New Zealand Bonsai Convention Workshop 2009
After working the convention on the Saturday and Sunday I was employed to carry out a full day workshop on the Monday. Some participants were just for the morning or afternoon sessions whilst some were gluttons for punishment and were with me for the day. Convention delegates were invited to come and watch the proceedings.
Fortunately I was familiar with most of the species of material brought before me whilst the participants were competent and diligent in carrying out the tasks I asked of them.
They say every picture tells a story……..I hope the pictures of some of the trees/participants together with a few facial expressions will give you an insight into the workshop and the wonderful bonsai day we shared together.
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………….it’s time to go home………..

Studio Stories – John’s Euonymous Bonsai

Sometimes I work on nursery trees, sometimes I work on client’s trees……and sometimes if I’ve been a really good boy I get to work on my own trees. Hopefully these regular visits will give you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors……….

Studio Stories – John’s Euonymous Bonsai

I believe this tree was originally found growing in a garden somewhere in Yorkshire. It was lifted as a substantial shrub and potted into a training pot. When it’s original owner moved to the Isle of Man this tree accompanied the rest of his collection and went with him.

I first encountered this tree on an open workshop bonsai class. One of my students who attended classes regularly travelled from the Isle of Man and he had acquired this tree.

With it’s large glossy leaves I would normally have shied away from this variety as good bonsai material but the size of this trunk and base was so powerful that the two could work well together. So despite my students misgivings I encouraged him to persevere with the tree.

Picture 727I acquired the tree in 2005 and the picture to the right shows how the tree looked. My student was struggling to get to grips with the branch structure and large leaves. Furthermore, he liked a specimen bonsai we had for sale and asked me if I would take the Euonymous in part exchange.

Looking at this picture and thinking of the tree he took away I can understand why my wife and helpers thought I had lost the plot!

So it was a case of feeding it well, a lot of clip and grow, and the occasional bit of wire. When the tree was repotted in the March of 2010 you can see how well the canopy has developed.

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The tree recovered so well from the repotting that by May it was time for some more drastic pruning.

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Newstead 4 Sept 2010 090In the Newstead 4 Exhibition held in September later that year I did a feature on bonsai created from garden material and this tree was included.


The tree has grown strongly in the intervening years and I have continued largely with the clip and grow approach. I have removed fairly large branches on a regular basis trying to open up the front and create a more compact foliage crown. In creating more branches with shorter internodes and more buds the leaf size is reducing nicely and is comfortably in scale with the impressive trunk base.

April 2013 and the tree is ready for repotting into a new pot made specially by David Jones of Walsall Studio Ceramics. In fact David made two similar pots to give me a choice and I bought them both. You can see how fibrous the root system is.

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After much deliberation I decided to go with the pot having the large wide rim as I think it IMG_1044was a better compliment to the strong base of the tree. I put the other pot up for sale and unbelievably it sold the very next day.

I am really pleased with the progress this tree has made. It is unusual to come across this variety as bonsai. The Euonymous variety often seen from Japan have a smaller leaf and are much more compact.

It just shows what can be achieved from humble garden material…….. but when you have to work with larger leaved varieties it certainly helps if you have a large trunk to go with it !!

Classroom Corner – Repotting….A tale of two Pines

An open window into the comings and goings of students and their trees attending our regular weekend and midweek bonsai classes under the ever watchful eyes of John Hanby.

Classroom Corner – Repotting….A tale of two Pines
These two large old Pines were brought to the same workshop in March by two different students. One was a Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris), whilst the other was a Japanese White Pine (Pinus Pentaphylla). They had both been brought specifically for advice and help on repotting.
First up was the Scots Pine. The tree had not been repotted

for a good number of years and was not draining well. It’s colour was not as vibrant as it should be.

There was a heavy natural moss growth on the soil surface and below this the compost was distinctly “sludgy”. The tree was removed from the pot with the help of a root saw.
The compost was very heavy being soil based but with an element of coarse gravel. It was very wet partly due to the recent period of prolonged bad weather.
Apart from the compost being too heavy it soon became apparent what the main cause of the problem was. My student’s previous bonsai teacher had advocated covering the entire base of the pot with a sheet of mesh rather than cutting small squares to cover the drainage holes. The problem with this is that the roots grow into the drainage mesh which then becomes a solid mat, blocking the drainage holes and preventing water escaping as it should. Removing this sheet of mesh after several years at the next repotting inevitably results in greater damage being done to the rootball.






Normally I would leave the outer roots intact and remove the older poorer soil from the centre of the rootball. Because of the drainage problem the outer root growth is not strong enough.

Apart from dealing with the poor soil/roots the rootball is generally left intact and holes are made with a rounded spike around the centre of the tree to ensure that water can penetrate the compost and roots below.


 The tree is repotted using a larger size particle in a mixture of  50/50 akadama and bims (a German river gravel)

When the tree is next repotted it should be possible to leave the outer section untouched as this should be full of strong roots. The soil in the centre can then be removed and replaced with fresh compost.


The White Pine was repotted approximately 4 years ago. It had put on a lot of growth and appeared to be in good strong condition. It was removed from the pot so that the condition of the rootball could be assessed.






There is an abundance of strong healthy roots especially around the outside and underneath but the centre of the rootball looks very compacted/solid and probably contains some original growing field soil.

It is decided to leave the outer rootball untouched and remove all the soil from the central area around the base of the trunk. You can see that some of the compost removed is poor, dry and just like garden soil.






The hole is filled in with a larger particle size of 50/50 akadama and bims. This will allow better drainage whilst the roots recover and start growing again. It will also promote more extensive fine rooting.


  Same class, two large pines…for advice on repotting. Ideally I would have liked to have removed the older soil from the centre of the rootball on both trees. On one tree it was possible, on the other tree it was not.
You see how important it is to assess the condition of the rootball and what is happening……where are the strong areas ……..where are the weak/problem areas.
Only then can you decide on the best course of action to develop and maintain a healthy root system capable of sustaining the future development of the tree whilst promoting health and maintaining vigour.
You have to refrain from repotting all your trees in the same robotic fashion on automatic pilot without really thinking about what you are actually doing.
Trees and their roots are like us……..every one is different, as individual as we are…….and often every bit as temperamental!!!

Topical times – Beginners Two Sunday April 7th

A regular update on the life and times of John Hanby’s Newstead Bonsai Centre……..

Topical Times – Beginners Two Sunday April 7th 2013

Another chance to have a peek at a group of beginners and see what they got up to on their second day.

Having attended Beginners One earlier in the year 6 students returned for the Part Two day course on Sunday 7th April.

Basically Part Two involved the students selecting a piece of raw material from our stock and spending most of the day wiring and styling the tree to create their very own bonsai. Once this work was completed the practicalities of watering, feeding, position, and pests/diseases was discussed.

Today most students chose pines to work on. These dwarf varieties we have really are good value. Priced between £30 and £45 they produce detailed compact bonsai with an instant air of maturity. Similar material from Japan would probably cost three or four times this amount. The students did very well with the intricate detailed wiring. Check out the results below.

This really is a great “hands-on” day for the beginners tackling wiring and deadwood creation for the first time. I am there to help with the styling whilst my trusted, experienced helpers……Len, Derek and Ian are on hand to supervise and help with the wiring.

Possible styles for each tree are discussed and the student then makes their decision. I remove everything I think we won’t need and then they wire all that is left.

Students have a free hand in choosing their material and have the option to purchase it at the end of the day (but without any obligation whatsoever). A successful outcome is guaranteed because if they decide not to buy it I still have to sell it. When you look at the finished product you will understand that it would be much better for me if they didn’t take it home!!!

Unfortunately this hardly ever seems to happen. With our help their first attempt really is a tremendous achievement. I look forward to working with them and their trees again in the forseeable future.




























Memory Lane – Newstead One 2004 – A professional view (Part Two)

Looking back….we can tell a tree’s story…..admire an image…..capture a moment…..remember a special event… inspired – to create a memory for tomorrow. 

I hope you enjoy this regular peep into some of John’s bonsai history.

Memory Lane – Newstead One 2004 – A professional view (Part Two)
Part One of this post was published on the 25th March 2013 showing photographs taken by Professional photographer and bonsai artist Paul Goff.
The photographs included with this post are those taken of individual trees and accent plants. Take a moment to enjoy the dedicated work of the bonsai exhibitor and the skill of the photographic expert providing an inspirational insight into this fascinating hobby.
This is only a small representation of our first Newstead exhibition but if gives you a good idea of the high standard our exhibitors set and how they made it a very difficult act to follow ………..but follow it we did……..three times!!!

Studio Stories – Twisting shari…Semi-cascade Juniper Part Two

Sometimes I work on nursery trees, sometimes I work on client’s trees……and sometimes if I’ve been really good I get to work on my own trees. Hopefully these regular visits will give you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors……….

Studio Stories – Twisting shari….Semi-cascade Juniper Part Two

The original post relating to this tree was published on the 17th February 2013 and detailed it’s rewiring and styling which produced the result in the picture to the right.

It’s now end of March/beginning of April so I decided to have a look at the roots with a view to repotting the tree.

I try to encourage my students to stop repotting trees on “automatic pilot”. Once a bonsai enthusiast has repotted a few trees he thinks he has it mastered and follows the same routine for every tree thereafter. He does not differentiate between different species of trees, old and young trees, weak and strong trees. He treats every rootball the same.






The tree has been in this pot for more than 6 years and on the face of it has a full healthy root system with lots of strong orange roots and white tips. However when we remove the base of the rootball and investigate the area below the trunk we find dry soil and a lot of dead/weak grey roots.

This is typical of this type of old Juniper imported from Japan. So we set about removing all the soil from this middle area right up to the surface.






You can see that the remaining compost in this area is largely made up of dust. At this stage the outer roots have not been disturbed. In this instance they are so solid that I decided to loosen some of them so that they can get into the new compost more easily. I am not going to bare root the tree completely. I will leave a strong core of roots to keep the tree going and help it recover from this traumatic experience.






The tree is then submerged in water to soak the remaining roots/soil to deal with any dry areas and also to remove any remaining loose soil particles. We use a mixture of equal parts akadama and bims (a German river gravel) with a medium size particle for the lower and middle areas of the rootball. This will encourage extensive fine rooting and help with drainage whilst the tree re-establishes itself. A normal size particle is used in the remaining upper area of the pot.






Looking over our pot room I managed to find a smaller round pot which I think is more subtle and complimentary to the curving twists and turns in the trunk.






In my original post I stated that some people don’t like this type of coiling shari because it looks a bit artificial or man-made. One of the above pictures recently appeared in my picture of the day gallery…….a really old desert tree…….100% natural shari……..and not a man in sight!!!