Classroom Corner – More it grows…..more you cut off???

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 – More it grows…..more you cut off???
A mild winter……and this year we actually had a spring!!!…… then some warm weather followed by lots of rain…….no wonder most deciduous trees are growing so strongly.
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Now is the perfect time to get in to that strong growth, make branch/twig/bud selections, remove long extensions and large leaves.
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The Lilac tree above has a nice canopy but there are fundamental structural problems behind the foliage which we must try and resolve. Drastic action but hopefully with some back budding we can create a more compact image in sympathy with the exceptional hollow trunk.
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Make decisions on areas that need to be contained and areas where more extension or growth must be encouraged.
IMG_2902 pruned at JH (4) (800x673) pruned at JH (1) (800x674)
It’s all about control. It’s no use just letting the tree grow as he wants for the whole season. If this happens you will probably have to remove most of the new growth in the autumn and be back where you started…..a whole season wasted!
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The trees pictured above have arrived at classes in recent weeks with an abundance of new growth which was dealt with accordingly. Each student was then given fresh instructions on what to do next with the new growth to follow.
Rightly or wrongly I am afraid it is often the case that the more the tree grows the more we will remove……..but at the end of the season we will both be better for it !!!

Latest News – Class changes and June availability

Class Changes

The Maples classes on the 8th and 28th June will now become open workshops. Students already booked on these dates can still bring all their maples but may now bring other varieties of trees also.

June Availability

Sun 1st       Beginners One           3 places

Sat 7th        Open workshop          sold out

Sun 8th       Open workshop          5 places

Wed 11th    Midweek workshop     3 places

Sat 21st       Open workshop          sold out

Sun 22nd     Beginners Two            3 places

Wed 25th     Midweek workshop     2 places

Sat 28th       Open workshop           6 places


Memory Lane – Tokonome displays at Newstead Exhibitions

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 – Tokonome displays at Newstead Exhibitions
The show garden had become a major part of our first Newstead Bonsai Extravaganza and was therefore designated as a permanent open space in the top greenhouse away from the sales benches. This did not last long! We decided to build four substantial Tokonome display alcoves that would become permanent features not only in the top greenhouse but also in every display garden in every bonsai event held thereafter.
The Tokonome displays in the garden setting housed some splendid trees over the years and became a memorable feature of our exhibitions. I hope the pictures below will stir up some vivid memories for those of you who visited our events……and for those of you unable to attend…..”let’s have a look at what you could have seen!”…………
Newstead 4 our pictures 224 Newstead 4 our pictures 223 Newstead 4 our pictures 209 Newstead 4 our pictures 208 Newstead 4 our pictures 220
Newstead 2008 217 Newstead 2008 218 Newstead 4 Sept 2010 422
IMG_1827 Newstead 2008 216 Newstead 2008 215
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Studio Stories – Taxus Cuspidata from Korea (Part Two)

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 – Taxus Cuspidata from Korea (Part Two)

Part One of this blog was posted on the 1st May 2014 and told the tree’s story up to his appearance at Newstead One, our bonsai show held in September 2004.

Following his earlier exploits on the show bench he was basically allowed to grow freely in 2005 with just some thinning out of the foliage in late summer. The first four pictures were taken in April. The final picture shows the new growth emerging in May 2006.

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April 2005 004 Summer 05 001 Summer 05 002

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For the remainder of 2006 he was also allowed to continue growing, something he seemed to be really enjoying as you can see from the three pictures below. (Apologies for blur in picture one)

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Some general thinning out was undertaken in May 2007 as you can see below.

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Having continued to grow vigorously the tree was thinned out in October and shaped just by pruning in December.

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Dec07 008 Oct07 001 Oct07 002

Dec07 005 Dec07 007 Dec07 006

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Spring 2008 and once again it’s a pleasure to see the strength in this tree. You can see how much the new growth is reduced as we work our way down from the apex. By the end of the summer he is pruned to shape, tarted up and once again takes his rightful place on the Newstead show bench in our 3rd Extravaganza. It’s nice that he was noticed by Sakuma san and would have been a prizewinner had he not be owned by the organiser!!!….he did not know it was my tree…..the tree put in a transfer request almost immediately but fortunately his agent knew nothing about football!!!……so he’s still here.

May 08 001 May 08 003 May 08 002

IMG_4433p1 Newstead 2008 008 May 08 004

The period above was an extremely busy one for all of us at Newstead. Developing and stocking the new nursery, organising two major bonsai shows, supporting Danny at the Gingko award in Belgium, and running bonsai classes every week. Sometimes your own trees have to wait but they can be better for it in the long run if you maintain their health/vigour and let them grow…..then you can enjoy playing catch-up which starts next time in Part Three……see you there…..


Topical Times – Academy Class – Catch up and more!

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

Topical Times – Academy Class – Catch up and more!

Yesterday was the second session this year for my academy level seven students. The morning was taken up primarily with a review and work on some recent projects.

First it was the turn of the tanuki bonsai created and detailed in a first post on the 30th January 2013 and subsequently on the 22nd April 2013.

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Cable ties were removed or changed if they were biting into the trunk and the trees were generally overhauled/tidied. They were all showing signs of positive growth and vigour which hopefully should improve this year as they become more settled in the pots.

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IMG_2907Next we brought in the two yamadorii Pinus Sylvestris which were originally dealt with in a post on the 8th October 2013. First we checked the pine with the grafted branch. Everything was progressing well and we replaced the grafting tape which was now too tight due to the expanding nature of the branch.

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We also removed some foliage at the apex of the tree to balance the sap flow and encourage more vigour in the grafted branch. The weaker shoots hanging down were the ones we removed.

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With regard to the styled Pine we decided to repot this tree into a bonsai pot. When the tree was last repotted in the training pot only the central core of soil was replaced. This time we removed just enough soil around the edge and below the rootball to fit the tree into the pot. Disturbance was kept to a minimum. Positioning of the branches was fine-tuned. Please check out the original pictures to appreciate how much this tree has changed.

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The final catch up tree was the forest of Juniper Loderii originally detailed in a post on the 1st February 2014. Weak and old foliage had to be removed and any hanging down branches were also removed. Some general refinement pruning was also carried out and the soil surface was cleaned. Once again you really need to look at the original post to see what we started with and how well this group came together.

What did we do in the afternoon?…..I will share this with you next time!……….

Classroom Corner – Cascade options…sometimes yes, sometimes no!

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 – Cascade options…sometimes yes, sometimes no!
Recent projects to arrive in the classroom included these three Junipers and in each case a strong cascade style option appeared to be the obvious choice?……but the obvious is not always the best solution.
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This first Juniper was a piece of raw material ripe for styling and with such a long projecting branch it seemed a certain candidate for a bonsai in the cascade style.
Inside the foliage mass is a very interesting naturally gnarled curving trunk with branches to create a very nice small informal upright.
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After some deliberation the cascade was abandoned, the branch cut back and a selection of the remaining branches made. These were then wired and positioned accordingly.
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The second Juniper pictured centre above offered semi and full cascade options in both directions but in the middle was again a small upright tree option. Some of my students (no names mentioned Susan) might be tempted to go for the smaller option to save on the amount of wiring required but in this instance Sheila just liked the idea of the small tree.
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Once again branches were removed, wiring carried out and the styling completed. The exercise has produced a very neat small tree with good potential.
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The third Juniper was really always going to be arranged in a cascading style because in this instance the tree was destined to be planted on a piece of Ibigawa rock together with a small Quince. The Juniper was fully wired and holding wires were also attached to the rock in the areas where the trees would go.
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The trees were positioned on the rock with keto soil and all the branches were arranged in sympathy with both the tree and the rock. Moss was then added to complete an amazingly quick transformation. This planting already looks like it has been together for years.
Sometimes material strongly suggests a route to be followed but before you go careering out of control in one direction…STOP…have a look around your tree….there may just be another option offering a totally different solution and an end product you might just be pleased to arrive at!!!

Memory Lane – The Cawthorne Yew….sometimes your best is not good enough!

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 – The Cawthorne Yew….sometimes your best is not good enough!
February 2005 and I was surprised to receive a telephone call from an old client of mine from my Chartered Surveyor days. He lived in the picturesque village of Cawthorne some 4 miles from Barnsley and was having an extension built to the rear of his house…… what did this have to do with me now?
Unfortunately a large old Yew tree would have to be removed to make way for the extension and knowing of my “tree” connections he wanted me to try and save it.
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Can you imagine my expression when I walked in the garden and saw the tree for the first time….quite an exclamation……it was bigger than the house for heavens sake!
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Before I had chance to politely decline the invitation I was informed that a tree surgeon would be employed to remove the bulk of the tree and that an onsite machine would help excavate the roots. It appeared that my fate and perhaps the tree’s fate also had already been decided.
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            Basically I had myself a job! I duly returned and worked with the tree surgeon as he gradually reduced this magnificent old tree to a somewhat undignified stump. I told him which branches to cut and where to leave the final scars.
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The builders were to use their machine to dig a trench around the tree as best they could and then I would be contacted to return with my team to complete the removal process …… something to look forward to then!!!
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When we returned a trench had been duly dug and a mountain of soil removed. Armed to the teeth we got in with the tree and ferociously battled to extricate the remaining roots from the soil. As you can imagine this was not easy as the strongest roots were directly under the trunk, under the remaining rootball.
Eventually we need the machine again to make the final lift out of the hole. Have you ever seen a substantial mechanical excavator pulled into a hole by a tree!!! Quite funny when I look back but at the time it was a bit scary……like what do we try next!
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The light was fading fast but finally man and beast together got the better of the obstinate tree and he was hoisted in the air. It took six of us and the machine to shuffle him into the back of my van. Have you seen that cake advert where the Range Rover tips up……well that night I saw a different version close up!
Having got the tree home it was now late so we wet the rootball and left the tree overnight in the van.
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Surely the hard work was out of the way now……….you think so??? If getting the tree out of the ground was a problem getting the tree out of the van was something else!!! As leader of the pack you could rely on me to come up with a brainwave…..simply fasten a chain to the tree and to the tow bar on my car and I could drag the tree out…….no problem…….BIG problem!!!……..I gently set off and gradually gained momentum……why was everyone waving vigorously?……I was not only dragging the tree but I was dragging the van with it!!!….unbelievable, one night together and they were inseparable!
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The only thing left to do was repot the tree directly from the van so we started to reduce the rootball in-situ. Roots and soil were selected/discarded until we could edge the tree a little out of the van. The pot (I use this term very loosely) was a large pallet box which was prepared by removing one side completely.
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The compost mixture of akadama and bims was placed in the box and the tree was manhandled, cajoled, enticed and spoken to very nicely until at last we had him in position. I have not (dare not) yet worked out how many sacks of compost we used but this has to be the most expensive tree I ever repotted.
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Finally, with the aid of a reluctant pallet truck he was given a sheltered spot in the top greenhouse where he could be admired by visitors and all who attended our Newstead 2 Extravaganza.
The tree lasted about two years and put out what appeared to be strong new growth. He was carefully watered and misted, gently fed, and given revival tonics but it was not to be. It was never just about making a bonsai, it was an attempt to try and save a gracious old tree and perhaps give him a new lease of life. I can honestly say that everyone involved with this process gave their all and for that I thank them. Sadly when you are involved with nature it’s a sobering thought but sometimes your best is just not good enough…………?

Studio Stories – Taxus Cuspidata from Korea (Part One)

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 – Taxus Cuspidata from Korea (Part One)

This tree arrived in Europe from Korea at the beginning of 2002 and the first picture shows him scruffy and bedraggled after his long trip.

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Would you believe it was late summer by the time I had plucked up enough courage ( and saved up enough cash ) to buy him….. after all this was my most expensive purchase to date.

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This was a seriously old tree, and a seriously special tree……I felt privileged to be his new servant!! The single vein of life twists around his natural deadwood and bridges a wide opening around the centre of the tree. It never ceases to amaze me how the thinnest of live veins can not only support a really full canopy of foliage but also produce vigour and strong growth.

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Now it was time to start thinning out the foliage mass, apply wire to the branches and basically give the tree his first styling in the Uk. Some heavy branches had to be removed!!! …….. …….substitute heavy with old and expensive……these were decisions not to be taken lightly!

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Many bonsai enthusiasts complain about wiring but it is such an important part of our hobby in developing a superior tree and they often don’t appreciate just how much work is involved in a large specimen tree like this one.

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Many students find the apex the hardest part of the tree to style. There is often a lot of branches left as you approach the top of the tree and whilst they seem to have no relationship with the rest of the tree… me, you just have to find a place for them…sometimes you have to find the right line and the branches will then follow the pattern.

The tree had a very eventful first couple of years with me. As we finished his styling we moved the whole nursery from my home in Staincross, Barnsley to a large nursery at Newstead, Havercroft. We moved in April 2003 and within one month I managed to repot the Taxus into a larger traditional pot and changed the front slightly.

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The tree is prepared and in September 2003 is exhibited at the 4th Ginkgo Bonsai Award in Belgium. Amidst all our work at Newstead the tree continues to grow and the final picture shows him exhibited in our display garden at the first Newstead Bonsai Extravaganza in September 2004.

A trip half way round the world…..2 years later……..2 major exhibitions, a repot and a styling……welcome to Europe………welcome to Newstead………(to be continued!)


Latest News – May Bonsai Classes Availability

At the time of writing the updated availability class list for May is as follows: – 

Sun 4th     open workshop                2 places

Sat 10th    project bonsai                  sold out

Sun 11th   open workshop                2 places

Wed 14th  midweek workshop          1 place

Sat 17th     open workshop               4 places

Sat  24th    maples two                      1 place

Sun 25th     open workshop               4 places

Wed 28th  midweek workshop           1 place

Sat 31st   grafting/air layering             4 places

All Sumo bonsai fertiliser products now in stock!!!