Latest News – August availability and Class changes(Updated)

August availability

16th           Open workshop                   2 places

17th            Open workshop                  4 places

20th            Midweek workshop             2 places

24th             Extra time                           Sold out

31st             Open workshop                  3 places

Date changes

The open workshop scheduled for Saturday 23rd August has been moved to Saturday 16th August.

The Junipers Two class on Sunday 5th October has been moved to Saturday 4th October.

Please adjust your class lists/diary accordingly.

Studio Stories – Award winning Maple leaf pruned

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 – Award winning Maple leaf pruned

This Acer Palmatum was awarded a special prize by Mr Daizo Iwasaki at the 5th Ginkgo Bonsai Award held in Belgium in September 2005. Mr Iwasaki was particularly impressed with the tree’s outstanding nebari which almost covered the surface of it’s show pot.

I will probably present a more in depth post on the history of this tree at a later date. This is  more a topical post dealing with recent work carried out in the studio.

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The tree is regaining vigour in his growing pot and was allowed to leaf out and grow with very little branch pruning. The first pictures taken around the 24th June clearly show this very large bush which has emerged but they also show a strong healthy bonsai tree.

This condition enabled me to carry out an extensive leaf pruning of the tree, the first time for many years. As defoliation and shoot pruning progresses you get some idea of just how strong this tree was by the amount that is removed.

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The impressive nebari becomes visible once again, as does the branch ramification which supported the canopy.

IMG_0033The picture of the new emerging canopy was taken this evening, just over 4 weeks since the leaves were originally removed. Some larger leaves now need to be removed and the new shoot extensions will be pinched.

Picture 724The picture of the tree in his autumn colours and show pot was taken in October 2006…. it would be nice to see a similar result later this year.

Notice how the decision to defoliate was not made by me on a whim or for some other reason…. it was made by the tree……he showed me with his growth and his condition that this was the right step to take…..I merely performed the task on his behalf!…….Usually it is better and much safer for you to follow your trees rather than to try and force them down a path they may not wish to take.

Topical Times – Next door’s cat and the moat…..

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

Topical Times – Next door’s cat and the moat

Watering and pruning trees, organising and conducting classes……there is always plenty to do at Newstead. Unfortunately the powers that be in that great control tower in the sky don’t like to see things running smoothly, calmly, and “under control”.

They like to poke things with a stick, liven things up a bit, make life a little bit more interesting. Why don’t we increase the water running off the car park and block up the drain a bit that sits right in front of the rear door to the studio……great result!!!….

……first a very pleasant full maple class and then a one to one with a student from america…….don’t you just love watching the tide come in?!!……water lapping against the walls, you just can’t help having a paddle……on the beach..brilliant….in a bonsai studio..never!

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We had to dig an emergency trench to get the water away from the studio…..the next downpour filled this up immediately and hey presto we have a moat…….and as I stated on my Facebook page this is in no way intended to stop students escaping with full wallets…where do these rumours start!

We have now piped this trench into the drains and hopefully solved the problem. Sorry to disappoint my regulars who can now put away the wellies, flip flops, and colourful shorts as things are back to normal……but then again when you look at normal….just maybe……

Our nursery family is really quite settled…..the two rottweillers and the cat just about manage to get along. Why not introduce a runaway cat who just happens to like living in the garden centre next door…….


…….whoever heard of a cat being curious?………I suppose a four acre nursery gets boring after a while……wonder what’s over that fence?

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He’s taken to evening visits, usually when the dogs are asleep…..directly below the window sill upon which he now likes to sit…….have you seen those films where the chasing devil dog leaps straight through a window……I nearly watched one last week!!!

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Just to make things a little more interesting sometimes he comes around when the conservatory doors are open or when the dogs are sleeping on the decking outside.

IMG_0635 IMG_0636In between these various escapades we do still manage to find time to do some bonsai….. there is never a dull moment as they say…….sometimes I think I would give anything for a dull moment!!!……..Maybe I should be a bit more like Felix our own cat, and just adopt a more laid back carefree approach?


Classroom Corner – Academy Five Session….Pruning 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 – Academy Five Session….Pruning Pines…
Pruning pines was the topic of a recent Academy Five class. On this occasion we brought into the classroom a Black Pine, White Pine, Mugo Pine, and a Scots Pine.
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Split in to two groups the students were asked to assess what work wanted doing on each of the trees. Each tree was then discussed in turn and the students could put forward their ideas.
Apart from the Black Pine the other trees were in the early stages of their development as bonsai material. Some pruning had already been carried out on the Scots Pine earlier in the season but the other trees had not been touched.
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  There was no pruning whatsoever required on the Black Pine at this point in time. The other three pines were all pruned back to improve their basic structure and to encourage back budding in the current growing season.
Most students struggle with Pines and how/when to prune them……it is usually the last tree species that students get to grips with. Hopefully practical sessions such as this one which can be followed up at a later date to show how the trees have developed will help the students understand this popular bonsai subject.

Memory Lane – Cotoneaster…great garden plant…..exceptional bonsai!

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 – Cotoneaster…great garden plant…..exceptional bonsai!
Some time around the mid 1990’s in my other life as a Chartered Surveyor I was instructed to carry out a probate valuation on a small terrace house near Barnsley.
As you can imagine I was always alert for potential bonsai material. At first glance the Cotoneaster which covered a six foot section of fencing in the rear garden did not excite or fall into the “wow” category. On closer inspection the bottom section of the trunk was thicker than expected and had a strong natural scar……my interest was aroused!
The solicitors gave me permission to remove the shrub and this was carried out almost immediately. My only regret was that I did not take any pictures of this process. The first picture below is the earliest I have, probably taken in the late 1990’s after an initial pruning and potting into a bonsai pot. The second picture was taken in September 2000 whilst the third was taken in July 2003. The reduction in height and restyling has totally transformed the tree.
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September 2003 and the tree appeared in the fourth Ginkgo Bonsai Award in Belgium. A few months later and a full page photograph of the tree appeared in the Bonsai Europe magazine…..fame at last for a humble garden plant from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
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The three pictures above show the tree making good progress in 2005.
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The first two pictures above show the tree as it appeared in our second Newstead Bonsai Extravaganza in September 2006. The final picture was taken in April 2010.
After some deliberation it was decided at this time to alter the style again and remove the hanging branch to make a much more compact canopy. The first two pictures below show the result whilst the final picture shows the tree as it appeared in our fourth Newstead event in September 2010.
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The first picture below was also taken at the Newstead 4 event. The final pictures show the tree in 2012 really developing well with the trunk and new canopy in much greater harmony.
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Towards the end of 2012 a customer asks if he could see my Cotoneaster again….he had seen it before on a previous visit to the nursery. The tree was not for sale and was not on public show. However I was pleased with his interest and happy for him to see the tree…. …….but then out of the blue came an offer for the tree which proved too hard to turn down. It took a lot of deliberation before I decided to let the tree grow and even now I still miss his presence in the garden.
I had come a long way with this tree for more than 15 years and really appreciated just how good a species it is. A delightful shrub in many forms that brings welcome foliage, flowers and berries to any garden….but as a bonsai, with small leaves, a rapid response to regular pruning, autumn colour, flowers and berries this tree is capable of scaling exceptional heights…….make sure you have one in your collection!

Studio Stories – Taxus Cuspidata from Korea (Part Four)

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 Four)

Parts one and two of this series were posted in May 2014 whist part three was posted in June. The first three parts trace the history of this tree from it’s arrival in Europe in 2002 up to 2013.

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Our last post detailed how the tree had been allowed to grow unchecked and the first picture above was taken in April 2013. The other two pictures show the tree in June, it was becoming far too dense and had to be cleaned out with the removal and shortening of many branches.

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The first top picture was taken in July, the second in October 2013, and the third in February 2014. The lower three pictures also show the tree in February prior to the commencement of the restyling work. The last picture shows what I considered to be a possible new front.

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The trunk had been cleaned and lime sulphur applied to the deadwood. It was now a case of wiring every branch on the tree and then repositioning them as the work progressed. I started from the bottom and worked my way up the tree. Branches not required were removed and two of these are shown in the series of pictures above. Work is started on extending the shari and a newly created jin is bent to follow the same line as the existing deadwood. One removed branch had natural deadwood in the centre.

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Above, the stumps of the removed branches are made into deadwood. You can see how the work is progressing and you may catch a glimpse of my two assistants who suddenly became camera shy! The top is already beginning to look daunting.

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Finally the apex is brought under control and a new crown emerges from the tangled mess of unruly branches. The final image is a little sparse compared to the dense mass we started with but this is good for the tree’s health allowing ample light and air to penetrate the inner branches.

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April, and the tree is repotted into it’s new pot which was made by David Jones of Walsall Studio Ceramics and a great job he did too! The tree had not been repotted for some 11 years and was moving down to a much smaller pot so the operation was carried out with great care. The compost used was 50/50 akadama/bims with larger size granules in the lower section of the pot.

For several years I have been wanting to create a taller image with this tree. It was a case of waiting for the growth/vigour and the right time. I now had the branches I needed to select and pull down to create the tree. It is now recovering well in a sheltered spot in my bonsai garden.

I hope you have enjoyed the four part history of this tree….it’s been a bit of a trek but I am happy to have got where I wanted to be in the end. The desire to get to the end quickly makes us impatient but as they say in bonsai “you should also enjoy the journey”…..I can honestly say I have really enjoyed being a “travelling” companion to this remarkable tree  at this stage of his life. I am really looking forward to continuing this journey with him because when I look at him now….for sure……the best is yet to come!!!


Topical Times – The humble Chinese Elm

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

Topical Times – The humble Chinese Elm

I have just finished pruning my Chinese Elm and I must say I love the tree. Like almost all indoor trees the Chinese Elm is somewhat frowned upon by most bonsai enthusiasts……”I don’t do indoor trees!”…….”it’s a beginners tree”……”they are even in B&Q and Ikea!”

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The tree didn’t ask to be shipped half way round the world and paraded in chain stores across the country……it’s not his fault. It’s a beginners tree because it’s a good tree…… it will stand some abuse and neglect, can be resurrected quite successfully, and responds really well to pruning. With decent trunks, small leaves, and fine twigs, it’s basically a miniature tree….in other words it does what it says on the tin!!

The fact that in China it can be grown to a reasonable size very quickly means it can be transported to Europe and still sold at a realistic price with obvious appeal to the bonsai beginner or gift buying public.

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Many bonsai enthusiasts actually owe their introduction to the hobby to the humble Chinese Elm. I suspect that most of the adult population of the UK have actually killed a Chinese Elm at some time in their life…..largely due to bad advice or none at all!

The simple rock planting above was put together for a customer in 2009. You have to look beyond the initial impression of the mass produced tree. I admit some of them can be crudely chopped and shaped but within this mass are some trees with excellent potential.

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Sometimes a change of pot can make all the difference. My own small Chinese Elm found it’s way on to the show bench at Newstead 4 in 2010.

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The tree in the centre above was acquired in the late 1980’s….my second bonsai tree acquisition. Trained into a broom style the picture was taken in spring 2005. Sadly it died in the bad winter of 2010 and at that time was the tree I had longest in my collection.

The final pictures are of the Chinese Elm I just finished pruning. The early pictures were taken in spring 2010 and also on the show bench at Newstead 4 in September of the same year. The final picture is the tree now. As an old specimen bonsai this tree has so much going for it and gives me a lot of pleasure.

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The Chinese Elm looks set to continue on the frontline trying to attract new people into this fascinating hobby and hopefully more trees will start filtering through to the benches of the serious enthusiast and the national shows…. a bonsai role that’s vitally important but one which this unassuming little tree seems happy and humble to carry on doing……