Latest News – March 9 classes, 72 places – 4 left! Repotting – Pots and compost in stock!

March Classes

Sat 7th         Pines one             1 place

Sun 8th        Workshop            Sold out  (NEW)

Wed 11th     Workshop            Sold out

Sat 14th       Workshop            Sold out

Sun 15th      Workshop            1 place  (NEW)

Sat 21st        Workshop           3 places  (NEW)

Wed 25th      Workshop           Sold out

Sat 28th       Junipers one        Sold out

Sun 29th      Academy eight     Sold out


We have sacks of akadama in four graded sizes, pumice, kanuma and keto. We also have small bags of ready mixed compost ready to use at your convenience.

Repotting service available!

We have a great selection of bonsai pots in varied shapes and sizes, hopefully with one to suit your tree.

Classroom Corner – A few recent stylings…..

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 – A few recent stylings…..
These days I find most students are bringing existing trees from their collection for ongoing advice relating to seasonal pruning/maintenance or how to take it to the next level. However many students do take advantage of the classes to style a new tree or restyle an existing one.
The pictures in this blog show a few of the trees which have passed through classes recently. This innocuous little Hinoki Cypress has made a very formal natural looking image after a small amount of pruning and wiring.
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This Juniper Chinensis was extremely healthy having been allowed to grow but now resembled more of a bush than a tree. The tree was dramatically thinned out and wired. It is still a little unkempt but now you can define spaces and branches. The foliage clouds can now be improved as the tree starts to grow again.
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After a wiring and styling this tall Juniper Squamata Meyerii is really beginning to take shape. Once again the contours of the foliage clouds can be developed during the growing season.
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It’s satisfying that students are generally attending classes with strong vigorous trees. We have to prune and bring them back under control but we always have something to work with and the trees will recover well after the styling process. This Juniper Parsonii was another classic example…..excellent colour and vigour.
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The first thing was to select branches especially at the top where some were competing to be the apex. After much thinning out the remaining branches were wired and positioned. This has resulted in a more compact tree with a narrow canopy now in sympathy with the movement in the trunk.
IMG_3616 IMG_3618When you style a tree out of a foliage mass there is always a sense of excitement……a sense of anticipation……..and fortunately almost never a disappointment. It does not matter how many times I do this I still get the same buzz…’s one of the true joys of bonsai……and I am sure my genuine enthusiasm never fails to rub off on the often unsuspecting student!

Memory Lane – Does size matter!!!

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 – Does size matter!!!
In my very early bonsai years one of the first things I did was join the Yorkshire Bonsai Association. The club meetings were monthly, held in Leeds, and at that time we had in the region of 150 members.
I served on the committee and became really good friends with talented bonsai potter IMG_0557Derek Aspinall who sadly is no longer with us. We both subscribed to the american magazine “Bonsai Today” and Derek advocated that this should be compulsory reading for all bonsai enthusiasts.( I have lots of back issues for sale at £3 each)
With it’s translated Japanese articles it was truly inspirational. I remember reading the articles with avid interest and turning to the final page to see a picture of the artist almost dwarfed by a tree which I had wrongly assumed was only about a foot high……..these pictures just blew me away. These huge bonsai were just so magnificent.
I became more bonsai streetwise as my hobby developed and every workshop I attended the raw material became bigger, the rooms seemed to get smaller and my back got weaker! BIG was definitely in!
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Workshop trees filtered through to the show benches and larger trees appeared at bonsai nurseries for sale. Quality took a back seat, a cheap price was good and big size was simply impressive. Maybe we were easily impressed.
My good friend Danny Use decided to stage the Gingko Bonsai Exhibitions in Belgium andIMG_3862 bonsai in Europe would never be the same again. Prior to this nobody had really been able to attract the best bonsai, artists, collectors and visitors from all over Europe together under one roof on a regular basis.
Each event became more prestigious than the one before, everyone wanted to have a nominated tree. You returned home determined to come back stronger next time with a WOW tree…..unfortunately everyone else was doing the same and someone kept “moving the goalposts”!!!
A BIG tree was no longer impressive…….unless of course it also happened to be a good tree…….GOOD was definitely a must! The standard of bonsai across Europe literally went through the roof and even the Japanese were impressed.
The artist, the professional had to have a very good tree to show….and so the students, the customers also wanted good trees. Quality had become very important to everyone.
Sadly Danny decided to stop staging his shows but the baton was taken up almost immediately by Marc Noelanders and the Belgium Bonsai Association. This is now the premiere show in Europe, held annually and once again succeeding in bringing the bonsai community from all countries together under one roof.
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Trees are displayed in all sizes from shohin, chuhin and kifu to the large and truly impressive bonsai. Having a big tree…..having a good tree…….may no longer guarantee you a place on the show bench because now your quality has to be exceptional, approaching the standards set as the norm in Japan. QUALITY is simply essential!
Does size matter?…..not any more. It does not matter how big or small your tree is if he has the quality…….if he has that top level of refinement. This is what my bonsai school is all about…..taking you and your trees to that next level. The fact that students come from all over the country, the fact that some of them have been coming for more than 20 years is refreshing…..their trees are improving they are enjoying the journey of knowledge.
The size of your tree may alter very little but his quality can change beyond recognition. Just remember…… does not matter how good your tree is…..he may be the best in the country……..but trust me……there will always be another level he can go to!

Studio Stories – “The Dragon’s Tail”…..the story of a White Pine (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 – “The Dragon’s Tail”…..the story of a White Pine (Part Four)

The earlier posts of this story were published under the “Studio Stories” heading on the 22nd November, 5th December and 22nd December.

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Having cleaned out the older needles and some of the newer ones the tree was now ready for wiring. It’s not so much that I am short…the tree is big! I used copper wire from Japan and started with the lowest branch on the tree.

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Each branch was styled/positioned once all the secondary/side branches and twigs on that branch had been wired.

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There are just so many small branches and twigs on a mature pine like this….there is a lot of work involved. Now I know why shohin are so popular.

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The shoots around the apex had been allowed to grow strong to help the tree recover it’s health so now some of them had to be trimmed back slightly during the wiring process.

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Notice how little wire has been wasted during the extensive wiring of this seriously large tree. It is really down to technique and planning. Copper wire is expensive!…..and I’m a Yorkshireman! I tried to retain as much greenery of the tree as I could but this small branch at the tip of the right hand lowest branch will have to go.

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The foliage is removed and the branch is made into deadwood….this jin can now be extended further back along the branch.

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The tip of the branch is bent in line with the jin nearer the trunk. The new deadwood will be treated with lime sulphur when it has had time to dry out.

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The restyling work is finally completed and I am satisfied with the outcome. For the moment the “Dragon” can keep his tail. It gives him character and individuality, it is a tribute to his age.

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More of the stronger needles could have been taken off to create a more refined image for the photograph but this is not how I do bonsai. If my reputation hangs on the thread of a picture then it’s easily broken. He had recovered sufficiently to enable me to do this styling so now I want him to go from strength to strength to complete his recovery and achieve his refinement….the unruly needles will help him do this.

This was his first styling and his first wiring since he left Japan. We now have a strong bond……I am relieved I may have saved his life ……I am humbled that I may have given him the chance to be great again……..always remember Bonsai is about trees……it is not about people!

Topical Times – The things you find in a bonsai pot???

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

Topical Times – The things you find in a bonsai pot???

A couple of weeks ago a customer dropped this large Ficus into the nursery for repotting. On the face of it a fairly simple innocuous little task.

The compost that the tree was in looked horrendous……almost like garden soil and certainly not free draining. Despite this the tree showed good colour and appeared to be healthy apart from lacking some vigour.

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Time to lift the tree out of the pot, it’s not tied in……What the hell is that!!! Hidden in the rootball and covering the whole surface area of the bottom of the pot is a large full size compacted compost sack. Normal drainage is certainly inhibited…..why would you do this?

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Fortunately the sack was not too inter-twined with the roots and could be removed relatively easily. The roots were teased out and most of the garden soil/peat compost was taken away.

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Only a little trimming was required to the roots and then the tree was potted up in a mix based largely on akadama and pumice with a small amount of peat. It certainly looks a lot better now and hopefully should be able to grow more vigorously this year and recover well.

This just goes to show that even when the odds are stacked against it a tree can engage that survival instinct and rise above adversity. I keep thinking I’ve seen everything in bonsai and that nothing could surprise me but you just never know what the next tree will bring before you…….but maybe that’s why this job is so interesting ……and rewarding when you can help a tree along the road to recovery.

Classroom Corner – Academy 2013 Tanuki Project Update

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 2013 Tanuki Project Update
The original posts on this blog appeared under Classroom Corner in January, April, and August 2013 with a brief catch up in May 2014.
The trees were brought into an Academy session in December 2014 for a further check on their progress. Three of the trees were growing well and showing good colour. No pruning was required.
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Cable ties were loosened, removed completely or moved slightly in some areas to stop them biting in too much and damaging the bark. Some branches were re-aligned slightly with wire where necessary.
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2015 should hopefully see some stronger growth which should then gain momentum. One of the problems is that the rootball of the Junipers was relatively small to the size of the pot required and therefore there is a lot of inactive compost. Correct watering becomes crucial and is often difficult to gauge…..hence the large granule size in the original mix.
Unfortunately the small cascade tanuki in the round pot did not make it. The Juniper became weaker and despite our efforts to revive it the tree finally succumbed.
The problem stemmed from the original decision regarding the trunk selection. The Juniper used had two trunks and we decided to use the smaller, thinner one because of the tight bends in the small cascading trunk to which it was going to be fixed. The taller more vigorous trunk was cut off to divert all the energy from the roots into the tanuki branch. This left the tree too weak to recover from the work carried out.
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Another smaller Juniper Ittogawa was provided and fixed to the driftwood following the same line as the original tree. Nothing was cut off this tree. The tanuki was then potted up as before.
Fingers crossed let’s hope this does the trick and with this tree it is second time lucky. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and maybe we should have kept both trunks and reduced the stronger trunk gradually but this is how you learn bonsai…….from your experiences…. good ones and bad ones……hopefully mostly the former! I will keep you posted on this project.

Memory Lane – Deadwood alive and well at Newstead 4 September 2010

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 – Deadwood alive and well at Newstead 4 September 2010
Deadwood on bonsai…..jins and shari……some people love it, some people hate it.
We don’t just create it for fun, to let off steam, or get some kind of weird primitive fix.
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There was one bonsai show where I remember being quizzed by a guy about how far we could go in creating deadwood. As always I was trying to be helpful and constructive but the conversation suddenly took a strange twist towards carving symbols/letters on the trunk of a bonsai…….I guess I just lost interest pretty quickly.
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Deadwood used wisely and skilfully can transform an otherwise dull uninteresting tree. It can camouflage pruning cuts and unsightly scars. It can help us create taper and movement in a problematic trunk. It can dramatically age young material to appear to be a hundred years old.
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Deadwood can truthfully reflect the hardship of nature and it’s effect on our landscape brining a new dimension to your rock or slab planting.
Sometimes deadwood can take over the tree becoming almost a living sculpture with just a small amount of foliage to keep the tree alive. This abstract form can produce some really dramatic results.
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With Junipers and Taxus in particular it is the stark contrast between the red bark, the green foliage and the white deadwood that produces those pristine bonsai images from Japan that inspires most bonsai enthusiasts to greater things.
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Love it or hate it our bonsai world would be a sadder place without it. The images here are of some of the trees exhibited at our Newstead event in 2010. The subtle use of the shari in these trees adds so much to their intrinsic charm…….I couldn’t have imagined the exhibition without them.
DEAD OR ALIVE ?…….it’s your decision, it’s your tree, take your time, make it right……just remember there is no going back!………make sure it is just what you WANTED!

Latest News – February/March classes almost sold out….Four extra classes (2nd Update)

Class Availability


Sat 7th          Maples one          Sold out

Wed 11th      Workshop            Sold out

Sat 14th        Extra time           2 places

Sun 15th       Workshop            Sold out

Sat 21st         Workshop           Sold out

Sun 22nd       Maples one         Sold out

Wed 25th       Workshop           Sold out

Sat 28th         Workshop           3 places  (NEW)


Sat 7th         Pines one             2 places

Sun 8th        Workshop            Sold out  (NEW)

Wed 11th     Workshop            Sold out

Sat 14th       Workshop            Sold out

Sun 15th      Workshop            1 place  (NEW)

Sat 21st        Workshop           3 places  (NEW)

Wed 25th      Workshop           Sold out

Sat 28th       Junipers one        2 places

Sun 29th      Academy eight     Sold out