Classroom Corner – Sometimes it’s a subtle touch…..sometimes it’s…..

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 – Sometimes it’s a subtle touch…..sometimes it’s…..

……..quite a bit more! Trees grow….trees get bushy and dense so occasionally they need a little bit of judicious pruning. A little bit of thinning out.

The two Hinoki Cypress were of similar form and stature but one was based more on a natural design whilst the other was styled more as a Japanese bonsai. Both students wanted their trees to retain their inherent character so this had to be taken into account in the way we approached the pruning.

A bit of pruning on the small Juniper, an angle change and Hey Presto!

The Scots Pine had been wired and needed restyling so every branch had to be moved into the right place.

The tiny Juniper with the deadwood also needed all the branches repositioning and this was difficult because I was working in such a small place with big fingers!

Cutting off the top of the tree is not such a subtle move but in the case of the Juniper Parsonii I just had to make this tree more compact.

The little Pine needed just a large branch removing and a bit of wiring to keep it in scale.

Next time you are looking to work on your tree or maybe introduce some changes it doesn’t always have to be major surgery……..sometimes an innocent little tweak can make all the difference.

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Topical Times – Can’t create a tree?…Create a landscape!

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

Topical Times – Can’t create a tree?…Create a landscape!

Two trees attending classes recently really stretched my imagination……and sometimes that is exactly what you have to do…..stretch your imagination. Look beyond the normal tree approach and open your mind to wider external influences.

The first tree was an old Privet stump, hollowed out and with about six very similar branches remaining. To create a good single tree following our normal principles would be virtually impossible. No taper in trunk or branches, branches all in the wrong positions and looking exactly the same.

If we orientate the trunk at an angle, treating it as though it were a rock, and then view the branches as though they were individual trees… we might just have something!

The trees are pruned accordingly and the angle/position of the trunk in the pot adjusted to create the best view….now we have the makings of a cool landscape. Mosses will be added to the pot and stump, some under planting with ferns and similar dwarf varieties will be introduced…..some small interesting rocks can be included…..just use your imagination!

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The second tree was a Juniper planted on a mound adjacent to a rock. There are heavy branches and finer branches growing all over the place and in all directions. To try and style a single trunk Juniper in the normal manner would be very difficult….especially when trying to relate it to the rock, mound and grass planting in its existing pot.

I suggested we do some pruning to try and define separate trees so that branches in effect become trunks. The student was happy to go along with this so cutters in hand….I don’t need telling twice!

Basically I removed everything I thought we didn’t need…..which as it turned out was quite a lot! I then sent the student home to wire most of what was left.

A glutton for punishment ( as most of my students are ) he returned ready for the next stage. We had to relate the newly defined trunks to the existing landscape features….mainly the rock! So using keto we extended the landscape by building up from the mound and incorporated the rock.

The wired trees could now be shaped and built into our new landscape creation. Some trees were given more height growing upwards on the top of a far away hill, whilst others were shaped to cascade from a steep rocky outcrop.

Moss was laid over the keto and I think the final image is quite a transformation from what we started with. Both students were really pleased with the outcome of their projects.

In both instances I was faced with difficult material from which to try and create a tree… you have to look elsewhere for a solution and use your imagination. In both cases it was not about trying to be spectacular or innovative… was simply a case of finding the best use for each tree and in this instance I think we succeeded!


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Memory Lane – My Euonymus…a picture of a 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 – My Euonymous…a picture of a bonsai!

Found some pictures of my Euonymus the other day. I keep telling my students all the time to take regular pictures of their bonsai……no excuse now when all you need is your phone….and that’s now a permanent part of your anatomy anyway!

It is just so easy to forget what you started out with…..where your tree has come from……to where he is now. After all this is a record of your work… is what you do…..your hobby……or in my case my profession.

The downside is that if your tree looks exactly the same now as when you started then it becomes evidence of what you haven’t done. OK so you have kept him alive, he has flourished. With other plants this may be enough, but is it sufficiently satisfying with a bonsai?

When you buy your first tree or receive it as a gift it can be quite daunting….the pressure, the responsibility……everybody you know has already killed one of these! So being able to keep it alive is the first challenge and you have every right to take a picture to record your success……even if it is after only a week or so!!!

A picture after six months or a year is worth even more quedos with brownie points at the office and at home flying left right and centre. But once you have discovered you can keep it alive……so now you have more…….so now it’s becoming quite a serious passion. Another picture of the same tree…….still alive………big deal!!!

Now you need to show improvement, development, refinement……a certain style. Basically… you have to do bonsai! It really is what this hobby is all about……a journey through time together hand in hand with Mother Nature.

Now you can take a trip down memory lane…..delve into the archives…..look at the picture of the tree you started with……..that can’t be the same tree can it?

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Studio stories – Academy Seven April 2016


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 – Academy Seven April 2016

Our Academy Seven group met recently and here’s what happened.

Firstly we checked over the tanuki bonsai which we started on a previous session to make sure everything was alright and that the cable ties binding the young tree to the stump did not need adjusting.

Air layers started on a previous class were removed and potted up. The parent tree was also repotted into a bonsai pot. All the trees were then pruned back accordingly.

The next task was to repot an old Maple forest from Japan. The last time it was repotted was in 2012. You can see how big this forest is by the fact that at one stage five students were working around this tree on the rootball at the same time.

The age of this forest was immediately obvious and it was good for the students to see and work on a really mature root system developed over many years of training. The branches on the tree were also pruned back as necessary.

Finally the group was introduced to some Hemlock raw material which had grown somewhat leggy. The trees were discussed and initial styling possibilities considered. The trees were repotted into suitable training pots. Some pruning was carried out and also work on the deadwood.

One of the trees was far too tall with foliage too high up. With some longitudinal wires and raffia, and some very careful hear wrenching bending the tree’s canopy was lowered with a serious bend that we can incorporate and disguise in the restyling.

They say variety is the spice of life and certainly the day we had here was both varied and inspiring. Look forward to continuing with the Hemlock in the next session.

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Classroom Corner – Some serious repotting!

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 – Some serious repotting!

There was some serious repotting going on in the classroom this last weekend. Almost every student was taking advantage of the time of year and  repotting at least one tree.

Each tree had to be investigated and the specific instructions for that tree were then carefully followed. Some trees were going into a bonsai pot for the first time whilst others were going into a training pot. Some were also just going back into their existing pot.

Some trees had problem areas below the trunk so in this case only the central soil was removed. The outer rootball was left intact. In some cases areas of compacted dead roots had to be removed.

One tree was so wet, and the roots so black that almost all the soil had to be removed. Some rootballs were very dry and had to be submerged in water before they were potted up.

Heavy roots were removed where possible to try and improve the root structure. A selection was also made of the remaining roots and some were removed just like when we thin out branches.

On completion of the day’s work all the trees looked so much better and you could definitely see where the students had been working!…..lets hope the tree respond accordingly.

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Topical Times – Remember Roy’s on the move Juniper

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

Topical Times – Remember Roy’s on the move Juniper

The story of this amazing Juniper was featured in a post on the 6th September 2014 under the Classroom Corner section. The pictures below might refresh your memory.

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Recently Roy rewired the tree after it had been allowed to grow freely and strongly. He asked me to return to his garden to carry out another styling operation.

Roy’s carving work on the tree was excellent and the amount of growth it has put on is amazing. Roy uses the same feeding regime that most of my students use and he has had really good results with it.

A heavy branch near the top had to be removed but otherwise it was mostly routine pruning and thinning out that was done in conjunction with the restyling. We were both well pleased with the outcome.

Shortly afterwards Roy purchased a pot from us and repotted the tree. This tree perhaps more than any other we have featured really emphasizes the need to keep taking pictures on a regular basis. What a history this tree has and what a transformation…..Amazing!

Of course, if your trees look the same year after year after year…..then maybe you don’t need to take pictures…..maybe you just need help with your trees!

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