Is this bonsai? Does it matter?

An interesting thing happened. Recently, I’ve been working with a group of urban eco artists on their installations for the Jerusalem Season of Culture arts festival, which will take place in September 2016.

One of their key pieces is a massive installation focusing on the emptying and decay of one of Jerusalem’s iconic town squares. Once the bustling center of the city’s urbanite culture, a thriving meeting place of Jerusalem’s extremely diverse populations, the changes of the past two decades have gradually gutted the square, emptied it, and rendered it a mere shadow of its past self. Continue reading

The Big Instant Bonsai Demo Extravaganza!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Gather round for the one, the only, the Big Instant Bonsai Demo Extravaganza!

Who among us hasn’t heard the term ‘instant bonsai’, or even been accused of it at one time or another? But what exactly is it, and why is it so bad? In this installment of the Bonsaipiece Theatre series, I enlist the aid of one of my lovely assistants – a juniper from the JBG, and try to find out. So without further ado, I give you – Instant Bonsai! Continue reading

What to do when your signature bonsai almost dies. Twice.

Our story begins seven years and three computers ago. Now, since my computers tend to meet violent and non-backed-up ends, most of the pictures in this post have been reconstituted from various dubious sources, and are somewhat lacking in quality. I hope they shall make up for it in the story that they tell.

The story is that of one of my first and earliest trees. My signature tree. Which has gone from humble nursery-material beginnings to the top of a national exhibition, and right to death’s door. Twice. Continue reading

A hidden gem – the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Collection

Wow! Let me say that again – WOW! Yesterday I went to see the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens‘ bonsai collection, and nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.

I was met at the entrance to the Gardens by Julian Velasco, the curator for the past four years, who would walk me through the BBG’s collection. The tour started in the BBG’s Bonsai Museum – the display area for the collection. The museum houses between 20 and 30 trees at any given moment, and is very well designed.

A traditional three-point display in the BBG Bonsai Museum.

From there, Julian took me to see the rest of the collection, and my jaw just DROPPED. The collection comprises more than 300 trees, virtually each of which has a history going back dozens of years, and many having a history of more than 100 years as a bonsai. The collection is full of unique specimens who played an important part in the history of bonsai. To give a sense of just how unique the trees in the collection are, you enter the display area after paying your respects to Fudo, one of the spiritual pillars of modern bonsai. You can read about the history of this tree – here.

Fudo, as displayed today.

Over the past four years, Julian has been carefully nursing the trees back to perfect health, always preferring the slower and surer path, thinking to the future, and with the utmost respect for the trees and their history. He has been rewarded by a spectacular collection of amazing trees, which are now all ready for styling to resume. The sheer potential of the collection, coupled with the history of each and every tree, make for an exhilarating and exciting experience. I was jumping from one tree to the next, looking, admiring, and more than anything – hungry to get to work!

Julian is a great guy, and through his hard, methodical work, he is sitting on a hidden gem of a collection. If I were living anywhere within a reasonable radius of the BBG, I would, without a doubt, be volunteering to help him. The collection is a masterpiece in waiting, and in two years’ time I expect it will be one of the more important collections on the East Coast. And I would definitely want in on that action.

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens Bonsai Collection – Introductions

Well, here it is!

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally happened – this blog is up and running!

Towards the start of 2012, I was engaged by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens to start curating their bonsai collection. I had already been working with the JBG for two years, running both their entry-level bonsai courses, and establishing the annual JBG Bonsai Award for Israeli artists. This blog is aimed first and foremost at bringing the work carried out on the collection to the bonsai community at large. The work is absolutely unique in its scope and challenge, of bringing a very ‘old-school’ collection hopefully to the cutting edge of modern bonsai. I hope you will find our work on the collection as fascinating and informative as I do. In the mean time, sit back, relax, and enjoy as the following introductory video sets the scene for our bonsai adventure!