Crataegus Bonsai Seasonal
“I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes.” Leonard Bernstein
The key concept in the Seasonals is to acquire the confidence and skills in traditional techniques to then use in your own way, as a launchpad for personal expression.
The program is based on learning by contrast. We contrast pot-grown and wild-collected, deciduous and conifer, young tree and old, from season to season. The Seasonals offer syllabus-style education in addition to platforms for self-discovery. This is perhaps a more distilled, palatable, and fun version of the long-term and seriously stressed-out education I received as an apprentice from Kokufu and Prime Minister award-winning master Shinji Suzuki.
The core of the program is 2 years, meeting 4 times a year. In the Seasonals we won’t just be styling trees.
The 2-year Seasonal Syllabus covers Soils, Repotting, Disease Control, Plant Entomology, Positioning, Watering, Physiology, Running a Bonsai Yard, Wiring, Design, over 20 species of Conifers, Deciduous, and Broad-Leaved Evergreens, Developing Young and Old trees, Grafting, Growth Management, Japanese Aesthetics, Wabi-sabi in the 21st Century, Yamadori vs. Pot-grown, Ceramics, Pot Choice, Display, Creating Accent Plants, Designing a Garden, and Creativity in Bonsai.
All these subjects are covered with multiple tree species and with increasing depth of information in year 2, and students often come back for private sessions past the two core years.
A Seasonal covers a whole range of species for one window of time. Then we shift to another window of time, and, sometimes, different species. For instance, there is very little to do with Juniper or Limber Pines in May, but quite a bit with Black Pine and Japanese Maple. So we shift our emphasis in both technique and species according to the season.
All are significant skill-building classes, and there is a lot of applicable information in all the Seasonals regardless if we use the same species or not. I work with people who live in every corner of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and from as far away as Australia.
The class sizes are small. I am dedicated to offering boutique-style teaching for a maximum of 3 students for personalized attention. Seasonals do not need to be done sequentially, but as finances and lifestyle permit. Newcomers to bonsai are welcome, as are experienced practitioners.
Seasonal mornings start with sitting down around a table with a lot of tea, and covering the day’s material with words—handouts, quizzes, questions—which can last 2 hours or more. Often the talk migrates to the bonsai benches so we’re looking at the same things. By mid-morning students are in the studio with hands-on work for the rest of the day. Days start at 9 am and usually end in the late afternoon, although it is sometimes later with the more involved work days.
There are parts that are taught silent, for sometimes bypassing the thinker or the worder is the best way to learn what is essentially a body skill.
Seasonals run for three consecutive days, lunches and dinners included, $850 per Seasonal (discounted rates are available for students). A $450 deposit is required to reserve a spot. We do have fun with the great food that Portland is known for. Lodging is at a nearby hotel, Air B+B, or bed and breakfast (take a look a the B + B Sandes of Time). You will be asked to bring a basic set of tools, but trees, wire, soil, etc. are all provided.
This Mountain Hemlock was created in one of the very first Seasonal programs
A more experimental Seasonal day produced this Vine Maple ‘Tower’
Various stages in the development of this grafted juniper were done in the Seasonal classes
Some may ask, why travel to study bonsai? The answer is that when the teacher travels, much less is learned than when the student travels. Although not easy to communicate why, this is almost a truism, and not just for bonsai. If a surgeon were to teach about surgery in your kitchen, you really wouldn’t learn as much as if you studied in a surgery room. Absorption is one feature that the Seasonals offer, which is how the apprentice studies.
Also, study in the Seasonals assumes primarily working on the bonsai here at Crataegus Bonsai. Advanced students may bring their own trees in private sessions, or if pre-approved, for the Seasonals. But the real benefit from studying on the teacher’s trees is that the information can then be brought back to the trees at home, and you get to reapply what was learned. That way the information is touched on twice in rapid succession, and begins to be assimilated as true learning.
In past Seasonals, we’ve covered the refinement of established bonsai such as Ponderosa, Black, Red, White, Limber, and Scots Pines, Engelmann and Ezo Spruce, Japanese, Trident, and Vine Maples, Mountain and Western Hemlock, Rocky Mountain, Western, and Shimpaku Junipers, Stewartia, Winter Hazel, Satsuki Azalea, and ‘Chojubai’ Dwarf Flowering Quince.
Designing new bonsai is featured in most Seasonals. These range from older collected yamadori conifers to growing and developing deciduous trees.
Winter Seasonals focus on repotting, while other Seasonals feature species appropriate visualization and styling, advanced wiring and bending, accent plants, and the study of display. Attention is also paid to the interests of advanced students to help them create a personal bonsai yard that reflects their growing artistic sensibility.
Some sessions may include experimental segments. These surf along the edge that Seth Godin speaks about when he says ‘If it can’t fail, it’s not art’. So we’ll be talking about creativity within a traditional art.
Linda with a Chojubai Quince
Lunches are inexpertly prepared by Chef Hagedorn
Although it is recommended that new students start with a Winter Seasonal to acquire new repotting techniques and the foundation that this provides, any initiation time is fine.
Now in its eleventh year, the Seasonal program was created out of requests of students from around the country who were interested in coming to Portland to study. Since the program was started in 2008 the yearly sessions have trebled due to demand. Join us and deepen your skills and appreciation of the rich and life-long pursuit of bonsai.
Thanks everyone for attending the 2018 Seasonal year! We were overflowing and had a waiting list.
The 2019 dates are:
- Winter Seasonals: 1st Year students: Jan. 31-Feb. 2 or Feb. 7-9. 2nd year students: Feb. 21-23 or Feb. 28-Mar. 2.
- Spring Seasonals: 1st Year students: May 16-18 or May 23-25. 2nd year students: May 30-June 1 or June 6-8.
- Summer Seasonals: 1st Year students: July 11-13 or July 18-20. 2nd year students: August 8-10 or August 15-17.
- Fall Seasonals: 1st Year students: October 17-19 or October 24-26. 2nd year students: November 7-9 or November 14-16.
Please email for openings as they do fill rapidly, my suggestion is to send me notification of your interest the year before you intend to begin: firstname.lastname@example.org
If none of these dates work for you, please call or email for a possible private or semi-private Seasonal session. I can often work in extra sessions, even 1 or 2 day sessions.
Because of the increasing demand for limited spots in this program, beginning in 2018 we now have an application to give us an idea of your goals of bonsai, your influences, and why you think the Seasonals are the right choice for you.
A visit to the world-famous Portland Japanese Garden caps any visit to the Rose City