Crataegus Bonsai Seasonal

Although mixed with a lot of hilarity, the Seasonals are geared toward students who are serious about bonsai. 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.

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The core of the program is 2 years, meeting 4 times a year. In the Seasonals we won’t just be styling trees, as 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 intensives past the 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 Ponderosa or Limber Pines in the spring months, but quite a bit with Black Pine, Satsuki Azalea, and Japanese Maple. So we will 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.

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The class sizes are small. I am dedicated to offering boutique-style teaching for a maximum of 3 students for personalized attention. Many students have continued to come past their initial 2 years, as there is always more to cover, more to share, and more to get deeper into. 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 1-2 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.

Seasonals run for three consecutive days, $750, with lunches and dinners included (a deposit of $400 is required to reserve a spot). We do have fun with the great food that Portland is known for, and 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.

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This Mountain Hemlock was created in one of the very first Seasonal programs

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A more experimental Seasonal day produced this Vine Maple ‘Tower’

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Various stages in the development of this grafted juniper were done in the Seasonal classes

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Why travel to study bonsai? 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 working on the bonsai here at Crataegus Bonsai (except for advanced students in later years, who may bring their own trees in some instances.) 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 studied. That way the information is touched on twice in rapid succession, and begins to be assimilated as true learning.

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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, Winter Hazel, Mountain and Western Hemlock, Rocky Mountain, Western, and Shimpaku Junipers, Stewartia, 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. A few past sessions have included experimental segments. Attention is paid to the interests of advanced students to help them create a personal bonsai yard that reflects their growing artistic sensibility. Challenging skills tests are given to advanced students who wish to test themselves, or graduate from the program.

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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 ninth 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 in the rich and life-long pursuit of bonsai.

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Thanks everyone for attending the 2016 Seasonal year! We were overflowing and had a waiting list. 

  • The remaining 2016 dates are: Returning students, November 10-12

The 2017 dates are:

  • Winter Seasonals: New students: February 2-4 or February 9-11. Returning students: February 16-18 or February 23-25.
  • Spring Seasonals: New students: May 18-20 or May 25-27. Returning students: June 1-3 or June 8-10.
  • Summer Seasonals: New students: July 13-15 or July 20-22. Returning students: August 3-5 or August 10-12.
  • Fall Seasonals: New students: TBA. Returning students: November 9-11 or November 16-18.

Please email for openings in the sessions as they do fill rapidly: crataegus001@yahoo.com

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 as well.

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A visit to the world-famous Portland Japanese Garden caps any visit to the Rose City

Please contact me if you have an interest in this program!

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