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JRP #1 started at a byot workshop @ BLC w/ Boon

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(How's that for a title?!)

Shortly after I found out about Bonsai Learning Center hosting Boon for a byot workshop, I secured a spot for myself.  At the time I had no idea what material I was going to take as I had nothing that'd keep me busy for a whole day's workshop.  I managed to find a nice Japanese Red Pine after looking high and low ...and getting lots of input from folks I trust.

I was worried about the workshop since I had to plan ahead and make sure I was prepared with all the materials I would need.  I knew that Boon (and most folks) preferred Copper wire for conifers and trusted the BLC to have ample supply on hand in various sizes.  I made sure my tools were sharpened and cleaned, but I still worried about the right pot for my tree.  I took the largest one I own, one I bought that I thought would be big enough, ...and a smattering of smaller pots in case we got to some of my other trees that needed repotting.  (I also made sure I had enough soil and found a container to stash it in for the commute.)

The day started early.  The alarm went off @ 5:30 and I eventually got out of the bed a bit later.  Dishearteningly I looked at my phone, which was going to serve as my watch, gps, and my camera for the day and found that it had 0 bytes of storage space available, having had 6+ GB available the night before.  I'm not exactly sure what happened, but a restored backup has since given me back my free space.  (The restore happened AFTER I returned from the workshop.  It was 5:40-ish in the morning!)  That said, I didn't have my phone available for pictures.  I took my wife's camera, but being a dSLR, it was in the way on the table amidst the dirt and detritus that occurs when 6 folks are repotting their own trees around a (rather large) table.  I got a before picture I'll add to this thread later.  You can also go here for the earliest pictures I have of the tree.

The day started out with a brief introduction to how the day would run from BLC staff.  Then Boon discussed with us the importance of good soil and how trees grow in nature.  He mentioned how trees growing in naturally-occuring volcanic soils helped to shape his preferred soil mix.  (It seemed to have been an iterative process having had potting mix and pine bark in it at times.)

Then on to a discussion of the first of 2 handouts.  This one was on potting.  It began with a discussion of different kinds of pots, with different features being more appropriate for different styles and species of tree.  Then it was on to repotting, prepping the pot (z-clips, pre-bending tie-down wires short-side to the left), removing soil from the bottom, how to tie the tree securely into the pot with 2 holes and with 4.

I had the biggest tree there. He mentioned liking the tree several times. ...but repotting it myself, or the root work at least, was rough!  I ended up buying a mica oval that the BLC team had a nana juniper in which needed to be moved.  Boon had demonstrated repotting a tree and how he'd do it by himself since he often works alone.  Such wasn't the case with mine, so I was his extra set of hands holding the pot while he twisted it down.  When we were satisfied it was at the level it needed to be (nebari at the level of the pot rim), he had me look at it from the side.  It needed to move back a little, so I held the pot and he twisted it into position again.  Once we were satisfied the nebari was where it was supposed to be and the placement and angle were right from the side, one more look from the front to make sure everything was where it needed to be and we began tying it into place.  He asked if I wanted to, but I chose to watch him.  (He still made me work!)  He explained each step of the way.  I was familiar with his method having watched his Repotting DVDs, and expected I knew most of what I'd see.  I still managed to gather a few tips, and it was interesting how easy he made it all look.  A couple of twists later and the tree was cinched tightly into its new pot.

At some point, lunch happened.  Maybe right here in the recounting of this tale. Maybe later.  Either way, BLC treated us nicely with sandwiches from a deli nearby.  They also had snacks and drinks available throughout the day.  The facilities were very comfortable with a nice selection of material spread out throughout the yard.

I'm not sure if it was before or after lunch, but he had another handout on wiring.  I mentioned to him this was the 3rd time I'd seen this handout, having it shared with me from some of his other students.  He seemed surprised I'd seen it, ..but not overly.  We went over it all, and I still found I had questions he was happy to answer.  He said I was the first to ask one in particular.  (Either it was completely obvious to everybody else, ...or I was paying attention to details, we'll never know.)  One thing he mentioned was that he doesn't teach beginner wiring moving on to advanced wiring after you've mastered the beginner wiring.  He said he teaches Basic wiring.  He admitted that as mastery of basic wiring improves, at his intensives, he'll trust his students with more advanced MATERIAL to wire, but the principles are the same.  (Although Figure 7 I think it was, he advises not to use unless you've mastered all the others ...and know what you're doing ...and none of the others are appropriate.)

Boon liked my tree and mentioned it to me a couple of times. It was my first time using copper and after some help choosing sizes he said "figure 3. Figure 15" pointed to some branches and took a lap around the table. When he got back he said ...and I quote, "Very good." Now, there were some tweaks he made but I was shocked he didn't tell me to pull it all off and do it again from what I'd heard.  He made allowances for my having cut the Copper wire too short.  I finally decided to give myself more wire to use and I could tell that the result was more pleasing ...and structurally more effective.

Throughout the day he'd call us all from our trees to where he was working to teach us something that'd be applicable to more than just that one person.  He used my tree to show us a tip on guy-wiring that was both effective and simple, all while protecting the branch.  (And its simple enough to have one person do.  No need for a 3rd or 4th hand.)

My tree and its "one" branch look a lot better in better soil and some semblance of a bonsai pot. About 3 branches occupying the visual space of one since they're so leggy, is all I got wired.  I'll keep working on it and post a picture when I've got it fully wired.

The workshop ran from 9-5 with a short break for lunch.  I saw Boon take one other 5 minute break when he had what seemed like an important phone call.  I left BLC @ 6 with work still going strong and I was the first to leave.  I had two and a half hours to go before I got home, so I had to wrap it up at some point.  I can't imagine what it must be like at his intensives.  Multiple days of this, better material, and longer days.  Sounds AWESOME!

I'll have to search for the pictures I took as "befores" at the BLC. Here are the after-the-workshop pictures the next day.

After a few more hours wiring.  Several branches cracked.  1 split.  I need to improve my wiring technique apparently. 

dirk hoorelbeke:
no pain, no gain... like the tree...

I like JRP, someday.... Thanks for the inside look at your experience.  Sounds like you got a lot out of it. 


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