Everybody loves a good exhibitions, so here are some pics from the 2014 Midwest Bonsai Exhibit, courtesy of Valavanis Bonsai Blog

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


The 37th Midwest Bonsai Exhibit is being held at the Chicago Botanic Garden on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 15-17, 2014. Many beautiful bonsai are on display from local members and other bonsai hobbyists from several states. About 15 vendors are selling their trees, containers and other items as well. Enjoy the photos!





Rough Bark Japanese Maple by Matt Berenberg received the Best of Show Award



RAF Dwarf Scots Pine by Wm. N. Valavanis received the 1st Place Award in the Professional Division


























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Some beautiful bonsai on display at the Chicago Botanic Garden, well worth a look

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


The Chicago Botanic Garden has a world class bonsai collection. Several years ago bonsai artist Susumu Nakamua from Yokohama, Japan, presented his finest trees to the Chicago Botanic Garden to supplement their collection.




Enjoy the bonsai which were on public display in the two courtyards during the 2014 Midwest Bonsai Show.

Three of these beautiful masterpiece will be displayed by the Chicago Botanic Garden in the upcoming 4th US National Bonsai Exhibition which will be held in Rochester, NY, on September 13-14,2014. Come visit the exhibition and see which bonsai the Chicago Botanic Garden will display.











































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One day I will do this tour with Bill, but if anyone else out there is interested then please see the details within the post. From what I’ve seen and heard, it is a journey well worth taking.

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


Have you ever wanted to explore the bonsai and Japanese garden world of Japan in a small limited group? Well, here is your opportunity. In November Kora Dalager, travel agent and bonsai instructor from California and I will be leading another one of our popular bonsai tours to Japan. Bonsai gardens and studios of some of the finest bonsai artists in Japan will be privately visited.

Our tour will first begin in the Tokyo area where we will visit Mr. Kimura’s studio, the new Omiya Bonsai Art Museum and Omiya Bonsai Village. Many of the world’s best bonsai originated or were refined in this small bonsai village of six gardens. Bonsai of all species, sizes and styles can be seen and studied in beautiful garden settings in their autumn glory.Image

Masahiko Kimura’s studio.


Omiya Bonsai Art Museum.


Mansei-en Bonsai Garden- Hatsuji Kato.


Fuyo-en Bonsai Garden- Hiroshi Takeyama.

Next we will…

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Free Online Lesson’s – Wiring with Colin Lewis

Just a quick update today to let you all know about the free wiring lesson’s that I have just stumbled across from Colin Lewis.

 Colin Lewis - Bonsai Wiring Essentials

The lesson’s consist of four videos and are done through an online learning facility called ‘Craftsy’. You’ll need to sign up to be able to register for the lesson’s, however that is a very simple process.


I know I’ve been a little quiet lately, but rest assured that I am busy working on an update for the website. More details will be posted soon.

‘The Bonsai Workshop’ Exhibition – May 2014

Well, I had hoped to have this post up a bit sooner, but June is the crazy period for me at work, and crazy it has been! Not to mention the troubles I’m having at home, mainly with my car that I’ve now put more money into then the thing is worth… but that isn’t what we’re here for is it? So, onwards to bonsai!

The exhibition is now over a month passed, so I apologise for the delay in posting up the photos, but time is a swift beast, and she flys away from me often. This post will mainly just be photo’s, as there is not a lot I can say on each tree, but will comment where I can.



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Something new, and something fresh

Now that I have the ball rolling, I thought it might be time to freshen up the place, and take my webpage/blog to the next level.

Firstly, I will be creating and registering the domain Down Under Bonsai. This is the last step in my ‘just a blog’ page, and the first step into a officially registered website. Once I have the domain set up, I will begin properly advertising and promoting the site.

Next, a review of the things I will post. I will continue on with my current updates on my personal tree’s and workshops, and eventually as my skills progress, I will start touching on techniques and tips and so forth. However I would like to add something more. I want Bonsai in Australia to grow, so I figure, what better way then to start posting up the various exhibitions from around this fine country, and start showcasing some of our artists and bonsai to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, as I am not by any means rich, I can’t travel to each show to take photos (hopefully one day), so I will have to gain some contact from various states, and see if I can use their pictures in my posts. 

Next, I am considering starting to use the site to re-blog other stories, from other bonsai artists around the world. I hope that this will mix things up a bit, and keep the site fresh and interesting, and also help fellow artists showcase their own blogs and pages. So far this is just an idea that I’m bouncing around my head, but will most likely become a reality.

That is not the end of my ideas however. I have a lot more that I would like to do, but am concious of over committing myself, so I’ll keep it at that for now, and stick with the ideas that I think will have the most benefit to Bonsai in Australia.

So, stay tuned! Next up will be a post about the WA Bonsai Workshop’s recent Exhibition (photo’s galore!), followed shortly by an old news story that I have been given permission to repost, containing an interview with one of Australia’s founding bonsai artist’s.

Robert Steven Workshop – Melaleuca Incana

Due to the length of my last post, I thought I would make a seperate post for my workshop Melaleuca. That way I can waffle a bit more, and also give you a bit more background on this bonsai’s beginnings. Its taken me a while to get this post up, due to another project in the works, but more on that in later.

Mel. Incana 1


The tree started as a simple pot plant sold at a nursery (not a bonsai nursery). You can see in this photo that this is really just a shrub, and the branching has a very pendulous growth.



Mel. Incana 18 Front


This next shot shows the branch selection process and the angle change. Please be aware this is not my work, nor my photos, but that of the previous owner whom I purchased the tree from. Which is why I will not expand too much.



This is the final shot before the tree passed over into my hands. You can see it come along nicely, however showing a few minor wire scars.

Mel. Incana

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Very busy shedule!

I thought I better pop in, and give a brief update on my activities.

It’s been crazy to say the least. Work is taking up an increasing amount of time, meaning less time for bonsai. I don’t get home to after dark, so I’m watering with a torch in one hand, and watering can in the other…. not very ideal. Unfortunately that is just how it goes, I am not able to bring them inside, and there are no lights outside, so I basically cannot work my bonsai during the week, other then watering them. My weekends can be much the same, leaving me with next to no time to spend with my special little guys.

Thats ok though, life is life, and it throws you a curve ball more often then not. The trick is not letting it get the better of you!

So this weekend will be very busy for me again, however I NEED to get into the garden, so I’ve made it a priority. I need to firstly get some soil (dam ants!) and give some pots a top up, and repot some others. Then, if I still have time I’ll be giving a few of my bonsai a wire.

I’m also now two weeks away from the Robert Steven workshop, which I’ve signed up for both days. I’ve got two tree’s lined up, one a nice Shimpaku Juniper and the other a Melaleuca Incana which I’ve decided is finally time to give some direction to. Both I think are great tree’s for a workshop, so hopefully I will get a lot out of it. I’ve also been asked to assist Robert at our meeting on Monday, which I’m pretty bloody excited about too!!

So that is it for now, I’m planning on giving a much more thorough update in the lead up to the workshop. I’m also currently working on a massive project for the AusBonsai Community, which is set to be pretty dam big! Stay tuned for more on that at a later date!

Looks like it will be an exciting year!

I received my the calander from my club this month, and was extremely excited to see that we have Robert Steven heading down our way for a couple of workshops, demonstrations and critiques in April. Robert is an artist I particularly like, especially his work with Casurina’s and also his beautiful windswept styling.

Now, I have the minor problem of having nothing to take into the workshops! Everything I have currently is either too young to work (my native’s for 10years away) or has already been worked recently. Granted, I don’t have a whole lot of Bonsai as yet, but I wanted to avoid biting off more then I can chew…. which doesn’t seem to be working, as it turns out I can chew a lot!

So now I am on the hunt for stock, and who doesn’t like looking for new stock!? So my hopes, which are limited by availability, is to get my hands on a tree that I can transform into a windswept style with Robert, which I’ve always found quite an appealing style. Unfortunately, its not easy to find good stock where I am, as Bonsai Nurseries aren’t in great supply. I also would really like to get my hands on some native stock, which I am finding next to impossible to find any decent material in store. My passion is 100% natives, however I find I’m buying Juniper after Juniper as I’m not able to find anything else that is suitable. It should be noted that Juniper’s are my ‘go to’ if I cannot find any natives, I’m still a beginner, so tend to stick with what I know whilst I’m still in my early stages.

So far I’ve been to a couple of nurseries already, but have either been too poor (am in the middle of an expensive dental procedure) or they have just not had what I’ve wanted… or they do have what I want, but not at a price that I think is reasonable. So I’m going to try a few of the smaller bonsai nurseries that are scattered around, and see what I can come up with. In all honestly, I think I’ll end up paying for the pricey ones, as there really isn’t too much out there for me to choose from.

Whilst writing this story though, I’ve had the idea of utilising my club for assistance in finding stock. The Bonsai Society of Western Australia has some truely awesome members, and I think if I ask nicely enough, one of the members may just have what I am looking for. Alas, probably not native though.

So, my hunt for natives continues! I’m sure that if I had my license (long story) I would definately not be in this predicement, as it would open up the world of yamadori’s to me, but hopefully that will be sorted this year.

Not really a whole lot happening this month, I’ve done some minor work on my bonsai, removing the wire from a few done last year and potting up a couple of tubestock natives (Mel. Preissiana, Mel. Incana, and another Mel that I can’t think of). Next month should be a bit more exciting, as I will be recording my efforts in doing a ground layer on a nasty ficus I have. I potted it up into a large pot on the weekend, so once the roots take hold I will attempt the layer. The nebari of the tree is a mess, with a lot of twisted and rotting roots, so I plan to do the layer just above that, so that I can keep a bit of the taper. I also have my Bill Valavanis workshop cascade to pot up to a bonsai pot. Stay tuned for those progressions!

Another year done! A look back at my first year of bonsai

Well, what a year it was!

Firstly, a big Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! I hope everyone has had an amazing time, and did not get up to too much mischeif.

Whilst it is not exactly a year since I started bonsai (its actualy been one year and 2 months… but who’s counting right) I thought I might have a look back over my year and see what I have learnt, and where I can grow.

My first real bonsai experience I guess was with the Bonsai Society of WA. It was a simple day long beginners course, that taught me more then I can say, and sent me way with my passion for bonsai. I created a Shohin Juniper with the aid of a mentor for the class (who I was stoked to work with, as he is a favourite artist of mine) from a stock Juniper Procumbens. I learnt many things during the course, more then I can really put in to words, but it gave me the base I needed to really start learning.

Me and my first bonsai. Proud as punch

Next was the Mauro Stemberger demonstration. Unfortunately I did not participate in the workshop, as I just was not confident enough to put my name down. A shame, as I now really wish I had of done it. Anyway, I did watch his demonstration, which was a real pleasure. The man himself is great, very funny and extremely knowledgeable in the art. He produced an amazing tree from the stock that was provided, and really helped me in looking beyond the ‘obvious’ tree.

Then, it was back to the beginner course, I enjoyed it so much the first time that I just had to go again. the set up was the same and I enjoyed myself just as much as I did the first time, the experience is one I recommend for any beginner wanting to learn. I worked on another Juniper Procumbens, which I created a slanting style bonsai from. Being able to work a tree in that environment, with so many knowledgeable people there to help and answer my questions, really is the best way to learn.

(Picture coming soon, I didn’t get any good ones at the course, but do have one once I got home)

Finally, my workshop with Bill Valavanis. I have documented this already in another post, so will not go through that again. Suffice it to say, that Bill is a wonderful bloke, and I really enjoyed the workshop.

Bill V-workshop

This, was my first year through bonsai. I should note that this is a very high level view of my year, I have my own small garden which I am continue to grow my bonsai-to-be, and learn as I do so. I also acquired a nice little melaleuca, which is pictured below. My first, proper, native bonsai. The first of very many to come.

Mel. Incana

So, that is my first year of Bonsai. The one thing I really have learnt this year, is that I truly have a lot to learn. I know now that it really is not as simple as it looks, but I have also found that I have a real passion for this, and hope to continue on for a long time. I have also discovered my passion for natives, and look forward to where I can take that in my bonsai ‘career’.