Our goal is always have fun while doing bonsai, hence our company slogan You know you are a bonsai freak when you ...
Hi my name is Ron Anderson, I am the current president of the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai club. I recently received an email from an old teacher of mine and a former GSBF editor asking me to detail the time and effort it took to complete and graduate from the intensive course that Sensei Boon Manakitivipart gives. Instead I would like to take this opportunity to turn the focus on my teacher and his teaching.
I remember sitting in my first class October of 2011 with five other students from around the United States. Sensei Boon (from here on I will refer to as Boon) began discussing some very basic bonsai information and one student began questioning, no attempting to argue with Boon about a certain technique. I thought to myself dude, you flew across the country, paid for a hotel for three days, and you are missing work to come argue with a bonsai professional that studied in japan. I can still see his face all contorted crazy as if someone had squirted lemon juice in his eyes. He just could not get past something he read in a book 20 years ago and he never did? Why do I tell you this, because I believe sometimes all of us get into the I already know it mode. I will confess a lot of what Boon was saying and teaching was different from almost anything I had ever heard. Not all of it though, because I had had some classes from John Thompson and Peter Tea prior to Boons class. I really appreciated that not only was I getting the latest information coming out of japan, I was getting that information from someone who had been working, traveling and improving his art all over the United States. The fact that this included working on all sorts of trees from every state, or country he worked in…I was and am sold. Add 24 years of hands on teaching and training experience, with15 of those years as a trained bonsai professional and you have a winning combination. How is the best way to tell if someone knows bonsai…look at their trees. I call Boons back yard Bonsai Mecca, it is a testament to his dedication and this art we call bonsai. For fun please stop by my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/bonsaifreak/
You know the old saying you cannot teach an old dog new tricks...that applies to everyone and every new thing including bonsai. Some people are just not willing to learn new things, and that’s OK, because everyone is in bonsai at different levels. I myself found it hard to break a lot of certain habits I had picked up. A good example would be, using organics in my soil. When I finally made the switch, there was a noticeable difference in the health and growth of my trees. Boon only teaches, he cannot control what you do at home, his goal is to get you doing bonsai correctly to strengthen your trees health and help you design your tree as if nature had a hand in it.
Having completed Boons intensive course I can give you a glimpse into his world of bonsai teaching. Let me start with my opinion, Boon Manakitivipart is one of if not the best Bonsai teacher’s in the United States. There I said it, I believe it! Boon is a sponge when it comes to knowledge about bonsai trees, tree care, how to display and show a tree and of course tree maintenance. Yes he can be a little particular, ok, he can be very particular and sometimes tough, but he does it for a reason. He does it to ensure that when you leave his course you will have the knowledge and skills to not only keep your trees healthy, but have them thrive and grow and if needed teach others to do the same.
The way Boon teaches is genius. He teaches around seasonal care and only allows his students to take classes every three or four months. You cannot take any courses any faster, you must attend a winter/spring course then go home and practice for four months. Then come back and take a summer course, again go home and practice then come back and take an Autumn course, and again go back home and practice on your trees. Boon has added an additional course so there are 10 three day intensive courses now. The last class is show prep in January prior to his clubs show. It’s one of my favorites. This course is a must for anyone wanting to set up a show. What most people do not know about Boon is that Boon set up most major shows in Japan during his course of study while he was in Japan. With that came a wealth of knowledge that he teaches in the very last course. I have never seen it taught at that level anywhere else. Most of the time when you set up a show its set up “like the club has always done”. It’s nice to have a new direction to take back to your clubs.
So now on to the genius part...Boon teaches step by step instruction that allows any and all students to follow along. I enjoyed the classes for the structure, the depth of knowledge and the one on one hands on teaching. As well as the guidance, hand out literature, and also all the wonderful students I met along the way. The depth to what was taught almost made my hair hurt! The intensive course covers all seasons and seasonal care plus teaching on tree specific care. These courses also cover a majority of teaching for the most sought after bonsai trees. To get specific, you will just need to take the intensive course. If you somehow cannot make it to California to study under Boon, find a student who has graduated and ask them to help you in bonsai…it will change your world. Boon says and practices, do it right first time or do it over until it is right. I learned that the first time I attempted to put on cooper wire on a black pine. One more thing Boon says, “We work hard, play hard and eat well”. YES WE DO!! Look Boon up on Facebook and you will see what I mean.
Ok so Number 23, what’s that, that's is me! I am the 23rd student and last student to graduate from Boons intensive class in 2013. I was told I was one of the fastest people to complete the course. I want to treat this as not a diploma or certificate but as a gift that should be shared. My favorite saying is "the more you know about bonsai the more you understand you don't know". Please follow along with me on my journey as I grow in bonsai at http://ronandersonbonsai.com/.
Though I have graduated, I am and will continue my education at Boons at least every two months. One year ago I followed in my teachers footsteps and began my own teaching. I call it Foundation Training, I teach in and around Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. To me without a Foundation in bonsai it's extremely hard to build or design anything bonsai related. I am extremely lucky that I live only 2 hours away from Boons, some people drive a lot further, or fly from other states and when the need is strong enough they even come from other countries. That is just to get a chance to work with such a great teacher. One more thing I suggest, always remember to laugh and have fun...that's one of the things I always took to Boons, I think it drove him a little crazy sometimes...no matter how hard we worked or how serious the class was I was there to have fun while I learned, and I did! Here is to your Bonsai journey my friends.
The following pictures are from the before and after Western juniper I styled. It will look great when it fills in, the plastic bag is covering an area that in the feature will be Jinned. Right now it is being left on to keep the tree healthy, it will be sacrificed in the future. The other pictures are of the Sierra’s at a secret location…
Left side before
Right side before
What we try to make our deadwood look like....Nature.