TWTWTW Part Three: And the winner is ….

As photography was allowed at the show,  pictures of the winning exhibits are already out there on this interweb thingie.   So for this article we thought we would take the time to explain our system of judging as well as posting the official show winners images.

I think we’d all agree that judging at a bonsai show is always a fraught experience.  In the past, judging was often left to one or two people and of course the issue of subjectivity raised its head on many occasions.

For the Spirit of Shohin event, in the pursuit of a much fairer and more transparent method of judging, a panel approach was adopted to the judging process. Under this system, individual judges nominated their top three tree/display in each of the categories.  They did not even have to rank these – i.e. there was no first, second and third “placing” of trees  – they merely had to nominate which their top three were.    At the end of the process, each judge handed back their recording sheets and the results were aggregated by an admin panel.    The tree/exhibit with the most nominations in each section then became the winner for that category.

The contingency fall back in the event of a draw between two or more trees/exhibits in any category was for the judges to make a second decision on the basis of a vote.  Such was the standard of exhibit at the show, not just one but two awards went down to the wire in this manner. This in itself indicates that the system works.

At the end of the process, judges’ individual results sheets are then signed and posted on a noticeboard for all to see, and this in itself gives the system a high degree of transparency often lacking in other systems.

While this system sounds complicated, it is in fact remarkably easy to operate and has been used successfully previously at the Shohin UK exhibition in 2015. Tony Tickle also used a similar system for Bonsai Europa in that same year.

What the system does is significantly reduce the strong element of subjectivity that you would get with a “one judge” system where almost inevitably the judging will reflect the personal taste of the judge to some extent or other.   But is it better than other alternatives being bandied around?

There is currently discussion about a points system wherein all trees are marked against a set of criteria – e.g. branch placement, nebari and so on.   The danger in my opinion of such a points system is that it could easily reduce the process to little other than a spot the fault exercise.

Let me give you a parallel: in my role as an examiner for school and college English exams we are instructed to mark up the way. By this what I mean is that we don’t take marks off for faults – we award marks for things that the students have done well on a sliding scale of how well they’ve done it.

It rather seems to me that the proposed systems of numerical judging that I have seen do the opposite – they mark down the way, taking off marks for “faults”.  And what that can lead to is the judge’s gut feeling about the tree/exhibit being sidelined and replaced by a mechanistic ticking exercise in which the overall aesthetic qualities of the tree/display are downplayed.

But back to the show.

With the quality of exhibits being high, the judges has quite a time of it in trying to make their decisions.   However, the nominations came in, were aggregated and the results were as follows:

images courtesy of Mark Cooper and Andy Jordan

Show winners:

Best Mame Display:  Ritta Cooper

Best Mame Display - Ritta Coper Red 2


Best Shohin Display:  Mark and Ritta Cooper

Best Shohin Display with awards and certificate IA4A3859


Best Chuhin Display and Best Display in Show:   John Pitt

Best Chuhin Display and Best in Show - Taxus - John Pitt Red

John Pitt

Best Tree/Pot combination:  Bob van Ruitenberg
(award sponsored by Andy Stonemonkey Pearson)


Best Shitakusa:    Andy Jordan

Best Shitakusa - Andy Jordan Red


Taiga Urushibata Award:   Mark and Ritta Cooper

Taiga Award red



Merit Award winners:

Mame Display Merit Award: Bruno Wijman

merit mame red

Shohin Display Merit Award:   Mark and Ritta Cooper

JWP  from Shohin Display Merit award red

Chuhin Display Merit Award:  Pete and Ted Goodhead




Well done to the winners and a huge thanks to all  who exhibited.


TWTWTW Part two: The Eye of the Taiga

One of the highlights for a dozen bonsai enthusiasts at the Spirit of Shohin event was the chance to participate in a workshop with one of Japan’s finest young bonsai artists, Taiga Urushibata.

With translation assistance from Maarten van der Hoeven, Taiga put in an amazing two days effort, with a work ethic that would put most of us to shame. Stopping only for dark chocolate and strong coffee, he worked tirelessly dealing with some thirty trees in the two days.

With the participants themselves representative of a fair bit of bonsai experience, it was great to hear the comments back.

One  commented that the workshop had been “worth every penny.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you have a good tree to start with,  Taiga excels at refinement as was the case with me.”

Another, who had participated in both sessions, remarked:

“I really enjoyed both days and watching Taiga work is an education in itself” while another remarked that the

Taiga’s knowledge on bonsai techniques and horticulture is inspiring and one cannot help but pick up things watching and listening to him.”


Group Workshops are often by their “sharing” nature both fulfilling and frustrating events, given that the leader simply cannot devote the entire time to any one individual.  I personally believe that they work best for participants who have sufficient knowledge, skill and confidence to work away on their own on a task set by the workshop leader until such time as the leader can get back round. The mark of a good workshop leader is in how fairly they apportion their time around participants and how well they set achievable tasks for individuals to do while they themselves go round the others in the group.  The consensus was most strongly that Taiga excelled in both of  these aspects and people felt that he was scrupulously fair with the time he devoted to individuals.  Additionally, many said that he most certainly could not be accused of clock watching, and often had to be prised away from trees to go and get his lunch or have a break of any sort.

One thing that participants and onlookers alike realised was the importance of pre-wiring a workshop tree to get the most advantage out of the time available.  For many of us it seems odd to wire a tree in advance of a workshop only to have it lopped off as part of the design process.  This, however, is just one of bonsai life’s little foibles and I think ultimately we all realise that it is far better to soak up that “loss” than to spend time at a workshop doing wiring.  The participants all felt that the advice to wire their trees as much as possible beforehand had been good and meant they had more time to discuss and implement the actual design of their trees with Taiga.

Overall, the workshops went extremely well and Taiga most definitely showed why he is valued so highly in Japan.  And it should not be overlooked that apart from his tremendous work rate and obvious high level of skill, he comes across as a darn nice fella – something that is quite often overlooked in importance in the razamatazz of the bonsai world. To have had someone so genuinely a nice guy and so obviously passionate, enthusiastic and inspiring about trees headline our workshops made this an event worthy of its “national event” tag.

A HUGE thanks to Taiga for headlining our show – it was a pleasure to have you with us and we look forward to meeting you again in the hopefully not too distant future.

Thanks also to Maarten van der Hoeven for his role as translator, assistant and purveyor of ironic comments and dry humour.



One of the highlights of the weekend for Taiga was his ride in Steve Hale’s splendid Chevy Bel Air.  Taiga is a great fan of Chevrolets and is currently restoring a 1959 Impala.

That was the weekend, that was! Part one

The weekend of 2nd and 3rd April saw some three dozen of the best shohin, mame and chuhin displays in Europe gathered together for the 2016 British Shohin Bonsai exhibition.

Entitled Spirit of Shohin, the event featured top notch displays from the UK and Europe – all set in the tranquil and beautiful surroundings of the RHS Gardens at Wisley. The event was visited by a sizeable number of the bonsai community as well as members of the public.

In addition to the exhibition space, we had a large representation from our trader friends.

And of course, for a few lucky bonsaiists, the highlight of the weekend was getting to work with world-famous young Japanese bonsai artist, Taiga Urushibata.

In this series of short articles, we will bring you the full picture of the stunning event.  First, some general background.

British Shohin Bonsai is the “offspring” of the British Shohin Association. Like many amateur clubs and societies, BSA was struggling to find people willing to take on committee roles. But rather than let the organisation simply fade away, an interim solution was reached whereby several of the stalwarts decided to band together to put on the biennial exhibition, first to gauge if there is still an interest in the smaller sizes of bonsai, and if so, to keep up the considerable momentum the BSA had already achieved.

If the weekend’s event is anything to go on, it is now clear that there is a huge level of interest in shohin and other smaller sized bonsai.

I have always felt that sometimes at the more conventional exhibitions, the viewers are overwhelmed by the sheer WOW! factor of large bonsai that the intricacies and delicacy of the smaller trees is often overlooked.   In my opinion it is a bit like doing  small scale modelling – it is far easier to create detail on a larger model – railway, aircraft, armies etc – than it is on small scale, and to be able to create intricate details takes a helluva lot of skill.  Shohin and Mame are akin to the 00 and N gauge of bonsai, and in my opinion are very much the living (in all senses of the word) embodiment of the maxim “less is more”.

But enough of the pseudo-philosophy and on with the trees.  Below are some general images from the show. In the next couple of articles I will focus on the award winners and the near misses.

Images courtesy of Mark Cooper.

exhibition mame displays IA4A3795 Red

A look down the avenue of Mame displays

exhibition IA4A3780 Red

Having the broader tables for the displays was a major plus and allowed the exhibits to be far better arranged.

Bruno Wijman giving advice on how to improve an exhibit IA4A3971 - Red

The event featured quite a range of displays from five tree racks to single tree exhibits.

Shohin nana-ten display - Bob van Ruitenbeek IA4A3960 Red

Stone Monkey pot exhibit IA4A3953 Red

Stonemonkey pot exhibit

Ian Baillie pot display IA4A3955 Red

Ian Bailie pot exhibit

main vendors 1 Red

We also had, courtesy of the RHS, a marvellous marquee for our vendors.

Nobu Sugiura Red

Our vendors were a remarkably international bunch including our friend Nobu Sugiura all the way from Japan.

vendors 2 Red

Traders are always a popular

vendors 3 Red

addition to a show

The Final Countdown

Well folks, it’s the final countdown.  Spirit of Shohin 2016 is a mere week away from us.

In case you’ve been on a lunar mission or stuck in a traffic jam (I’m told on the M25 that’s pretty much the same thing) for the last few months, here is a quick resumé:

Spirit of Shohin is the flagship exhibition of British Shohin Bonsai – formerly the British Shohin Association.  Continuing the tradition of a two-yearly show, this year’s exciting event  is being held in the grounds of the prestigious RHS gardens at Wisley, Surrey.

This premier event will bring together some three dozen of the top shohin trees in the UK and Europe in a two-day show over the weekend of Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April.

The show will be judged by a panel of experts including rising young star Taiga Urushibata who will also be hosting two workshops during the event.

And in addition to the display of top quality trees, you will have the opportunity to purchase bonsai goodies from top traders.  A full list of these is at the end of the post.

The event is open to the public from 10.30am to 5pm on the Saturday and 9.30am to 4.30pm on the Sunday.   There is no cost for entry to the exhibition but you will have to pay to get in to Wisley Gardens itself.  The benefit of this is that you can make it a day trip and take in both the exhibition and the wonderful gardens too.  A buy-one-get-one-free if you like.



We look forward to seeing you all at the event.  As a bit of a gesture of goodwill, we are offering TEN FREE TICKETS to the event (remember this gets you into the Gardens as well)

If you would like to be entered for the lucky draw for these, please email us at before 6pm on Tuesday March 29th.  Just give your name and mention the words FREE TICKET DRAW.  Your names will be put into a hat and the ten lucky winners will be drawn at 9pm on Tuesday.


So, only a week left to wait. I’d better go and pack.


Traders List

Ian Baillie Pots
Bespoke Bonsai Stands
Christine Beresford Ceramics
Daryn Grossmith ABC Ceramics
Dave Samson tables
Greenwood Bonsai
Green Dragon Bonsai
John Pitt Potts
Kaizen Bonsai
Nobu Sugiura Shohin Pots
Stonemonkey Ceramics
Suteki Accent Pots
Lee Verhorevoort
Walsall Ceramics
Windybank bonsai
Zac Bonsai




Taiga gumiIMG_3394

By fionnghal

The end of an era

I don’t normally like attaching words like “legend” and “one of a kind” to people but I can do some with a certain degree of justification in the case of Roger Oldham, British Shohin Bonsai’s oldest member,who sadly died this week. Although he had successfully managed both a heart condition and diabetes for many years, it seems that 40 plus years of working in the chemical industry had caused a lung issue that he was unable to pull himself out of.  Knowing Roger, he would have put up one hell of a fight.

Rather than try to write an obituary, I thought it would be better to reproduce an article that appeared in the BSA Newsletter in 2012 which I feel sum him up far better than any sad words can ever do.  Here goes:


It is a wet and raw Friday afternoon in October and I am sitting in a Dunblane living room where a very sprightly octogenarian is leaping about like a man half his age.  I am being very ably entertained by the BSA’s oldest member, Roger Oldham, and it is not long before the conversation turns away from the awful weather and on to bonsai.  Over a very tasty (and warming) bowl of soup Roger tells me his bonsai story.

A visit to the Royal Highland Show in the mid-80s found Roger straying into the horticultural tent where he was instantly bowled over by a display of wee trees.  Having never seen bonsai “live” before, Roger was transfixed. “There might have only been ten trees there,” he says, “but they were so amazing it seemed like fifty.”  Roger is unsure of whether this was an early display by the fledgling Scottish Bonsai Association, but the display made a major impact on him and left him determined to find some way of taking part in this wonderful hobby.  When he mentioned his desire to start working with bonsai to colleagues the next Monday, they laughed outright and suggested he probably wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy the results of his hobby.  Roger pottered along on his own for a couple of years until a chance visit to the local garden centre yielded the information that a group was possibly starting in Stirling.  This was the start of Roger’s involvement with the Forth Valley branch of the SBA, an involvement that lasted for some 15 years.   Roger became involved with the British Shohin Association right at its inception and has continued to support it ever since.

I asked Roger what the highlights have been in his years in bonsai. “Bonsai has given me a lot of pleasure over the years,” he replied, “and I would pick out a couple of workshops with Marc Noelanders at Willowbog along with the Marco Invernizzi school as well up the list of memorable events.”   Roger then continued, “But the biggest pleasure has been most certainly in meeting such a broad range of different people all with a passion for bonsai.  I have formed some good bonsai friendships over the years and that is what I will always hold as the most important thing.”

ro4 ro2

End of an era?  I think so.

By fionnghal

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!! Your chance to undertake a workshop with Taiga Urushibata

As part of its Spirit of Shohin weekend on April 2nd and 3rd 2016, British Shohin Bonsai are delighted to announce that we will be running workshops led by Taiga Urushibata.

This is a major opportunity to work with one of Japan’s foremost young bonsai artists and will give participants an unforgettable bonsai experience.

The cost for these workshops will be £130 per day. Participants should bring their own material and equipment. Please note that any size of tree is acceptable for the workshop.

If you are interested in taking a place on one of these workshops, please contact us at to book your place.   Please state your preferred day – i.e. Sat or Sun or if either is acceptable.

Places will be strictly limited and allocated on a first come-first served basis so please get your booking in quickly to avoid disappointment.

Do not send any payment at this point. Once we contact you to say your booking has been successful, we will be asking for a £65 deposit immediately to secure the place, followed by the remaining £65 four weeks before the event. Unfortunately deposits will be non-refundable.

Get in quickly for this marvellous opportunity to work with one of Japan’s finest bonsai artists.

We look forward to hearing from you.

SH FNW composite BSB Logo

  Bonsai Plaza Logotaiga yew taishoen IA4A0064

Taiga Taiga burning bright

British Shohin Bonsai are delighted to announce that the headliner for the Spirit of Shohin exhibition next April will be none other than Taiga Urushibata.

The son of Nobuichi Urushibata,  Taiga is the second generation of Urushibatas working in Taisho-en,  the family nursery in Shizuoka, Japan.

While Taiga grew up immersed in bonsai tradition and art, it was with another Japanese Bonsai great that he honed the skills learnt originally from his father. In 2000 he became apprentice to Mr Masahiko Kimura and in the six years he worked with the great master,  Taiga went on to develop skills at a very high level. Indeed Mr Kimura always rated Taiga as one of the best apprentices he had ever had.

Taiga returned to Shizuoka in 2006 to work alongside his father at Taisho-en.  Now an  established bonsai artist in his own right,   Taiga has done  workshops and demos in Japan, Taiwan, Colombia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, USA.

Although he has stated a preference for conifers, Taiga is comfortable working with all varieties and sizes of trees.   In recent years he has acquired a reputation as a shohin specialist, but it would be very fair to say that he has elevated the tag of “good all-rounder” to an extremely high level.

Taiga will be with us for the entire weekend and although the programme is not yet finalised, during that time we expect to be offering workshops and demos with him.  We also hope to put his shohin talent to good use as a show judge.

Taiga will be joined by his close Dutch friend Maarten van der Hoeven, owner of Bonsai Plaza, who will juggle his own trade stand duties with those of acting as Taiga’s translator and assistant. Maarten did his bonsai apprenticeship under Nobuichi Urushibata, Taiga’s father.

British Shohin Bonsai is immensely fortunate in having secured the services of this very modest young man who must now be regarded as one of the foremost bonsai artists in Japan.  We hope that the standard of our exhibition will reflect having such a major “name” attached to it, and moreover, we hope that Taiga will take away from our event a sense of how much shohin bonsai has come on in the UK in recent years and with a very favourable impression of both where we are at the present moment in terms of quality and where we hope to be in the near future.

Spirit of Shohin will run from Saturday April 2nd to Sunday April 3rd 2016 at RHS Garden Wisley.  Fuller details will be released over the next few months.

Taiga IMG_3390 Taiga gumiIMG_3394

BSB Logo Bonsai Plaza Logo

Getting into the Spirit

It is with some considerable delight that we announce that there will be a British Shohin Bonsai show in 2016, run in conjunction with our friends at Sutton Bonsai Society.

Entitled Spirit of Shohin 2016, the show will be held over the weekend on April 2nd and 3rd 2016, and will offer members and public a chance to see some of the foremost shohin bonsai in the UK.

And even more excitingly, the venue for the event will be RHS Wisley Garden in Surrey.

It is something of a feather in our cap to be able to run our show at such a prestigious location and a large thank-you must go to Andy and his colleagues at Sutton Bonsai Society for making it all possible.

Plans for the event are in a very early stage of development, but the organising team are already working towards making this a memorable occasion.

Wisley Garden is no stranger to bonsai.  In addition to the Herons Bonsai Walk opened in 2012, our friends at Sutton Bonsai Society held their recent club show there, and the reports back indicate that we can expect a considerable interest from the general public as well as the bonsai supporters.  Holding the show in a far more public arena will bring its challenges, but the pluses far outweigh the negatives. It will certainly be a challenge we will relish.

Over the next few months, as plans progress, we will bring you further details of the show.  In the meantime, please put the date in your diary and pass it on to your bonsai friends and acquaintances.

Some images from the recent Sutton Bonsai Society show at Wisley Garden

Wisley 2Wisley 1

Wisely 4

The internet bonsai group: still a hooked big fish or merely a Tickled old trout ?

There is of course a colossal irony in posting an article on internet bonsai groups on the website of a group which also has an internet bonsai group, but I have been evaluating the BSB’s facebook and website presence a lot of late, and as part of that exercise, I have been looking at other groups as well. I will also admit that my current interest has been prompted by a recent blog post (there’s that irony again) from former southern softie turned gritty northerner Tony Tickle who, clearly displaying that he must have been off sick the term they did tact and diplomacy at his Swiss finishing school, suggested that you can’t learn bonsai from facebook.  While I neither wholly agree nor wholly disagree with his comments, my impression gained from this recent exercise is very much that while they have some function, many of the internet bonsai groups, particularly those resident on facebook, are certainly in danger of losing a bit of ground.

Before looking at the main reasons for saying that, let’s first identify the back story of internet bonsai groups. The process seems to have started with email “lists” through which information was disseminated. These were subsequently replaced with the arrival of forums, some of which are world-wide, some more localised, some general and some specialised. Many boast membership in the thousands while others are more compact. They all met with a degree of success because the internet allowed far more people to participate than the forum creators ever imagined. This was significantly enhanced with the arrival of digital photography – at first pricey but latterly inexpensive through digital point and shoots and more recently the phone camera.  We could shoot a pic of a tree in our own garden, post and receive comments from bonsai friends thousands of miles away within minutes.

Then came Facebook.

There can surely be no doubt that Facebook has held the crown of the social media sites for a number of years now. It has among its plus points that it is free, that it is instantly accessible in most parts of the world, and like the internet forums distance is no barrier. The idea of discussion groups where like-minded folk could meet virtually to discuss their hobbies and interests is vastly appealing and took the original forum idea to a new level.  In 2010 Facebook posted that it had some 620million groups, and this seems to be still the case. Moreover, a simple search on Facebook will reveal countless bonsai related ones – certainly numbering in the hundreds if not more.

There is a school of thought that believes that a presence on Facebook is as valuable if not more so than a website these days, and that certainly holds true for businesses which need to be where the potential customers are. For clubs and societies, many of which have only reluctantly taken up the internet mantle, it is less disastrous not to have a Facebook presence than it is for a business. Many, however, have embraced the bonsai group concept wholeheartedly, while for others, it has become a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them” with the recognition that if they don’t put up a Facebook group or page at the very least, their members – real and potential – will wander off to elsewhere in the ether.

But what do members of Facebook bonsai groups actually gain from being so? I have no doubt such groups provide a valuable personal source of pleasure for many.  I suspect that for many group members it is more a case of not having anything to lose – no membership fee has been parted with after all, and you don’t actually have to do anything if you don’t want to. For others, it may be the fact that the anonymity of an facebook group allows even the most socially shy to participate knowing that actual face-to-face encounters are unlikely. For others again, it no doubt involves a sense of belonging and in that respect it is not really any different to why people join groups and clubs out there in the real world.

Then there are the competitive joiners who seem to have set themselves the challenge of joining as many groups as they can. (Personally I think they need our pity rather than our condemnation.) When you are a member of 500 groups – as I have indeed seen on Facebook – I would rather think that your contribution to those groups must be very minimal – unless of course you really do just sit all day on Facebook. Pauses to shudder. And to re-assess own time spent facebooking.

I have equally no doubt that one of the big attractions for some (mercifully still a minority) is the ability to post ad nauseam irrespective of quality or in some cases any factual knowledge of the subject. Such “serial posters” are irritating, but even they on occasion can pop out a pearl. The biggest problem with them is that you have to kiss a lot of their frogs before the prince appears.

So, apart from mildly irritating serial posters and saddos who want to reach the 6000 facebook group cut-off point, everything seems rosy.  Why, would I even think that internet, particularly facebook, bonsai groups might have had their day?

Enter the lurkers and the takers, stage right.

I am a member of five Facebook bonsai groups, and as far as I can see they are all sizeable in “membership”. IBC on Facebook has 5000 members – about the same as its forum membership although not all forum members are Group members and vice versa. Dario Octaviano has recently exceeded the 1000 mark after only a few months of the Bonsai Odyssey group having been established.  Lindsay Farr’s World of Bonsai is fast approaching 7,500 members, and the more specialise Kusamono has nearly 2,500. BSB is currently sitting at over 500 and we get easily half a dozen requests in a day.

Yet it is easy to see by doing a simple sample of a day’s input on many of the bonsai facebook groups that within those very impressive numbers only a very small fraction actually contributes anything.  And while some of the contribution is of undoubtedly high quality, rather a lot of it is not.  I am not referring here to people posting what some of us might consider “inferior” trees – that is the prerogative of a group member and unless the group has set out a standard to which all members must adhere, there is little we can or  even should do about. If we assume that groups, like forums, are there to build skills and knowledge, then perhaps the “underdogs” are precisely the ones we should be encouraging.

However, what I am talking about is the legion of contributions that consist of little other than Likes, “Nice tree” comments and my particular bugbear – those who trawl the internet and subsequently share images from other sources, often in a language no-one can actually read and often featuring the same trees as we have seen on countless other forums.  For me, these all diminish a group. If I have posted a tree looking for constructive comment on how I might improve it, then endless “Likes” or large thumbs up smileys do not help me.  Similarly, I am irritated by those whose posts declare them to be someone who can’t actually be bothered to do the research themselves, sometimes to the extent that the poster only just stops short of asking someone to do the actual work for them.  Such people are internet groups’ takers – they will demand your input but will never give anything back.

Plus ça change, I hear you say. And you’d be right.  Long before the internet arrived and even still to this day out there in the world of real clubs, there are the equivalent of lurkers and takers. The perceived wisdom is that in any group 20% of the members do at least 80% of the work, and some of us may even think that 20% is a very generous estimate.  Will this ever change?  I doubt it. The only exception is the exceptional club whose members are all motivated and involved. Those exceptions will, of course, prove the rule.

So will this bring a halt to internet/facebook bonsai groups?  I think probably not. Love them or hate them, the numbers of members attached to groups and the frequency with which they spring up indicate that they do provide something for large numbers of people.  But “successful” in terms of simple numbers does not mean that they are good.

I started this article as a thought chain in my own head about what function the British Shohin Bonsai’s website and more specifically its facebook group should fulfil. For us to retain any sort of integrity as an organisation we need to be doing something more than just existing as a group who post pretty pictures on facebook or a website. We are, after all, the resurrection of the British Shohin Association and our aim remains the same: to raise the bar of shohin in the UK.  While online posts can help inasmuch as it helps raise awareness of the existence of shohin, I personally would like to see more from a bonsai group. To return to Tony’s comment about not learning from a facebook or other online bonsai group:  I don’t entirely agree with that, but neither do I entirely disagree.  I have learnt what (few) practical skills I have from a handful of excellent teachers, of that there is no doubt.  And I’d hope that whatever guise the BSB adopts in the near future, it retains a hands-on approach the way its predecessor did in a way which further boosts the quality of UK shohin. I would want our facebook and website presence to be the support mechanism for that and that may very well mean restricting who can join the group and who can access the knowledge bank on the website to those who are willing to give as well as to take.

But for every good “real time” teacher I’ve had, I have also encountered a whole raft more people and places who have given me inspiration, and many of those have been through virtual sources. Without inspiration, many of us would not be doing bonsai. And while it can come at you from various directions – attending shows, visiting artists’ gardens, etc. – it is in providing inspiration that internet groups do have a role to play. Some undoubtedly achieve this far more than others.  I’d certainly want BSB’s one to be way up there in the inspirational stakes as well as the skills and knowledge provision.