Roy Nagatoshi workshop

Roy Nagatoshi working on a club members Japanese white pine

My uncle Pete knew John Naka and used to arrange for him to come to Virginia and conduct workshops for the Northern Virginia Bonsai Society members. In John’s later years he grew weary of travel and recommended one of his students to replace him. Pete gave him a call and Roy Nagatoshi has been holding workshops annually in Virginia since 1986. Pete and Roy became fast friends visiting each other’s homes several times. Pete told me “After seeing Roy’s incredible nursery, one wonders where does he find the time to travel? ”. On his current visit Roy held workshops in Baltimore, Fairfax and Richmond, all this following a 16-day trip to Africa. Roy told me that Africans grow the same classic trees used in traditional bonsai with the exception of growing more tropical varieties.

Uncle Pete working on his Shimpaku

Roy did not give a demonstration for the Fairfax workshop, rather he spent time offering advice and help to individuals working on their own trees. Pete, Ted and myself made a trip down to Todd and Bob’s bonsai nursery in Ruther Glen, Va. and we each selected an outstanding stock Shimpaku from a selection of nearly 100 pieces in various sizes. Bob told me  “People need to support local bonsai nurseries if they want to have great stock material to work with”.  These two men have done a terrific job of giving their trees a great start by pruning with an eye for potential bonsai. Pete and Ted each chose a very large pot grown Shimpaku about 30 years old. I chose a more modest size about 15 years old.

Ted working on his Shimpaku

At the workshop Roy and I discussed my trees strength, which branches to discard or jin and then chose a front. Then Roy told me to strip all the dull looking growth leaving only the healthy growth on the branch tips. He would stop by occasionally as he made his rounds and offer words of encouragement. After about three hours of pinching and pruning I was ready to begin wiring. Never having wired a complete tree before I asked Roy for a little advice. He told me to always wire two branches together for support, showed me how to measure the amount of wire needed and to choose the appropriate thickness of wire for each branch. Then he moved on to the next club member. After seeing how little time he spent with me and so much time with others I became a little confused. Then I began to realize that he had confidence that I was doing a good job. Later he hollered over to my uncle “Pete, Greg used the wrong size wire on this branch” and then turned to me and winked, saying “ Well I had to find something wrong”.  After about three hours I had completely wired my tree. Roy came over and began bending branches and forming clouds of foliage. After he finished styling the tree he complimented me on my work and left me feeling a great sense of accomplishment.

My Shimpaku before

My Shimpaku after

Still a lot of work to do, but I am going to let the tree settle into it’s pot before I place the branches and begin jins.

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