ABS Learning Seminars

Learning Seminars

Welcome to the enriching realm of the American Bonsai Society Learning Seminars! Immerse yourself in a series of captivating sessions led by distinguished experts, each a maestro in their own right within the intricate tapestry of bonsai lore. Our lectures are curated to provide a deep dive into the history, philosophy, and evolving trends of bonsai, offering attendees a comprehensive understanding of the art’s roots and its contemporary expressions.


Engage with thought-provoking discussions that explore the nuanced interplay between cultural traditions and modern interpretations of bonsai. From the ancient origins in East Asia to the evolving styles embraced across the globe, our lectures serve as a bridge connecting the past, present, and future of this venerable art form. Join us in this intellectual journey where knowledge blossoms, and the spirit of bonsai is illuminated through the wisdom shared by our esteemed lecturers.

Horticultural & Techniques Track

Disease & Pest Management

Scott Zomerli, presenter


Maintaining a strong and healthy collection of bonsai is a requirement in order for us to undertake the styling and maintenance tasks that will lead to the improvement of our collection.  Managing the pests and diseases that variably weaken our trees is, therefore, a challenge for all of us to overcome.  In this seminar, Scott will share his knowledge and best practices for preventing pests and diseases from becoming established in our gardens and how to treat them once they have.


Basic Wiring

Karen Karkaway, presenter


Wiring is to bonsai as a brush is to a painter.  It is one of the fundamental skills of bonsai that can transform a garden center bush into a work of art.  In this seminar, Karen will teach the basic wiring techniques as well as how to choose the right type and size of wire.

Species Specific - Pines: Single Flush vs Multi Flush & Candle Pruning

Robert Hoffman, presenter


Seasonal care for single-flush and double-flush pines is quite different and performing the wrong technique on the wrong type of pine can weaken your tree or worse.  In this discussion, we will take a deep dive into the care and maintenance of these two broad categories of pines. Learn when to prune, pinch, and strategies on how and when to decandle. 

Tool Sharpening

Tim Priest, presenter


Bonsai tools are expensive and we use them regularly while working on our expensive trees!  We want our tools to be sharp, tight, and in top condition to make clean cuts on our bonsai. In this seminar, Tim will teach us how to produce a clean, sharp edge on both curved and straight blades and how to maintain our collection of tools.

Deep Roots of Bonsai Horticulture

Dr. Ross Clark, presenter


Most of us learned how to do bonsai by a combination of guidance from friends, sensei and trial and error.  However, the ecology and physiology of bonsai subjects is an even deeper foundation of bonsai horticulture.  That level of knowledge which actually undergirds horticulture is invisible to many bonsai practitioners.  Adding that level of understanding can help us make better decisions and keep our bonsai healthier, especially as changing climate challenges our horticultural practices.  We will discuss these true fundamentals of bonsai horticulture, and how they relate to things like how to find the best bonsai subjects, and how best to work with them as we turn them into bonsai.

Winter Storage

Mark Fields, presenter


Winter storage of trees is foundational to ensuring they experience a dormant period, but are protected from the elements.  Mark will share his 55 years of experience overwintering bonsai trees.  He will share photos of his set up and explain how to store shohin trees in a 35-degree hut, detail use of fans and space heaters. Desiccation can be a major problem during winter, so proper watering techniques are crucial for maintaining a healthy collection.

Grafting & Air Layering

Eric Newton, presenter


Grafting is a useful bonsai skill that can be leveraged to enhance the design of a tree by adding branches and roots. Learn about thread grafting, approach grafting, and root grafting.


Air Layering is a technique that creates a new tree from an existing one and can be used to your advantage in getting a jump start on bonsai material. Learn the timing, methods, and differing approaches to air layering.

Tree Collecting (Yamadori)

Matt Spinniken, presenter


One of the most unique and exciting aspects to obtaining a bonsai, collecting (or, yamadori) involves extracting a naturally shaped tree from the wild with the intent of transforming it into a bonsai tree. Join Matt Spinniken as he shares collecting techniques and approaches based on his extensive experience.

How to Create Pads

Christopher Sambolín Pérez, presenter


Learn techniques for pad creation, branch placement and how to give your tree a fuller more natural look. Bring in your tree and get expert advice. Trees need have wire applied ahead of time!

Tropical Bonsai

Kurt Smith, presenter


Learn about the techniques and approaches to growing tropical bonsai and examples of the most desirable tropical trees for bonsai cultivation.

Design & Display Track

Moss: Techniques for Mossing, Collecting, Growing and Sustaining

Ted Bentley, presenter


Ted will share his experience on mossing bonsai trees.  He will discuss how to apply moss in a way that makes it appear more natural and how to create the desired effects for display.  Ted will explain his techniques for collecting moss and keeping it alive.

A 30-Year Evolution & Care: Old Rocky Mountain Juniper and Banyan Fig Bonsai Trees

Jimmy Whiteley, presenter


The long term evolution and care of two very different species of bonsai trees provides valuable lessons learned. Jimmy will share his 30 years of experience in caring for his 174 year old Rocky Mountain juniper and 75 year old Banyan Fig bonsai trees. He will share photos of the trees design evolution as well as share his care tips of each species.

Suiseki - Viewing Stone Appreciation

Chuck Barker, presenter


Chuck will discuss the art of natural stone appreciation and its relationship to the art of bonsai. He will share his extensive knowledge and experience in collecting and displaying viewing stones. Bring one of your stones to the seminar to be reviewed.

Classical Japanese Bonsai Display

Bill Valavanis, presenter


The principles of displaying bonsai and suiseki will be explained during a PowerPoint program. Aesthetics will be the major emphasis of this special seminar and other topics will be covered including seasons, holidays, exhibitions and spacing. Selecting the appropriate display tables and accessory plantings will discussed. Finally, bonsai will be used to illustrate the design and display aesthetics. No limit to the number of students.

Taking your Tree to the Next Level Round table

Jack Sustic, discussion leader


Bring a tree to the table and some paper to draw on. As a group we will analyze each tree and discuss the best trunk line, angle and shape, how to highlight best the features and how to avoid common mistakes.

Kusamono & Shitakusa (Accent Plants)

Eric & Victrina Ridgeway, presenters


The use of accent plants in formal bonsai display, or just interspersed among your benches, is a delightful practice that you can enjoy through the seasons and with their own important stories to tell. Be warned – it will turn you into an avid plant collector. We encourage you to bring one or two for show and tell!

Scroll Paintings - Choice & Display

Kristy Majeske, presenter


Why use a scroll to enhance our Bonsai display? What to look for, where and how to place them and what makes a great combination.

Photographing Bonsai Trees

Tim Priest, presenter


Learn the best techniques for taking stunning pictures of your bonsai using just some basic equipment. You may bring in a tree to photograph.

Round Table: Take Your Tree to the Next Level

Christopher Sambolín Pérez, presenter


Bring a tree to the table and some paper to draw on. As a group we will analyze each tree and discuss the best trunk line, angle and shape, and how to highlight best the features and avoid common mistakes.

Bonsai containers

Teresa Wooden, presenter


Join Teresa Wooden, owner of Stone Forest Pottery, on how to choose the best pot or container for bonsai. Choosing the right one is subjective but an important topic – Teresa will go over shape, color, proportion, function, and the harmony between the container and the tree.

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