Growing Bonsai at College of the Rockies

A new bonsai growing and care course is coming to the College of the Rockies.

  • Apr. 12, 2011 10:00 a.m.

An age-old tradition from Asia will be taught in a class at the College of the Rockies in Invermere when the  bonsai class for beginners starts on April 27. For three Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., students will be able to learn how to look after and grow their own bonsai tree at the Community Greenhouse.

According to information provided by Fred Elford, who will be the instructor for the class, the name says beginners, and that means anyone, even if you don’t have a green thumb.  Elford starting working with bonsai about eight years ago. Since retiring, he has had the chance to work with many different trees.

The course will give students all of the information needed to start growing their own tree.

“Almost everyone who has ever seen a bonsai tree has liked what they saw, whatever kind of tree it was and whether it was indoors or out. Most people think it is very difficult to do, but that’s not true unless you want to have something you can show at a bonsai exhibition. Anyone can grow a bonsai tree. Or at least almost anyone. All you require is a bit of patience and a bit of persistence. Patience to allow a tree to grow into shape and persistence to look after it.  It helps, though it’s not required, if you have a bit of an artistic bent as well,” Elford said. “The trees teach me several things – about seeing the beauty of living things, about learning to be able to see what is possible, and about having the patience to work with both that vision and the changes that occur as life goes on.”

Each student in the class will have a tree to work with during the course. They will be able to select their own tree from a group that will be made available.

“You will mix your own soil from the materials we will provide. There will be bonsai pots available for use. As we move through the course, you will get to know the tree well. You will find the most pleasing shape and which will be the front side from which you will view the tree. You will shape the tree to the form you see, learning all the aspects required to make it look great. And, you will learn how to treat it and look after it through the summer into the fall and through into dormancy and winter,” he said

One of the interesting growing facts about the tree according to the instructor is that it is something that can be consistently worked on.

“Creating bonsai can have its anxious moments as you consider what needs to be done, but in the end there is a wonderful sense of satisfaction at having created something that will live a long time and grow more beautiful,” Elford said. “Bonsai are never complete. They grow and change and, as they do, you are offered many new views and many new things you may do. Bonsai is both an art and a craft and satisfying to anyone who wants to create in nature.”

The class size will be limited to a maximum of 12 participants and anyone interested in encouraged to contact the college at 250-342-3210.

“Many people are curious about bonsai but don’t know what it is or how it works. Almost everyone who sees a bonsai tree is struck by wonder and enjoyment, yet very few have either seen a bonsai tree up close or worked with one. I hope people come to the class because they want to add this experience to their lives. It would be wonderful if someone from the class decided to pursue bonsai as either a hobby or a living.” Elford said.