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Applications OPEN for the 2018 Bonsai School at Lake Merritt 

The Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM) offers a four-year bonsai school taught by Garden Curator Kathy Shaner, Garden Master Gordon Deeg, guest instructors, and Assistant Curators.

The purpose of the bonsai school is to identify and instruct potential students to become Assistant Curators for the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt who will take an active part in the care and maintenance of the Bonsai Garden’s historic and legacy bonsai.


  1. Complete an application for the BGLM Bonsai School.
  2. Tuition of $250 for years one and two.
  3. Perform a minimum of 36 hours volunteer services in caring for and maintenance of the Bonsai Garden’s bonsai, years one through four.
  4. Attend 10 to 12 full or half day sessions of instruction at the BGLM workshop for years one and two.
  5. Student must be accepted as an apprentice by an Assistant Curator at the conclusion of their studies for years three and four.

Course of Instruction:

Year One, instruction covers

Overview: Course plan, instructors, school facility, tools, record keeping, history of bonsai.

Bonsai Underground – roots & fertilizers, water, soil; wiring trees into pot.

Bonsai Surface & Trunks – nebari, trunk type, top soil & coverings for root health, watering, moss.

Pests, Diseases & Leaf Pruning – Recognizing ailing tree and identifying the cause; identifying various pests; treating pests and diseases.

Light & Shoots – trimming leaves, buds, needles for tree health.

Styling & Display – good bonsai characteristics; display of bonsai in garden, tokonoma; exhibitions; accent plants, various bonsai styles – Straight trunk style (Chokkan), Slant trunk style (Shakan), Broom style (Hoki), Informal Upright style (Tachiki), Moyogi, Windswept style (Fukinagashi), Cascade style (Kengai), Semi-Cascade (Han-Kengai), Weeping Branch style (Shidare), Double Trunk style (Sokan), Group Planting (Yose-Ue), Clump style (Kabudachi), Raft style (Ikadabuki), Rock Clinging style (Ishizuke), Literati (Bunjin), Exposed Root (Neagari), Twisted Trunk (Nejikan).

Wiring – Aluminum vs. copper wire; when to wire, wiring techniques, bending branches, treating broken branches, faulty branches, apex; removing wires.

Pots – Selecting appropriate size, style, color, & glaze of pot; pot preparation, wiring tree into a pot.

Soils – Soil ingredients and functions, preparing soil mixtures; selecting soil for each tree and climate.

Transplanting – when to transplant various tree species, how to remove soil, how much soil to remove; soil amendments, care of newly re-potted trees

Branch Cutting & Bending – pruning techniques, Jin, Shari, and Sabamiki (carved out shari);- how, why & when to make them.

Grafting Techniques – timing and rationale.

Year Two, instruction covers:

Japanese Maples, Trident Maples,
Oaks and Elms,
Fruiting, Flowering and Azaleas,
Deciduous – non-fruiting, non- flowering,
Olives and Boxwoods
Redwoods, Cypresses (Hinoki, Sawara, Bald),
Junipers repotting / trimming (not on the same tree)
Flowering and Fruiting /repotting,
On-the-spot/what the students want. Perhaps more repotting? Their choice. This can cover any area.

Years Three and Four – instruction covers:

Working under supervision of Curator Kathy Shaner and Assistant Curators on the care and maintenance of the Bonsai Garden’s bonsai.

Minimum of 36 volunteer hours per year required by each student for working on the Bonsai Garden’s bonsai and assisting the class sessions during year one and two.

Completion of the four-year course of instruction required to become an Assistant Curator for the BGLM who works under the general supervision of the Curator Kathy Shaner. Certificate awarded upon completion of the four years program.

Applications for new students are now open.

Limit: 10 students.

Point of contact to request application: George Haas at 707-762-9154 or [email protected].