The Kaikou School of Bonsai

The Kaikou School of Bonsai focuses on the elevation of both bonsai study and practice. All facets of bonsai horticulture and artistic creation will be explored. The goal of the Kaikou School is to guide each student through two years of bonsai development and refinement. From soil science through composing a crafted piece of art you will learn how to grow and refine your trees as well as evolve as a student of Bonsai.

Unlike beginner classes, Kaikou classes focus entirely on a specific task or concept essential to creating beautiful and healthy Bonsai. Repotting, pruning, wiring, and design will all be covered over the first year of classes. Each class will be taught from the ground up so that students leave with the skills to transform their trees as well as the knowledge to understand their artistic and horticultural choices for every step of a composition.

The Kaikou School of Bonsai classes are taught on site at New England Bonsai Gardens by World Renown Bonsai Expert John Romano and New England Bonsai Gardens grower and educator Joel Mullen.

Seats for The Kaikou School of Bonsai are extremely limited and there’s currently a wait list to get into the program. For specific Questions about enrollment, schedule or curriculum, please contact us at learn@kaikoubonsai.com

TYPICAL YEAR 1 SYLLABUS

Class 1 (Spring):

Repotting. The backbone to a healthy and refined tree is your soil. What soil to use, why to use that soil, and why not to use other soil. Finding the front of your tree and then matching that tree to the correct pot are often overlooked skills, even by veteran bonsai enthusiasts. All of this is covered extensively.

Class 2 (Late Spring/Early Summer):

Styling. What am I trying to achieve and what are the steps I’ll need to take to get it there. This is where we conceptualize our tree and begin the work to achieve it.

Class 3 (Summer):

Wiring. There’s only one way to get better at wiring. It is a skill that we use to set the branches for a future masterpieces. But, it can just as easily lead to an ugly or dead tree when applied incorrectly. Even professionals need to sharpen this skill routinely. We focus on this skill for the entire class.

Class 4 (Fall):

Preparing for winter. In fall our trees have the strength from a full growing season and they begin to slow down and prepare for dormancy. As bonsai practitioners we will take full advantage of this season to do much of the straining work that is required for our trees. Pruning, heavy bends, and big cuts are all on the schedule for this class. We will also cover proper winter storage. The need for winter dormancy and the best ways to keep your trees happy in our New England climate.

2021 CLASS SCHEDULE (Dates are subject to change)

Larch Class

Class #1 – April 10th
Class #2 – June 6th
Class #3 – Aug 1st
Class #4 – Oct 2nd

Buna Class

Class #1 – April 18th
Class #2 – June 26th
Class #3 – Aug 8th
Class #4 – Oct 16th

TYPICAL YEAR 2 SYLLABUS

Class 1:

In year two we begin to utilize the skills we’ve established from our first year of intensive training. Students will begin a project that they will then nurture and refine for the duration of the school. Root over rock. air layer, forests planting, planting on rock or slab, grafting, or anything else that a student wants to expand on are encouraged projects for this class.

Class 2:

Refinement and a field trip. Students focus on refining their trees during this class. Routine pruning, developing shorter internodes, reducing leaf size and all of the other maintenance that is required to bring your tree from the bench to the display table. We also take a field trip during this class. Whether it is a bonsai practitioner’s garden or workspace, an inspiring natural location, or a botanical institution we will try to achieve a different perspective than our typical classroom offers.

Class 3:

Preparing a tree for display — exploring the art of display. Many bonsai practitioners view this aspect of bonsai as the time when a bonsai is at the pinnacle of it’s artistic capability. We discuss the plans to achieve this goal and begin the work to attain it in the future.

Class 4:

Graduation! An eclectic celebration of the work completed as well as an introduction of ways to continue your bonsai journey. A bonsai tree is never completed and neither is the work and knowledge it takes to create these inspiring pieces of art. We often share our celebration with the meeting of the Kaikou Bonsai Study group — a club started by Kaikou grads. Students are encouraged to join the club and continue their quest for bonsai knowledge. Club members organize a raffle of trees, pots, and other bonsai related material. This is an excellent occasion to get world class material for a seldom seen price. Whether you continue on with the club or continue your journey in another avenue you are always welcome and encouraged to stay in contact with your Kaikou teacher and fellow students who have helped you build a richer understanding of the true art of bonsai.

2021 CLASS SCHEDULE (Dates are subject to change)

Fuji Class

Class #1 – March 6th
Class #2 – May 29th
Class #3 – Aug 14th
Class #4 – Dec 4th (Graduation)

Boke Class

Class #1 – March 13th
Class #2 – May 29th
Class #3 – Aug 21st
Class #4 – Dec 4th (Graduation)

What's Expected of Kaikou Students

  • The Kaikou School of Bonsai aims to elevate each level of student taking the course. A basic understanding of bonsai, or at least some experience in horticultural practice, is expected.
  • A commitment to the full 2 years of classes. If you miss a class, there is often a makeup available or homework to complete (one missed class is allowed to complete graduation)
  • An open mind. A higher level of understanding the art of bonsai can only be attained if we work from the ground up. Whatever your current understanding of bonsai practices are you need to be able to let go and be open to picking up new ones. With that said, Kaikou is a space for learning and growing. Students and teacher must learn from one another and you will be encouraged to share your thoughts and beliefs on everything that has brought you this far in your bonsai journey.

What Students Can Expect of The Kaikou School

Kaikou is a Japanese word that literally means ‘unexpected encounter’ or ‘crossing paths’. In this case we will have our eyes open to the beauty of bonsai as an art and horticulture form. This is the ‘encounter of wonderment’ with bonsai and each other.

Mr. Romano and Mr. Mullen will give you their full attention within the group setting and help you develop skills and knowledge. Each class is a full day of intensive work, both mentally and physically. The topic of each class will be taught extensively and then the application of those skills will be applied to your trees.

Besides the in-class teaching, you will receive handouts to study, view videos, and given other resources to help grow your bonsai knowledge.

In select classes special techniques will be demonstrated (air layering, grafting, starting at root over rock, etc.). Also select classes will focus on one particular variety of tree.

In each class the goal will be to hone a specific basic skill of bonsai to elevate the student and prepare them for more technical and more horticultural sound work.

Soil and aluminum wire are included in the class when needed. Tools are available, but we encourage you to start your own basic tool kit. We can help you choose the proper tools to use. Proper care of your tools will be discussed in class and is beneficial to maintaining healthy trees.

We recommend working on your own trees, so you can observe the progress over the course of the program. New England Bonsai Gardens has a large selection and can help you choose material to purchase if need be. We encourage you to bring trees that you have already started in your own collection as well as being open to purchasing new trees that have not been worked on. Whether the material is from a bonsai nursery, a big box store, or collected from nature we will go over what to look for in undeveloped plant material.

The Teachers

John Romano

Lead Teacher

John has been published in various bonsai publications such as Bonsai Today, international Bonsai, ABS Bonsai, and BCI Bonsai Magazine. He currently writes a regular column for International Bonsai Magazine on shohin bonsai called ‘A Little Magic with Shohin Bonsai’.

Joel Mullen

Teacher

Joel has been practicing the Art of Bonsai for over 10 years. He has trained with numerous artists throughout New England and the United States. Joel currently teaches bonsai classes at Tower Hill Botanic Garden and has lectured for other horticultural institutions all over New England.

Artists Who Have Taught and Visited

Nick Lenz
Colin Lewis

WHAT STUDENTS SAY

“The Kaikou school was a great learning experience. I gained the confidence to work on my own trees and start them on the journey to become bonsai. John is very knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated to helping his students succeed.”

Sandra Dumais

2016 Kaikou School Graduate