No, I didn't go to Belgium. I did, however, go to Brussel's Bonsai in Olive Branch, MS, to videotape an event known as Rendevous, in which bonsai experts and enthusiasts alike gather to share their knowledge of bonsai. The video will air on GGTV soon.
Brussel Martin, the guy who runs the place, is an extremely talented bonsai artist, and he's been at it for nearly 40 years. His state-of-the-art facility is as fascinating as it is vast, and his private collection can only be described as, well, jaw-dropping. Brussel is also a humble and generous man, and the fact that he assembled some of the greatest bonsai artists in the world for the event is a testament to the respect he commands within the world of bonsai.
I was too busy taping to actually attend any of the seminars, but I did get a chance to see Dana Quattlebaum, a super talented bonsai artist who's worked for Brussel for 13 years, demonstrate a branch graft on a trident maple that I'd never seen before. I'm going to try it on one my babies later today.
I also had a chance to visit with a number of fans, including Fred Morales of Mobile, AL. Fred was kind enough to give me a rare and unusual boxwood just as I was leaving town, and for that I'm truly grateful. Thanks, Fred! I'll remember you every time I look at that Buxus beauty.
Naturally, I couldn't leave the event without grabbing a few bonsai to add to my collection, and ultimately I decided on three specimens that really spoke to me. The one that moved me most was a two-trunk pond cypress (Taxodium ascension) that stood nearly five-feet tall. I took one look at it and knew I had to have it. Another one that caught my eye was an 18-inch-tall Japanese maple (Acer palmatum 'Sharps Pygmy'). And finally, there was a monster Metasequoia or dawn redwood that blew me away. The trunk was six-inches across! Brussel started the plant as a tiny seedling nearly 30 years ago.
The only problem was how to get my new babies home. Brussel estimated shipping costs at around $300, so I decided to cram them into my car. With help from his staff, we managed to squeeze them in. Then I hit the road, driving for nearly seven hours in torrential rains. When I finally got the plants unloaded, I was thrilled to discover that not one branch had been damaged.
I can't thank Brussel and his staff enough for their generosity. I had a tremendous visit, and next year I plan on attending Rendevous as a student. Thanks also to all the fans who had so many kind things to say about my show.
P.S. Sorry, but I'm having a heck of a time getting text to wrap around photos. Guess I need more practice.