Customer from the past cheers old artist up.

Meare rd

Received this  most cheering email this week from  Nichaolas Earley a voice from the past when I was first selling my work in my first studio up forty odd steps of the stairs at Crispin Hall in Street

I came across this lovely watercolour of yours during a recent house move and wondered if you remember it ?
The painting has been in storage for the past 34 years and sadly has never been framed. It has suffered a little in storage but the colours still appear bright and vibrant.
I purchased it in September 1984 with part of my Student grant for the princely sum of £32.00. 
Your workshop at the time was on the top floor of Crispin Hall in Street and I seem to recall that you had not long been there at the time of my purchase.  In later years I always made a point of looking in to see what you had been painting  when visiting Street , followed by  coffee and a big slab of cake in the cafe .”
And just to remind me of what princly sums my work went for then Nicholas also sent a copyMeare rd receipt.jpg No Address of his receipt for the deposit. To be fair it is a very minimal sketch unlike my later highly detailed work but obviously Nicholas has an eye for quality and and I am greatly flattered to think that he chose to spend his student grant on a work of art rather than drink it away in some Student’s Union bar or other hostelry.  
This is such an early one that though the picture is signed Cooper I still signed the receipt Yates. Yates being my actual name, when I first illustrated and wrote childrens books there was already a Michael Yates in the busines so I chose to work under the name of Cooper, my grandmothers maiden name.
I well remember doing this picture which is taken beside the road to Meare just on the edge of Glastonbury and also remember that one day I was showing some keen would be waterolourists that one does not have to go far to find a subject and that at that spot I could look in three different directions and see a possible picture.
Nicholas has since emailed again to assure me that the picture may now be framed at long last to remind him of his days as a student and cycling round Somerset
“Visiting your studio from time to time was a rare treat for me . I’d often cycle out from South Petherton to Glastonbury to sketch the Abbey and stop in at Crispin Hall on the way back . If I was lucky I’d also find an interesting book or CD downstairs . Your work was very inspirational and I often used watercolour in my Architectural presentations to good effect  .I have made a promise to myself to finally get your painting framed and hung so that I can finally enjoy seeing it after all these years.”
Thank you Nicholas for cheering up an aging artist, an old artist who can recall a painting done 34 years ago but has trouble remembering a shopping list of three items for more than ten  minutes.
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Larch group on the cheap

At the begining of 2016 I invested a few pounds in a bundle of bare rooted Larches of various sizes purchased on the internet from a company that is kind enough to consider very small quantities –Beechwood Nurseries in Co Down N.Ireland. Just what a penny pinching pensioner was pleased to discover.


Three of these little specimens, which cost me £1.34, were desitined to be a group planting and in April 2016 were set aside and most unimaginativley planted, looking as if they may well be pretty boring as little thought was obviously used in this arrangement.



Fortunatly I gave them some further thought when I next planted them in a rather  nice rectangluar pot that I had acquired from a fellow bonsai club member.



After the first initial wiring they soon sprung slightly upward again when it was removed ( July 2017 above left) .
A further much more extensive wiring job was under taken in March 2018 (Right). The small rocks are Blue Lias which is actually found in our garden where for years in the past it was open cast quarried for building the local Somerset cottages and walls.

This grouping had now taken into account  the perspective enhancing guide lines of placing the larger tree to the front. They were planted in Tesco Finest Lightweight Cat Litter with a little pine bark added, I now also mix in  some of the Pink Sophisicat litter from Pets at Home as it has larger granules which are the same basic molar clay.


The wire has been taken off this week in time to prevent any marking of the tree and the branches are springing up a bit already but I think that after further  rewiring later on it now has the making of an attractive group of trees. Not bad for £1.34.

The group was not the only project to emerge from the Irish purchases as I  am also training a twin planting in a home made concrete slab and a single tree from the rest of the Larches. 


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Phase 5 -Juniper Bonsai potted at last

Work in progress 5It was  August 2017 when I last posted news of my Juniper’s progress and now we have reached Phase 5 at last, when my dear Sue could say good bye to the 22inch large black pot outside our window.

It all started back in February last year when I discovered this treasure hidden in the back corner of an old nursery where it had been lying neglected for some time.




I had soon  put it in a slightly smaller pot leaving much of the peat like compost around the firerous roots alone and using Tesco’s finest Low Dust Cat Litter with some added Pine Bark to settle it down for some while aided by some regular low nitrogen fertiliser.

(OK so no one spotted this month’s deliberate error or was it possibly another senior moment spotted on reading through- it was of course HIGH nitrogen fertiliser)

Assisted by Adrian Taylor from the Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club over the next few months drastic surgery reduced it, Jinns were created and heavy wire was used to move some annoyingly straight branches.




Bonsai workers

As you can see the pot really was a bit of an eye sore so it was with great anticipation that we set about re-potting it this month. Unable to do much myself at the moment other than the important task of holding the camera to record this saga we continued after first fortifying ourselves with lunch round  the corner at The Ashcott Inn.

davWe tipped the old pot over and eased the tree out and wondered what we might find hidden in the peat surrounded the roots.dav


Adrian  scrabbled away with a root hook and exposed the peat layer with some heafty great roots in it. Fortunatly there was very little fiberous growth on these large roots which were upto ¾” in diameter which we used a big branch cutter on .




After all this heavy manual labour Sue was very welcome when she came out with  the tea  to see how we were getting on.sdr
I had acquired the pot some months ago and was so pleased that it was large enough to take the tree. Firstly we lay down a layer of the large grain cat litter, Sophisticat from Pets at Home, it is the same as Tesco’s molar clay but with bigger granules then finished of with the smaller one both having some Pine Bark mixed in and some Kaizen No 2

Pot 17 inches long. Tree 17″ high from soil. 27″ across



Guy downOne of the last tasks was to lower the foliage pads on the left using wire guys which were sheathed to prevent damage to the branch. One can see the back budding starting in the foreground of the photo.

This whole progress has been made possible by the great help and advice given by Adrian to sdrreach this stage, thank you Ade and to Sue for her  tollerance of that blooming great black pot outside.

Now after all this time I am feeling really rather pleased with myself though I don’t expect to find such discoveries at every old nursery one visits.

Junipert May best

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R.I.P. Ken Dodd one of my old customers

Sadly passed away on the 11th March one of our great comedians who worked in the tradition of the music halls.  Aged 90 he performed from 1954 until 2017. 

Doddy blurb

Ken Dodd gave me one of his cards and I sold him one of my prints.

Doddy visited my studio in Clarks Village twice when he was in Somerset . Once when he performed at Strode Theatre and then he came back again when he was at Weston Super Mare as he had decided to buy the Land Rover print he saw on is first visit. Evidently he had a Landy many years earlier. I hope my print gave him as much value as his performance at Strode gave us.

 And yes Ken I did loose some of the weight you told me to. 

We had seats at Strode Theatre in Street in the front row, with Sue and the two boys, as they were then, Julian and Ben and the show went on for ever it seemed. For hours he just battered us with non stop jokes, his energy was just enormous, he joked of his battles with the Tax man and towards the end pointed out that all over Somerset there were baby sitters wondering where parents had got to and that when we eventually would get home we would not need a super, we would need a breakfast. 




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Last Snows of Winter 2018


Snowy seat

At the end of February I had started re-potting some of my trees not knowing that winter still had some surprises in store for us even here in Somerset. I think it was on the 1st or 2nd of March that we had the first lot. Not a dramatic amount but fine, dry drifting snow so we had to close the Somerset Crafts gallery at The Avalon Marshes Centre out on the Levels . 


I had managed as I said to re-pot a few trees before then, my little Lonicera Pileata whichlonicera I got from Kaizen in 2014. The nice little Mulbury that,Sue my Wife gave me last year that came from All thing Bonsai near Shefieldmulberry and the small Larch that I bought at Danlitle larchBartons Bonsai day in 2016.







Also the group of three Larches that I bought as bare rooted stock from Ireland  in 2016, which I think these larch groupthree cost me all of £1.34 or thereabouts. (they had thrown the two little runts in as freebies) The pot however was a different matter,  that I had puchased off a fellow Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club member and I had been waiting some time to use it to best advantage.





My little root over rock Cotoneaster had to be done as well hence the string round the rock cotoneasteruntill it setles in again and there was also my Rowan which came from a garden seedling
way back in 1987.


As you can imagine then with all this spring activity and such welcoming signs  as the blossom on this Cherry Incisa I really thought winter was over.

cherry blosom

Then blow me this last wekend the 17th/18th it all came back again, wet, sloshy stuff that obviously wasn’t going to last long but tiresome when I wanted to get on with tasks outside.





I‘m just hoping now that that is it and spring at last will do it’s work and open up those buds and awaken all my trees again. Looking forward to re-potting my Yamadori Juniper (above) as my dear Sue is getting very fed up with that great 20″ black pot outside the window.



The Larch group of three I took along to Bonsai Club the other night and it came Second equal in the Tree of the Month Competition in the Advanced Class. The judges critique noted that they were very immature and would need some years tocome to anything but did compliment the pot and as Ade our judge’s atitude to ill chosen pots is  what Judge Jefferies was to the Monmought rebels I took that as a great success.


Mind you, the number of entries at our club that night it wasn’t hard to get a place

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R.I.P. Marcus a real Somerset Character

What seem like long ago at the begining of this century I spent quite a time at a cider orchard in Lower Edgarley at the foot of Glastonbury Tor where I had the honour of meeting one of

HDW forBook

Glastonbury’s great characters Marcus Govier. Today I have sadly heard that Marcus has passed away at the age of 88.
My condolences to Mrs Govier and is family at this sad time
What I had been looking for one day back then was a Little Grey Fergie to photograph for a painting and as one passed me in Cinnamon Lane when I was walking Gemma our rescue Greyhound I folowed it along round the corner to a yard and orchard that I later learnt was Marcus Govier’s.
After a chat under the apple trees I asked if I might take some photos but his tractor at that moment

Lazy days

was in brilliant sunshine even though it was among the trees and I would have prefered it in dappled shadows.
“Well do you want me to move it or shall we sit ‘ere and wait for the sun to come round?” Marcus asked.
Obviously with him sitting there in his chair under the trees with his cider, tobacco and newspaper there was no point in rushing the job.

That year I went on to do more than twenty paintings recording Marcus’ way of life. Marcus as he held court in his shed with his friends resulted in probably ,nay certainly, the only painting in the world that depicts a fly paper and a Safeways carrier bag in it.
Marcus cutting spuds to make food for his calves and beside his Michelmas Cider or

Cutting taters

mending his barrels they were all part of the daily scene which I recorded.

Michaelmas Barrels

Mending BarrelsFB

A further study of his Grey Fergie and his big old Nuffield among the hay bales in the barn followed.The dog by the way was called Dyson as according to Marcus he cleaned up everything .
Marcus’ Tractors
The Little Grey FergieLittle Grey Fergie.SMALLjpg

Marcus Barn
His Big Nuffield

And the David Brown /Case seen here at the entrance to the yard with Marcus’ nephew Peter and Glastonbury Tor in the background with a Buzzard wheeling overhead.

I also painted the famous Somerset cider apples Yarlington Mill and Kingston Black that contributed towards his potent brew.


To cap it all when I had done most of the paintings Marcus said. “When you first said you wanted to paint the tractor I didn’t know you were an artist chap, I thought you wanted to give a coat of paint.”
My visits also resulted in what has been my favourite painting for years ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ a study of a young Jersey, one of two Marcus had acquired called East and Egg as they were born on Easter Sunday.

For that painting and all the others and for the pleasure of listening to your stories, thank you Marcus it was a part of my life I will never forget.

Since writing this I have been very touched as I have been asked by the family to read a tribute to Marcus at his funeral in St John’s Church Glastonbury. I believe that a family group photo would now consist of more than one hundred people so I just hope I don’t say anything to upset anyone.

P. S.
23rd March St John’s Church Glastonbury was packed for Marcus’ funeral where at the request of the family I gave a brief tribute of anecdotes about the time I spent at Lower Edgarley recording Marcus’ life in paintings.

In May 2002 the Western Daily Press Country Life Saturday supplement did a four page feature on Marcus and the paintings that I had done.
Farmers Weekly also pubished an article entitled The Art of Cider Production with some of my recolections of meeting one of or great local characters.The text of which may be accessed via this link FW Cider article

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Blue Leaf Bonsai Acer Fraud


I know it seems odd to anyone who has grown bonsai for any length of time but outside that circle there are people who log on to Ebay and come across this interesting specimen the 

Blue Japanese Maple Bonsai Acer Seeds Rare Unusual Stunning Garden Plant

the seeds of which can be purchased for £2.49 and it seems that over 800 packs of them have been sold.


Nor does this one the Pink Version

coloured acer

As you can see both photos are of the same tree recoloured by a Photoshop or similar graphics programme. The actual tree belonged to reputable bonsai enthusiast Ken Norman who said that it never even produced seeds.

It really annoys me that these packs are probably bought by newcomers to bonsai and quite possibly for children to get them interested and though the cost may be modest the sum involved is now getting larger as the vendor has added various other weirdly coloured plants and trees to their online shop. Complaints have I am told been made to Ebay but nothing has happened.

Other vendors are on the other side of the world, China ,Hong Kong etc and little can be done but this one in particular according to their Ebay  is based in the Bristol area.

So to draw attention to what I can only call a fraud I have written to Trading Standards in Bristol  a letter that can be viewed by this link        Bonsai Fraud

If they take any notice I will let you know.

It would be nice if the pathway that is Bonsai was a straight path not a crooked one.

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Juniper Phase 4

Juniper March

To think that I only acquired this Juniper in February and above  is what it looked like in March after the first  drastic cut and now it looks like this.
So it must be Phase 4 by now surely?

Juniper August 2017

Through the summer it had put on some really healthy growth which was a relief after the chopping regime had finished. Back in June it was possible to see the direction I was striving for but there were still a number of glaring errors in my technique and or the overall  character and composition of the tree.

Juniper June 2017Faultys

The foliage I thinned out quite a bit but I had in error made it into wide flat fans of one layer mainly through ignorance of what was needed.

Work in Progress 27julyAdrian, my bonsai mentor from our club , came over this week and we sorted some of these things out, the foliage fans were narrowed by closing half the fan shape over the other half making two layers. We also tightened in the  tertiary branches reducing their length a bit and making the foliage now more like pads than wide flat fansLayers not fan



We then set about those larger faults.The topmost area really worried me as whatever I tried did not look good. Adrian pointed out a direction that though not looking good now would probably with reasonable growth create a better crown in the future for the tree.


The dominant angle of the tree diagonally down from left to right in the ERROR picture and the visual error of having the trunk and the other very heavy branch both following the general direction in parallel was corrected by pulling down the left hand branch with a guy wire, resulting in a more pleasing inverted V shape .
Many thanks again to Adrian from the Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club for all his help and guidance with this project.

Quick Larch update

These larches have been subject to a lot of wind this summer and have had to be guyed up to get them more firmly established. Still for £1.33 each in Jan 2016  I think they put on a good show . I know they are young and slender but at my age groups do give one some satisfaction in a shortish time. I wonder a bit about the trunk diameter height ratio with such tree because if you see forest Larches they are pretty slender in the wild.









Once again these notes are mainly for my own record but I will be pleased to know if others like to hear of my progress as a penny pinching pensioner bonsai enthusiast.  And don’t forget if you are starting out down the bonsai path the best way to reach ones goals is to join your local club.

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Atlas Blue Cedars, Starter’s Progress


             Two Atlas Blue Cedars Purchased Jan 2017 from Kaizen

Last Christmas my two sons Ben and Julian gave me gift vouchers for Kaizen Bonsai, many thanks fellas.

I spent the following week studying their website and wondering what to buy myself and eventually settled on a small Trident Maple, which whilst not looking much now had some potential. I went to buy it and just as my cursor made it’s way to the Add to Cart button- it disappeared from sight – some rotten swine had bought it in front of me.  XXY!! 

The next  few days I kept careful watch on  the site watching for new additions to the selection and after a while five little Atlas Blue Cedars appeared. Not having come across before in the bonsai world myself I nipped over to Google had a  quick search and soon found that they were considered very desirable and quite hard to find.

So I rushed back to the Kaizen site and purchased two of them which are shown above. It was just as well I did for within an hour or so the remaining three had gone as well.

The Atlas Blue Cedar Cedrus Atlantica Glauca is a true cedar that grows in the humid zones of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains’

The first thing I did was to re pot them into slightly larger training pots in some of Kaizens No 2 Compost mix. I normally use Tesco’s  finest dust free cat litter with some added pine bark but I thought as I was getting something from Kaizen that I would add this to the order and try it and I must admit it looks pretty good  and the trees seem to like it.

In my research I had discovered George Omi’s website in California where he specialises in these trees and went of to find his You Tube videos on wiring Blue A.C. this video is one of a number of his which were very useful as there is little else on this speciesAtlas blue 3
He demonstrates wiring a very young one by placing  a sturdy wire alongside the trunk and then binding the tree to it with twine prior to bending to the desired shape. Evidently this is better than coiled wire for these trees as it is less likely to mark the bark.

By June both trees were were beginning to look a lot better, their structure having  been thinned out quite a bit by now.

But the faults were glaringly obvious the top of  one was in dire need of control and as an artist the branch half way up the trunk of the upright really annoyed me and needed to Atlas Blue 10be raised above that exact halfway mark . That  has since been done and the  straightness of that branch has also been  dealt with as the photo looking down from above shows.


Atlas Blue 11


The top looks a little heavy
due to the thick wire bound onto the tree.

On the other tree the original bound wire had served it’s purpose and has been replaced for a shorter time with a coiled wire which I must keep an eye on.Blue atlas wired 1

A long way to go yet but within this short time I can see why anyone who has an Atlas Blue Cedar can get pretty enthusiastic about them and  want more of them. 

Useful Reference sites
George Omi       Evergreengardenworks                     Kuromatsu Bonsai 

As I have said before this blog is very much intended as my own record of my bonsai activities but should you find it interesting you can always let me know any thoughts or suggestions you may have. And if you are new to bonsai the best advice I can give is to join a Club where you can get some hands on assistance from the more experienced members, I know  it made an enormous difference to my knowledge, technique, confidence and to my trees. 


Now should I remove the cones to conserve strength or not?


Club Shoe Box Competition August 2017

Our President’s idea which has been done in other clubs this was my entry .


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Juniper Project Phase 3 Continued

Before on 25th

Now at the end of July the Juniper has put on a healthy burst of growth and is ready for thinning out a bit and wiring even more carefully .

Just Started work

Fresh supply of wire to hand and starting work on the lower branches first.

Work in Progress

Work in progress 3

After wiring the whole tree right out to the tertiary branches I decided it was time to take off some of the very heavy 6mm wire (should have done that first,I know.) that was used originally to make a major change to the direction of the trunk and a secondary branch. (March 17th this year)Work in progress 4.jpgmasked

The very topmost part of the trunk needed quite a heavy wire still to be redone but the rest seemed to have done the job OK.

Work in progress 5.jpg masked

Sue is being very patient about this great black nursery pot on a stand outside the window and I am getting impatient about seeing it in a more bonsai like pot albeit a pretty big training pot.

Bonsai workers

Adrian from Taunton & Somerset Bonsai Club help to get me on the right track with this project.

The present pot is about 56 cm wide by 35 cm deep, so it is a bit of an eyesore. Kaizen have just introduced a round nursery pot in either 50 or 60 cm diameter and Got Bonsai do a black rectangular one of 58cm width  so I will have to think about it.

Might even get it into a proper bonsai pot before my 80th birthday with luck DV.


Harry Harrington of Bonsai4me says that there is a window in August when one can repot Junipers when it is warm and humid but having done such a lot of drastic work on it this year one should really leave it now till next spring so as not to put too much strain on the tree.




THE JUNIPER PROJECT  The whole story so far from it’s discovery at the back of an old nursery can be seen at   The Juniper Story 



As I have said before this blog is very much intended as my own record of my bonsai activities but should you find it interesting you can always let me know any thoughts or suggestions you may have. And if you are new to bonsai the best advice I can give is to join a Club where you can get some hands on assistance from the more experienced members, I know  it made an enormous difference to my knowledge, technique, confidence and to my trees. 

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