MBS Bonsai Classes

Bonsai refers to a potted plant but it is not just cultivating plants and trees in a pot. Bonsai is a highly refined form of art and represents the dynamic contemplation of nature. The artistic principles of design refer to the organization of a work of art or bonsai. Each principle interprets how an artist uses the visual elements, composition and design to express their feelings and ideas.

Bonsai requires scrupulous and constant care, and involves a careful consideration of the environment, soil, fertilization, appropriate trimming, the use of wires to control the shapes of the branches and trunks, Unlike static paintings or sculptures, bonsai is a living work of art, whose beauty derives from its representations constantly changing as do the seasons.

By studying these design principles and bonsai techniques, your own work will become more sophisticated as you will begin to apply this new knowledge to your own bonsai. MBS has classes at all level are available for MBS members.

Beginner Classes

Are you ready to begin or renew your journey into the art of Bonsai? Our Beginner Workshop was designed primarily for adults seeking to learn how to create and maintain their first bonsai. Beginner Class While it is a sometimes referred to as a workshop, it gives you everything you need to get started on your journey. Members of the Milwaukee Bonsai Society are on hand to help with the creation of your first Bonsai ‘masterpiece’! Usually held in Fall and sometimes in early Spring as well. For more information on the next half day class see the Beginner Workshop Flyer for date, costs and registration

Novice Classes

Additionally for beginners we offer Novice classes in the Spring of the year. This class consists of a lecture demonstration that lays an essential foundation for this exciting hobby. Novice Class 2014 Discussion topics include specific care of tropical and cold hardy trees, an introduction to soil and how to select good material for bonsai training. You will also have hands on experience with styling and proper technique of wiring your tree. You gain confidence in care of bonsai. Using Tom Zane's "Introduction to Bonsai" The text includes the history of bonsai, design styles, tools, pruning techniques, wiring procedures, styling considerations, pot selection, potting technique, after care of the newly created bonsai and much more.

The Novice Classes will help expand your knowledge of understanding of bonsai styles, practices and techniques and set the foundation on which your future bonsai experiences and lessons will build. Novice Class 2010 This series of five sessions is designed for both complete beginners who are new to bonsai and for veteran enthusiast wishing to explore the world of bonsai. We review a number of topics in each session and you will also work on a provided tree in the fourth session. During each class of the series, the instructor will discuss, analyze and provide step-by-step instructions for creating a masterwork on your own. Our class sizes are small and intimate and we welcome students of all levels. See the Novice Class Flyerfor details of each class, schedule, cost and registration.

Bonsai Basics Classes

Leveraging what is learned in Novice Classes, workshops, or other educational opportunities, and no matter what experience level you are in the wonderful world of bonsai, there’s always room to work on your basic skills. This series of four sessions is focused on basic techniques such as wiring, watering, pruning, fertilizing, and pest control. It includes a nursery crawl to select material suitable for bonsai. Students are encouraged to bring trees, tools and wire to each class. The class sizes are small and students with completion of the Novice class or like training at all levels are encouraged to participate and work on your basic skills. See the Bonsai Basics Class Flyerfor details of each class, schedule, cost and registration.

Intermediate Classes

The Intermediate Class is recommended for those members who find that they are committed to furthering their understanding and enjoyment of the art of Bonsai. It is designed to deepen the principles that you have learned in the Novice Class or Bonsai Basics by incorporating teaching methods such as lecture, discussion, demonstration, review, repetition, critique, and hands on work with your own trees. Many members find that they enroll in this class more than once. Intermediate Class Each of the five sessions will focus on one of the three important seasons of bonsai work: Spring repotting, Summer tree development, and Fall assessment and preparation for next year’s growth expectations. Each class will be specific to the season, and all will include an understanding of why we do certain things at this time, horticultural principles, and most importantly, DESIGN. Carving Class With this class you can be assured you will be ready for participation in any workshop with a guest artist. See the Intermediate Class Flyer for details of each class, schedule, costs and registration.

Advanced Classes

The class objective is the continuation of the opportunity for members of MBS to study under the guidance of a bonsai master to learn and apply bonsai design and horticultural principles to their bonsai. The Advance Class program is intended to foster each student’s advancement and to contribute to her/his future work as a bonsai leader in MBS.

Peter Lecture

You do not need to have advanced skills for this class. It is meant to take students with intermediate and above skill levels and improve upon them. A commitment to these classes must be made for three years with three classes a year. Currently the Advance Class is in its second year with Master Peter Tea. Watch this website and MBS Newsletters for opportunities for the next Advance Class.

advance class

All of instructors for Novice, Bonsai Basics, and Intermediate Classes have completed the Advance Class. Many continue their education not only committing to the additional advance classes but by participating in Study Groups, Advanced Workshops offered at national conventions and regionally. Pictured is the Advance Class Graduation in 2009. Next year we will have another Advanced Class graduation.

Jack Ron Tiger

MBS continues to bring in some of the best instructors and artist in bonsai. Learn advanced skills and techniques such as carving, bending branches, grafting, and treating deadwood. These are often associated with workshops so check out the upcoming workshops for other educational opportunities. Here you see Ron and Jack participating in workshops with Japanese artist Tigre Ushubita.

For more information on our location and meetings check out our FAQ.

Consider joining your best choice for bonsai fun, education, and community service, Join MBS , and let the fun begin.


I have been interested in growing plants for most of my life. Houston Long ago, I had quite a few cacti and succulent plants, and I still have a couple. But they grew very slowly and the only artistic value was that of the plant itself. Over 15 years ago, I became interested in bonsai. Bonsai has been several steps beyond just growing plants, since bonsai trees require more attention and more creative thought.

Houston Tree

My bonsai collection includes at least one hundred bonsai in pots, and many more small trees growing in plastic nursery pots or in the ground. My trees differ from those of almost everyone else because I tend to collect as many rare and unusual species as I can find, and because most of my trees have been grown from small seedlings or cuttings.

To me, bonsai is the process of growing trees (or other plants) in containers to achieve an artistic effect suggestive of a scene from nature.


Jack has been a bonsai enthusiast for over thirty years. Jack at Ginko Dig The former president of Bonsai Clubs International, he has served as a judge at bonsai exhibits and exhibited his own award winning bonsai at various shows. Jack’s bonsai appear in both the National Arboretum Collection of American Bonsai in Washington D.C. and the Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection in Tacoma, Washington. In 1987, he was named “One of America’s Outstanding Bonsai Artists” by the National Bonsai Foundation. His book, Bonsai: The Art of Living Sculpture approaches bonsai as art, exploring how the traditional fine arts apply to bonsai. He focuses on the specific design elements of the bonsai - the roots, trunk, branches, foliage, and container - and discusses how bonsai artists manipulate elements for a specific effect. Unlike traditional arts, bonsai requires working with material that is alive and ever changing, presenting unique challenges and rewards.


Jean has been an instructor for our intermediate class for the past few years. Her background is teaching and is also well known for her work with the Mahone Bonsai Club and Children’s workshops Jean Jean is one of our current Intermediate Instructors.

Jean Tree

I just retired from a long teaching career. I started just after college in Appleton, WI to fill in a semester, then down to Prairie View / Lincolnshire, IL to teach (about 4 1/2 years) until I got married. After a few years hiatus, Kris I began teaching again at Homestead HS in Mequon. I stayed there 21 years until I retired in June of 2011. So, teaching is in my blood. Every September I get the urge to head back to school.

Kris Tree

I love to travel. In college I studied in Germany and Spain. I’ve been many times to Ireland, Scotland, England - kind of like my homeland. Some of the most impressive places I have visited are the Alps (first time I ever skied was in the Alps), the Great Wall (I saw lots of bonsai in China, but could never stop to admire as I was on a tour) and Macchu Picchu in Peru.

Patience is a key to learning bonsai techniques. In the beginning, I was a card carrying member for a while, because I was afraid to make mistakes on my bonsai. I am a visual learner, so I attended many workshops / demos to pick up the art. But, if you don’t cut off a few wrong branches or forget to water each tree appropriately some will die. But, that’s how I learned. I am still a little reticent working on trees I’m not familiar with, but with guidance from visiting artists, I am no longer fearful of cutting, pruning, or re-potting.


I am interested in teaching because I have learned a new set of skills in the advanced classes and study groups. I see how much faster I could have progressed if I had known then what I know now. Michelle Peoples Award

I have been interested in bonsai and a member of MBS since 1990. I have taken workshops and/or private lessons from Mas Imazumi, Colin Lewis, Roy Nagatoshi, Jim Doyle, Gary Marchal, Rheiner Goebel, and many other artists. I have traveled extensively to conventions in the United States and internationally including Japan, China, Europe, Australia and Canada and have seen some of the world’s best bonsai and watched some of the world’s best artists at work.

Michelle Tree

My personal collection numbers over-30 trees in all stages of development. All are now in a cold greenhouse (no tropicals). I have won awards locally and at the Chicago Midwest Show, although I rarely compete. My personal interest is in hardy trees which are American natives, especially collected trees.

My strengths include excellent ability to “find the tree”, excellent fund of knowledge of rules of classical design and display, excellent teaching and verbal skills. My technical skills are solid and include wiring, pruning, foliage management, soil construction and transplanting, jin and shari creation and maintenance, and basic horticulture of hardy species.


I have been a bonsai artist in training for over twenty-five years. Recently I had the honor of having one of my personal trees selected and displayed at the 5th National Bonsai Exhibit. Pam I had the opportunity to work on the Bonsai Collection North under the direction and instruction of Kathy Shaner. I have also attended countless workshops all over the country learning hands on with many notables such as Roy Nagatoshi, Colin Lewis, Mas Isumi, Ernie Kuo and Ted Matson.

I have served as president of Milwaukee Bonsai Society twice. I also served as a director and Secretary of the American Bonsai Society as well as the ABS Webmaster. I have been instrumental in putting Milwaukee in the heart of the bonsai world. I proposed and chaired the first convention (1995) as well as co-chaired the second (2002), and was registrar of the third convention (2006) in Milwaukee.

Pam Tree

With over 60 trees in my collection in varying stages of development, I strive to make each tree a little better. I take this same approach with our club. Let’s make each event, each exhibit, each workshop or class participant’s experience and each other a little better.

I also share the vision of some of our other members for showcasing our talented members with a formation of a permanent collection in the greater Milwaukee area. Having worked on the Bonsai Collection North with Kathy Shaner, I understand what a great educational opportunity the club could provide.


My career path has been in the technical support of manufactured products recently coin and currency counting machines. Ron This position has allowed me to travel much of the world (Japan; China; Australia; Singapore; South Africa; Europe; England).

I have admired bonsai for more than 40 years but only acquired my first bonsai (a willow leaf ficus) which I still have back in 1995, and since have become obsessed with the hobby. Initially just building a personal collection and when the opportunity arrived started my business Ancient Arts Bonsai to fill the need of local hobbyists. Today I have over 60 trees in my personal collection.

Ron Tree

I believe that bonsai is an art form but at its basis must be sound horticultural practices. One without the other leads to less than desirable results such as great looking trees artistically but dead or healthy looking trees of little interest. The presentation should tell a story, it should cause the viewer to think why is this tree in the form it is in.

Steve Ca

I am an energetic, ambitious, and committed man, father of three, grandpa of three and live in Milwaukee, my childhood hometown, with my partner Lori. We have a dog Wendell, named after Wendell Barry. Steve Ca I work in Port Washington with three wonderful women and many great clients. I move through life looking for the beauty all around me, while I dream of a better way to do just about everything... I drive Lori nuts! I love to flower garden, watch independent films, read good fiction, bicycle ride, drink good coffee and red wine, and of course, do bonsai. I wish I could be the first bonsai artist on the Federation Starship Enterprise.

Steve Ca Tree

Bonsai is a visual art. It is living art... art that changes with the years. It is dynamic, like nature. The more that one recognizes this fact, the easier time one will have with their trees. I have always been attracted to trees. I had a brother-in-law, Bob Skiera, who was the past City Forester for Milwaukee. When he would tell me things about trees, I would remember every last detail. Bonsai is a way for me to be around trees, interact with them, nurture them, design with them. and love them.

But with bonsai, what I feel is most important is... that I like my tree. Rules are great guidelines, visiting artists lend input and training for my eye, books and magazines are great teaching tools, but it is my tree and in the end, it will reside on my bench and it will be me that looks at it every day. I want to look at it and really feel the WOW!

For the schedule see What's New