Bonsai Learning Center, Mooresville, NC

Bonsai Nut

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The best part about bonsai is meeting great people. So it was this week when I had the opportunity to visit Brad Russell at Bonsai Learning Center in Mooresville, North Carolina. (Brad uses the member name @BradNC here). Mooresville is a nice residential area located about 30 minutes north of Charlotte on Lake Norman (North Carolina's largest man-made lake with 520 miles of shoreline). I wasn't expecting to encounter a bonsai nursery on such beautiful lakeshore property!

Brad operates the Bonsai Learning Center with the assistance of Bryan Mercer, who is based out of Cary, NC (on the west side of Raleigh) and they occasionally bring Bjorn Bjorholm out from Nashville for events and workshops. The Bonsai Learning Center is a full service operation offering an extensive selection of pre-bonsai, finished bonsai, classes and maintenance services, pots, tools, wire and soil. I was impressed with the quality of selection (including a fair number of imported trees) and what I considered to be very attractive pricing. I was tempted to bring some pots home with me :)

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Brad's background is in construction, and when I asked him how he got into bonsai, it was amusing to hear him respond "I blame you". Apparently about a decade ago while on a job site, Brad dug up a nice landscape azalea and brought it home. When he was asking friends about the plant, someone told him "that isn't a standard azalea, it's a bonsai tree". He had no idea what a bonsai was, but an online search brought him to this site... and the rest is history. He credits many members for providing help and information, and particularly mentioned @Smoke for giving him a lot of help behind the scenes.

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Like any good bonsai nursery, everywhere you look there are trees. Brad has a particularly extensive selection of Japanese maples, satsukis (Japanese azaleas) and Hinoki cypresses, though he has a little bit of everything - including a striking California juniper that he is successfully keeping in North Carolina, and a number of specimen trees in exhibition level pots. I was particularly envious of his Japanese white pines (ungrafted) that we cannot keep in Southern California.

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The nursery has a nice sheltered work area on a back patio, as well as an indoor work space in the semi-finished basement. When I entered the basement/shop area, I was surprised to see an extensive selection of pots, including unglazed and glazed Chinese pots, Japanese pots, and even a selection of pots from domestic artisans. The pots were priced very attractively, and I would not be able to purchase them here in Southern California for the same low price.

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Brad was a gracious host throughout the visit, and I could have stayed for hours. He mentioned the fact that he is thinking of moving in order to get more space as well as a better layout for his benches and nursery in general. It is great to hear that the business is thriving, but I admit that the lakeside setting is tough to beat :)

If you are in the Charlotte area and have time to set up a visit, I highly recommend it! I am looking forward to hearing more good news in the future from the Bonsai Learning Center. With a business like this in the Charlotte area, it will hopefully generate and support even more bonsai enthusiasts in the region!
 
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Adair M

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The best part about bonsai is meeting great people. So it was this week when I had the opportunity to visit Brad Russell at Bonsai Learning Center in Mooresville, North Carolina. (Brad uses the member name @BradNC here). Mooresville is a nice residential area located about 30 minutes north of Charlotte on Lake Norman (North Carolina's largest man-made lake with 520 miles of shoreline). I wasn't expecting to encounter a bonsai nursery on such beautiful lakeshore property!

Brad operates the Bonsai Learning Center with the assistance of Bryan Mercer, who is based out of Cary, NC (on the west side of Raleigh) and they occasionally bring Bjorn Bjorholm out from Nashville for events and workshops. The Bonsai Learning Center is a full service operation offering an extensive selection of pre-bonsai, finished bonsai, classes and maintenance services, pots, tools, wire and soil. I was impressed with the quality of selection (including a fair number of imported trees) and what I considered to be very attractive pricing. I was tempted to bring some pots home with me :)

View attachment 238603

Brad's background is in construction, and when I asked him how he got into bonsai, it was amusing to hear him respond "I blame you". Apparently about a decade ago while on a job site, Brad dug up a nice landscape azalea and brought it home. When he was asking friends about the plant, someone told him "that isn't a standard azalea, it's a bonsai tree". He had no idea what a bonsai was, but an online search brought him to this site... and the rest is history. He credits many members for providing help and information, and particularly mentioned @Smoke for giving him a lot of help behind the scenes.

View attachment 238604

Like any good bonsai nursery, everywhere you look there are trees. Brad has a particularly extensive selection of Japanese maples, satsukis (Japanese azaleas) and Hinoki cypresses, though he has a little bit of everything - including a striking California juniper that he is successfully keeping in North Carolina, and a number of specimen trees in exhibition level pots. I was particularly envious of his Japanese white pines (ungrafted) that we cannot keep in Southern California.

View attachment 238605

View attachment 238606

View attachment 238607

View attachment 238608

The nursery has a nice sheltered work area on a back patio, as well as an indoor work space in the semi-finished basement. When I entered the basement/shop area, I was surprised to see an extensive selection of pots, including unglazed and glazed Chinese pots, Japanese pots, and even a selection of pots from domestic artisans. The pots were priced very attractively, and I would not be able to purchase them here in Southern California for the same low price.

View attachment 238609

View attachment 238610

Brad was a gracious host throughout the visit, and I could have stayed for hours. He mentioned the fact that he is thinking of moving in order to get more space as well as a better layout for his benches and nursery in general. It is great to hear that the business is thriving, but I admit that the lakeside setting is tough to beat :)

If you are in the Charlotte area and have time to set up a visit, I highly recommend it! I am looking forward to hearing more good news in the future from the Bonsai Learning Center. With a business like this in the Charlotte area, it will hopefully generate and support even more bonsai enthusiasts in the region!
Excellent write-up, Greg! I have been there, and it is indeed a beautiful place. They also vend at most of the regional shows and have excellent selections to choose from.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Excellent write-up, Greg! I have been there, and it is indeed a beautiful place. They also vend at most of the regional shows and have excellent selections to choose from.
I am always envious when I see beautiful deciduous trees that I can't keep in Southern California. I have a soft spot for many of them.

Some of those big azaleas would sell for a pretty penny here in California.
 

Adair M

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Isn’t it funny how we crave what we can’t have!
 

jimib

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I’ve bought a couple JBP’s from them at the Carolina Expo. I feel I got great deals on both. I’ve also corresponded with them via email and they've always responded promptly...good guys.
 

watchndsky

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i thought they had closed several years back - what happened to randy clark?
 
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Great guys and a great place! I spent an afternoon with Brad recently while in NC doing a wood firing. Good times!
 

GGB

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Hoping to see this nursery in August. Thanks for putting it on my radar. Seems like NC really has a thriving bonsai scene. The only other state I hear about as often is CA or maybe OR
 

Underdog

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Looks like dock space! I hope to be down there on the boat this season.
 

hemmy

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And he has a white van! Too good! Looks like a beautiful spot. I’d love to motor across the lake and take my purchases home by boat. Awesome!
 

Hyn Patty

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Nice! Thank you very much for this write up. I had no idea he was there! A bit of a drive for me but I do get out that way once in a while.
 

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