Local Presentation on Bonsai

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As many of you know by now, I have had a lot of time on my hands this last month! I have tons of bites on bass students and a couple already signed up for January - but nobody is really looking to sign up for music lessons the week before Christmas, so my mind has turned to my bonsai efforts. To my knowledge, I am only one of two guys practicing bonsai in my county - I have to make the 1.5 hour trip to Nashville for any tree workshops or club meetings. I have really wanted to raise awareness around my area of the Bonsai culture as I have yet to run into anyone who learns I do this and doesn't have a million questions. I've talked a big game of putting on a presentation in my area next year and I am getting to work on it. I should be able to get a room and projector at our local library in May and hopefully I can get the time to do two 45 - 60 minute presentations on Bonsai in general and point people toward Nashville Bonsai Society and my local Facebook page and see if anyone else around here catches the bug. Long term plan being a local study group and possibly 6 to 10 people who would be willing to foot the bill for some local workshops. I would love some feedback from this community on my basic outline and any suggestions would be welcome. So far I have 5 sections, with around 10 minutes give or take on each section. I'll be expanding each section into power point slides, the outline below is just the topics.

I. What is Bonsai?
  • Tree characteristics
  • Pot Characteristics
  • Horticulture and Art (Basically showing pictures on this bullet point)
II. Where did Bonsai Come From?
  • Chinese Penjing
  • Japanese Bonsai
  • Western Bonsai
III. Horticulture
  • Common Tree Types
  • Outside vs. Inside
  • Tools and Wire
  • Soil
IV. Common Styles of Bonsai
  • Formal Upright
  • Informal Upright
  • Broom
  • Slanting
  • Windswept
  • Bunjin
V. More info and Questions
  • Open Q & A
  • Nashville Bonsai Society info / Upper Cumberland Bonsai (my FB page) Info
  • Key Websites for further research
  • My contact info
 

Palltergeist

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I am only one of two guys practicing bonsai in my county - I have to make the 1.5 hour trip to Nashville for any tree workshops or club meetings. I have really wanted to raise awareness around my area of the Bonsai culture

1.5 hour drive-radius is a very narrow notion of 'area'

if you really want a presentation in your specific area, i would get somebody with a lot of experience from the Nashville Bonsai Society, if not Bjorn or Owen Reich

people who take it upon themselves to 'raise awareness' or 'help people', either online or in person, often look like clowns by underestimating the required experience and skill of a bonsai professional, semi-professional, or long-time hobbyist. bonsai professional is a profession, because it is a profession. people who really like to watch detective shows do not make good detectives, even if they think they do. detectives make good detectives.

if i were you, i would raise awareness by encouraging people to visit Bjorn and attend the Nashville Bonsai Society meetings, workshops, etc.
 

River's Edge

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As many of you know by now, I have had a lot of time on my hands this last month! I have tons of bites on bass students and a couple already signed up for January - but nobody is really looking to sign up for music lessons the week before Christmas, so my mind has turned to my bonsai efforts. To my knowledge, I am only one of two guys practicing bonsai in my county - I have to make the 1.5 hour trip to Nashville for any tree workshops or club meetings. I have really wanted to raise awareness around my area of the Bonsai culture as I have yet to run into anyone who learns I do this and doesn't have a million questions. I've talked a big game of putting on a presentation in my area next year and I am getting to work on it. I should be able to get a room and projector at our local library in May and hopefully I can get the time to do two 45 - 60 minute presentations on Bonsai in general and point people toward Nashville Bonsai Society and my local Facebook page and see if anyone else around here catches the bug. Long term plan being a local study group and possibly 6 to 10 people who would be willing to foot the bill for some local workshops. I would love some feedback from this community on my basic outline and any suggestions would be welcome. So far I have 5 sections, with around 10 minutes give or take on each section. I'll be expanding each section into power point slides, the outline below is just the topics.

I. What is Bonsai?
  • Tree characteristics
  • Pot Characteristics
  • Horticulture and Art (Basically showing pictures on this bullet point)
II. Where did Bonsai Come From?
  • Chinese Penjing
  • Japanese Bonsai
  • Western Bonsai
III. Horticulture
  • Common Tree Types
  • Outside vs. Inside
  • Tools and Wire
  • Soil
IV. Common Styles of Bonsai
  • Formal Upright
  • Informal Upright
  • Broom
  • Slanting
  • Windswept
  • Bunjin
V. More info and Questions
  • Open Q & A
  • Nashville Bonsai Society info / Upper Cumberland Bonsai (my FB page) Info
  • Key Websites for further research
  • My contact info
Cannot help but think that you would benefit from contacting clubs that have put together introductory guides. One such excellent guide that comes to mind was published by the Portland group. I know copies are available upon request for a small fee. I am sure that there are other groups in the USA that have put together similar resources. It outlines a six week program, One meeting per week concept.
 
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1.5 hour drive-radius is a very narrow notion of 'area'

if you really want a presentation in your specific area, i would get somebody with a lot of experience from the Nashville Bonsai Society, if not Bjorn or Owen Reich

people who take it upon themselves to 'raise awareness' or 'help people', either online or in person, often look like clowns by underestimating the required experience and skill of a bonsai professional, semi-professional, or long-time hobbyist. bonsai professional is a profession, because it is a profession. people who really like to watch detective shows do not make good detectives, even if they think they do. detectives make good detectives.

if i were you, i would raise awareness by encouraging people to visit Bjorn and attend the Nashville Bonsai Society meetings, workshops, etc.

I think you are misinterpreting my goal here. The goal is to get people interested, that is it. I don't pretend that I will be teaching anybody or stepping on any professionals toes. This is literally a public library presentation to find out if anybody else in my town is interested in Bonsai.

As far as your opinion that 1.5 hours is a narrow window - may not be the case for you but it is for me. Gas is not cheap and while I make it to every single NBS meeting per month, making that drive more than once a month eats up resources quick.

Neither Bjorn nor Owen come cheap. Since the concept of bonsai in my town is virtually nonexistant, how do you propose I raise the funds for a talk by either one of them? Maybe do something to build interest...oh, wait.
 
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Cannot help but think that you would benefit from contacting clubs that have put together introductory guides. One such excellent guide that comes to mind was published by the Portland group. I know copies are available upon request for a small fee. I am sure that there are other groups in the USA that have put together similar resources. It outlines a six week program, One meeting per week concept.

This would probably be phase two of my goal - a program to work on once a group was put together to practice tree work on a fairly regular basis. The outline above is just to generate interest in the community, nothing more.
 

sorce

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people who really like to watch detective shows do not make good detectives

By your own idea, a bonsai professional isn't the best teacher.

Perhaps someone who teaches art is better at teaching art than someone who is excited by little trees.

Sorce
 

Forsoothe!

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Alas and alack, you've a tough row to hoe. There are two clubs in SE Michigan, one in Ann Arbor, 45 miles WNW and one in Rochester, 25 miles north, both distant of downtown Detroit. SE MI has a population of 4.6 million and the two clubs have a total membership of about 150. It includes a few Canadians from the Windsor area. Extrapolate from that what may apply to your area and you'll find that interest in bonsai is limited, to put it politely. It gets worse. Many are cheap. Filling workshops running $75 to $125 with recognized national personalities takes effort and often falls short leaving the sponsoring clubs to make up the shortfall.

That said, there are some productive ways to organize yourself to seek and find club members. Local garden clubs are always in need of speakers. They pay $50 or so willingly to anybody who has a topic of interest to their membership. Garden clubs abound. They are happy with a one hour presentation or two 45 minute sessions with a coffee break in-between. Keep your lectures simple, too, with lots of pictures with a good mix of the high and mighty trees, and stuff that they can comprehend. They need to feel, "I can do this..." They also love to watch a demo, ~two hour (max) taking a small ~houseplant~ fig or something suitable to beginners from pre-bonsai or landscape stock to a container suitable for households. Wiring and what we consider normal root pruning and bonsai soils are foreign to the uninitiated, and very interesting. Offer these sessions and they will come. Other kinds of clubs may have interest, too. Ikebana, Artsy-Craftsy, schools, libraries, churches, etc., any group that has regular meetings has a regular need for speakers/presenters. Charge too much and nobody will be interested. Charge too little and you'll be booked every night. $50 - $75 - $100, choose your poison. Hand out one-page flyers inviting interested parties to a single day per month for a meeting. You can do it at rotating homes in the early stages, then on to supporting nurseries, schools, churches, city facilities, whatever, as need be. People love workshops, especially beginner workshops. Keep the fare low and plants simple and people will come. They need to feel, "I can do this..."

Landscape nurseries also have classes on Stuff Horticultural. Choose one to align yourself with carefully and cautiously. They need to be able and willing to stock some modest supplies if you do workshops or demos at their place of business. Shop around, look at what they got, and make a judgement on whether or not they can afford to support a new activity that will not pay for its keep for some time. Then, approach them one-by-one in the order of magnitude that you rate their probability of success. If # 1 says, "I gotta think about it", give him 3 days to get back to you before you approach the next possibility. You cannot find yourself serving too many masters or you will be doomed to creating a monster. Self-flagellation ain't pretty.

Another neat trick is to present a side show at an Art Fair. The world is lousy with them. Almost every weekend at some township hall or park. Look around and you'll find the organizer of all of them in your area. The same person does them all. The artsy-crafsy need someplace to peddle their wares, and you can probably get a table for free if you present eye candy, but don't sell anything. Again, you can do this every weekend in the good outdoor weather season, so be careful not to over-commit. Do only one day affairs. Hand out your flyers there, too.

If you have Public TV, you have begging for dollars. You can assemble materials for a workshop for 6 or 8 people that will take home a finished bonsai made with their own hands. You buy a $25 tree, a $10 6 or 7" ceramic pot that they keep, supplies they can use of: 1 kilo aluminum wire spools of 1mm. 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm, and 4.5mm for about $20 per spool, $7 scissors and $12 to $15 flush cutters. You can augment with your own tools. They can auction the package of "Bonsai workshop for (6 or 8) friends at your home or place of business. Each person gets instruction from a bonsai instructor and takes home a finished bonsai houseplant". You need to get paid the costs to you, nominally 45 to $60, and the auction gets the difference. This same format is used by charities, private schools, etc. Customize the costs to your ability to finance same. Sometimes a landscape nursery or flower shop will finance it and you work cheap or as a volunteer. It's the Volunteer State, isn't it?

If this don't keep you busy, let me know...
 
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Alas and alack, you've a tough row to hoe. There are two clubs in SE Michigan, one in Ann Arbor, 45 miles WNW and one in Rochester, 25 miles north, both distant of downtown Detroit. SE MI has a population of 4.6 million and the two clubs have a total membership of about 150. It includes a few Canadians from the Windsor area. Extrapolate from that what may apply to your area and you'll find that interest in bonsai is limited, to put it politely. It gets worse. Many are cheap. Filling workshops running $75 to $125 with recognized national personalities takes effort and often falls short leaving the sponsoring clubs to make up the shortfall.

That said, there are some productive ways to organize yourself to seek and find club members. Local garden clubs are always in need of speakers. They pay $50 or so willingly to anybody who has a topic of interest to their membership. Garden clubs abound. They are happy with a one hour presentation or two 45 minute sessions with a coffee break in-between. Keep your lectures simple, too, with lots of pictures with a good mix of the high and mighty trees, and stuff that they can comprehend. They need to feel, "I can do this..." They also love to watch a demo, ~two hour (max) taking a small ~houseplant~ fig or something suitable to beginners from pre-bonsai or landscape stock to a container suitable for households. Wiring and what we consider normal root pruning and bonsai soils are foreign to the uninitiated, and very interesting. Offer these sessions and they will come. Other kinds of clubs may have interest, too. Ikebana, Artsy-Craftsy, schools, libraries, churches, etc., any group that has regular meetings has a regular need for speakers/presenters. Charge too much and nobody will be interested. Charge too little and you'll be booked every night. $50 - $75 - $100, choose your poison. Hand out one-page flyers inviting interested parties to a single day per month for a meeting. You can do it at rotating homes in the early stages, then on to supporting nurseries, schools, churches, city facilities, whatever, as need be. People love workshops, especially beginner workshops. Keep the fare low and plants simple and people will come. They need to feel, "I can do this..."

Landscape nurseries also have classes on Stuff Horticultural. Choose one to align yourself with carefully and cautiously. They need to be able and willing to stock some modest supplies if you do workshops or demos at their place of business. Shop around, look at what they got, and make a judgement on whether or not they can afford to support a new activity that will not pay for its keep for some time. Then, approach them one-by-one in the order of magnitude that you rate their probability of success. If # 1 says, "I gotta think about it", give him 3 days to get back to you before you approach the next possibility. You cannot find yourself serving too many masters or you will be doomed to creating a monster. Self-flagellation ain't pretty.

Another neat trick is to present a side show at an Art Fair. The world is lousy with them. Almost every weekend at some township hall or park. Look around and you'll find the organizer of all of them in your area. The same person does them all. The artsy-crafsy need someplace to peddle their wares, and you can probably get a table for free if you present eye candy, but don't sell anything. Again, you can do this every weekend in the good outdoor weather season, so be careful not to over-commit. Do only one day affairs. Hand out your flyers there, too.

If you have Public TV, you have begging for dollars. You can assemble materials for a workshop for 6 or 8 people that will take home a finished bonsai made with their own hands. You buy a $25 tree, a $10 6 or 7" ceramic pot that they keep, supplies they can use of: 1 kilo aluminum wire spools of 1mm. 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm, and 4.5mm for about $20 per spool, $7 scissors and $12 to $15 flush cutters. You can augment with your own tools. They can auction the package of "Bonsai workshop for (6 or 8) friends at your home or place of business. Each person gets instruction from a bonsai instructor and takes home a finished bonsai houseplant". You need to get paid the costs to you, nominally 45 to $60, and the auction gets the difference. This same format is used by charities, private schools, etc. Customize the costs to your ability to finance same. Sometimes a landscape nursery or flower shop will finance it and you work cheap or as a volunteer. It's the Volunteer State, isn't it?

If this don't keep you busy, let me know...

All very good ideas, thanks for them. If the talk really takes off they are good ideas for the future. I'm thinking much smaller scale than this, and not looking to make any money. Just a toe in the water so to speak. To give you an idea of the population is be presenting to, the number one question when someone finds out I'm into bonsai is "Wait, so Bonsai ain't a type of tree?" If people really get into it I will direct them to get instructions from folks far more capable than I.
 

Carol 83

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The goal is to get people interested, that is it.
I think it's a good idea to try to drum up some interest in the hobby in your area, not sure what everybody's getting so worked up about. Maybe you would at least end up with a few people for a study group or something.
 

Forsoothe!

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All very good ideas, thanks for them. If the talk really takes off they are good ideas for the future. I'm thinking much smaller scale than this, and not looking to make any money. Just a toe in the water so to speak. To give you an idea of the population is be presenting to, the number one question when someone finds out I'm into bonsai is "Wait, so Bonsai ain't a type of tree?" If people really get into it I will direct them to get instructions from folks far more capable than I.
Wrong answer. You are there, they are there, they know nothing and you know enough to introduce them to the rudiments of the art. They won't know if you make any mistakes or omissions. They have no way to judge your instructions, and what do you suppose the odds are of them seeking and or actually finding a better instructor? Zero? More than zero? You should do your best to do enough with them to spark their interest. If they take the art farther, they will remember that YOU were the guy that got them started. If they do nothing more than fool around for the rest of their life, they will remember that YOU were the guy that got them started. It's the Volunteer State! Do it because you can, because you have something to give.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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All very good ideas, thanks for them. If the talk really takes off they are good ideas for the future. I'm thinking much smaller scale than this, and not looking to make any money. Just a toe in the water so to speak. To give you an idea of the population is be presenting to, the number one question when someone finds out I'm into bonsai is "Wait, so Bonsai ain't a type of tree?" If people really get into it I will direct them to get instructions from folks far more capable than I.

It is good to know your own limits, and to admit you don't know all the answers. By being humble, you will end up with a devoted following that may stick with you as a study group, where collectively the group seeks out further instruction. Be honest, be humble, the audience, or small group of interested people will prefer that to being dishonest about your skill level. I taught a beginner level class of Tai Chi for a short while, you'd laugh if you knew just how fat and out of shape I was. I was honest about my skill level (quite low really) and ended up when it came time for the group of beginners to "move on" to join my teacher's group, a couple stayed with me, because they liked my low key and humble approach to it.

Now bonsai is different, but I would think in your small town, your agenda is more focused on finding people you can get along with to form a local study group. By being honest from the get go, you will have a better chance of attracting people you like and can work with.

Relax, have fun, tell a joke or two (bonsai jokes, no politics or sex jokes). A little self deprecation goes a long way to setting a group at ease. I mean, you are likely to have yourself, 3 people who wander in and 2 librarians at your first presentation. Go light and with good humor and you will do fine.
 
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Put some feelers out on craigslist or post some flyers up at nurseries that will allow. I think it helps to work on a small scale before scaling up to give a presentation in front of an unknown number of people. Try to get some of your local friends interested by gifting them cuttings and unwanted trees. Niche things grow slowly.
 

Colorado

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Alas and alack, you've a tough row to hoe. There are two clubs in SE Michigan, one in Ann Arbor, 45 miles WNW and one in Rochester, 25 miles north, both distant of downtown Detroit. SE MI has a population of 4.6 million and the two clubs have a total membership of about 150. It includes a few Canadians from the Windsor area. Extrapolate from that what may apply to your area and you'll find that interest in bonsai is limited, to put it politely. It gets worse. Many are cheap. Filling workshops running $75 to $125 with recognized national personalities takes effort and often falls short leaving the sponsoring clubs to make up the shortfall.

That said, there are some productive ways to organize yourself to seek and find club members. Local garden clubs are always in need of speakers. They pay $50 or so willingly to anybody who has a topic of interest to their membership. Garden clubs abound. They are happy with a one hour presentation or two 45 minute sessions with a coffee break in-between. Keep your lectures simple, too, with lots of pictures with a good mix of the high and mighty trees, and stuff that they can comprehend. They need to feel, "I can do this..." They also love to watch a demo, ~two hour (max) taking a small ~houseplant~ fig or something suitable to beginners from pre-bonsai or landscape stock to a container suitable for households. Wiring and what we consider normal root pruning and bonsai soils are foreign to the uninitiated, and very interesting. Offer these sessions and they will come. Other kinds of clubs may have interest, too. Ikebana, Artsy-Craftsy, schools, libraries, churches, etc., any group that has regular meetings has a regular need for speakers/presenters. Charge too much and nobody will be interested. Charge too little and you'll be booked every night. $50 - $75 - $100, choose your poison. Hand out one-page flyers inviting interested parties to a single day per month for a meeting. You can do it at rotating homes in the early stages, then on to supporting nurseries, schools, churches, city facilities, whatever, as need be. People love workshops, especially beginner workshops. Keep the fare low and plants simple and people will come. They need to feel, "I can do this..."

Landscape nurseries also have classes on Stuff Horticultural. Choose one to align yourself with carefully and cautiously. They need to be able and willing to stock some modest supplies if you do workshops or demos at their place of business. Shop around, look at what they got, and make a judgement on whether or not they can afford to support a new activity that will not pay for its keep for some time. Then, approach them one-by-one in the order of magnitude that you rate their probability of success. If # 1 says, "I gotta think about it", give him 3 days to get back to you before you approach the next possibility. You cannot find yourself serving too many masters or you will be doomed to creating a monster. Self-flagellation ain't pretty.

Another neat trick is to present a side show at an Art Fair. The world is lousy with them. Almost every weekend at some township hall or park. Look around and you'll find the organizer of all of them in your area. The same person does them all. The artsy-crafsy need someplace to peddle their wares, and you can probably get a table for free if you present eye candy, but don't sell anything. Again, you can do this every weekend in the good outdoor weather season, so be careful not to over-commit. Do only one day affairs. Hand out your flyers there, too.

If you have Public TV, you have begging for dollars. You can assemble materials for a workshop for 6 or 8 people that will take home a finished bonsai made with their own hands. You buy a $25 tree, a $10 6 or 7" ceramic pot that they keep, supplies they can use of: 1 kilo aluminum wire spools of 1mm. 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 3.5mm, and 4.5mm for about $20 per spool, $7 scissors and $12 to $15 flush cutters. You can augment with your own tools. They can auction the package of "Bonsai workshop for (6 or 8) friends at your home or place of business. Each person gets instruction from a bonsai instructor and takes home a finished bonsai houseplant". You need to get paid the costs to you, nominally 45 to $60, and the auction gets the difference. This same format is used by charities, private schools, etc. Customize the costs to your ability to finance same. Sometimes a landscape nursery or flower shop will finance it and you work cheap or as a volunteer. It's the Volunteer State, isn't it?

If this don't keep you busy, let me know...

Incredible post.

Hell, if you’re not looking to profit off of your endeavor, then make the workshops strictly Bring Your Own Tree(s) and Tools. All you need to offer is your instruction.

I think you’re being too modest. You don’t need to direct anyone to someone “more capable” to learn fundamental principles such as pruning, repotting, basic wiring, etc.

If the goal is to generate interest (where, presumably, little to none exists) then by definition these people are beginners in need of introductory knowledge.

I think your plan is great!

One thing that is critical to an instructor or presenter is credibility. In other words, you need to have some good trees. Let’s see them! :)
 

Tieball

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If you do a presentation....bring along 2-3 trees....or at least 1. They do not need to be award winners...but they should not be sticks in a pot either. Realistic trees in good progress....not house plants. People like to see things up close after a talk not just PowerPoint shows. The trees give you post talking time with interested people to gauge next steps. If you do this in spring you could possibly wrap the ending around a root prune and potting demonstration. Keep tools to a minimum and close by.
 
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Owen Reich

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All very good ideas, thanks for them. If the talk really takes off they are good ideas for the future. I'm thinking much smaller scale than this, and not looking to make any money. Just a toe in the water so to speak. To give you an idea of the population is be presenting to, the number one question when someone finds out I'm into bonsai is "Wait, so Bonsai ain't a type of tree?" If people really get into it I will direct them to get instructions from folks far more capable than I.
You are on the right track. I’m in the process of compiling something to help all the clubs improve, based on the successfully (and terribly) run organizations in the US.

I do two events a year or whatever they ask for the Nashville Bonsai Society. I also donate a pile of good for raffles and this year, will donate $ earmarked exclusively for marketing budget. This is not laid out to toot my own horn; the simple fact is, a local pro is a happy pro. I will not travel often any more for bonsai work. There’s enough in Nashville forever. I will travel some, but the current system does not work. We can get into that on a new thread.
 

Shibui

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Well done for considering this. I can see that you are not thinking of teaching advanced bonsai technique or care. More like bonsai awareness. Introduction to bonsai and more can come later when you have some people interested. There are a number of groups over here that are not large enough or committed enough to start a formal bonsai club or organisation so they run informal gatherings. You mentioned a 'study group' which i think encompasses the idea well. Everybody learns and grows along the way. It may end up being the blind leading the blind but at least you will have generated some interest and who knows where that will end up.
The local library is a great place to start. Garden clubs have already been mentioned. Plant nurseries and hardware stores with plants will also often offer time, venue and promotion for plant related speakers. You may also have local community centers that run general interest courses and would be looking for someone with a little knowledge and enthusiasm. Aged care centers are usually looking for speakers to fill some time for the residents but don't expect many converts there.

Cable's presentation has most of the sort of info I think should be part of a bonsai awareness session. I usually focus less on the styles and more on the practicalities of getting started. Something along the lines of:

. Grow your own from cutting or seed - low cost but long time frame when you do all the work.
. Prune and shape a nursery tree and put it in a pot - medium cost, medium time frame because you've paid someone else to start off for you.
. Purchase a ready made tree in a pot - higher cost but instant. Bonsai come in all shapes , sizes, quality and prices. Beware of some internet auctions and sales as trees can be grossly overpriced. Learn to recognize quality and value.
. Collected trees can make impressive bonsai. Trees and shrubs from gardens can be converted - low cost relatively quick and sometimes very good quality.

All the best for getting this off the ground.
 

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