Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Being a Student at Eisei-en, But Were Afraid To Ask
Updated: Oct 12
Since I started writing the PLB blog, the most common question I receive is “What’s it like being a student at Bjorn’s”?
I just completed the first weekend of courses since the pandemic. It’s hard to believe, but we were off for two years. It was great being back, so let's answer all your Eisie-en intensive class questions!
How much does it cost?
This is pretty much what everyone wants to know, but doesn’t want to ask, so let's start there. Before I do, let me share with you the structure of the classes. We meet for four days over two weekends a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. Each day is 9-5pm with a 1 hour lunch. The cost is $950/weekend or $1,900/year. Or, put another way, 56 hours of working with Bjorn at a cost of $33/hour. The class size ranges, but is usually 6-8 people per class.
What’s a typical intensive day look like?
The garden opens at 8, class starts at 9. Most days we have a topic in the morning. For example, we’ll discuss the botany of trees or the technique of grafting. In the case of grafting, after class, we’ll put that knowledge into practice. Either on our own trees or Bjorn’s. The afternoons are tree work. Wiring, styling, pruning, bending, repotting, etc. Whatever is appropriate for that time of year.
Do you work on your own trees or the trees of the nursery?
You can do either, it’s up to you. Those that are able, will bring their own trees. Bjorn gives us the scope of work for the weekend, so we bring trees that are in need of the work that will be outlined in the class. I’m sure there’s some rule about bringing bad material, but I can’t imagine that’s ever been a problem. My classmates and I are always trying to push our skills. That cannot be done on cheap or bad trees. As for Bjorn’s trees, he has amazing material. This last course, I decided to work on one of his trees. I wanted to test my skills and see how I could work on something from his garden. I’m proud of the work. Of course, you can buy trees at the nursery, then work them.
Do you have to be an experienced bonsai practitioner to take classes?
I would not recommend intensives for an absolute beginner, someone 6 months or less. But it is a school, so it’s designed to start at the beginning and build your skills. I think experience is less important than your commitment to the craft. The aftercare on the work you do is very important. Understanding your level of commitment takes time to measure and understand for yourself.
What have you learned since starting the classes?
Plenty. What has pushed my skills the most has been being around great trees. To be in the garden, surrounded by amazing trees, trees that you’ve seen developed first hand, gives you both the perspective that it can be done and also the feeling that you’ve got to up your game. This weekend, in particular, I saw so many trees in such good shape. It reminds you that bonsai is more than just wiring & styling. You must learn to water, fertilize, apply pesticides & fungicides and become great at growing trees.
What’s Bjorn like as a teacher?
Patient. Experienced. And very laid back. Like any good teacher, he begins by demonstrating. He then expects you to take over as your skills allow. All of this done in a positive environment with everything you need to succeed. He also does a great job of working with each participant equally and meeting them where they are.
What’s the best part of the classes?
That’s easy, my classmates. The more I practice bonsai, the more I realize that I’m wired a little different. And so is everyone else in bonsai. We’re like the toys on the island of misfits. A bit different, a bit damaged, by life and love. But we all come together under the umbrella of playing with little trees. We’re kindred spirits, hanging out together, in our happy place. And that’s worth all the money in the world!
What questions do you have about being a student at Eisei-en? Post them below and I'll be sure to respond. And don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter for all my latest bonsai updates. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!