Peter Chan Repotting

I just started watching this new video by Peter Chan about repotting. At 2:05 he tilts a big pine straight out of its pot and I involuntarily blurted out “WHAT THE F*@#!!” Ha! After watching the Mirai methodology this past year and more then coming back to Mr. Chan’s more rough-and-tumble, get-it-done, commercial nursery approach was quite a shock! Watch how he rips a whole bunch of little trees straight out of the pot to check for root-boundness, then just jams them back in like nothing happened when he sees they’re okay. It’s so wild! :rofl:

Peter Chan has written multiple books on bonsai and operates the biggest and best bonsai nursery in Britain. The guy is a complete expert without a doubt. But I thought some of you would enjoy this video for the sheer contrast between the Mirai approach, which attempts to apply maximum science and art to every single tree at every moment.

2 Likes

You can definitely be a lot more caviler with nursery stock (even stuff as old as what Peter has) compared to significantly older yamadori that has been in the mountains for hundreds of years.

1 Like

I wouldn’t say a complete expert at all. Without trying to be disrespectful he is far from being a complete expert.

4 Likes

I think 21 gold medals at Chelsea tells how good he is.

2 Likes

I’ve actually put a lot of thought into this one. Before I found Mirai on youtube I would watch a decent amount of Heron’s and I was always so unimpressed with how rushed his process is. I understand he is under the time constraint of it being consumable for the average person on youtube but for someone that would like to learn the nuance of bonsai beyond ME PUT TREE IN POT UGGA, Peter is not it. His rushed nature is often used as a point that “anyone can do Bonsai” and he is simply trying to sell the idea to the common person that consumes youtube content, but for the person trying to actually learn the craft on Bonsai he just comes off as sloppy. As for his fame and expertise, he was one of the few people in Britain that practiced bonsai as a hobby pre 2000s, and it was probably a pretty radical idea to open a business revolving around it when he did open it but I think he lacks actual teaching. I don’t think he’s ever received any direct education on bonsai, his education comes from years of being in clubs so while he has done it for a long time I don’t think he’s ever actually studied it seriously. He is just one of the few people to practice it as long as him so people call him a pro.

2 Likes

When I watch him work there is very little art actually left in his work, It’s all just rushed for the sake of profit.

2 Likes

His YouTube videos are obviously not going appeal much to die-hard Mirai fans, but we should all be able to appreciate and respect his skill and dedication to bonsai. Someone (like Peter) can be an expert without being one of the foremost, top-level artists in the world; just because he may not be a prodigy like Ryan with an education from one of the top Japanese masters doesn’t mean he isn’t an authority in the field.

He has some sensational trees on his website and YouTube channel, and I’m not sure anyone on this forum has approached his level, but the point of this thread was to provide a bit of fun contrast with Ryan’s approach, not to be a contest about who is and isn’t an “expert” in our insignificant personal opinions.

8 Likes

I’ve always maintained that Peter has probably forgotten more about bonsai than I’ll ever know. However, his videos are not for me.

3 Likes

in order to get the heated debate really started i would suggest we use the cleaver trunk splitting vijeo as a basis. Much more fun to get into each others hairs about that method than a little rough of a repot.

oh, and ;-

2 Likes

Let’s not forget that Peter Chan was doing bonsai decades ago (late 60’s and 70’s) and for many of us was not only awe inspiring, but was one of the few quality bonsai resources we had. He knows what his trees can take and has a no nonsense approach to creating bonsai. He is basically showing that anybody can do bonsai which is surely true. His methods may seem rough and ready but they do work. I am a living testament to that.
Let’s also not forget that when not on screen Ryan and his team will be hard at it ‘getting the job done’ and quite a few of us would be shocked at how fast and rough and ready it could look.
The difference between those who have completed a formal apprenticeship and those who have gone through decades of self teaching and conferring with other professionals is experience. Ryan himself alludes to this in numerous videos and talks to many ‘non apprentice’ trained professionals.
Without Peter Chan and others who stepped out and Did it, many of us would not be as confident with bonsai as perhaps we are.
Ok, so the reason I love Mirai is, ‘You can never stop learning’.

13 Likes

correct my english if I’m wrong but doesn’t the word “pro” means he makes a living of it?
would like to see anyone so quick to judge running a bonsai nursery in the UK for more than 30 years.

don’t like his videos? simple, don’t watch it, but questioning his knowledge is a tad too far imo

9 Likes

Yes indeed, and he has 7 acres of field grown material, some of the Trident Maples are incredible. Plus thousands of Japanese Maples too.

3 Likes

Anyone that uses a cleaver to split a trunk and/or breaks out a sledgehammer during a re-pot has my respect. Peter is the man living the dream.

8 Likes

I love Peter Chan. Living legend who does youtube videos. I kind of enjoy the juxtaposition. Peter really got me to enjoy bonsai before I discovered Mirai. Being quick and cavalier was sort of appealing. Sure, my thirst of real horticulture and artistic knowledge quickly increased, which is why I looked for better resources like Ryan, but there is still something intriguing about Peter’s videos. He always has a smile on his face, and he’s always rushing around because he’s so excited to talk about bonsai with his viewers. That’s a huge accomplishment after 50+ years of doing anything.

12 Likes

That was one Peter Chan video that did inspire me tbh, I loved that tree

He did give me a resource of bonsai videos before finding Mirai when first getting into bonsai

2 Likes

I started watching some of his again to see if I have a different eye now. I think I can appreciate his videos a bit more, but generally still not for me. In a recent video he showed his pot collection though. I about fell out of my seat. He’s not hurting for pots at all. That’s for sure lol.

2 Likes

Peter’s most recent videos were of a San Jose Juniper that was styled in 2008 by an Italian bonsai master (part 1) and the tree now (part 2). The initial styling was very extreme. Worth checking it out.

I thought the tree’s survival chances were very low. Check out the root system on the tree now. He’s had it growing in spaghnum moss for the past 12 years.

Just thought I’d chime in here with some direct experience of Peter and his nursery (I’m located v close to him in the UK). Also not a comment specifically to joe_d, I’m just such a newb I haven’t worked out the “post and reply” system yet…

I definitely agree with the comments about him having forgotten what a lot of us haven’t even learnt yet, and him being one of the people that brought a lot of us into this game. He certainly was for me, and I still love getting out to see the nursery. Also just for info, he’s a multi-career guy! I think he started out in business, used to be a pretty good competitive cyclist as a side line, then an engineer, then worked in government for a while, even before starting his nursery as a day job back in the 1980s. So he’s definitely got a lot - more than a lot - to contribute and I’ve got a lot to thank and respect him for. True, he’s going a lot quicker than Ryan Neil is at Mirai on the livestreams, but he’s running what seems to be a much bigger and higher turnover outfit. The other half of his business BTW is landscaping… so he’s not “just bonsai”, but also wider horticulture.

I think of it this way. Peter Chan got me into bonsai, and I found Mirai after about four or five years of learning via that route, but I’ll still fully keep up with and listen to Peter. So Mirai for me was a “step up” in the sense of going into more detail and technique, but also just a change up in approach - Ryan’s got a very energetic and (obviously) technical, detailed, formal, trained, exacting approach and “feel”. Peter’s got a broader “base”, I think.

Lol, I remember first seeing Mirai on the “Spring Fundamentals” vid on YouTube and as a Brit thinking “Wow, who’s this crazy American guy with built biceps waving around and speaking loudly about water uptake FOR AN HOUR?!” Contrast Peter who (I’ve noticed) seems to focus a lot on enjoying the tree and the practicality of keeping (erm) “many” trees in good nick :smiley:

Ah well, two different approaches / attitudes / mindsets, and I’m lucky to be able to flip between both!

Lol I’ll need it as I work my way through repotting the 100 or so larger and smaller tress I’ve now got at various stages in pots of a better or worse description. They’re like Gremlins, folks, don’t put them near water or they’ll multiply :rofl:

Happy Spring to everybody!

7 Likes

Thanks for the insight! The fact that Peter has so many interests other than bonsai certainly helps explain the efficient approach he has developed, focusing on maximizing time enjoying trees and minimizing time fiddling with tiny technical nuances.

LOL, yes. Gotta have that percolation.

1 Like