3 Bonsai Artists Who Have Inspired Me

Rory Wilmer > Bonsai > 3 Bonsai Artists Who Have Inspired Me
Deshōjō maple by Rory Wilmer

I first dabbled with Bonsai in my late teens. I was gifted a bonsai tree, the garden centre mass produced variety. Looking back I realise I was too young and naive to understand what I was doing. The poor tree didn’t survive even a year. I soon gave up on the idea of caring for bonsai. Yet I always held a secret passion and respect for the art form.

JJump forward 25 years later, and during the COVID-19 lockdown, I returned to the hobby and art of Bonsai. The situation of lockdown had changed my outlook and I was looking for a way to be immersed in nature, without having to even leave my terrace. I grew up in a green-fingered family. My mother and father are keen horticulturalists, have a beautiful garden, and always keep an allotment. My childhood was spent tending to vegetable patches and container-grown flowers. At one point, I even did a stint as an assistant to a landscaper, sweeping up grass cuttings and pruning large hedge rows.

As I returned to the hobby, I found so much support and teaching from the Bonsai communities online. Both on social media and forums. A wealth of knowledge was shared by professional artists and beginners alike, a truly global and connected community of artists and growers. I found it so refreshing to join once again an online community which hadn’t been overtaken or overrun by the culture wars and was free from trolling, negativity and toxicity, which is ever so present in most social media experiences found today.

I wanted to gather a list of artists and communities that have helped me gain so much knowledge and confidence in Bonsai. Who has allowed me to be a virtual apprentice under their masterful guidance to become a better grower and, at some point, a master of the art? Thank you to all of you. You give so much to so many through your selfless promotion and support of the art.

Peter Chan

Peter Chan has given me more confidence and knowledge in how to create, care for and excel at Bonsai than any other. His no-nonsense, no hard and fast rules approach is so refreshing in an art discipline which can sometimes seem to constrained by Japanese standards. Too many people in Western Bonsai circles try too hard to be Japanese and to follow their ways of Bonsai. While we all try to adhere to the art form’s basic atheistic principles, western climates are not at all similar to eastern climates. Some of the methods used in Japan are just not suited to European environments. Nor should we ever try and pretend to be something we are not. This is why I found Peter Chan to be see inspirational. He doesn’t conform to rules; he follows his heart and his gut feelings combined with well over 60 years of Bonsai growing experience. Peter’s YouTube video tutorials and almost daily Herons Bonsai nursery updates are watched the world over, by an adoring and supportive viewership. Peter is always open and willing to answer questions, engage with you on social media and give you feedback and tips, be it on your bonsai trees or just life experiences and his life philosophy.

Peter is the author of numerous books on Bonsai as well as being known for his rather extensive and lavish collection of Hawaiian shirts. Peter really cares for his customers and visitors to his nursery, and his social and community activities are endless.


Yamasibon KIWA

The first-person perspective of Yamasibon KIWA contains an ultimate ASMR quality. It always seems to be raining when he films, and the sound of the constant rain plays out as the soothing soundtrack to his bonsai videos. Yamasibon is a master of yamadori, the art of bonsai made from trees collected from the mountains. He describes himself as a ‘hobbyist’ and a “country life charlatan” (田舎暮らしの山師). His skill is well advanced, and he, like his father before him, has been collecting material from the mountains for decades. Yamasibon keeps regular diary update videos on his YouTube channel, as well as sharing photography on both Instagram and Twitter. His techniques have been instrumental in understanding how yamadori-type material responds and the level of aftercare they need to survive the transition from nature to pot.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Yamasibon Kiwa (@yamasibon)

David Easterbrook

David has been studying and creating bonsai for over 50 years. He is the former curator of the famous Montreal Botanical Garden’s bonsai collection and has recently retired in 2011. His trees have been widely exhibited in both Canada and the U.S., and they have appeared on the covers of International Bonsai Magazine. David is an enthusiastic, generous and gifted teacher. His understanding of both horticulture and design allows him to help others create masterpiece trees. His active teaching career has brought him all over the world and while his specialty is the collected North American Larch, David is virtually an expert in all species of trees. David’s collection and garden is magical and his practical and very detailed and log tutorial videos cover the entire process of creating bonsai from the most basic and raw materials right through to the viewing and discussion of results after 50 years of hard work and love.



There are many more artists, hobbyists and professionals who I admire and have been inspired by. From growers to potters. I will post again in the future showcasing another 3 artists who inspire me. This will become a series posts.