The bonsai passion of Caroline Scott
Since receiving a bonsai for her birthday, Caroline has forever held bonsai close to her heart.
Your professional education?
After school I went to art college for 4 years to study visual communications, encompassing photography, illustration and predominantly graphic design. After leaving college I went straight into work as a graphic designer at an advertising agency in Newcastle upon Tyne. I worked for the same company for 20 years before the company collapsed. Afterwards I wanted to concentrate on my passion for horticulture, gardening and bonsai. I started my own horticultural business in 2009 and it’s still running to this day. The bonsai business has only been going for 3 years. It’s wonderful working with your ultimate passion.
How did it all start?
I hadn’t long started work at the ad agency, Eldon Associates, when I spotted a small article in a gardening section of a magazine. It had the headline ‘Why Not Try Bonsai?’. The photo showed a really old, twisted and gnarled pomegranate tree. I was totally awe struck. It was 1989 and nearing my 21st birthday. I was asked by the family if I would like anything special for my birthday. That was when I received my very first bonsai, a Buxus harlandii. The obsession had begun.
How did you acquire the skills?
When I was first interested in bonsai there was no internet. My main source of knowledge and inspiration came from reading a lot of books. I think it must have been the early 90s that the life changer happened – the opening of Willowbog Bonsai, run by Peter and Jean Snart.
Willowbog Bonsai over the years saw a multitude of incredible and talented bonsai artists/teachers come through its doors. The likes of Kevin Willson, Marc Nöelanders, Ryan Neil, Salvatore Liporace to name but a few. I attended every demo and used the opportunity to further my knowledge.
My two main bonsai teachers would be Marco Invernizzi and Peter Warren. Both brilliant teachers and artists. I worked closely with both over several years. They taught me to have the utmost respect for the tree at all times. Patience is absolutely paramount and to do everything you can to the best of your ability. To always focus on improving my skills and knowledge. We never stop learning.
Any plans to go to Japan?
Together with friends I am planning to visit Japan in November 2024. It will be my first time and I’m really looking forward to it. There is so much to see in Japan that would interest me. That is something I look forward to crossing off my bucket list. I did think about going as an apprentice approximately 15-20 years ago, but looking after my very ill mother was my main priority at the time.
Your thoughts on bonsai
Bonsai is my calm when everything around me can be chaos. It has got me through some tough times. I like to lose myself in a tree, forget any troubles and concentrate on the here and now. Bonsai mean different things to different people. Neither right, nor wrong. Some like to grow trees from seed and develop them that way. Others collect yamadori and get their kicks from bonsai like that. Some prefer deciduous trees, others like conifers. That’s why I love bonsai. It’s an endless passion of both horticulture and art that can be anything you want it to be.
Any other interests or hobbies besides bonsai?
I’m still very passionate about painting and drawing. I work with watercolour and pastel. I mainly paint people and pet portraits, but will dabble with landscapes, too. In between the bonsai has been all sorts from motorbikes to beekeeping.
Which trees do you most like to work on?
Without a doubt, pines and juniper. I’m a conifer girl. I think it stems from my artistic background. I love the artistry and creativity in conifers. It’s the creating of the image then working the tree over the years to make it better and better. This can be from raw material and moving it on to its first path as a bonsai or, what I particularly adore, the detail in the refinement of that well-ramified ‘finished’ specimen and the continual progression and improvement.
Do you have a favourite bonsai?
That’s a difficult one. There are way too many to mention of varying Masters and artists worldwide. A favourite from my own collection changes. At the moment it’s a battle between a very old Pinus mugo that was in Peter Snart’s private collection for a while. It was a tree Marco Invernizzi had worked on at Willowbog on which he produced some breathtaking work. It’s been in my collection for a number of years now.
The other tree is a Juniperus procumbens. This tree was in Danny Use’s collection some years ago. It then belonged to the late great Ian Stewardson. I was incredibly lucky to acquire it a couple of years ago.
Your worst mistake?
Over the years I’ve made many mistakes. I would say early in my bonsai journey probably the biggest mistake I made was getting my watering wrong. I lost a few trees this way. Arguably one of the most important aspects and difficult to learn parts of bonsai culture.
We should all remember it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.
What is your best achievement?
I’m so incredibly proud to have had trees accepted into such prestigious and legendary shows like the Ginkgo Bonsai Awards and The Trophy, and winning the BCI President’s Award with my shohin composition at the Ginkgo Awards in 2005 was a particularly proud moment. More recently when I won best conifer with my Juniperus procumbens at Expo 23 and in 2022 with a Pinus sylvestris at The Bonsai Show Live. I’ve won numerous awards for my trees over the years and each time it’s a very special moment. But it’s also a massive honour just to see your trees displayed in a way that shows them at their best.
Your dream comes true when...
I continually am asked to teach and pass on my knowledge. The enthusiasm for bonsai and for teaching is something I’m so very proud of. If I can help people learn and progress then that is my dream. Part of my dream came true last year, 2022, when I was asked by the California Bonsai Society to join their Visiting Artists Programme to teach at a variety of their clubs across California.
Do you favour the Japanese or Western bonsai style?
I think I favour Japanese bonsai style at present, but I think the West is putting out some great trees, styles and some incredible artists. We have our own way of doing things that’s just as good and very distinctive in many ways. We can learn a lot from observing both. I believe we should embrace both if bonsai is to progress all over the world.
Caroline (Caz) Scott (55)
- Born in: Corbridge, England
- Education: Business Management
- Profession: Graphic Designer for 20 years.
- Today: professional bonsai artist and teacher
- Into bonsai since: 1989
- Favourite species: Junipers and pines