Lifestyle Bonsai for beginners: Dr. Bob Wendorf to teach class Jan. 18 | The Cullman Tribune


Bonsai for beginners: Dr. Bob Wendorf to teach class Jan. 18

CULLMAN - Maybe you really should put more thought into the gifts you give. You never can tell when a gift will turn into a hobby that leads to a fascination for that gift which broadens the mind and enriches the life of the recipient beyond measure.

Such was the gift of a little bonsai (the name means “tree in a pot”) which was a gift to Dr. Bob Wendorf by his sister-in-law about 25 years ago. His mother’s family had lived in the Philippines in the mid-1930s, and had absorbed much of the Asian culture there, bringing home with them Oriental rugs and other Asian influenced décor.  “I grew up with a Japanese woodblock in my room,” said Wendorf.

Over the time, the little tree would be the inspiration for a book (“Make Someone Happy”) and lead to a Bonsai collection carefully shaped by the hands of Wendorf.

His interest would even lead to a keen talent for Japanese Landscaping. He has done two back gardens in homes he was occupying; one of them is an ongoing project in his current garden. He notes that one of the reasons he so admires this form of gardening is because the trees have such longevity, usually, and that he can create odd and interesting shapes, often mimicking nature.

“For most people who have tried bonsai, their first tree is a little juniper,” said Wendorf. “Then they go out and kill it by overwatering it or keeping it in the house,” he concluded. “That tree might have lived a lot longer if it had been kept outdoors.”

Maples also make great bonsai subjects, and like junipers, are easily come by in our Zone 7 area.  However, unlike junipers, maples lose their leaves at the first sign of frost, while junipers almost seem to love getting out in the cold weather.

According to Cullman County Extension Service Coordinator, Tony Glover, “Brother Jude Johnston of St. Bernard approached me last year about hosting a Beginning Bonsai program and we are very pleased to have Dr. Bob Wendorf speak and demonstrate on this topic.  I want to encourage anyone interested to join us for this free event hosted by the Cullman County Master Gardeners.  Also, we want to let everyone know it is not too late to sign up for the upcoming 2018 Master Gardener course, but time is short,” Glover cautioned. “Please contact our office soon for details about the Master Gardener Class at 256-737-9386.”

On Jan. 18, the Cullman County Extension Service will host Wendorf, who will teach a beginners’ class in the art of creating bonsai. Students will leave the class knowing how to pot a bonsai, what kind of containers are best suited for the little trees, and the basic styles of the bonsai. No materials are required.

Dr. Bob Wendorf has 25 years in the art of bonsai. He is also a board member and president of the Alabama Bonsai Society, has served two years as curator of bonsai exhibit at the Birmingham Botanical Garden (BBG) and is co-founder and long-term president of the Japanese Garden Society of Alabama.

In addition, Wendorf holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, with 36 years in practice and 12 years teaching in Illinois and at UAB, has published three books and written articles for the BBG Japanese Garden in “Alabama Heritage” magazine, and is the author of two published letters in Bonsai Clubs International Newsletter.

At a glance:

What: Bonsai for the Beginner

When: Thursday, Jan. 18 at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Cullman County Extension Office, 402 Arnold St. NE (basement)

This is a regular Master Gardener meeting, but the public is encouraged to come to attend this free event.

For directions or for more information, call 256-737-9386 or visit

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