6 months in the life of a noob!

HotAction

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Ok, so I'm 10 months into bonsai, and this is the first bonsai, (not tree) I've ever owned. It was given to me last October. (not Rob) first pic as received, next two as it is now. It is American Larch.

-Dave (sorry for the crappy cell-phone pics)
 

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GOZTEK

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hi hot action you know me from bt. That is nice considering that i have been in bonsai for 6 months now and have lots of sticks and no trees lol
 

HotAction

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Thanks, Goz. I was fortunate to be gifted an old(ish) tree from a friend.
-Dave
 

cquinn

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I wouldn't jinn that top, it seems like everybody does that with conifers. It's like a cop out for not taking the time to build an apex. It works on some trees when done right, but I haven't seen many that were convincing (they all look man-made) This is nice material, I would love to have it. It will look majestic, but please don't mess it up by jinning that apex. I would rather buy it from you, than have you do that.
 

october

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Hello HotAction,

I like your virt for the this tree very much... it is a very natural looking style...One thing I have noticed about larches though, is the they either have an almost straight trunk then some curve or the bowed trunk look. Although the bowed trunk look is sometimes considered a flaw in bonsai. I like it on this tree. It seems to have a natural flow to it..

Also, I think I may agree with cquinn about the jinning....Before you jin, think about it. Not saying that there is a right or wrong issue whether to jin or not. I would just concentrate on keeping the tree very healthy so it becomes a very nice bonsai. Another reason to maybe wait on the jin is because of the health. You will have a nice, lush beautifully healthy tree...with a top that's dead/jinned... So, unless the tree got hit with lightning in nature...lol....I believe it would still have its healthy top....just my opinion...

Rob
 

HotAction

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I wouldn't jinn that top, it seems like everybody does that with conifers. It's like a cop out for not taking the time to build an apex. It works on some trees when done right, but I haven't seen many that were convincing (they all look man-made) This is nice material, I would love to have it. It will look majestic, but please don't mess it up by jinning that apex. I would rather buy it from you, than have you do that.
I was never REALLY thinking about making it a jin. I was drinking and figured I could do a virt for discussion sake. Hard to tell cause the phone camera, but I have a decent start on forming that apex, and next spring with some further wiring, it should really begin to fill in and take shape. The biggest flaws in this tree are some boring straight sections of trunk. With some heavy wire or a jack I think this can be minimized.

Thanks for looking and sharing your thoughts, and you are right, I see tons of attempts at jins like I presented in the virt, most don't make the grade.

-Dave
 

HotAction

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Hello HotAction,

I like your virt for the this tree very much... it is a very natural looking style...One thing I have noticed about larches though, is the they either have an almost straight trunk then some curve or the bowed trunk look. Although the bowed trunk look is sometimes considered a flaw in bonsai. I like it on this tree. It seems to have a natural flow to it..

Also, I think I may agree with cquinn about the jinning....Before you jin, think about it. Not saying that there is a right or wrong issue whether to jin or not. I would just concentrate on keeping the tree very healthy so it becomes a very nice bonsai. Another reason to maybe wait on the jin is because of the health. You will have a nice, lush beautifully healthy tree...with a top that's dead/jinned... So, unless the tree got hit with lightning in nature...lol....I believe it would still have its healthy top....just my opinion...

Rob
Thanks Rob, you posted while I was responding to CQuinn. As I have been pondering options with this tree the health is the main factor why I'm leaning away from deadwood. Most of the tree is full of life and I can't see where deadwood could help to tell a story. Good Observation.

-Dave
 

cquinn

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I was never REALLY thinking about making it a jin. I was drinking and figured I could do a virt for discussion sake. Hard to tell cause the phone camera, but I have a decent start on forming that apex, and next spring with some further wiring, it should really begin to fill in and take shape. The biggest flaws in this tree are some boring straight sections of trunk. With some heavy wire or a jack I think this can be minimized.

Thanks for looking and sharing your thoughts, and you are right, I see tons of attempts at jins like I presented in the virt, most don't make the grade.

-Dave
I don't think I would throw any jacks to it yet. When the foliage fills out, and you start cutting back and getting ramification, you could take some of those secondary branches and bring them in front of the trunk (on upper half of the tree). I think it'll make a much more pleasing image that way.
 

october

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lol..........cquinn.... I was about to suggest the exact same thing... With Larch, you can definitely grow a pad in a spot to hide a trunk etc......In a book that I have had for a while..."The Art of Natural Bonsai" The author loves Larches and encounters the same trunk problems. He does not believe in heavy man made chops or deadwood or doing major work to a tree (hence the title Art of Natural Bonsai). He believes it trying to make it as natural as possible. He has many pictures of larches, and others, where he just waiting for a new pad to grow into an area to cover flaws. I will say that his larches are absolutely beautiful.. The Author is Dave Joyce..who I believe has passed on, but was able to finish the book before he passed away.

Rob
 

HotAction

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lol..........cquinn.... I was about to suggest the exact same thing... With Larch, you can definitely grow a pad in a spot to hide a trunk etc......In a book that I have had for a while..."The Art of Natural Bonsai" The author loves Larches and encounters the same trunk problems. He does not believe in heavy man made chops or deadwood or doing major work to a tree (hence the title Art of Natural Bonsai). He believes it trying to make it as natural as possible. He has many pictures of larches, and others, where he just waiting for a new pad to grow into an area to cover flaws. I will say that his larches are absolutely beautiful.. The Author is Dave Joyce..who I believe has passed on, but was able to finish the book before he passed away.

Rob
I believe that was the book that led me into the world of bonsai. If it is full of nicely documented progressions, and a foreward of his intentions to finish the book w/ his wife's encouragement.
(i think i recall an Acer palmatum (semi)cascade?)
Hard to explain, but it seems I am using these techniques you mention already. The main branches already forked into two or three branches right after leaving the trunk, so I shaped them to "fill" an area (imagine opening a hand fan?) I have been able to begin to reduce the noticable flaws already, however, winter is a different story. (And we sure have winters)

Also, Rob, don't know if I mentioned it, but the trees you have posted this spring are looking good.

-Dave
 

cquinn

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lol..........cquinn.... I was about to suggest the exact same thing... With Larch, you can definitely grow a pad in a spot to hide a trunk etc......In a book that I have had for a while..."The Art of Natural Bonsai" The author loves Larches and encounters the same trunk problems. He does not believe in heavy man made chops or deadwood or doing major work to a tree (hence the title Art of Natural Bonsai). He believes it trying to make it as natural as possible. He has many pictures of larches, and others, where he just waiting for a new pad to grow into an area to cover flaws. I will say that his larches are absolutely beautiful.. The Author is Dave Joyce..who I believe has passed on, but was able to finish the book before he passed away.

Rob
I love that book. I find myself going back to it time and time again.
 

october

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Thanks Dave for the compliment..

Also, regarding the book. It is a good book. It is a simpler form of bonsai that the artist practiced. A deviation from the strict, rule based mainstream, so to speak.

I, personally, love and respect all bonsai practices.. Traditional and non traditional..... I do not understand why there is sometimes so much rebellion against tradition....Tradition is the foundation. However, some trees call for non traditional thinking.

I think that some rebel against tradition just becasue its is too hard. The "cookie cutter" tree so to speak. Yes, most may look like one another, but it still took, possibly, 20 years for the tree to become that and this is something we must respect..I mean, is the tree any less beautiful or magnificent simply because it follows the classic informal upright design??? On the other end of the spectrum, is a tree less beuatiful because it does not follow tradition..absolutely not.

I think that it should always be up to the individual tree.

Rob
 

RyanFrye

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WOW you're off to a great start for a "Noob". You have much better material than I ever had starting out. Good luck and keep us updated.
 

HotAction

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Thanks Ryan, I am getting new shoots popping from nearly every bud, and next season it should really start to take shape. However, I stated this was American Larch, but now I am not so sure. I dug about 11 or 12 American larch this year and I'm not sure they are the same. This one has significantly different bark color (grey as compared to brown) and the needles and shoots appear different too?

-Dave
 

Dav4

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Very nice and progressing nicely. If it were mine, I would try to get just a bit more movement in the main and secondary branching, both up/down and side to side. More bends/changes in direction will make the the branches look older. Those bigger, lower branches will also look better if they move downward at a steeper angle. Good luck,

Dave
 
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grouper52

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HotAction,

Very late to this thread, and my thoughts may not be altogether welcome, but perhaps they will be of some help.

I think you have a very nice piece of material, and are fortunate to have it. Larches are great to work with.

Several pointers may help your initial work - which is going well overall.

The "naturalistic" style in bonsai does not mean "natural". It's main focus is on producing images that are less traditionally stylized, and more reflective of what we actually see in nature. It is about the image, not the method used, and does not simply mean that we do little to the "natural" piece of material we start with. It actually involves a great deal of manipulation of the tree, and is difficult to pull off, and time consuming, because the work must be hidden: there is typically a great deal of human intervention, but it is not noticeable at all, and the tree therefore LOOKS natural but is not simply a piece of material as we find it.

Along those lines, if we look at trees as they grow in nature, we notice that they look much different at different ages. A juvenile tree, especially a conifer, typically starts off with straight, apically dominant growth in a conical shape: like the Christmas tree you probably have in your living room right now. As it matures, the growth becomes less apically dominant over time, it thickens, and the branches become more contorted and irregular. An old tree, if it lives long enough, eventually starts to die from the top down. There are probably few trees of this age left in the forests where you live to serve as examples, but you might find pictures of them, and they are worth studying closely. They have an ancient and venerable character about them.

Your tree, as it is now, is representative of a fairly juvenile tree. The trunk is thin. The branches are straight. The overall shape is conical and fairly regular. Elements of early maturity, however, are seen: the slightly crooked top and the nebari.

There is nothing wrong with a juvenile-looking tree as a bonsai, but many of us find the look of a more mature or ancient image more interesting and appealing. Along those lines, and just from the standpoint of overall aesthetics as well, I'd like to make two suggestions which, even if you don't put them into practice with this particular tree, may help with future ones as you develop in the art.

The first one may not appeal to you at all with this tree, but even folks much more traditional than I am would point out that the tree is far too tall for the thickness of it's trunk and the maturity of its base. I usually hate "The Rules" for their own sake, but the 6:1 rule for trunk height:thickness is one that is hard to break convincingly.

With such a nice piece of starter material as yours is, it is often gut wrenching to even think about cutting away most of it, but you would either have to do that (about 2/3 of it!) or put it in the ground for 10+ years to thicken it up so the proportions of the trunk are thick enough to support such a tall tree in a visually pleasing manner. Sorry.

Second, it is important to understand that wiring is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Your wiring is neat and nicely done, but it accomplishes so little of the great benefit it could produce that it strikes me as not worth doing in the first place. Typically, two major improvements are produced by wiring: branch placement, and branch contortion.

Branch placement, such as pulling branches down to simulate the effects seen on conifers in snow-heavy climates, is almost always accomplished better and more safely with guy wires. Even branch placement to the sides or even upwards is often easy with guy wires. Yes, they do look ugly for a few months or more, but such major branch placement only typically needs to be done once during the initial styling.

Branch contortions, OTOH, are where wrapped wiring can really shine. The only alternative is clip-and-grow techniques - VERY slow with most trees in most climates. Once wrapped wire is in place (and this is usually better to do at times other than the winter!), movements can be imposed along the length of branches and at their branching points that will create great visual interest and an authentic image of age. Depending on the type of tree, and depending on one's wishes and technique, anything from gentle undulations to extremely sharp bends can be imposed. Usually, just to wrap a branch neatly, but then merely use it to bend the branch down or place the branch somewhere that a guy wire could place it, without taking advantage of the contortions that can be imposed along the branch, is a wasted opportunity, IMO.

Hope that helps. Best of luck with this great tree.
 
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