A little about me...A little about you...

RyanFrye

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I'm posting this mostly because I'm bored, but also I want to see if anyone can identify with what I'm experiencing and have experienced in this wonderful art.

When I first started out in bonsai I was a secluded student of the art. I was not able to go to clubs and was restricted to books and the net to gain knowledge of both plants in general and the art form itself.

As a result I picked plants willy nilly as they caught my eye in books or on the web. I gathered all kinds of different species of trees and shrubs to create bonsai out of. But I never really mastered any of the species completely. That was about 13 years ago. I only know a little about each species I worked with to this day.

I decided some years ago to reduce my collection and concentrate on a few species. But, now life has turned and I'm freed up to get involved with my local club. And it's like I'm getting the bonsai bug all over again. I want to get every species of tree that catches my eye. In fact, the Birch family has really got my attention at the moment and just a few minutes ago I inquired about purchasing a relative of the Birch, the American Hornbeam.

This is very funny to me, especially since when I started in bonsai I was more interested in tropicals like ficus and bougie's. But now I'm more into Deciduous and Conifer trees.

I also have come to realize I'm some what of a bonsai snob (tongue in cheek). I don't too much care for the "naturalistic" style. And, whether or not making an azalea bonsai resemble a pine tree, like they are currently being done in Japan, is "right" or "wrong" according to nature....I don't really care. I like it. I like trees that evoke images of mythology. My idea of bonsai has developed beyond what I see in nature and into the realm of epic legends and myths. A very idealized form I guess.
I think maybe my bonsai "pallet" has matured. Not that it is better than any one else's. But by having a mature "pallet" I can "taste" all the different flavors now and I finally know what I like. Now if only I could restrain myself to concentrate on a few species like I set out to do a few years ago....
 
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TimD

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I had somewhat of a similar experience. Moving along year to year on books and browsing old forums. It wasn't until I took the trips down and had a few classes where I could interact with people knowledgable about bonsai that I finally made some progress.

I have tried several species only to fail then later find out they don't do so well in my area. Even though I know more now than I did back then I don't see the need to go back and have so many different species... (as I look outside and can't count the different ones).

I've found it is more important to know as much as you can about a few than it is to know just a little about a lot.

Maybe you could try various styles, ones outside your view of appealing.
 
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Interesting progression Ryan.

I can remember being bitten by the bug, so to speak, a decade and a half ago, and I can understand where you are coming from. When I started out, it was just about learning how to keep trees alive and around for more than a year without killing them. I dabbled in the naturalistic style, learning by doing etc. I can seem to remember the point where all I wanted to do was dig up new native things and try my luck. That was a natural progression for me. Although it proved interesting, I found that I had way too many STRAYS in my garden so to speak. Nothing worthy of keeping, or even being bonsai.

Being from south Florida I had a growing collection of natives and interesting tropicals, but I wanted more deciduous too. I got rid of a lot of junk, but i still have my stand bys. I can't seem to get rid of my Black Olives and Fukiens. They are suited to so may different styles.

I have since moved up to zone 9, and am now perfectly happy with my three main species. Fukien tea, Bucida Spinosa, and my latest craze, Tridents. I can really work on my compositions (styles) and not have too many learning curves to deal with.
 

DaveV

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I Ryan, I am some what like you in taste of bonsai. Its hard for me to pull away from the traditional/classical look of Japanese bonsai. After all, that is what originally captured my attention. I have tried to "enjoy" the natural/wild look but one thing that I have noticed is some of the naturally looking bonsai are very large bonsai. I think in order to make them look natural they have to be BIG. The other thing I noticed over the years is that even those that have been in bonsai for 30+ years, still don't have all the answers to some of the basic horticulture questions. Just look at the disagreements with auxins, vit B-1, soil mixes, root sensitivity to heat, ect. Just my observations.

Dave V.
 

rockm

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Don't confuse "Big"

with "natural." The illusion of naturalistic bonsai comes from certain visual cues, not from specific sizes of bonsai. Although those cues can be more prevalent on some older (and mostly bigger) bonsai.

Bark texture, branch placement and diameter, trunk height/diameter ratio all factor into a "naturalistic" look. All can be present in a tree regardless of size. Larger bonsai tend to have all of these because they're usually made from older cut back trees. Smaller bonsai typically use younger starter material (but vice versa isn't unnusual)

http://www.imageenvision.com/md/stock_photography/pruning_a_japanese_maple_bonsai.jpg

For what it's worth, the longer i've done bonsai, the less of an iconic place Japanese bonsai has for me. Well executed bonsai are well executed bonsai, regardless of "style." The Japanese have ALOT of hackneyed cliche bonsai that get a pass because they're Japanese.

As for concentrating on specific species, that's probably a good choice and one that most bonsai folks make sooner or later. You get really good at two or three, but not five or six, species.

Definitely look into American Hornbeam (usually goes by Carolina Hornbeam, BTW, since it's proper name is carpinus Caroliniana). It's a great species to work with for bonsi, but has some quirks you should know about.
 

greerhw

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I'm a grouchy old fart that tells it like it is and collects conifers.

Ciao,
Harry
 

Marc S

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The Japanese have ALOT of hackneyed cliche bonsai that get a pass because they're Japanese.

Hmm
There's symbolism in Japanese bonsai, that's why they look as cliches to us.
The shape of the crown for example, triangular in most Japanese bonsai, unites Man, Heaven and Earth, creating a path of spiritual values followed by those who take care of a little tree.
With the medium of bonsai, the human soul is intended to seek a union with the higher soul of nature, trying to capture its essence.
 

meushi

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For what it's worth, the longer i've done bonsai, the less of an iconic place Japanese bonsai has for me. Well executed bonsai are well executed bonsai, regardless of "style." The Japanese have ALOT of hackneyed cliche bonsai that get a pass because they're Japanese.

That's a beef I have with a lot of "competition" bonsai actually. The trees shown in smaller exhibitions in Japan are different from the "competition" specimens tweaked to fit the judges tastes. I tend to prefer honest trees to the weird contraptions you often see at kokufu and similar events. In a way, it is like judo... you'd be a fool to judge the sport based on the parody that happens in high-level competition.

While we're on the subject of beefs ;)

I also have a beef with the "Italian school" junipers where the dead wood has to blind you and the bark has to be scrubbed to a glossy red, I much prefer naturally bleached dead wood and natural bark thank you very much. ;)

Another beef I have with "competition" bonsai is something I have witnessed in France: clubs borrowing/renting trees from neighboring countries professionals to present as their own at exhibitions or informal competitions.
 

shohin kid

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When I began, I wanted to get a lot of trees. Now, I am doing the reverse of that; I am downsizing. I find that a smaller collection satisfies me more. When I first started, I would go to the garden center and buy several trees that I thought would become great bonsai, I later realized what I had done and planted them into my yard for the garden.

My plan know is to focus on shimpaku and satsuki. I love the foliage on shimpaku and the flowers on satsukis. I am very privileged to have probably the most knowledgeable person on satsukis azaleas in the US living in my town. Dave Kreutz owns Satsuki Bonsai-En and consults the National Arboretum on their satsuki azalea bonsai. I went to his nursery this past weekend. Almost all of his satsukis were in bloom. It was a site to see. I plan to aquire several varieties of satsuki in the oncoming years, and will probablly stop at ten. Dave also has some spectacular shimpakus too!
I also like small bonsai. All of my trees are shohin and mame except for Three Chuhin trees. I don't know why I like shohin, space is not an issue, probably because they can be held in the hand. I also love shohin displays.

I am just starting to learn about accent plants. This is a whole knew thing that I have to do some reading on.
My ideal shohin collection is ten satsukis, three shimpaku, three maples, and a pine. This is what I am working to accomplish in the next couple of years. If you add those 17 to the three chuhin trees, you get 20, which is a good number, i think, for a well kept personal collection.
 
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DaveV

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Shohin Kid, Its sounds to me like you will be the next shimpaku guru. Now I know who to address all of my shimpaku questions to.


I too love shimpaku. I have been growing these junipers for about 4 years now and still learning more about them. My favorite are chinese elms.
 

RyanFrye

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Definitely look into American Hornbeam (usually goes by Carolina Hornbeam, BTW, since it's proper name is carpinus Caroliniana). It's a great species to work with for bonsi, but has some quirks you should know about.

I take it you probably know the quirks;) Mind sharing them?:D
 

RyanFrye

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Hmm
There's symbolism in Japanese bonsai, that's why they look as cliches to us.
The shape of the crown for example, triangular in most Japanese bonsai, unites Man, Heaven and Earth, creating a path of spiritual values followed by those who take care of a little tree.
With the medium of bonsai, the human soul is intended to seek a union with the higher soul of nature, trying to capture its essence.

This is a good point. I'm aware of the ones you mentioned but I'd like to learn more about the symbolisms that I may not be aware of.
 

RyanFrye

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Another beef I have with "competition" bonsai is something I have witnessed in France: clubs borrowing/renting trees from neighboring countries professionals to present as their own at exhibitions or informal competitions.

I'm surprised people let that fly without calling them out.
 

Smoke

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That's a beef I have with a lot of "competition" bonsai actually. The trees shown in smaller exhibitions in Japan are different from the "competition" specimens tweaked to fit the judges tastes. I tend to prefer honest trees to the weird contraptions you often see at kokufu and similar events. In a way, it is like judo... you'd be a fool to judge the sport based on the parody that happens in high-level competition.

While we're on the subject of beefs ;)

I also have a beef with the "Italian school" junipers where the dead wood has to blind you and the bark has to be scrubbed to a glossy red, I much prefer naturally bleached dead wood and natural bark thank you very much. ;)

Another beef I have with "competition" bonsai is something I have witnessed in France: clubs borrowing/renting trees from neighboring countries professionals to present as their own at exhibitions or informal competitions.

Don't sugar coat it brother! Tell us how you really feel;)

just al
 

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shohin kid

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Shohin Kid, Its sounds to me like you will be the next shimpaku guru. Now I know who to address all of my shimpaku questions to.

There are other people on this site who know way more than me. I am NO shimpaku or azalea expert. Just a student.
 

greerhw

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That's a beef I have with a lot of "competition" bonsai actually. The trees shown in smaller exhibitions in Japan are different from the "competition" specimens tweaked to fit the judges tastes. I tend to prefer honest trees to the weird contraptions you often see at kokufu and similar events. In a way, it is like judo... you'd be a fool to judge the sport based on the parody that happens in high-level competition.

While we're on the subject of beefs ;)

I also have a beef with the "Italian school" junipers where the dead wood has to blind you and the bark has to be scrubbed to a glossy red, I much prefer naturally bleached dead wood and natural bark thank you very much. ;)

Another beef I have with "competition" bonsai is something I have witnessed in France: clubs borrowing/renting trees from neighboring countries professionals to present as their own at exhibitions or informal competitions.

Ok Pug, it's not the Italians, it's the Japanese that do all that shoe shinning. not the Italians. Gotta defend my man less I be letting him down.

Harry
 

DaveV

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Hi shohin Kid, I know that, I'm just teasing you. We are all for the most part continual students of bonsai. What I like about you comment is that you want to focus on two main species of trees and that you want to become very good at these two.

Dave V.
 

Mortalis

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I narrowed my focus to All Ficus and Texas Ebony after about 3 years. I just found only those really made me feel the way I want my trees to make me feel.
 

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