Bonsai instruction books....

greerhw

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When I started out in bonsai, I didn't know anyone that did bonsai in my area, so naturally I bought a few books on bonsai how to.I guess my comprehension level must be pretty low, because I didn't feel as though I got much help from them. I trully didn't learn anything until I joined the local club. There came a point when they could no longer teach me advanced techniques, so I went to a workshop and wow, what a difference that make in my learning skills. Then I decided to save up my money and hire a master to work on my one good tree and a whole new level of bonsai opened up to me. I still don't have the eye of a master, but at least I now know how it's supposed to look when it's done properly. Books are ok, magazines are nice for the pictures, kind of like Playboy. If I ever get into sword fighting or boxing, I won't start with a how to book..............


keep it green,
Harry
 

rockm

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I beg to differ. I started bonsai over 15 years ago. I learned quite alot from bonsai books, but I read ALOT of books, from Harry Tomlinson to Peter Adams, John Naka, Peter Chan and Dorothy Young. I read almost every bonsai book I could get my hands on. In doing that reading, I realized that many of the shorter "how to" books were complete crap. You could tell which were crap because the trees in the photos in the books were crap--or borrowed from OTHER writers...

Anyway, i also found that some "bonsai experts" in clubs were nothing more than good readers of the same material. :D

Some books caused a profound shift in the way I perceived bonsai. Peter Chan's old "Bonsai Masterclass" in which he showed in detail how to cut a big tree down into a little tree opened my eyes to what was possible horticulturally and artistically. John Naka's books weren't valuable to me until I learned what bonsai really was. His care instructions are abysmal for anyone looking to grow bonsai on the East Coast...
 

pauldogx

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I beg to differ. I started bonsai over 15 years ago. I learned quite alot from bonsai books, but I read ALOT of books, from Harry Tomlinson to Peter Adams, John Naka, Peter Chan and Dorothy Young. I read almost every bonsai book I could get my hands on. In doing that reading, I realized that many of the shorter "how to" books were complete crap. You could tell which were crap because the trees in the photos in the books were crap--or borrowed from OTHER writers...

Anyway, i also found that some "bonsai experts" in clubs were nothing more than good readers of the same material. :D

Some books caused a profound shift in the way I perceived bonsai. Peter Chan's old "Bonsai Masterclass" in which he showed in detail how to cut a big tree down into a little tree opened my eyes to what was possible horticulturally and artistically. John Naka's books weren't valuable to me until I learned what bonsai really was. His care instructions are abysmal for anyone looking to grow bonsai on the East Coast...

Agreed on the Naka---you have to be a bit advanced to start to get anything from the Naka books.
 

Rick Moquin

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It's the quality of the reference that is important, not the medium. Several how tos are only good for starting a fireplace. After one has increased his knowledge from the basic fundamentals, the reference required needs to be commensurate with individual goals.

Vision of my soul would be a little heavy for a neophyte, but a great reference once the fundamentals have taken root.
 

bleepblop

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I have noticed with the books I have read that I tend to jump back and forth from all of them. It seems that each book I have read all have different, but helpful, nuggets of information. Such as one book may have a lot of information on the fundamentals of the art while others focus more on the treatment of the plant.

For example one book I own focuses on more advanced techniques such as grafting branches and proper root growth. Along with that it also details on how to take care of your plants from fertilizing them to what diseases they can get. While other books focus more on the aesthetics and/or care techniques.

I think books have helped me have a greater understanding of the art, but I also agree that they can only teach so much.
 

BUBBAFRGA

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books only take you so far

I have to agree with Harry.....I learned from books, Learned more from Club Members but really learned more from workshops with Masters....
 

jk_lewis

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People learn diffeently. Some folks learn by reading. Others lean best when someone tells or shows them how. Still other have to DO it.

Now that you have had a workshop o two, I suspect you will get more from the books.
 

subnet_rx

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For the horticultural aspect of bonsai, I couldn't imagine life without reading books and the internet.
 

Tachigi

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We all that participate in this hobby, art form, diversion have a language all are own. So, for someone to get the most out of being taught effectively by someone else it is necessary to have a grasp of what the terminology is.

This is where books for the beginner definitely serves a purpose as a teaching aid, a prerequisite if you will. The hands on learning process shared by someone else will definitely be enhanced if a common language is shared.

I would agree with others that learning from others is a lot more effective. There (IMO) is nothing better than seeing cause and effect up close and personal.
 

Yamadori

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Different things at different stages.

I agree with Tom about the language acqusition from books in the early stages. There is also learning to identify styles and species. Both of which I learned from studying books early on. I would have been very intimidated by a workshop when I was first learning. Now, hands on with teachers is essential for my better development.

My book choice has also changed. I mostly look at books that assume a level of understanding and experience. I don't need a book to define "nebari" any more. I need to learn root grafting. With a limited access to teachers (rural) I need books, and the internet, to fill in. I would love to have an advanced bonsai teacher in my county. As it is, I drive 2-3 hours each way for meetings and club workshops. It is almost always worth it.
 

mcpesq817

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I would agree with others that learning from others is a lot more effective. There (IMO) is nothing better than seeing cause and effect up close and personal.

While I read a ton of books and magazines, read a lot online, and am fortunate to live near the National Arboretum, a lot of stuff didn't really sink in until I had the opportunity to see a friend's really nice collection, up close and personal. Two dimensional pictures are nice, but viewing trees from different angles in 3D to me was a big eye opener. The only problem is that he has larger trees, and I've now caught that bug as well, so I plan to send him my future chiropractor bills for my back :D

Also, taking a repotting workshop with Boon was incredibly informative. I would have paid the workshop fee just to learn how to easily do those drainage screen tie-ins :)
 

rockm

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Books are good. First hand is good. A combination gives more perspective than either alone.

I'd never done a pot screen tie the same way in the last 15 years -:D Can't remember how to make all those fancy loops--I used the "Git-R-Done" technique this season :D--put one end of the wire through the screen, put the other end of the wire though the screen about 1" - 1/2" from the first, pull the wire by both ends until the bottom of the "u" is tight against the screen, insert in drainage hole with screen on the inside of the pot-bend the wire ends flat against the outside bottom of the pot. Fast, easy, no curlicues to learn.
 

grouper52

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I think books play a role, but a limited one, and one that has shifted over time for me. Same with the net. Same with magazines, workshops, demos, clubs, etc.

For years I had one beginners book and no formal instruction, but I used to pick up some key nuggets of wisdom spending an afternoon at Brussels occasionally.

Later I got some deeper learning on subtle levels from Naka's books, then some practical thoughts from Kershoff's, and some inspiration from Liang's. That's about it from books, except great pleasure and inspiration from browsing the pictures in obscure Chinese books I happened upon. I can't remember the last time I read a single word in a bonsai book.

I've never subscribed to a magazine. Never went to a workshop. Went to my first demo about a year ago, but it was more inspirational than instructive. Been to a couple of club meetings in the pst year, but it was a pretty boring experience for my mind.

Never had a formal teacher, but in recent years I have learned from Robert Cho by hanging around and helping a few afternoons, and have had the great good fortune to spend a great deal of time hanging around informally with Dan Robinson in the last two years - not in a formal teacher/student relationship, but as friends, a mentor, and because I am writing and photographing (with Vic) his biography and retrospective. This has been the greatest surge of new inspiration and learning since my first year in the hobby.

Through it all, however, I have learned the most simply by hanging out with my own trees and working on them through the years. They taught he both the horticulture and the styling. More recently, I have paid more attention to what I see in nature as well. I think the little tid bits of technique and data that one can get from books and such, while important, only took me so far.

For others, it seems to be much different, but we all learn and grow differently.
 

rockm

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Ever had a pot lose 1/2 its soil after repotting because you forgot the drainage mesh? Guess not...:rolleyes:
 

Klytus

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I use gorilla glue to reattach me rocks too.

Okay,it's not true as i have no rocks.

But if i did and i wanted to secure them back onto the soil then i have yet to see the method in print.

It would have to be trial and error.

The use of your mesh without using wire is a little bonsai secret,you may never see the technique used outside your own yard.

People will assume it's there,they may even imagine it to be there,but it wont be.
 
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Books, magazines, internet, workshops, study groups, conventions/shows--what a plethora of ways we can learn and improve our bonsai skills! I use them all now but when I started there were just books and a few magazines. If you can manage to keep your mind open, things can be gleaned from other non-bonsai sources too. That's what I love about this art--it's always changing. And then there are the trees themselves to teach us in their own way if we have the patience to pay attention to what they're telling us. And new species are being tried and introduced that have their contribution to give.

Exciting and sometimes frustrating art to pursue. Stay tuned, bonsai will quietly amaze you:D
 

Attila Soos

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The use of your mesh without using wire is a little bonsai secret,you may never see the technique used outside your own yard.

That's how I do it, the "mesh with invisible wire" technique. This technique is based on the theory of gravity. Although still a theory, it consistently happens every time.
 
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Attila Soos

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I am with Greg, it doesn't matter what source, I use it all. Whenever I can pick up something, either from written/printed media or live, I am equally excited. When it comes to learning, I am indiscriminate and reckless, with blatant disregard to the nature of source. I am a sucker for good information, and don't discriminate as to its source: it can come from people of all races , bleached and recicled paper, foreign or domestic magazine, computer screen, or projection canvas. I am an equal opportunity employer, and equal opportunity learner.
I like to learn on my own terms, at my own pace, so seldom in my life took any formal lessons. But I am always around others who are better than myself, circling around them like a buzzard, ready to pick up any discarded morsel of knowledge.
I usually buy twice as many books and magazines than I actually read, sometimes I read them, other times I forget about them or lose them in the house and re-discover years later ("honey, look what a cool book I found, who bought this?"), and sometimes I am not sure that I've read them or not, so I read them again, just in case.

The reason for this, must be that I love variety, in everything I do...use an impossibly wide range of species in bonsai, eat every type of food available on this planet, see every imaginable place, and use every possible source. So, the method of learning fits my personality. On the oher hand, my father in law eats the same food, watches the same shows, and takes the same route every day.

I think this is the rub: the method of learning you choose should match your personal profile. Some people like their hand to be held, others hate it. Some like it structured and formal, others like it spontaneous and informal. Some like personal contact and can't be by themselves for one minute, others shy away from it and prefer solitude. I can see that in my kids. You have to find out for yourself the best way to learn.
 
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