History of Shimpaku instant bonsai

Vance Wood

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Two years ago in a Galaxy far far away this tree was entered in a styling contest. In view of the criticizm of issued by some of using nursery material and the so called instant bonsai mentality I thought I would post this series of pictures profiling one such endeavour with a nursery tree.

In 2005 the stock was selected as shown in the first photograph. The second photo shows the finished tree and the third pictures shows the same tree with some additional work performed this spring. Note that the tree is still alive and is prospering. It still has at least two more seasons before it will be worth showing. The dead wood elements still need more work and the foliage pads need further developing.
 

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Behr

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Mr. Vance,

Well done sir...I must admit when entered into the contest I was not all that impressed with this tree, however with the reversal of fronts and reduction of the deadwood this is developing into a very nice tree...I do look forward to seeing occasional updates on this tree in the future...

Regards
Behr

:) :) :)
 

Vance Wood

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Mr. Vance,

Well done sir...I must admit when entered into the contest I was not all that impressed with this tree, however with the reversal of fronts and reduction of the deadwood this is developing into a very nice tree...I do look forward to seeing occasional updates on this tree in the future...

Regards
Behr

:) :) :)
Thank you for the kind words, and I will be updating this tree as it changes. One of the reasons I posted this item is in response to those who continually default to the standard talking point that to do this kind of thing will give you a dead tree in the end. Clearly this is not the case. I plan on posting several others along the same line proving the same point.
 
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Two years ago in a Galaxy far far away this tree was entered in a styling contest. In view of the criticizm of issued by some of using nursery material and the so called instant bonsai mentality I thought I would post this series of pictures profiling one such endeavour with a nursery tree.

In 2005 the stock was selected as shown in the first photograph. The second photo shows the finished tree and the third pictures shows the same tree with some additional work performed this spring. Note that the tree is still alive and is prospering. It still has at least two more seasons before it will be worth showing. The dead wood elements still need more work and the foliage pads need further developing.
I've been a fan of your work since I took up bonsai, Vance. But I have to say that this tree just doesn't grab me. Sure, it's "better" then anything I've done. It's likely better then most of the stuff done by most of the people reading this, but I'm judging it based on the work you've done, not mine or other members'. Do YOU think it is some of your best work?
 

Vance Wood

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I've been a fan of your work since I took up bonsai, Vance. But I have to say that this tree just doesn't grab me. Sure, it's "better" then anything I've done. It's likely better then most of the stuff done by most of the people reading this, but I'm judging it based on the work you've done, not mine or other members'. Do YOU think it is some of your best work?
Not yet, it is only two years in, but that was not the point of publishing it. I mostly wanted to show that it was still alive in rebutal to all of the recent comments about the demise of all "instant bonsai" attempts by way of contests and demonstrations.

At this stage with Shimpakus you have to be careful with the wiring process, it is very easy to retard new and delicate growth that you want to develop as quickly as possible. I figure another two maybe three years before this tree starts looking like I would like to show it. It also needs a different pot.

A word of caution for those of you who are growing Shimpaku Junipers: When removing wire it is better to cut it off as opposed to un-coiling it. It is very easy to fracture the joints between major branches and secondary growth by bullying off the wire. It can also be done by applying wire but because most of the time during this process you are applying pressure along the lines of growth it is not quite so much a problem. When you take the wire off you are going against the direction of growth and it is easy to hyper extend the joints on smaller growth losing, in some cases, a years work.
 
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Tachigi

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comments about the demise of all "instant bonsai" attempts by way of contests and demonstrations.
Hi Vance,
First off, I agree that some plant material suitable for bonsai can endure the stress and rigors of a transformation to "instant bonsai". I do think though that this is a relative subject. Meaning that a person without the horticultural experience may not be able to do as you have, and get the tree to survive. I understand that there is a place for instant bonsai from a demonstrative point. This is a teaching aid and a recruitment tactic to inspire. I don't necessarily agree from a contest point of view. As I view it only as a tool to massage an ego.

So, the problem (at least as I see it) is that it perpetuates a problem, at least here in America, of instant gratification. Something that doesn't always work well in this hobby. It also may not be a good thing for bonsai in general. If a relatively new person views an example of instant bonsai. Then tries it and fails repeatedly because of there lack of being able to deal with the stress of.... to much to fast. All I can see is them giving up on this hobby and with the excuse that they can't make one live. I know that was my case. I was just to stubborn to quit and I finally learned that anything of good quality is worth taking your time on.

Perhaps a disclaimer of: This styling was done by a experienced professional. Don't try this at home. :) By the way nice progression on the dead wood and the foliage is really getting dense.

Just my two cents worth...
 

Vance Wood

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Thanks Tom, you are right there is a problem when this is done by someone who does not have a clue as to what to do. But, (and there is always a but) my problem with some, not all, who condemn the practice of doing what I have done here, is the simple fact that some, not all, cannot themselves post a picture of some of the work they have done over many years. Yet they climb on this moral pedestal and claim their superiority in technique and method. Not to toot my own horn but at the least when I put my neck out there I follow it up with the evidence of what I have said.

I do agree that the contest scenario can be a bad one, the end goal is the only goal and in some entrants' minds survival of the tree does not matter. I know this is an impossibility so it seems rather an exercise in rhetoric to suggest a contest like this should be validated or invalidate by the survival of the items presented. I don't know of any way of validating the data and what could be done if the entry expired. But I want those who read this to know you can get good results in a short time with the right care using the right material.

I know that you have been discouraged and even put off with the stick in pot mentality, I agree. When you are over forty, way over forty, you don't have time to be fooling around with this material. On the other hand, I have been put off by the "You must buy or obtain the really spectacular and expensive stock" to be doing real bonsai crowd. I have seen a few trees shown on various web sites where the end results of styling some of this material would have been best served by leaving it alone.

You mention ego. Unless we are having a discussion about Buddhists monks, any endeavour by us mere humans is going to be defined to some degree by ego.
 
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Tachigi

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Yet they climb on this moral pedestal and claim their superiority in technique and method.
I agree with you on this. Blind faith can be a good thing .... to a point .... Validate your claims, or better put .....Put up or shut up

I don't know of any way of validating the data and what could be done if the entry expired.
Perhaps one day we could have a contest that follows the guidelines of some of the instant bonsai contests with a finalists prize at the end of the styling period. Then at some point down the road, say a year or so. A top prize for the health and vigor of the trees that made the finalist cut. I know it would be a long contest but that would surely show the proof in the pudding.

You mention ego. Unless we are having a discussion about Buddhists monks, any endeavour by us mere humans is going to be defined to some degree by ego.
Point well taken .... its just sometimes seems so blatant ;)
 

Vance Wood

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Perhaps one day we could have a contest that follows the guidelines of some of the instant bonsai contests with a finalists prize at the end of the styling period. Then at some point down the road, say a year or so. A top prize for the health and vigor of the trees that made the finalist cut. I know it would be a long contest but that would surely show the proof in the pudding.
I have thought of that too, but when you stop and consider that there are some pretty big talkers on the forums it is surprising that some of them never post a picture and even fewer have a gallery posted where there has been made room for one cost free. Getting a follow up may be an exercise in futility.
 

Tachigi

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Getting a follow up may be an exercise in futility.
Perhaps if the enticement was good enough they would .... then again maybe they wouldn't. As I said above the proof is in the puddin and this would reasonably show if they had the right stuff.
 
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On the other hand, I have been put off by the "You must buy or obtain the really spectacular and expensive stock" to be doing real bonsai crowd.
Man, I am a pretty heavy hitter in those particular debates, and I never recall anyone going that far into left field. Who argues that odd point? It's an obvious fallacy that of course is easy to knock down, as are all straw men.

I personally have never entered a contest until the ongoing one on Knowledge of Bonsai, for a lot of reasons that have already been hashed and rehashed. No need listing them here. Suffice to say that none ever appealed to me (except perhaps the one that graces Behr's avatar, and having seen his, I threw mine away LOL) until this current one.

I think "instant bonsai" is a false premise, as your development photos show. When the tree is mature and wired with its "final" styling, you will have something nice. But it is a work in progress, isn't it?

And I think most demonstration trees by itinerant bands of "masters" tend to be far less valuable than we try to make them out to be with raffles, etc. That's not to say that the right piece of material in the right hands could not get a major restyle or first styling in a short period of time that will set it on the road to glorious bonsaidom as "Important Bonsai Masterpiece." I've just seen too much nice material ruined for the sake of a 2 hour demo.
 

Dale Cochoy

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And I think most demonstration trees by itinerant bands of "masters" tend to be far less valuable than we try to make them out to be with raffles, etc. That's not to say that the right piece of material in the right hands could not get a major restyle or first styling in a short period of time that will set it on the road to glorious bonsaidom as "Important Bonsai Masterpiece." I've just seen too much nice material ruined for the sake of a 2 hour demo.
Have you Chris?
How many??
I get a bit tired of hearing this comment( or like comments) especially from those who have never actually BEEN to a convention or even seen a good speaker.( Note: I am NOT saying you haven't)
For myself, over the last 29 years I have learned sooooooo much watching those 2 -21/2 hour demos by those itinerant bands, including a few by your own teacher!!
I ALWAYS ( ok, usually) walk away with some great knowledge, and techniques and tidbits I didn't know. I love to watch demos and have, over the years, often been suprised by the talent of the "nobody" and often let down by this years hyped flavor of the year who leaves the genuflecting masses in a trail behind him.
But, in all the years I've sat through these demos all over this country, and a couple others, I don't think I ever heard a demonstrator refer to his tree as being a finished bonsai! I think if you are expecting to see a finished bonsai in 2 hours you are a bit over-smitten by the star!
Myself, I try to make sure people understand..."This is just a start".
Auctioning them or raffleing them.....excellent idea ( usually). The last tree I won in a raffle was a tree owned/styled by John Naka at his study group and won by Cheryl Manning in her club, then restyled by her a few years later at a convention where I won it. It has graced my monkey posts now for about 5 years! Unfortunately, there is often that newbie that wins a RMJ or something styled by Kimura. But, even though the stock will probably never survive either the newbie or the styling, just look what all the viewers have PROBABLY learned.
I myself got deeply excited and interested in carving by watching Dan Robinson in a demo many years ago at a convention.
I don't think the fault of not learning or not being a good stylist or being one of those folks who do their first year of bonsai for 15 years is the fault of the traveling stylist. It is the fault of that newbie who just never "gets serious".
Regards,
Dale
 
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Believe me, Dale, I agree with everything you just said. However, the quality of trees and demonstrators at conventions is a far different animal than the soap in my box! I've seen Chase Rosade kill a very nice juniper at Rendezvous. I've seen Ben Oki chop trees to a nub and then repot immediately at local clubs. And there are any number of lesser lights that do too much for the sake of what, theater?

My main point was that the very fact that Vance showed a sequence of photos on a still-unfinished tree kind of put the lie to the title of his post.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I've seen Ben Oki chop trees to a nub and then repot immediately at local clubs.
I've always tried to stay positive and not bring negativity to this site. However I will say I am not a big Ben Oki fan, for personal as well as Bonsai reasons.
 
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I imagine when people will come to a demo that lasts a few years, then true bonsai can be shown and appreciated.

Until then, in this instant gratification age, the artist giving the demo must reasonably produce appreciable results in a couple of hours. Imagine going to a water color painting class, paying good money and then watching the master mix paint the whole time while he explains the importance of getting the paint right before starting a painting...sure something could be learned, but let's face it, not many people would be overly thrilled with the demo.

With the possible exception of Chris's examples, there are some great people out there doing excellent demos and workshops. They are entertaining, they are instructive, and they produce results that the paying audience wants to see. Take a look at Walter Pall's recent videos of demos he did while in Croatia. Neither produced an instant bonsai, but both were entertaining and educational. He not only explains why he did things, but also what will happen to the tree in the future. Most importantly, one can see the bonsai that is to be in the results, this is what many people attempt to do when doing a demo, but their talent is limited so they must go too far to show the future, hence tree deaths. Others, like myself, error on the side of caution and leave too much on the tree, hiding the vision still.

There is a balance between showing what can be, showing the vision without over doing it and leaving too much left undone so that nothing can be seen of the vision, of the future the artist has started the tree on.

Vance makes a very good point here that I think was overlooked by most people and that point is that too many people assume that contests produce dead trees. They assume that instant bonsai means automatically killing a tree....here's the real truth, contests don't kill trees, people kill trees. You can't fault Vance for taking the cautious route, he entered this tree in the contest, it lives, as do many others...those who fail do so because of lack of experience and you can hardly blame a contest for someones own lack of experience.

I personally think that these contests and even demos have a valid place in bonsai education as I said in an article wrote not long ago. But like all education, it is up to the user to use it wisely, those who over style, re-pot a heavily styled tree, or just take too much off, or do too much are to blame for the trees death, not the contest and certainly not those that are experienced enough to do such successfully.


Will
 

Graydon

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I imagine when people will come to a demo that lasts a few years, then true bonsai can be shown and appreciated.

There is a balance between showing what can be, showing the vision without over doing it and leaving too much left undone so that nothing can be seen of the vision, of the future the artist has started the tree on.

Will
Pardon me continuing this a bit off topic. Or is it?

Two good points Will. Very good points. Here's my thought on both of them. The demos have to last for more than a year, two or three are better. The material needs to be brought back in front of the group and discussed. The progress needs to be measured and discussed and the all important aftercare needs to be done by a qualified person and explained to the group. I know this is not possible with the typical traveling master or convention demos, or at least not how things are set up now. So what are we teaching people in our clubs and at convention sites? As Chris pointed out it's a great 2.5 hours of bonsai theatre as it is set up now. After that some lucky person takes the victim home and either hopes to keep it alive so they can say they have a tree styled by so and so or they are so silly they have no idea it's a goner if too much was done.

So what to do, how to make this system better? Here's what our little society is doing :

Dale Cochoy is our speaker and demo person this Wednesday - he was very kind and agreed to stop in on his way to the Bonsai Societies of Florida convention. I did some searching for some nice material for Dale's demo and found a great maple at Evergreen Gardenworks. Brent was very helpful and sent us a great tree. Our concept with this demo and with Dale is to get him to stop in for the next three years on his way to the convention and have him work on the tree again and again. Hopefully this will allow the tree to be worked on in a more methodical way by the same person with the same vision where progress is not measured by hours but by transitions over years. Every few months we will bring the tree back in to the society and discuss the progress and recovery. Hopefully in three years the tree will be nearing completion, or at least on a good path and in a bonsai pot (a Dale pot we hope!). Also every member that came to the meetings will have the information and history and progress of this tree. They should be more capable and knowledgeable as to the care of this tree. Once the tree is as done as we can get it we will auction it off at our year end auction and hopefully make the club much more than a one time raffle could net.

So... is this a better way that the standard one off demo?

I'll post a thread with photos sometime the end of the week, sorry for the sidetrack Vance.
 

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Great idea Graydon. Sounds like a workshop to me. Why not have Dale just do a workshop with all the participants bringing the same tree back over the period of three years. That way each member will have a tree to call their own and Dale still does his magic. We do this with Ted Matson for years. Ted loves the program, he gets to see real progress and he knows that only those that can keep a tree alive and work on it will particiate so its a win win all around.

ak
 

Vance Wood

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Great idea Graydon. Sounds like a workshop to me. Why not have Dale just do a workshop with all the participants bringing the same tree back over the period of three years. That way each member will have a tree to call their own and Dale still does his magic. We do this with Ted Matson for years. Ted loves the program, he gets to see real progress and he knows that only those that can keep a tree alive and work on it will particiate so its a win win all around.

ak
This too is only marginally successful; I've done it. It still comes back to after care and the owners attention to detail and powers of observation. This is when you become the traveling sensi so to speak, and personally I hate that term but there ya' go, people use it.
 

BONSAI_OUTLAW

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Graydon, I thnk that is a great idea. I hope you will take many pics and post them online. I also hope you will also put it on youtube.com as I am sure that many others would love to come, but can not.
 
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This is similar to what Boon and some others are doing. Rather than come in to a club as a one-time Master Weekend event, his goal is to work with study groups on an ongoing, 3 times per year basis. Group members bring their own trees and work on them with guidance, so the teacher gets to see the tree as it progresses, and the student gets not only the benefit of the learning but on their own trees, too. On an expense level, it's more expensive than free but certainly less than traveling to California three times a year.

I am hoping to get a core group (hardcore?) of enthusiasts who want to take their bonsai to the next level and are willing to commit to that kind of study. Annual expense is far less and everyone benefits.
 

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