Is it safe yet?

Vance Wood

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.........

I have another question I would like to hash over in view of some previous discussions about Yamadori, prebonsai and nursery trees. Every one (I think) understands what a Yamadori tree is, and a nursery tree kind of speaks for itself, but---how do you define a prebonsai? What makes a prebonsai, where do you get a prebonsai? Think about it and post your replies, let's talk about it. There is a lot to be said here, and a lot to be thought about. I have come across some interesting conundrums.
 

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I think a tree becomes "bonsai" when it is ready to be moved into a bonsai pot. To me, this means:

1) Tree has completed all of its major growth (trunk thickening, etc).
2) Final design has been decided and is being implemented.
3) All remaining work is considered "detail work" or work that comes with slow maturity of the tree.

There are a multitude of possibilities AFTER a tree becomes bonsai, including a new design, new front and/or new planting angle, changing pots, etc.
 

Vance Wood

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Well, that's a good description of what a prebonsai is not. We have yet to plumb the depths of the elusive prebonsai and what it is. Here is a teaser: At what point does a tree become a prebonsai and not just another tree in a pot? Think about this stuff, we sure hear a lot about it, but does anyone really know what they are talking about?
 

Vance Wood

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I think a tree becomes "bonsai" when it is ready to be moved into a bonsai pot. To me, this means:

1) Tree has completed all of its major growth (trunk thickening, etc).
2) Final design has been decided and is being implemented.
3) All remaining work is considered "detail work" or work that comes with slow maturity of the tree.

There are a multitude of possibilities AFTER a tree becomes bonsai, including a new design, new front and/or new planting angle, changing pots, etc.
I agree, though there are some that might call someone else's bonsai a prebonsai. This is why, or at least one of the reasons, I posted this question. I think we need to consider this aspect of the art.
 

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Well, that's a good description of what a prebonsai is not.
Sooooo... a prebonsai is everything not covered in my description :)

I think a prebonsai is any material that is actively undergoing development to "become" a bonsai. This requires:

1) A vision for the end result.
2) A plan for the steps necessary to achieve that result.
3) The prebonsai being somewhere along that plan timeline - i.e. at least the first step has been taken to make the tree a bonsai.

A pre-bonsai is NOT a tree just purchased from a nursery, nor is it a Yamadori just dug up from the ground and stuck in a growing tray.

To your comment above about calling someone else's bonsai a pre-bonsai: if I saw a "finished" bonsai at an auction, and had an entirely different vision for that tree, the tree has become a pre-bonsai in my mind. I might, for example, take a decent informal upright and turn it into a stronger semi-cascade. The tree goes from being an informal upright bonsai, to a semi-cascade pre-bonsai, to a semi-cascade bonsai. In some cases, if the transition can be accomplished in a single styling, the pre-bonsai stage could just last hours, and the rest would be detail work after the primary design has been accomplished.
 

darrellw

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Well, to me, pre-bonsai means a tree that has not had any major styling done, but has been cared for, and developed with bonsai in mind. That work can vary by species. For example, a decidious tree that has been trunk chopped several times, but with little thought to branching would be pre-bonsai. But for pines, high-quality pre-bonsai would have been worked to start developing nice lower branches (since they would be gone or too big if not). Pre-bonsai will already have a certain form somewhat set, but still with a lot of decisions left to the artist. Good pre-bonsai should have nice roots and no major scars to deal with.

Anway, my 2 cents.

-Darrell
 

Vance Wood

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Sooooo... a prebonsai is everything not covered in my description :)

I think a prebonsai is any material that is actively undergoing development to "become" a bonsai. This requires:

1) A vision for the end result.
2) A plan for the steps necessary to achieve that result.
3) The prebonsai being somewhere along that plan timeline - i.e. at least the first step has been taken to make the tree a bonsai.

A pre-bonsai is NOT a tree just purchased from a nursery, nor is it a Yamadori just dug up from the ground and stuck in a growing tray.

To your comment above about calling someone else's bonsai a pre-bonsai: if I saw a "finished" bonsai at an auction, and had an entirely different vision for that tree, the tree has become a pre-bonsai in my mind. I might, for example, take a decent informal upright and turn it into a stronger semi-cascade. The tree goes from being an informal upright bonsai, to a semi-cascade pre-bonsai, to a semi-cascade bonsai. In some cases, if the transition can be accomplished in a single styling, the pre-bonsai stage could just last hours, and the rest would be detail work after the primary design has been accomplished.
So how long does a nursery tree have to be under control (for lack of a better term) before it is considered prebonsai. What must happen to it etc.? The same could be said of a Yamadori; or does a Yamadori go from collected tree to bonsai without passing through the dreaded prebonsai state?
 

Vance Wood

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Well, to me, pre-bonsai means a tree that has not had any major styling done, but has been cared for, and developed with bonsai in mind. That work can vary by species. For example, a decidious tree that has been trunk chopped several times, but with little thought to branching would be pre-bonsai. But for pines, high-quality pre-bonsai would have been worked to start developing nice lower branches (since they would be gone or too big if not). Pre-bonsai will already have a certain form somewhat set, but still with a lot of decisions left to the artist. Good pre-bonsai should have nice roots and no major scars to deal with.

Anway, my 2 cents.

-Darrell
OK, so; if you went to a bonsai nursery/store and decided to buy a prebonsai would it have to fill all of these qualifications? Would there be points off for obvious styling moves, or maybe if the roots were not developed as well as you might expect? What would you call this tree if it did not fit your definition? It has been worked on somewhat and it is not likely you will find this kind of material at Wally World is it still prebonsai or something else?
 

John Hill

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Vance,,
You must be going through a mid age crisis ;) You know what a pre bonsai is?
Well,, you may know, and one may know, but the other may know also. To me a prebonsai is a piece of material that has been grown with bonsai in mind,, meaning the top has been pruned as well as the bottom (meaning the roots) the roots are the heart of the tree (A flame only rises as high as it's source)

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

Vance Wood

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Vance,,
You must be going through a mid age crisis ;) You know what a pre bonsai is?
Well,, you may know, and one may know, but the other may know also. To me a prebonsai is a piece of material that has been grown with bonsai in mind,, meaning the top has been pruned as well as the bottom (meaning the roots) the roots are the heart of the tree (A flame only rises as high as it's source)

A Friend in bonsai
John
Thank you for the complement about the mid age crisis, I wish that were so. However I am really trying to figure out what every one thinks a prebonsai is. How do you know it is a prebonsai? Where can you find a prebonsai? After the top and roots have been hacked how long must the tree go before it becomes an official prebonsai? Here's a good one: How do you grow a prebonsai, and is it an authentic prebonsai if you grow it yourself or must it be obtained, preferably at great price, from another source?
 

John Hill

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In other words,,,,
I am terrible at typing let alone explaining my thoughts, but my thoughts are that nursery people for the landscape want their trees to grow tall where as bonsai people want to grow their tree small. Landscape people don't care about the roots they take the tree and pot it to the next size pot. They just take it out of one pot and plop it into the next size pot and charge you double where as a bonsai nursery will do some root work and place the tree back into the same size pot or maybe even into a shallower pot. If grown in the grown they may lift it and do some root work and put it back into the grown. Either way the roots have been tended to. (I hope anyway)
Like I said I am a terrible typer and writer.I do not have the talent that say Will has to explain myself so I just search and peck on the keyboard and hope it all makes sense.

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

John Hill

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Sorry, but I had a thought before I shut this confuser (computer as Phil calls it) down. Pre means before right? Then I guess prebonsai must mean before bonsai. Meaning a tree that is at the stage before it becomes a bonsai,, so I guess it all comes down to the eyes of the beholder.


A Friend in bonsai
John
 

Vance Wood

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Sorry, but I had a thought before I shut this confuser (computer as Phil calls it) down. Pre means before right? Then I guess prebonsai must mean before bonsai. Meaning a tree that is at the stage before it becomes a bonsai,, so I guess it all comes down to the eyes of the beholder.


A Friend in bonsai
John
First of all I don't want anyone thinking I am trying to be sarcastic on this issue. You are correct it does come down to the eyes of the beholder,--- to a point,---- but there have been some who have argued that the only really valuable and, dare I say it, legitimate sources for bonsai material are Yamadori and prebonsai. Yamadori are not so difficult to define, they're just difficult to obtain. But prebonsai? Now there is another question that really does not get fully discussed or even contemplated.

If I take your evaluation of it being in the eyes of the beholder then a prebonsai is anything that I or anyone else can identify as having bonsai potential, or am I missing something here? Or---does it have to have had some work done on it first by someone? Who is the someone and what qualifies him/her to be a specialist on prebonsai? Or--If I find a tree with great potential am I allowed to turn it into a prebonsai myself, doing the top and root work myself.

I am certainly allowed to trun something into a bonsai, why can I not turn it into a prebonsai? Or is there something magical about obtaining this mystical item from some mysterious grower of miraculous flora from some road side pick up truck appearing out of no where, and disappearing like some master ninja into the darkness?

Cultivationally you have singled out top and root work as prerequisites. Top and root work to what? Yamadori? Cultivated from seed, cuttings or air layers? Nursery trees? In the use of the term prebonsai there is one message that is significant in its absence; What is a tree, and where does it come from before it is a prebonsai? This is beginning to take on the nature of sausage; you don't want to see how its made. But nobody is asking these questions, they are just blindly accepting the idea that prebonsai and Yamadori are the ways to go in obtaining bonsai.
 
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Vance,

We all know what "pre" means. It is from the Latin, prae, meaning before. When dealing with space, it means in front of, when dealing with time, it means before.

So a pre-bonsai in regards to time means before a bonsai, for our purposes, before it becomes a bonsai.

So what then is a bonsai?

A definition I came up with in an article some time ago was "A living, artistically created, idealized vision of a tree, cultivated in a container."

So a pre-bonsai would be technically something that hasn't yet become the above.

But we give greater meaning to the term, we say that a plant that has been worked with the intention of creating a bonsai from it is a pre-bonsai. Notice I used the word "worked" and not "designed" or "styled" because a pre-bonsai has had some root work done in order for decent Nebari to start and in order for finer feeder roots to develop. It has also been chopped or pruned back to develop back budding and a start on some ramification. It has had some branches removed at one point or another. It has also had some trunk movement and/or taper introduced.

Some pre-bonsai have had all of the above done slightly, just enough to create a workable and designable piece of stock, other pre-bonsai has had much of the above done, so much so, that there is little work left to do besides refinement and finer development. Thus pre-bonsai covers a wide range of material from (using painting as an analogy) a canvas already stretched, primed, and ready for the artist to begin to create....to a canvas that already has the sketch of the art drawn on it for the artist to follow.



Will
 

Vance Wood

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In other words,,,,
I am terrible at typing let alone explaining my thoughts, but my thoughts are that nursery people for the landscape want their trees to grow tall where as bonsai people want to grow their tree small. Landscape people don't care about the roots they take the tree and pot it to the next size pot. They just take it out of one pot and plop it into the next size pot and charge you double where as a bonsai nursery will do some root work and place the tree back into the same size pot or maybe even into a shallower pot. If grown in the grown they may lift it and do some root work and put it back into the grown. Either way the roots have been tended to. (I hope anyway)
Like I said I am a terrible typer and writer.I do not have the talent that say Will has to explain myself so I just search and peck on the keyboard and hope it all makes sense.

A Friend in bonsai
John
You get your point across, sometimes simplicity is more honest and understandable than the more wordy. By the way I am not picking on you, you have brought up some good points that I wanted to dig away at and I appreciate your input.
 

Vance Wood

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Vance,

We all know what "pre" means. It is from the Latin, prae, meaning before. When dealing with space, it means in front of, when dealing with time, it means before.

So a pre-bonsai in regards to time means before a bonsai, for our purposes, before it becomes a bonsai.

So what then is a bonsai?

A definition I came up with in an article some time ago was "A living, artistically created, idealized vision of a tree, cultivated in a container."

So a pre-bonsai would be technically something that hasn't yet become the above.

But we give greater meaning to the term, we say that a plant that has been worked with the intention of creating a bonsai from it is a pre-bonsai. Notice I used the word "worked" and not "designed" or "styled" because a pre-bonsai has had some root work done in order for decent Nebari to start and in order for finer feeder roots to develop. It has also been chopped or pruned back to develop back budding and a start on some ramification. It has had some branches removed at one point or another. It has also had some trunk movement and/or taper introduced.

Some pre-bonsai have had all of the above done slightly, just enough to create a workable and designable piece of stock, other pre-bonsai has had much of the above done, so much so, that there is little work left to do besides refinement and finer development. Thus pre-bonsai covers a wide range of material from (using painting as an analogy) a canvas already stretched, primed, and ready for the artist to begin to create....to a canvas that already has the sketch of the art drawn on it for the artist to follow.



Will
But where do they come from and who is qualified to make them understanding that everyone seems to agree there has to be a degree of human interaction before it can be an official and certifiable prebonsai?
 

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Hiya Vance,

The same could be said of a Yamadori; or does a Yamadori go from collected tree to bonsai without passing through the dreaded prebonsai state?
In my opinion every tree at some point is a prebonsai be it Yamadori, garden center nursery stock or bonsai nursery stock .... it has to be because common sense tells us, its not a bonsai yet. We all have owned them whether we want to admit it our not. The example that comes to mind (because it was so recent) was your thread on Instant Bonsai. You posted a picture of one of your mugos. While it was pleasant to look at and the image was very bonsai like. There were flaws by your own admission, (the high root thing). So one could conclude that since it wasn't finished, by your standards, that it was still in the prebonsai stage.

"If" we are talking about a piece of material that one goes and purchases with the ultimate goal of said tree to be come a bonsai then we are talking about two different things. I bristle a bit at the term prebonsai when its used in this context. I am sure this term was coined by someone marketing trees (probably on ebay) and needed a catchy buzz word to bring the masses to his/her door.
I would prefer to use the terminology well groomed material instead. This is what Webster' Dictionary gives as a definition to this term. I think the term fits the bill when it comes to this meaning.

Main Entry: well-groomed
Pronunciation: -'grümd, -'grumd
Function: adjective
1 : well-dressed and scrupulously neat <well-groomed men>
2 : made neat, tidy, and attractive down to the smallest details <a well-groomed lawn>


Now there is obviously more to a piece of material than being neat and tidy. Especially if you are buying it from a purveyor of bonsai material that is grooming (preparing) it for life in a pot as a bonsai, and charges accordingly for the time involved. I believe this is a better description than prebonsai, which in the broadest sense of the word is a generalization of any material that has been stuck in a pot with the dream of it becoming a bonsai one day. Be it a maple whip or a 300 pound Ponderosa. The problem is not with what qualifies as good material, its the bad definitions we give to them.
 

darrellw

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OK, so; if you went to a bonsai nursery/store and decided to buy a prebonsai would it have to fill all of these qualifications? Would there be points off for obvious styling moves, or maybe if the roots were not developed as well as you might expect? What would you call this tree if it did not fit your definition? It has been worked on somewhat and it is not likely you will find this kind of material at Wally World is it still prebonsai or something else?
No, it would not have to meet all the qualifications, I think it is a range from something -> pre-bonsai -> bonsai. Once raw nursery stock has received any training for bonsai, it begins down the path of pre-bonsai. But all of this is subjective, what might be a finished bonsai for me would be pre-bonsai (or perhaps not even that :) ) to a very experienced artist. Conversely, I would consider most "malsai" as pre-bonsai at this stage of my bonsai education.

-Darrell
 

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I would consider this first photo grouping pre-bonsai. It was sold as much.

I considered the second photo the best tree of the lot. I chose it based on the movement, base, trunk to height ratio, and taper.

Four years later, twelve or more new branches, countless hours of pinching and pruning, I have a very nice cookie cutter trident maple. World class? eh eh!

But still a damn nice tree....not bad for $140.00 US.

Al
 

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grouper52

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Well, everyone's struggling with Socratic/Platonic "Only and Every" definitions, but in this case, Aristotle would be a better way to proceed.

In his Physics, Book II starts out, "Of things that exist, some exist by nature, some from other causes". He would say, and actually sort of does say, that a Yamadori exists "by nature", not by human artifice. Yamadori has "in itself the source of its own production".

Nursery stock and pre-bonsai exist, on the other hand, "from other causes", as products of human art/artifice, human production. He goes on to state that there are four such causes that can be used to define such a man-made object, to differentiate it from other man-made objects, and these should be able to help us differentiate, therefore, nursery stock from pre-bonsai. Let's see.

First, a man-made thing must have a material cause, a substance of which it is made: in the case of nursery stock or pre-bonsai, the material would be the same - plants, trees, etc. This cause cannot therefore be used to differentiate the two.

Second, a man-made thing must have a formal cause, a "form or the arch-type" that is being aimed at during its production, its "essense", its "genera". This is what some folks here are trying to describe in terms of the size, shape, roots trunk, etc., trying to look for Socratic/Platonic "Only and Every" style definitions to differentiate the two. It is very difficult. It CAN be used to differentiate the two, but not without a lot of murkiness and exceptions, and so is not the best way to do so.

Third, a man-made thing must have an agent of production, which in this case also yields murky results, since a nurseryman could produce either a pre-bonsai or a nursery tree.

Fourth, the teleological cause, "that for the sake of which" a thing is done. Examining this, IMO, yields the best definitions for distinguishing nursery stock from pre-bonsai, and these distinctions have been touched on above: Nursery stock are trees made for eventual use in landscaping, and pre-bonsai are trees made for eventual use in bonsai.

Hope that helps.

grouper52
 

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