Ramifying Schefflera

DirkvanDreven

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I sas these during my summervacation this summer. I think they are Schefflera. And they ramify as if they have nothing else to do. I have at Home, indoors, that only grows strait up. How do they get them to ramify?
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Bonsai Nut

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Sun and defoliation with dramatic branch pruning.

I defoliate mine (in landscape) every year to maintain dense, bush-like structure, otherwise they grow leggy like what you are describing.
 

amatbrewer

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I would not say it is impossible, but it will probably be difficult and slooooooow.

I started with a couple indoors in a south facing window with a grow light and humidity tent...At the time I thought they were doing OK, but now realized they survived but that is about all. Very slow growth, and almost all of my cuttings failed to take.
This spring I moved them outdoors (partial shade) figuring it was going to be too hot (>100F) and too dry (single digit humidity), but they thrived and I have been able to cut them back to promote ramification. And most of the cuttings have taken.
I will move them back inside once the night temperatures are consistently below 50F.
I have not been brave enough to try defoliation yet...maybe next year.
 

DirkvanDreven

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I was very surprised to see these ramified! Never seen one before. I’m not going to try to ‘bonsai’ mine though. Although we are having our second heatwave this year, with temps over 30oC, I think it won’t be enough for tropicals.
 

SU2

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So on my windowsill, in the living room it will probably not be possible to make it a (true) bonsai?
Hate to be the bearer of bad news on this one but I'd say that, while technically possible, it's unlikely to be worth pursuing....For comparison's sake, I collected a batch of Schefflera's wayyy early this year, trunk-chopped them all (for a future clump/grouping on a lava-rock slab, should be neat!) and, while they grew back and while there's *some* degree of ramification inherent to them (insofar as they'll back-bud well), I don't think I'd say they ramify well per se (even the ones in your OP pics aren't "heavily ramified" by any normal standards), but yeah I'm on the border of 9b/10a, mine get full-ish sunlight, at least 2-3x irrigation daily, and I even did half with fertilizer and half with just light organic compost top-dressing, not only was I reminded how slow they grow but, in terms of ramification, I'm fearing it'll take at least an extra year (compared to my initial estimates/guesses/hopes!) down the road right-before finishing it to really get any level of decent ramification sadly :/ Glad I chose my trunk lines well!!


Would be VERY interested in hearing anyone's tips/tricks for successfully ramifying these and, TBH, I'm actually still unsure if it's better to just aim for ramification off-the-bat (ie the actual branch-structure would be lacking, but ramification would be there), or if I should be doing the usual "grow branch out, cut back hard, grow-out two from the bottom-end of that cut-branch and repeat" process is the right approach for this specie :/ I've got til next year as I don't intend to touch mine again this year, their growth rate is far too-slow for me to be confident that any growth resulting from a prune right now would be unlikely to harden-off enough before winter and I've just got enough individual specimen for my group-banyan planting so can't play trial&error w/ these guys ;D

[Oh I meant to say, while it's implied already, it should be stressed that your colder-area's windows, compared to my high-sun (still hitting 90deg here), 10a zone outdoor specimen in larger containers that are still growing slowly, I just can't imagine how long it would take doing it your way to get to where I'm already expecting it'll take me 5yrs to get to in my FL enviro which is essentially a greenhouse 2/3rd of the year!]
 
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I have a couple I picked up from Fuku bonsai in hawaii - they specialize in these. From what I saw its the crazy root structure you can get on these that are the defining feature. Here are some that he had sitting around his nursery. Of course, while they throw air roots like crazy somewhere like Hawaii, here in Tennessee I have to put mine under a humidity dome and then oh so carefully protect and air roots with cut straws. I keep them more for the memory of an awesome vacation with the wifey than any prayer they're going to look like the mature specimens in these pics.

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Michael P

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Dwarf schefflera will never ramify like an elm or maple. But as Bonsai Nut says, you can get some branching by moving them outside for the summer. As soon as weather is warm enough and the tree is actively growing, defoliate and remove every terminal bud. You can also drastically shorten any branch that is too long ot too straight. This encourages back budding and results in new foliage that is much smaller. Of course the tree needs to be strong.

Mine always become rank indoors over the winter. I put up with it knowing that I can correct it in late spring.
 

DirkvanDreven

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Hate to be the bearer of bad news on this one but I'd say that, while technically possible, it's unlikely to be worth pursuing....For comparison's sake, I collected a batch of Schefflera's wayyy early this year, trunk-chopped them all (for a future clump/grouping on a lava-rock slab, should be neat!) and, while they grew back and while there's *some* degree of ramification inherent to them (insofar as they'll back-bud well), I don't think I'd say they ramify well per se (even the ones in your OP pics aren't "heavily ramified" by any normal standards), but yeah I'm on the border of 9b/10a, mine get full-ish sunlight, at least 2-3x irrigation daily, and I even did half with fertilizer and half with just light organic compost top-dressing, not only was I reminded how slow they grow but, in terms of ramification, I'm fearing it'll take at least an extra year (compared to my initial estimates/guesses/hopes!) down the road right-before finishing it to really get any level of decent ramification sadly :/ Glad I chose my trunk lines well!!


Would be VERY interested in hearing anyone's tips/tricks for successfully ramifying these and, TBH, I'm actually still unsure if it's better to just aim for ramification off-the-bat (ie the actual branch-structure would be lacking, but ramification would be there), or if I should be doing the usual "grow branch out, cut back hard, grow-out two from the bottom-end of that cut-branch and repeat" process is the right approach for this specie :/ I've got til next year as I don't intend to touch mine again this year, their growth rate is far too-slow for me to be confident that any growth resulting from a prune right now would be unlikely to harden-off enough before winter and I've just got enough individual specimen for my group-banyan planting so can't play trial&error w/ these guys ;D

[Oh I meant to say, while it's implied already, it should be stressed that your colder-area's windows, compared to my high-sun (still hitting 90deg here), 10a zone outdoor specimen in larger containers that are still growing slowly, I just can't imagine how long it would take doing it your way to get to where I'm already expecting it'll take me 5yrs to get to in my FL enviro which is essentially a greenhouse 2/3rd of the year!]
I'm definitely not going to try one. Being in zone 8b, summers won't be hot enough and winters will be to cold.
I was just surprised to see the ramification on those in the OP. That was btw on Gran Canaria, during a short vacation. In the winter an average day temp of 22oC, in summer 27oC. (I think I would grow JBP there).
 

DirkvanDreven

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Dwarf schefflera will never ramify like an elm or maple. But as Bonsai Nut says, you can get some branching by moving them outside for the summer. As soon as weather is warm enough and the tree is actively growing, defoliate and remove every terminal bud. You can also drastically shorten any branch that is too long ot too straight. This encourages back budding and results in new foliage that is much smaller. Of course the tree needs to be strong.

Mine always become rank indoors over the winter. I put up with it knowing that I can correct it in late spring.
That's another question: How do I get my maples to ramify.........
 
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DirkvanDreven

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I have a couple I picked up from Fuku bonsai in hawaii - they specialize in these. From what I saw its the crazy root structure you can get on these that are the defining feature. Here are some that he had sitting around his nursery. Of course, while they throw air roots like crazy somewhere like Hawaii, here in Tennessee I have to put mine under a humidity dome and then oh so carefully protect and air roots with cut straws. I keep them more for the memory of an awesome vacation with the wifey than any prayer they're going to look like the mature specimens in these pics.

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That looks really great: especially the long and slender neagari!
But then again, lots of things will grow better in Hawaii.
 
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Michael P

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I'm definitely not going to try one. Being in zone 8b, summers won't be hot enough and winters will be to cold.
I was just surprised to see the ramification on those in the OP. That was btw on Gran Canaria, during a short vacation. In the winter an average day temp of 22oC, in summer 27oC. (I think I would grow JBP there).
I'm in 8a, and this species is the easiest tropical I grow. Don't let your location stop you.
 

Michael P

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Thank you. If the tree was defoliated you could see a lot more ramification, now covered by the canopy of foliage. One of the goals for this year was to open up the front of the tree so more of the high ramification is visible. I need to do some more work on this. Also, next year I plan to put a plastic skirt around the tree near the edge of the pot. This will keep more humidity under the canopy and encourage more aerial roots. In my climate, the aerial roots start forming in late spring and early summer, but die off when the really hot, dry weather sets in during July and August.
 
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SU2

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View attachment 259974

This is my oldest and largest. The others are really pre-bonsai.
THIS!!!!!!!!!! You've given me so much inspiration here man, is there any chance you've got threads/articles/albums/anything on this (or other) schefflera's development or anything about how you got it from stock/pre-bonsai to here? I finally took-in 5 or so of these, they were a small hedge that I trunk-chopped and brought home early this year and, after letting them back-bud only to re-trunk-chop them (to get my new trunk lines as low as possible, w/o having risked killing the things!), I finally had them growing well enough that the other day I took them (all but 1) and put them together as the group-planting I'd intended for them, my hope is to have a little banyan grove not unlike the size of yours here (although I'm trying to evoke a larger scenery with mine IE a mini area whereas yours is still singular banyan-clumping), and'll be making a crazy carved-scoria slab/container for them (in another year or two, once I've gotten them way further developed!)

Hoping for any&all advice you can give me on fast-growth, ramification and/or aerials, I think aerials will be simple (in my area I have to actively *remove* them from my ficus' or there's too many!) by using simple 'tenting' as you describe but what about fast-growth? I'll be honest, I was very let-down with their vegetative-growth rate through this year, I did have them in a finer/more organic mixture so after the re-pottings I've got the group-planting in a very free-draining mixture and I've got the single "extra specimen" (in case I wanna swap-out or add-to the group-planting at any point down the line) in the loosest mixture I could make (literally just pea gravel, styrofoam, sphagnum peat moss that was screened for any fines, and some screened scoria & wood-bark, absurdly aerated mixture that drains immediately but never goes full-dry ie it's just a humid root-zone like in certain loose-root hydroponic setups, with how they throw aerials part of me is suspecting that ultra-aerated substrates may be key for them to grow, not only was the vegetative growth this year about the wimpiest of any species in my garden but, upon re-potting, I was seriously disappointed with how little root-growth *at all* I'd gotten in half a year, here in FL most other species would've filled their containers while the schefflera's hardly seemed to have had rebound root-growth since their initial collections!!
My "small slice of a banyan-grove" specimen, 4 or 5 individual schefflera's in here, I planted them at (estimated)10% closer-together than my final design warranted because I'm envisioning "separating" them a little when it comes time for the first serious/major root-intervention, first&only I should say as my intent is that after that one their relative-positions will be 'set' and, from then onward, I'll be treating it as a singular root-mass, it's at this intervention that I'll decide if the original schefflera's are best as-is or if I should be adding my extra one to the composure, or using it to replace one currently in the composure - and plz forgive the hideous container, that's just for growing obviously(should note that I drilled a ton of holes into the lower-sides of the box's perimeter to fight that perched water-table), also that you obviously can't see any surface-roots/nebari due to that layer of mulch, I used that not just because I like using acidic wood-mulch to help counter my highly-alkaline hose-water but, also, so that I could set my substrate level a bit on the low-side relative to the nebari, and make-up for it with the mulching, allowing me to wash-it-away over time to reveal the nebari after they've taken/established in this configuration :D
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^I leave a large stump above my intended trunk-lines, obviously, but want to mention that I've taken to doing this as a matter of routine, not only do I suspect that there's some "nutrient take-back" when suddenly the top-bud has a 2" stump of active cambium above it, but quite simply there's this large, natural "bandage" in-place above the top node / future-trunk-line on the trunk now, this helps a ton with preventing die-back at a cut-site if you've only got budding on one side of it (you know how sometimes the non-budded side can just die-back like 2+ inches from the living/budded side, that's not always an issue but it becomes a bigger one the smaller hte specimen is!)

[oh and re ramification, is it fair to say that it's OK to approach "buildling" schefflera, from stock like this, 'the usual way' IE my intent is to grow-out all the current buds/shoots, let them grow til they're at least 1/4th the thickness[at their base/collar] as the trunking they protrude from, then cut them back hard to get my 2 secondaries, then repeat this procedure a few times til I've got my 'skeleton'/bones/structure, then simply wire & silhouette-prune for ramification?]

Thanks a ton for sharing yours, TBH I was very let-down at seeing that series of 3 shown earlier up-thread[edit: except the 1st of the 3, that was legit!!] I mean sure they're *interesting* specimen but they don't evoke any feeling of "that could actually be a tree/landscape" but then you post that boss scheffy of yours and I was immediately eager to get-going on mine, they went from "well, free stock is always worth developing even if-only to learn!" to "wow this'll be sick once they're developed & I've carved their scoria-slab!", so truly thank you :D
 

SU2

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That's another question: How do I get my maples to ramify.........
I think it's as simple as the phenomena of "if you keep pruning, leaves get smaller / internodes tighter / branching 'twiggier'" which, combined with restricted containers that don't allow growth (bonsai/show pots), lets you get a many, tiny leaves effect going (almost 'bushing' the thing in a way....I love my real-life work, which includes a decent amount of hedging, insofar as seeing how things rebound both short- and long-term ;D )

I recently had someone in my garden who was a fellow artist & knew more than I about a lot, and upon seeing my two maples (my 1st-ever maples in years of collecting, pulled from swamps in Feb this year), had me really worried that - because I let my primaries run so long (plus heavy fert / pushed-growth), that when I pruned them I'd forever be stuck with a huge gap from trunk-til-1st-forking from such branches since nothing would come from that internode area, I didn't argue it (maybe I misunderstood it but don't think I did) but my thinking on it is that, once there's bark starting to form (like "the stage after lignification", pre-bark lol), that the area from collar to 1st true-internode just becomes ripe with budding-potential, thankfully I've already wittnessed sporadic budding in such areas on the aforementioned maples (well, on one of them, the other was taken out of its original container & touched for the 1st time, removed like 85% of the roots & shoots, wasn't intending to be that severe but at day 4 or 5 it does look like it handled it well enough / doubt it'll be set-back long) so, on my un-touched maple, my plan is to just hard-prune to the 1st internode of every shoot that I'm keeping (and get rid of like half of the shoots on there) to see how much 'secondary' growth I get - I can't help but think that, having a lot of low-on-branch secondary growth will help a **ton** with ramification of the final product, I mean ramification is really leaves-per-surface area, and any given species has a maximal 'leaves-per-area' it can be expected to sustain, so the more ramification you have 'lower down' in your skeleton, the more ramified your final product should be! So, hopefully, if I'm pushing 'low forks' on my primaries I can make them 'limbs that separate low on their branching' instead of distinct primaries leaving the trunk, which should be able to 'feed' a higher # of leaves / surface-area of final canopy when the thing's in-refinement :D
Here's the un-touched one, about to go outside and tackle that right now will update this post with a link to a "critique my maples" thread lol as I don't want to thread-jack but, well, OP you did bring-up Maple-ramification and, along w/ my schefflera's, they're my focus ATM ;D
20190902_125507.jpg (fancy container eh? ;D ) Aaand a top-ish down, to show more branches/more 3D: 20190902_125517.jpg
[like my other one, it's beyond root-bound but, sadly, this *wasn't* in a root-grower-type container so expect a helluva job getting the roots in-order, this one doesn't have any structure I was just building a root-mass this year but it's nebari is great it doesn't show well here but will in the pics I'll put in the link I'll edit-in :D ]
 

Michael P

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SU2, I am happy the photo encouraged you! Like all of my older bonsai, this one survived decades of my ignorance.

The tree started out in the early 90s as a monstrously overgrown house plant. It was 6' tall and in a ~5 gallon pot. When it went outside for the summer, it would shoot up another 2', and I would chop it back to 6' or 7' to get it back in the house. It took a scaffold of stakes and ties to keep it more or less vertical. Then somewhere I saw a photo of a beautiful dwarf schefflera bonsai (remember this was before internet images, and almost before any internet at all) and that became my goal. But I really had no idea how to go about it.

It took me 20 years to accomplish what I could now do in 5. I was always afraid to cut it back enough--you've already gotten over that! The entire tree was trained by clip-and-grow, which should really be called grow-and-clip because the growth must happen first. I tried to listen to the tree and let that guide me, but this can be frustrating since trees speak so slowly.

The first big growth of aerial roots happened by accident during an unusually wet spring and summer in hwich our usually hot and dry weather was more like your warm and humid climate. By that time you could research such things on the internet, and I learned about drinking straws and little tubes made of aluminum foil and filled with sphagnum. This species never really develops thick trunks, even the ones growing at my sister's house on the Atlantic coast of Florida. In composition, the aerial roots take the place of the visual mass of a thick trunk. This is why mine needs more aerial roots to balance the big canopy.

The canopy needs work too. Next spring, I plan to cut back some of the larger trunks on the edges a lot. The canopy needs differentiation into distinct masses of foliage instead of one blob. This will be a challenge because the leaves are big and these things don't ramify much. You don't often see scheffleras with multiple foliage pads. But I think with the right cuts I can get one major pad of foliage, and one (maybe two) smaller ones.

As far as horticulture goes, mine have always been virtually bullet-proof. I don't know why yours are slow to grow--perhaps because they are a variegated cultivar?
 
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SU2

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SU2, I am happy the photo encouraged you!
Me too ;D Thanks again, it's always such a cool phenomena to me when someone like @DirkvanDreven makes a thread like this, then you reply in it with your pic, and then I'm unable to stop myself from going-forth with my own!!


Like all of my older bonsai, this one survived decades of my ignorance. The tree started out in the early 90s as a monstrously overgrown house plant. It was 6' tall and in a ~5 gallon pot. When it went outside for the summer, it would shoot up another 2', and I would chop it back to 6' or 7' to get it back in the house. It took a scaffold of stakes and ties to keep it more or less vertical.
Gotta love it :D Out of curiosity, how long have you been practicing seriously? Do you happen to have a website or albums publicly available?

Then somewhere I saw a photo of a beautiful dwarf schefflera bonsai (remember this was before internet images, and almost before any internet at all) and that became my goal.
It's amazing how much the web changed things like this!!


But I really had no idea how to go about it. It took me 20 years to accomplish what I could now do in 5. I was always afraid to cut it back enough--you've already gotten over that! The entire tree was trained by clip-and-grow, which should really be called grow-and-clip because the growth must happen first. I tried to listen to the tree and let that guide me, but this can be frustrating since trees speak so slowly.
ROFL yeah I could probably do in 4mo now what'd take 1yr when I started it's nuts how quick a learning-curve bonsai/horticulture really is, once that quick&easy hump (heh) has been surmounted & the horticulture is 2nd-nature, it becomes all about the artistry & a million times more satisfying/rewarding!!
(love the comment re Grow-&-Clip, am going to do my best to start phrasing it that way!! I'd initially shunned that approach, thinking *everything* I did would simply be long grow-outs followed by hard-prunes, however with how ramified bougainvilleas - my prime species - are by nature, I've found that a grow-&-cut approach used **alongside** my regular approach(es) is by far the best!!)

The first big growth of aerial roots happened by accident during an unusually wet spring and summer in hwich our usually hot and dry weather was more like your warm and humid climate. By that time you could research such things on the internet, and I learned about drinking straws and little tubes made of aluminum foil and filled with sphagnum.
Another great example of forums/the netz being so invaluable, hell I'd heard of the straw trick and was planning to utilize it once I had a reason to (aerials are more of a nuisance than a goal in my climate!) but WOW the manipulability of foil, its inherent light-blocking properties, and then stuffing it with soft-but-draining, acidic & hormone-boosting sphagnum?! That would let me grow whatever aerials I wanted, damn thank you so much I'd never heard that one in fact I'm going outside RIGHT NOW to setup my first schefflera aerial (for whatever reason, my scheff's haven't spurted their own aerials like my ficus b's & m's do)

This species never really develops thick trunks, even the ones growing at my sister's house on the Atlantic coast of Florida. In composition, the aerial roots take the place of the visual mass of a thick trunk. This is why mine needs more aerial roots to balance the big canopy.
I guess 'thick' is all relative though, I mean I'm definitely in the category of "needs thick trunks" lol but so long as I'm confident-enough that I'll be able to develop a canopy that's "the right size" / fits the trunk, I'm happy!
Am very uncertain what you mean about aerials & trunking though, I've always seen them as very distinct and am unsure if you mean that you're going to be letting the aerials press-against the trunking as to make the trunk thicker, or that the mere presence of thick aerials will help? If the latter, I can't help but fear it'd have the opposite effect, IE if you've got aerials all over they could make the trunk seem smaller by-comparison, I can see it being possible to have them in just such a way that their tangles + the trunk create the appearance of a thicker base but fear it'd just end up looking like a thinner trunk relative-to the aerials (if they're not being pressed-against the trunking), I guess if they were kept thin & plentiful(numerous) they could create a good juxtaposition with the trunk to make it appear larger/thicker than it is but expect that'll be one hell of an artistic challenge for you!!

The canopy needs work too. Next spring, I plan to cut back some of the larger trunks on the edges a lot. The canopy needs differentiation into distinct masses of foliage instead of one blob. This will be a challenge because the leaves are big and these things don't ramify much. You don't often see scheffleras with multiple foliage pads. But I think with the right cuts I can get one major pad of foliage, and one (maybe two) smaller ones.
Yeah this thinking is why I immediately thought "group-planting" lol!! Well that plus none of my stock was quality on its own (nothing large, and large is almost requisite for me to consider something quality..) so I immediately thought "this is the IDEAL specie for planting in my custom-carved scoria/lava-rock containers/slabs", not only will the contrasting colors make one helluva visual-impact but it's actually a pretty "appropriate" use of materials (ie scoria from volcanoes used on a species from hawaii!), I'll readily&confidently admit that I've got little care/concern for such things, I know that "purists" would poo-poo that but I don't really care as I'm trying to design specimen that **I** love, not trying to sell them to mass audiences lol ;D

As far as horticulture goes, mine have always been virtually bullet-proof. I don't know why yours are slow to grow--perhaps because they are a variegated cultivar?
AAAAAAand shit, there it is :( Yup that's a great bet, am betting you're right there, didn't cross my mind because the variegated cultivar is the most-plentiful one around my parts (almost forget it's "the special/unnatural version"..), at any rate if its growth-rate-hindrance from being variegated is anything like bougainvilleas' reduced rate on the variegated cultivars then I'm in trouble here lol, I've got some variegated bougies that are over a year old and hardly show any growth (and they're in way oversized containers, hyper-fertilized most of the time, and the variegated one just sits there growing at like 5% the rate of all my other bougies.....gah I hope it's not as-severe a hindrance on schefflera's!!

Thanks again for the inspirational pic of what a great bonsai a scheffy can become, and for the thorough reply it was very helpful :)

(can't get the theme of internet-knowledge outta my head now....just 15-20yrs ago, if you wanted to learn bonsai you really had no good options besides finding someone to hold your hand personally, usually by going to apprentice in japan, now I see that type of thing as ineffective IE I expect someone would learn more in that time-period by simply being strict with a self-taught education, it's not just bonsai either I mean I learned tree/rope climbing this year and got quite skilled if I do say so myself and it was entirely from youtube & forums as an adjunct to my own practice in my large Live Oak in my yard ;D Thank the gods for the interwebz ;-D )
 
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