Refocusing as a Hobbyist

BobbyLane

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"You can't make a baby in month by getting nine women pregnant."

I'm in it for the journey. The hunter has to go home when he fills his bag limit. Most endeavors are like that. The thrill of the hunt; the chase; planning the next move; keeping one eye open for the next opportunity. If it ever becomes so easy that I can do it without fail, does the adrenaline just peter-out?

I'm hoping that one day I'll develop, "The Eye". That's what the Masters have that most people will never understand, much less achieve. The ability to look into a prospect, assemble a plan in his mind, then execute that plan and deliver a good looking tree in an hour or two. I learn a lot every year, change my direction a little, focus more on this or that with a little less shotgunning. Is the game over at the end of the journey?
i agree and i dont think that comes from working with a mentor or going to club meets and listening to folks tell you what bonsai should be in their view. hell, i might not even like their work.
all what you mentioned comes from looking at how trees in nature grow, studying good trees mainly in the style you like, seeing how the material started, what steps were taken to improve it, what were the options available.
if one is serious you will have many images of trees stored on a drive, wild trees, inspiring bonsai, your own bonsai. many folk cant be bothered with that part of it.
then wonder why they still cant see it.
it takes time to hone that eye, you need to continually be working on trees, not afraid to kill some on the way and learning from mistakes.you must be continually studying better trees. im sorry but i dont agree that having a mentor or going to club meets makes your trees better. or the best way to make your trees better.
i asked G potter one day how he got so good at carving, his answer was oh i must of done 100s n 100s of these!
 
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BobbyLane

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Yes Mentorship helps. As does practice. There are examples. Here’s one - raw material to the National Show with help from Boon and Daisaku. Without the skills I learned and confidence I gained through guided practice under their patient mentorship, I would not have accomplished anything close.

View attachment 270096

View attachment 270097

This year I’ll be submitting three trees in two displays for the national show. All grown in Houston and two of the three are 99% my own work using the skills I’ve learned from good teachers over the last ten years. The third was purchased from Suthin and redesigned by me. So trunk by Suthin, branches by Scott.

View attachment 270098View attachment 270099View attachment 270100

Here are links to the threads recording the development of these trees:


Scott
that first tree is extremely good starting material though. from the first raggedy image of it, to how it turned out isnt a huge difference.
 

markyscott

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that first tree is extremely good starting material though. from the first raggedy image of it, to how it turned out isnt a huge difference.
That‘s true of the Western juniper - it’s always good to start with great material.

S
 

thams

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all what you mentioned comes from looking at how trees in nature grow, studying good trees mainly in the style you like, seeing how the material started, what steps were taken to improve it, what were the options available.
if one is serious you will have many images of trees stored on a drive, wild trees, inspiring bonsai, your own bonsai. many folk cant be bothered with that part of it.
I wholeheartedly agree with this. I also think that being exposed to certain types and styles of trees in nature influences how people think about bonsai - at least it does for me. For instance, I've always been a little confused by people saying deciduous trees should never have deadwood. Now, I don't think deciduous trees look particularly good with huge jins (not that they would last long term anyway), but cool hollows and rotted out trunks add a lot of interest to trees. Maybe it's because I grew up playing in hardwood forests where there were all sorts of contorted hollowed out trees could be found. Conversely, I was never exposed to old gnarled mountain junipers and pines found in high elevations that most people consider premier yamadori. I recognize that many of these trees are world class and I certainly think they're awesome bonsai, but I don't have the same connection to these trees as the deciduous species I grew up playing around. For me the connection is important.
 

BobbyLane

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I wholeheartedly agree with this. I also think that being exposed to certain types and styles of trees in nature influences how people think about bonsai - at least it does for me. For instance, I've always been a little confused by people saying deciduous trees should never have deadwood. Now, I don't think deciduous trees look particularly good with huge jins (not that they would last long term anyway), but cool hollows and rotted out trunks add a lot of interest to trees. Maybe it's because I grew up playing in hardwood forests where there were all sorts of contorted hollowed out trees could be found. Conversely, I was never exposed to old gnarled mountain junipers and pines found in high elevations that most people consider premier yamadori. I recognize that many of these trees are world class and I certainly think they're awesome bonsai, but I don't have the same connection to these trees as the deciduous species I grew up playing around. For me the connection is important.
i dont share any connection with pines n junipers either and i think a large majority of folk who love them isnt because they see them in the landscape at all but because theyve been to many shows seeing them displayed and just really endeared to them as bonsai.

im inspired by whats around me.ive often been asked on here, how come i always manage to find a wild tree thats similar to something im working on.this is because ive looked at many trees and stored them or know where to find them, so i can look ar a piece of raw material and it might remind me of something i have stored that i liked. this has helped me to see things that i wouldnt have if i hadnt put in the work.
im also a big fan of naturalistic bonsai so often ill see something and ill think ok maybe i could try this because i saw Walter pall or Maros or Sandev, Marija hajic do it and it worked, so that is how my brain is wired. or ill just get ideas from anyone who does this type of bonsai.
my mentor is mother nature.
 
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Anthony

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If you collect a tree with hollows or rotted featires
that is one thing.
But please remember wood matures after 30 to 50
years and even then it may not be durable.

To take a lifeform that is say 12 years or so and inflict
decorative wounds ......................

The Oxford book of A'level Biology has Bonsai listed
as a cruel practice.
Let us please promote health.
Good Day
Anthony
 

thams

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If you collect a tree with hollows or rotted featires
that is one thing.
But please remember wood matures after 30 to 50
years and even then it may not be durable.

To take a lifeform that is say 12 years or so and inflict
decorative wounds ......................

The Oxford book of A'level Biology has Bonsai listed
as a cruel practice.
Let us please promote health.
Good Day
Anthony
I don't necessarily advocate for creating hollows where one didn't previously exist. What I mean is that hollows don't necessarily equal poor bonsai or poor technique. I think to the extent possible wounds should be healed. But I don't shun trees that have these characteristics either.
 

rockm

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I wholeheartedly agree with this. I also think that being exposed to certain types and styles of trees in nature influences how people think about bonsai - at least it does for me. For instance, I've always been a little confused by people saying deciduous trees should never have deadwood. Now, I don't think deciduous trees look particularly good with huge jins (not that they would last long term anyway), but cool hollows and rotted out trunks add a lot of interest to trees. Maybe it's because I grew up playing in hardwood forests where there were all sorts of contorted hollowed out trees could be found. Conversely, I was never exposed to old gnarled mountain junipers and pines found in high elevations that most people consider premier yamadori. I recognize that many of these trees are world class and I certainly think they're awesome bonsai, but I don't have the same connection to these trees as the deciduous species I grew up playing around. For me the connection is important.
The primary reason deciduous trees generally don't have deadwood has more to do with the tree's health that optics. Hardwood ROTS and in some cases, it rots FAST. That can mean the tree the deadwood is attached to can gradually become structurally unstable (if there is enough deadwood or its in a critical place). Rot can also work its way into heartwood, which can rot the tree from within. Lime sulphur, carving, wood hardeners etc only slow down that process (and sometimes in the case of wood hardeners, can actually accelerate it). Jins can draw moisture into the main trunk, ect.

All this isn't a real problem for conifer wood, as that wood has natural oils that provide some resistance.

My friend who has worked with Japanese-trained bonsai teacher has said those teachers get antsy when they see deadwood on a deciduous tree, especially hollowed out trunks. Not because they think deciduous trees don't develop it in nature, though. They say those hollows are basically a death sentence for the deciduous bonsai that have them. Could take a few years, or a decade, but they say hollow trunked trees don't last nearly as long. I've seen that happen with my own trees over the years. Extensive deadwood on some trees, like a black cherry or apple, can bring problems immediately. Deadwood sends out chemical signals that attracts insects, particularly borers.

A word about wood hardeners--I've found they can work, but if you're only painting the exposed surface, you're not sealing the wood behind that surface. Water will inevitably seep in BEHIND the wood hardener if you're just painting it on. That water can eventually rot the wood behind where the hardener was applied, so all that is left is a 1/4-1/2 inch thick shell of hardened wood over a rotted out interior. It can be a false sense of security.

To avoid that, much more aggressive measure in applying the hardener should be take, such as pulling soil away from deadwood that extends below the soil surface and drying that wood out well before applying the stuff.
 

Dav4

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If you collect a tree with hollows or rotted featires
that is one thing.
But please remember wood matures after 30 to 50
years and even then it may not be durable.

To take a lifeform that is say 12 years or so and inflict
decorative wounds ......................

The Oxford book of A'level Biology has Bonsai listed
as a cruel practice.
Let us please promote health.
Good Day
Anthony
... and physicians used to use leeches and bloodletting to treat almost everything a few centuries ago.... by the way, what is the copyright date for that thome you cite above? To practice bonsai at ANY level requires a periodic and traumatic intervention in the natural growth of our material. Done thoughtfully, it will never compromise the health of the tree and is absolutely necessary to bring the trees to a new artistic level.
IMG_3341.jpgIMG_3456.jpgIMG_3457.jpgIMG_3458.jpgIMG_3459.jpgIMG_3460.jpgIMG_3462.jpgIMG_3438.jpg
 

thams

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The primary reason deciduous trees generally don't have deadwood has more to do with the tree's health that optics. Hardwood ROTS and in some cases, it rots FAST. That can mean the tree the deadwood is attached to can gradually become structurally unstable (if there is enough deadwood or its in a critical place). Rot can also work its way into heartwood, which can rot the tree from within. Lime sulphur, carving, wood hardeners etc only slow down that process (and sometimes in the case of wood hardeners, can actually accelerate it). Jins can draw moisture into the main trunk, ect.

My friend who has worked with Japanese-trained bonsai teacher has said those teachers get antsy when they see deadwood on a deciduous tree, especially hollowed out trunks. Not because they think deciduous trees don't develop it in nature, though. They say those hollows are basically a death sentence for the deciduous bonsai that have them. Could take a few years, or a decade, but they say hollow trunked trees don't last nearly as long. I've seen that happen with my own trees over the years. Extensive deadwood on some trees, like a black cherry or apple, can bring problems immediately. Deadwood sends out chemical signals that attracts insects, particularly borers.
I've heard this as well, but then we see evidence in nature that trees can last much much longer than a decade with hollowed out trunks. Conversely, I've seen trees quickly decline when rotting from the inside out. What I don't know is whether some rotting trees decline BECAUSE of the deadwood, or some other factor like disease or pests from which deadwood is the result.

@Walter Pall has posted many deciduous trees with deadwood and I've heard Graham Potter discuss deadwood not being a death sentence for trees - even ones with soft wood like privet that tend to become punky fast. I don't have enough experience with bonsai containing deadwood to have a definitive stance, but evidence seems to indicate deadwood is possible long term.
 

Forsoothe!

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The recent train of though is homing-in on the reality of bonsai. Art appreciation, that is, the ability to see what is worthwhile in a bonsai design and execution may be aided by education and years of practice, but without an innate artistic mentality, -an inborn talent, all the training and practice in the world will not make a dunce into a King.

We all know people who have been diligently at it for a long, long time, some that are even leaders of workshops in local clubs, who look at a tree and have absolutely no clue what they are looking at.
 

rockm

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I've heard this as well, but then we see evidence in nature that trees can last much much longer than a decade with hollowed out trunks. Conversely, I've seen trees quickly decline when rotting from the inside out. What I don't know is whether some rotting trees decline BECAUSE of the deadwood, or some other factor like disease or pests from which deadwood is the result.

@Walter Pall has posted many deciduous trees with deadwood and I've heard Graham Potter discuss deadwood not being a death sentence for trees - even ones with soft wood like privet that tend to become punky fast. I don't have enough experience with bonsai containing deadwood to have a definitive stance, but evidence seems to indicate deadwood is possible long term.
I believe it can depend on species--vines (wisteria, wintergree, etc.) are the most susceptible. Fruit trees next. As for collected species, I've had deadwood on oak for two decades. No signs of rot on that exposed, carved wood in all that time. Same for Bald cypress. Not the same for some maple species.

It is a dangerous assumption that trees growing in the woods are the same as trees growing in a pot. Sure deadwood "lasts" in the wild, but if you're watching, it really doesn't. Dead areas on deciduous trees change dramatically over time. Wood melts away, the tree tries to outgrow the damage, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Thing is you're NOT seeing the trees that weren't successful in overcoming the challenge as they're compost...

In a container, trees' roots can't draw the same resources and the tree can't grow as fast as it can in the wild. Healing can be slowed, problems can accelerate. Not saying deadwood can't be used, just saying that it can sometimes come at a price. I've seen it firsthand on a few species over the years.
 

Forsoothe!

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The recent train of thought is homing-in on the reality of bonsai. Art appreciation, that is, the ability to see what is worthwhile in a bonsai design and execution may be aided by education and years of practice, but without an innate artistic mentality, -an inborn talent, all the training and practice in the world will not make a dunce into a King.

We all know people who have been diligently at it for a long, long time, some that are even leaders of workshops in local clubs, who look at a tree and have absolutely no clue what they are looking at.
 

Lars Grimm

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For me, I disagree.. Initially in my view you want so many trees tha you always have trees that need work. That way every spare hour you have you can work another tree, get skills at a rapid pace. Once these start to develop, you need to look at the time needed to maintain the trees you have. I am downsizing right now, going to try and end up with less than 100, which I hope I can take care of with ~16-26 hrs a week.
Michael Hagedorn has written about this here. The idea is that if you have too many trees you can't adequately focus on them to learn the nuances. On the flip side, if you have too few trees you obsess over them and make too many changes. However, I would argue that if you have 16-26 hours a week to devote to bonsai it is really a part time job and not a hobby. For many of us with kids/jobs/etc, we can spend 5-10 hours max so if you divide 100 trees by 3 you get to the same number of trees for the same number of hours =)
 

Cadillactaste

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that first tree is extremely good starting material though. from the first raggedy image of it, to how it turned out isnt a huge difference.
Good bones...I agree. Having them make it a joy to see it come together. I must admit...if I had not shared along the way. I doubt I would have made the back the new front. (Thanks @Vin ) as well as others... I've contacted @Adair M along the way asking for his guidance. You see...I'm so rural and don't care to make a drive. That my ones I respect in my circle helped me get from this...
2015 image
FB_IMG_1560031152461.jpg

To this...
2019 image
IMG_20190927_130821134_HDR.jpg
 

sorce

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This (my post) started because of the talk about regions and trees. Trees from regions and what speaks to you etc.

I couldn't help but notice all the very tall thin trees lining the highways in SC. It's almost all I could recall. That and the smaller versions of "our trees in Chicago" which were the crepe myrtles and such.

Anyway I decided to go look fer em. Oh also, to prove that any urban environment is about the same. Trees planted for shade x years ago, trimmed for power lines etc.

I went to SC and found a dead snapping turtle quicker than expected.Capture+_2019-11-08-07-51-04.png
Which is odd cuz I found one when I was there.

Pines? Odd cuz these are our Deciduous trees here, same shape.
Capture+_2019-11-08-07-51-54.png

Note the tall thin branchless parts.
Capture+_2019-11-08-08-07-54.png

That's SC I reckon.

Then I went to Atlanta and found....Capture+_2019-11-08-08-14-00.png
Capture+_2019-11-08-08-13-41.png

Pretty cool.

This guy must be one of us.Capture+_2019-11-08-08-16-51.png

Taking a picture of this tree, which I finally found another picture of.Capture+_2019-11-08-08-25-51.png

There are many people subtly influenced by different trees.
Some stylized, some natural, some local, some pictures.

So much variety of exactly the same thing!

Pretty cool.

Sorce
 

leatherback

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Michael Hagedorn has written about this here. The idea is that if you have too many trees you can't adequately focus on them to learn the nuances. On the flip side, if you have too few trees you obsess over them and make too many changes. However, I would argue that if you have 16-26 hours a week to devote to bonsai it is really a part time job and not a hobby. For many of us with kids/jobs/etc, we can spend 5-10 hours max so if you divide 100 trees by 3 you get to the same number of trees for the same number of hours =)
Or a hobby taken seriously?
Guess with me and my wife both on fulltime employment. Myself with a job that gets me across the globe only maybe six times per year and takes up to 50hrs a week excluding traveltime, my life is just easy to put together around bonsai.
 

Adair M

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This (my post) started because of the talk about regions and trees. Trees from regions and what speaks to you etc.

I couldn't help but notice all the very tall thin trees lining the highways in SC. It's almost all I could recall. That and the smaller versions of "our trees in Chicago" which were the crepe myrtles and such.

Anyway I decided to go look fer em. Oh also, to prove that any urban environment is about the same. Trees planted for shade x years ago, trimmed for power lines etc.



I went to SC and found a dead snapping turtle quicker than expected.View attachment 270218
Which is odd cuz I found one when I was there.

Pines? Odd cuz these are our Deciduous trees here, same shape.
View attachment 270217

Note the tall thin branchless parts.
View attachment 270216

That's SC I reckon.

Then I went to Atlanta and found....View attachment 270214
View attachment 270215

Pretty cool.

This guy must be one of us.View attachment 270213

Taking a picture of this tree, which I finally found another picture of.View attachment 270212

There are many people subtly influenced by different trees.
Some stylized, some natural, some local, some pictures.

So much variety of exactly the same thing!

Pretty cool.

Sorce
Those SC pines are probably lob lolly pines. They make great telephone poles! If there is a forest of them, they will drop ALL their lower branches, and only have tufts if foliage at the top. They’re all trying to out race their neighbor for the sun.

The second picture shows what they can look like if the forest is cleared out when the trees are young. They will retain their lower branches, which can get get very long. And as they grow long, the weight of the foliage will cause them to sag. If one of those is allowed to grow very old, and there’s no competition for light around it, they can eventually grow magnificent cascading branches. They don’t grow heavy, thick horizontal branches, they’re thin, and cascading.

You can see some examples if you watch the Masters Golf Tournament on TV. The course is lined with them. And each tree stands alone. Cemeteries are other places where pines can stand alone and keep their lower branches.
 

Paradox

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I would like to ask a question. Is there anyone here of these people or any of those not so inclined to post that could show a before and after of maybe five years and what the mentors, and video's and study groups have done for you.
Took classes for 2 years at New England Bonsai Gardens and have been in a study group with my teacher and members of the class since.
Would never have been brave enough to work on this JWP I purchased in 2013 at a landscape nursery, nor how to get it as far as it is. Still in progress and a long way to go.
Tree will be showable in a local show in 2-3 years. Yes I know it needs its fall thinning.

2014
2014_small.jpg

2017
Aug2017b_small.jpg

2019
2019bc_small.jpg
 
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