What is my/the expectation of the tree?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Smoke, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Smoke

    Smoke Imperial Masterpiece

    Fresno, CA
    This is an important interchange of ideas. It did not occur to me until Bonhe's last post. What is my/his expectation of a tree we work on?

    Original thread

    From this exchange I might surmise that Bonhe feels that his trees will be much better in twenty years. That's a Hell of a statement. Many people in this hobby never even make it 20 years. I have no doubt that his tree will be better in 20 years and I hope I live long enough to see him post them here! I have no idea how old Bonhe is. I am 61 years old. I may not see another 20 years, and if I do I'm pretty sure I will be sitting in a chair with a blanky over my lap and a big calico cat sitting there, I sure am not gonna be defoliating tridents.

    Now if I were say 30, I might love to look forward and see what my trees may look like in twenty years, and this would be an extraordinary amount of time in bonsai years. But I mentioned 100 years. Lets say I have a tree I been working on for 20 years, and by some stroke of magic I live another 20 years and am able to defoliate maples till I'm 81. My tree now would have been worked on for 40 years. But, imagine what another 60 years could do. Now we are into the realm of the Japanese bonsai that have been in pots for almost a century and passed down to other generations.

    So....what is your expectation for the trees you take care of? Do you wish to get them the best you can and settle for what 20 years can bring or do you prepare the material for the future hobbiest that may take your work and add to it with another 40 years and so on?

    Do you work with the expectation that you may never see the tree in it's finest form because you lack the expertise or the time, or both? Or do you work the tree feeling that settling on the tree in its current form is the best it will be and I will never see it finished so this is it?

    I have no idea....maybe someone has some better insight.

    This is the oldest tree I have that's been in constant training since I purchased it. 16 years in training. Four more to go for 20 years. What could I expect to see in another 80 years? Of course I won't, but it sure is nice to ponder.....

    Before 2001

    Current 2017
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  3. ghues

    ghues Omono

    Campbell River BC Canada
    Another loaded question perhaps Smoke.......But I'll bite.......like you and others I have a multitude of trees at various stages, some of my yamadori have already got age (in the 100's, some 200 plus) but not "years" in training but ........I hope that they will be taken care of by another in the future, same for the ones I've grown from seed or cuttings....some I will sell off to others while some I'll keep training until I can no longer care for them. (For me - 63 years young, some of my trees I've had for about 16 years)
    Some of them I'll see to the finest form I can bring them too......but obviously I understand that other more experienced folks could refine them to look even better.....as they are always evolving.
    Funny thing is.....my wife and I spoke about this topic this morning on our hike up the White Tanks........as we are considering updating our wills.....she jokingly asked me "what are you going to do with all you trees?".....something I haven't put my mind to yet. I do have a couple of grandchildren that might take an interest.....but if they don't, I will look at the idea of auctioning them off to our local club(s).
    Very nice progression by the way.
    Cheers G.
    just.wing.it, Wilson and sorce like this.
  4. MichaelS

    MichaelS Omono

    As far as peace of mind and enjoyment is concerned, you just have to live in the moment with bonsai accepting that you will probably never see them at their potential best. As for the future, while I'm still alive, I would be happy if I knew that at least a few make it another generation or two after I have become compost. But how can we ever really know? One or two missed waterings and bam, a life's work becomes firewood.
    Enjoy what we have today!
  5. Bonsai Nut

    Bonsai Nut Administrator

    OC, CA
    Depends how you gauge "success".

    There is the success of having a "show-quality" tree, even if all you did was finish work on it, and there is the success of taking a raw/rough/bad piece of stock and styling it so that it has a future as bonsai - even if that future will not be recognized for years.

    I tend to "live in the moment" with my trees, and enjoy working on them at all different stages of their development. Sometimes I wish I had more finished trees, and sometimes, when I am caught up on all my maintenance work and run out of things to do for a few weeks (because of seasons or whatever) I wish I had more raw stock :)
    Waltron, Josh88, Vance Wood and 5 others like this.
  6. fredtruck

    fredtruck Omono

    West Des Moines, IA
    I think any tree of mine still going in 20 years will be better, but I have recently begun buying much older stock that, while not finished, is 30 or 40 years old to begin with. This makes a huge difference in what my expectations are.
  7. defra

    defra Omono

    The netherlands Zone 8b
    i am 28 now and hope i could care as long as possible for my trees !
    i have 3 sons so i hope at least one of them is going to like bonsai and could take over my trees when the time comes

    20 years wont be enough for mosth of the trees to be at their best but ill do my best to get them going on the right path tough with hopes of my kids to take them another step further and their children after that
  8. Zach Smith

    Zach Smith Chumono

    St. Francisville, LA
    Great thread. My own experience in bonsai has not been "uninterrupted," so maintaining trees for decades is not a claim I can make. I have bonsai friends with trees in training for over 20 years ... however, what is true with even these dedicated and skilled folks is that over time they tend to lose trees here and there. So time and vicissitude winnow collections. When I teach, I emphasize taking a tree from raw stock to "finished" bonsai in three to five years. Yes, I know that more time makes for better bonsai, given the skills and luck needed to keep them alive and prospering, but for me the bonsai journey is at least as important. As with many artists, I like being able to start with a 30, 40, 50-year old or older specimen (trunk) and making it showable in a handful of years. That's as close as I can get to a hundred-year-old bonsai.

    What's a good expectation for your bonsai pastime? Well, it's completely individual. I imagine most of us here are more doers than connoisseurs. Crafting the bonsai is at least as important as standing back and enjoying it, which is not to discount the enjoyment in any way. But you might only go to bonsai shows if you didn't find the designing, styling and grooming to be engrossing and fulfilling.

    For what it's worth, of course.

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  9. thumblessprimate1

    thumblessprimate1 Masterpiece

    This is a good topic. Before returning to bonsai, I asked myself some of these questions. I knew that what I start with now may never be show quality before I'm in a nursing home or die. I had to have a good reason for doing something that might seem pointless, and I found it after some thought. One of my main reasons for training and nurturing trees is to improve them and through improvement of my own skills and knowledge. I work on my trees with the desire that they become magnificent one day while in my care, but if I can even just bring it closer to that vision for someone else I'll be very pleased.

    Sometimes I experience hopelessness fearing that I might not know enough or have access to someone with the right skills, but you guys/gals have been helpful. Whatever tree I work on, I have a vision for how they might progress for the the next year, the next 3-5 years, 10, and 20 years. I hope I have 20 years more at least; assuming that I have the longevity of my father and grandfather, I might have 40-50 years to live in my 90s or beyond.
    sorce, JudyB, ghues and 2 others like this.
  10. abqjoe

    abqjoe Chumono

    Albuquerque NM
    I started this hobby just last year in 2016 at the age of 40. With that being said, I knew that I wouldn't have enough time left in life to create the kind of tree's that I really desired and so I made sure to obtain quality stock. The stock that I've obtained so far has age, has or has had lot's of training, but still needs refinement in order to enter the stage of finished. I will live long enough (God willing) to see even the youngest tree that I have reach 65-70 years of age and I will (God willing) see the oldest tree that I have reach 140+ years of age.
    Josh88, ghues, Wilson and 1 other person like this.
  11. aml1014

    aml1014 Masterpiece

    Albuquerque new mexico
    I'm only 22 and have been realistically practicing bonsai since I was 18. I cant say that I have expectations of my trees, more so eyes for the future. Like I said, I'm young, I can't even imagine what some of my trees will look like when I'm in my 60s or 70s. Nevertheless I strive to make the best trees I can, there's no time limit in this hobby. My very vision for 1 tree could be completely different in 10 years let alone 50 or so.
    I'm glad I'm young and can learn now, I feel I will progress quickly and have some wonderful specimens someday down the road. My own personal goal, even if it takes me 20 years, is to enter a tree into the nationals show. This hobby isn't a race after all.

    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
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  12. JudyB

    JudyB Imperial Masterpiece

    South East of Cols. OH
    I think that having stock at different levels of completion is such a great way to go about the hobby. You learn things on both ends of the development that you can apply. I never think about the fact that I may never see the tree in many years, I just appreciate the tree at it's place in time. But always striving to make that tree progress towards the pinnacle of where it can go.
    just.wing.it, sorce, Waltron and 10 others like this.
  13. jriddell88

    jriddell88 Chumono

    Kentucky zone 6A
    Wise post, I like to have trees to refine and trees to create, keeps me busy year round. That way you don't love em to death!
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  14. Waltron

    Waltron Chumono

    Southern Michigan
    Ill turn 30 here in about 3 weeks, I've been in the hobby now for about 4 years, and there is no question in my mind that im a lifer. Funny to think about time and bonsai, and just trees in general, you miss a season, or you miss a chopping opportuntiy and then you must wait. you see a tree one year and you learn and grow and come back to the same tree and see something different, as you and the tree has grown. I've been collecting many trees the last 2 years and getting pickier and pickier about that ones that I choose to dig, but still the list of marked trees continues to grow. I think one year I'll eventually stop collecting or narrow it down to one new collect once my appetite is full on new varieties of natives to study.. hell I've even starting marking interesting invasive's this year, but that is a big draw to the hobby for me. searching digging and collecting is exciting. its only exciting to find a tree that I imagine worthy of keeping 20 years. I've had 2 daughters in the last 2 years, so most of my trees have been under my care for the same amount of time as my daughters. I think it would be neat if they take interest in the hobby for that reason alone, among others of course, but really im not hung up on the idea as I know this hobby does not appeal to everyone and im ok with that, happy about it actually. It takes a passion, eagerness, obsession even, to give the trees the respect and care they deserve. it does no good to worry about things you cannot control. when I can no longer care for my trees I will see that they go to someone who is able and willing. whether that be mother nature, a person, or the cycle of life, I cannot say. In twenty years, I know I will have trees that have been under my care for that length of time, but I cannot say that they will be any good, they will just have been mine, and I'm ok with that.
  15. Vance Wood

    Vance Wood Lord Mugo

    It really does not make a difference how old a tree is, or how many years you have had it in your possession, just how many years it has been since you have decided to apply some really dedicated training and design work on the tree. I have seen some twenty-thirty year old pre bonsai, I have owned them, and I have seen some ten year old bonsai that tend to win awards because they got the attention they deserved. It is not always age it is the quality of the age. I have lately held to the concept that a tree does not significantly improve by itself. The tree may improve over time although the quality of the bark usually improves but design does not improve by itself. A very old POS without a decent amount of personal and artistic care will mostly be nothing much more than very much older POS. You could put the tree in a show and it might draw some attention because of its age but that's about it.
  16. mattspiniken

    mattspiniken Chumono

    Northern Michigan
    I enjoy progress. I think it would be a sad day to realize each and everyone of my trees had reached the finished idea that I had for them. I am sure I will be in this for life and my guess is that looking back I will remember the early years of my bonsai experience to be some of the most enjoyable. I hope I am still scouting the "Wild" for new yamadori 30 years from now when I am 63.

    Saying that, I look for new stock or collected trees that don't need a thicker trunk just work on branches. I like the idea of skipping decades. I do have a few seedlings as well for fun :).
    just.wing.it, sorce, Wilson and 4 others like this.
  17. quietobserver

    quietobserver Chumono

    Germantown, TN
    Agree with you 100%. I get as much enjoyment from rooting cuttings as I do working on 100+ year old yamadori with which I've done little more than wire and keep healthy for several years, as well as everything in between the two.
    aml1014 likes this.
  18. Dav4

    Dav4 Imperial Masterpiece

    I've got a Rocky Mountain Juniper, collected less then 15 years ago, that might be close to 1000 years old. At this point, it's developed nice ramification and is, in my opinion, a hop, skip, and jump away from possibly being shown at the national level. I've got hefty maple stumps that are between 20-30 years old that need years of branch and root work. I've got trees in pots that have been wired at least 4-5 times. I've got 2-5 year old pine seedlings growing out in pond baskets and in the ground... and I've got trident maple seeds stratifying in the crisper as we speak. All I can hope is to make reasonable improvements to these trees each year, with limitations to doing so due to mostly my lack of free time followed closely by my experience(or lack there of). I will say that with every tree that I acquire and start to work, I do it solely for myself. I can't say that I'm thinking about the next generation of hobbyists when I ground layer something or select branches to cut away. But.... my goals have changed. Whether I'm working that ancient yamadori or the 3 yr old trident seedling, I want to do what makes best sense for the long term development of said tree, which means no short cuts. Back in the early part of my addiction, I wanted whatever material I had to "get there" as quickly as possible. Now, I just want to do it right and enjoy the process. This might mean that a lot of the newer material I have won't "be there" until I'm exceedingly long in the tooth, and I figure to have another 25 years in the hobby ahead of me. It might not "get there" under my care...so be it, I'm cool with that, too. I just want to do it right.
    sorce, bleumeon, Waltron and 5 others like this.
  19. Vance Wood

    Vance Wood Lord Mugo

    There is no such thing as a finished bonsai only a dead bonsai. There is always something that can be done for a tree and unless you bought a finished piece of stock it is not likely to find one if you really know what you are doing.
  20. Waltron

    Waltron Chumono

    Southern Michigan
    I actually really enjoy finding a seedling worthy of collection with some nice bones. I plan to acquire quite a few this year, as I think 10 or twenty years down the road the satisfaction and rewarding, accomplished feeling we all shoot for is more attainable when reviewing seedling progression. Not only that, but there are other significant benefits of seedlings, main one that comes to mind is the ability to hide the "human hand", so to speak.
    aml1014 likes this.
  21. Guy Vitale

    Guy Vitale Shohin

    Windsor, Ontario
    So I've been into bonsai now for 16 years and even though I've lost numerous trees along the way, I am fortunate enough to still have 4 of my original trees I started with. That said, whether it's those four trees or ones I picked up a couple years ago I keep finding myself thinking how great they will look in 2-4 years. The fact is, each year we effectively work on our trees, the better they look and the next year they will look better yet. I'm 42 and God willing I can work on some of these trees another 30+ years, imagine what 30 more growing/training sessions could do.

    One day I would love to go into my eternal slumber knowing that my trees and the work I have put into them didn't go to waste, but there is no guarantee so I continue to work on my trees for my pleasure. One day should my children, their spouses, nieces, or nephews decide they enjoy this as much as me, I would rest easy in the knowledge they are well cared for. If not, I know that I will have a select few that I would hope to pass onto the next generation of young 'nuts' in the hope they can continue my work in achieving the tree's potential.
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