Bonsai - why?

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  AlainK on Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:24 pm

Because I like it.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  David Willoughby on Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:04 am

Why Bonsai ? The first stanza of the forward in a Bonsai book I have that was published in 1974 and written by Kenji and Keiji Murata sums up my feelings of why bonsai.

The more society advances and the greater "progress" we make, the greater becomes our yearning for the underfiled, uncontrived natural beauty. People enjoy having nature close to them, often bringing home a tree or flowers and experimenting with different arrangements and designs. Bonsai is one of the best expressions of the wholesomeness and purity of nature.

Cheers

David

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Eric Group on Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:41 am

For me, and I have thought about it a great deal, it was a combination of multiple factors.

1. I grew up with a Mother who was an avid gardener (she still is) and K always helped her in the plant room- watering and fertilizing, in the garden, pruning Boxwoods...

2. I was always somewhat artistically inclined- in my own way- drawing and that sort of stuff since I was a child...

3. About 10+ years ago, I was dating an Asian girl for a LONG time, and developed an interest in and appreciation for almost all things Asian- Art, Music, food...

I found Bonsailike many do- bought a tree from some guy selling them beside the road one day. Kept it for a while then it died.... This sparked an interest in why it died so I decided to learn more about Bnsai and. Entisols kind of came to think of it as a way of combining all the factors I mentioned above- plants, art and my growing interest in Asian culture- into one "hobby".. That little hobby quickly turned into an almost unhealthy obsession! I spent most of the last ten years or so learning as much as I could about Bonsai on my own and have been lucky enough to develope a friendship with some very talented Bonsai people in my area over the past few years. I can certainly attest that learning by working with and watching other people will give you much more benefit than just reading and trying to figure stuff out for yourself!!

So, that was a long version of me saying that my "why" was a conglomerate approach based off of combining multiple interests into one!

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Kevin B. on Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:22 am

Vance Wood wrote:
You don't get that with tulips, peonies, cabbage or carrots, gold fish, or baby birds.  Why trees?  

Vance, what you've eluded to is like hitting a nail on the head.  This touches on a fundamental facet of the human psyche...  Why trees? Why do Asian cultures venerate them as sacred, the same as Druid or Celtic cultures?  Why do the ancient Norse and Mayan both have a "tree of life" in their creation myths?  Why do Native Americans refer to trees as "the standing people" and confer on them the same spirit as any other creature in creation? Why is the Greco-Roman god Zeus said to favor the oak because it is the symbol of strength and stability? Why do African cultures believe the trees of their forests contain powerful spirits that if offended during the cutting and carving of wood for instruments will leave the trees and render the world without sound?  Why do trees hold such power in human mythology?

As humans, we have historically represented powerful facets of the world around us (think along the lines of mountains = pyramids, burial mounds, and temples) in our architecture and arts.  Bonsai is just another relatively modern extension of this metaphor.  Why do we aim to recreate venerable "old" trees, and trees "tormented" by the elements?  To us, a stately and ancient tree represents longevity, strength, rebirth, growth, virility, etc...  The art of Bonsai just means to distill this image of majesty in the face of adversity into a smaller form that we can still recognize.   Think about it, this is why bonsai holds such an appeal to so many people from all over the globe - it's tapping into a subconscious archetype which is imbedded in numerous cultural foundations.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Guest on Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:26 am

Because Bonsai people like "it" that is why, and bonsai people are at the bottom list of the minority group. There is no special and deep philosophical answer to this question. It is simply because we like it. You can ask the same question to people that is into Ikabana, into Basketball, painting, sculpture, singing or  even to people without a hobby or people who don't like anything particular... ask them why they are into it and love it so much (what ever it is) and not into bonsai?. you might even get an offensive answer to the bonsai people.

We just see this art/hobby as very special and tried to give so much meaning into it because we are involved in it.

regards,
jun  Smile

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Brunsai on Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:58 am

Good point Jun, I agree.

I believe that passion is something elusive and intangible... By simply asking "why" we tend to our trees with so much emotion and enthusiasm, it becomes such a broad question, with the answers even broader - as with anything else one is passionate about, like Jun mentioned.
My list of "why's" will go on and on just like all of you. So by simply putting it, Jun hit the spot - because we like it. Plain and simple. Actually, I love it...

BTW Jun, If it's ok, I'll PM you as to when you're free at your garden this week. No heavy lifting yet says the chiropractor, but extreme admiration of Jun's trees this week is fine. hehe

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Todd Ellis on Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:32 am

I have enjoyed reading everyone's responses, and chuckled when Vance persisted in asking (again) "yes, but why?...". Suffice it to say there is no "one" answer. I was amazed and intrigued when I saw my first bonsai collection in San Jose, California in 1976; a collection of shohin size trees. I kept this memory, and a year later I tried my first tree. I was captivated by the beauty of these tiny trees. As for why? Perhaps it is because we originally came down from the trees, maybe they represent "home" for us, something buried deep within our DNA... perhaps these ancient memories stimulate our oldest emotions of security, safety, and food sources... just some thoughts...

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  David Brunner on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:33 am

Thank you all for your interesting and intriguing responses!  For employment related reasons I have been away from IBC for a few days – what a pleasure to return to this treasure trove!  And many many thanks to Vance!

Of course there is no one answer to this question.  Our reasons for our passion will be as diverse as we are.  However, several of you suggested what I think is a truism, trees are special to humans!  I am no sociologist nor cultural anthropologist and I don’t mean to assume such stance here, but this apparent truism seems to cross cultures and ages.  We do of course have examples of other plant types as iconic cultural drivers, turning to one of Vance’s comments, tulipomania comes to mind.  However, there does seem to be something universal within human cultures about trees and the tree-form.  

There is something very interesting about being able to hold a vital representation of nature in ones grasp and, as has been stated here previously, care for its existence utterly.  It is fundamentally different than a fern in a pot.  Interestingly, I have several plants in pots which are far older than any of my bonsai – one Calibanus hookeri (sorry I know no common name) has been in my care in a pot for 50 years and a Schlumbergia  russelliana (Christmas cactus) which I inherited from my grandmother has been in the same pot over 100 years – but other than their sentimental value, which is significant, they have no deeper significance to me.  About my bonsai, I feel otherwise.  

There is also an evident equivalency with figurative art.   We may cultivate and design bonsai from many of the same motivators that a landscape painter produces works on canvas.  But this brings us back to trees as our primary focus, which are just one of many foci for painters.

Of course, bonsai does not resonate will all people, regardless of culture.  There are those that consider it tree torture.  There are those that consider it elitist.  There are those that consider it a real waste of time.   But be that as it may, these are outliers and they abound around any endeavor one might undertake.

So, for me at least, I am left with the following:  trees are special (who knows why?), growing plants in containers is fun, ergo; growing small trees in containers is special fun!  I suppose that is enough for me at present.  (But, as Vance will have had said, that still leaves the question regarding why trees…)

Thank you all again for your posts and your interest!  And mostly thanks for the little trees you have given to yourselves and others!

David B.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:07 am

Just when you thought it safe to go in the water------You wrote:  Of course, bonsai does not resonate will all people, regardless of culture.  There are those that consider it tree torture.  There are those that consider it elitist.  There are those that consider it a real waste of time.   But be that as it may, these are outliers and they abound around any endeavor one might undertake.

This is and of itself interesting.  Even people that do not do bonsai have an opinion about bonsai.  Tree torture, a wast of time, elitist, and what ever, why would bonsai actually foster these kinds of negative responses?  Does anyone else find that odd as well? It's like no one can have no response to it at all.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  David Brunner on Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:30 am

Red meat Vance – red meat!  You seem to be a true rabble-rouser and for that I salute you!

Well first you say “Even people that do not do bonsai have an opinion about bonsai.”  To this all I can reply is that all people have an opinion about all things even if their response to a direct question is “I have no opinion…”  This is human nature and reflective of qualities of the human brain – a highly efficient difference engine.

I think that I shall confine myself, Vance, to opining further about your comment to personally observed reactions from those that have visited my garden and who have chosen to confide in me their responses to that viewing.  I realize that I am eliminating an analysis of the far larger subset of the public which might have visited bonsai shows or otherwise have observed bonsai or images of bonsai in a more passive setting.  But for me to opine about the latter would be absolute speculation and without grounding.  (Please understand, I am delighted to undertake such speculations in private, but as we all know IBC is not private…)

Usually, in my garden, I am given a response to the bonsai observed of: beautiful, WOW, how did you do that, how long did that take, can I buy one?  These responses, I have to say, I find polite and respectful but really uninteresting with regard to understanding the personal response to that which has been observed.  A minority subset of viewers want to understand the techniques of bonsai because they see them as a status symbol or a marker of horticultural prowess, these I find intriguing but mostly unrewarding.  A smaller minority, in my experience, will stand in front of one tree or another and remark about how it inspires them:  “this is just like a tree in a meadow”, “this recalls a view from my youth”, and so on.  I truly like these responses.  They move me as they may have moved the viewer.  However, in support of your postulate, no one to date has had no response to viewing my trees.  This might have been out of politeness as my guest may intuitively understand the effort implicit in a bonsai – but I do live in the US (not a country nor culture known for politeness) - and lest any of you think this is due to the quality of design or overall impression of the trees in my garden let me disabuse you, my trees are quite contrite in design and unexceptional in quality.  

Anyway, and begging pardon for any undue garrulousness, I propose a further question to the IBC community based upon that which Vance postulates;  why do WE (I mean outside the context of the individual but within the context of the collective) do bonsai?

Yours and with great interest!  Thank you all!
David B.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:46 am

Or to translate the question into my terms; why do I do insist on taking part in a hobby for which I have only a modicum of talent?  Wink 

Partly it is because I enjoy the feeling of having created something.  Prior to taking up bonsai my two horticultural passions were herbaceous perennials and trees and shrubs. My modest town garden allowed me to grow several species of the former but not very many of the latter. Fortunately the job I did then allowed me some considerable scope for indulging both passions, on the pretext of teaching my horticultural apprentices the rudiments of both subject areas and having a large training facility at which to do it.  I have no doubt whatsoever that I will return to both passions when I secure that major lottery win and can plant up my consequent large country estate with large quantities of both.

In the meantime, the herbaceous plantings have gone from my town garden and in their place I have a bonsai garden.  The difference as I see it is that with the herbaceous plantings I was very aware that I was merely nature's employee. Or so Khaimraj doesn't accuse me of  the anthropomorphism of nature again, I was merely "assisting" in those biological and botanical processes that happen naturally.  That I did so reasonably well can only be part ascribed to my skill - the rest was entirely down to those plants.  I do believe that with bonsai I have more of a hand in the matter as the skill of cultivating a bonsai goes considerably beyond the application of water and occasional feeds.  I do not agree with an earlier poster who suggested that we are "controlling" the plant - that, with no disrespect to that poster, is verging on the arrogant.  The major difference is in the styling and this is where I derive most enjoyment; even with my limited eye for a good style. This is what I meant earlier by only having a modicum of talent: I am good at carrying out the styling process as long as someone has directed me in what to do. I am only just developing the ability to "see the tree within" and I doubt I will even be able to do it as naturally as the top artists.  Despite this, the styling process, the pinnacle of the overall creating, is the bit that gives me greatest pleasure.    

The abridged version of this would be that the creating process gives me the biggest sense of achievement and the maintenance gives me those feelings of calm against the storms of daily life offered by my previous horticultural passions.

Bit like my cycling which also is a major de-stresser and passion despite me being twenty years too old, several pounds too heavy and several inches too short to take in any way overly seriously.  Laughing

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:52 am

Bonsai is tree torture -

[1] and you mow no lawns or clip hedges, weed ?

[2] The trees live longer than in the wild

[3] They get watered before I eat

Elite -

[1] Anyone can grow a seedling, compost and or made a pot [ cement or fibreglass if you have no clay ]

It is a backyard hobby for anyone, only in public display do the fangs come out.

Fiona, now it is my turn - I always liked your trees  ThumbsUp , our past differences were only cultural, and I thank you for past / present help.
Keep on cycling and Bonsai-ing.
Later,
Khaimraj

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:57 am

Khaimraj,

 flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes flutter eyelashes 

 lol! 

F

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:44 pm

I suppose it's my turn seeing I seem to be the one who insists in continuing this mess?  I have an older brother who happens to be a genius gifted beyond anything I have ever seen.  Of course I did not know this at the time, he was just my older brother who I followed around like a puppy dog.  He was six years my senior and by the time I became  old enough to really appreciate what he could do, he was off to school.  He did however leave a few things behind beside the adoration of a young boy.  Ultimately he became an astro physicist who was intimately involved in the hay days of the Space Program, retiring just recently from the endeavor.  He was also one of these people that could do anything he put his mind to.  At some point about 1952 or so he became interested in what was then called Ming Trees.  He obtained a book through the mail and started growing these little trees.  Most of his success was with Pomegranates he grew from the seeds taken from a grocery store Pomegranate.  

After he went off to school I started looking through this book he had and became fascinated with these little trees growing in pots.  I cannot, even today, describe the feeling I experienced when I first looked at them,--- them, being pictures of masterpiece trees.  At eleven years old I was hooked.  My first tree was a Cottonwood tree I dug out of the flower bed at my parents home.  It died but my interest in bonsai did not.  Within a year we had moved to Marin County California and it was here my budding addiction started to flower.  When my parents would go to nurseries to purchase things for the new house I would go with them.  I was able to talk them into getting a few trees for me to work on.  They seemed pleased to get me interested in something other than beer and rock and roll, which seemed to be the standard fare of my peers.

So I guess the reason why I do bonsai goes deep enough into my life, long enough that I really cannot put a description on it.   Even when I was in the army and eventually, Viet Nam, I still thought about bonsai.  I've been told why don't you find something else to do?  Why don't you find an alternative to breathing?  Nothing in any law or any book says I have to be any good at it.  With that; some would say I have been successful.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  my nellie on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:36 pm

Bonsai in Greece is at its infancy.
I’ve seen my first bonsai tree during a flower show some 8 years or so ago. I was fascinated!
I became a member of BonsaiTalk and I visited the forum almost daily reading for hours and I have got a lot out of that reading.

So I started like I was bewitched by bonsai.
I just love it, I just like it. Exactly like Jun has said before :
jun wrote:Because Bonsai people like "it" that is why, and bonsai people are at the bottom list of the minority group. There is no special and deep philosophical answer to this question. It is simply because we like it… …

I am not any good at the moment, I know. But I do love to practice with care and I will continue to seek for directions in order to develop the skills needed and I will do this for my own enjoyment and pleasure. Being involved into the process of not just cultivating a bonsai but taking the tree to a foreseen silhouette or trying to see “the tree within” (like Fiona said) or trying to feel the tree’s entity, is a great indulgence. It’s all about creation.

My modest town apartment does not allow me to grow my several (at the moment) bonsai trees properly or the way I' d like to. I do not dare to dream of a major lottery win, like Fiona does, but I do dream of the time of my retirement when I can permanently settle at my tiny country estate into the pine woods with lots of bonsai and free time to talk to them.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  AlainK on Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:21 pm

Wow  Crying or Very sad 

I wish one could spend more time on fighting for human rights instead of fondling their navels.


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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:10 pm

Alain, perhaps some of us indulge in hobbies like bonsai precisely as a respite from "fighting" for (or even against) something in our other lives. This is a bonsai forum - there's no reason why the question shouldn't be asked and the responses are providing, at least for me, some gentle relaxation against the vicissitudes of life.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Vance Wood on Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:19 am

fiona wrote:Alain, perhaps some of us indulge in hobbies like bonsai precisely as a respite from "fighting" for (or even against) something in our other lives. This is a bonsai forum - there's no reason why the question shouldn't be asked and the responses are providing, at least for me, some gentle relaxation against the vicissitudes of life.

Thank You.  Very often we forget that there is spiritual value to bonsai.  Some people get really deep into those things to the point you cannot understand what they are saying because their understanding of bonsai has become so esoteric in comparison-----or they want you to think that's the way it is. Will bonsai play a role in solving world problems? No. Does that mean that we should not talk about bonsai because it does not solve world problems? It would seem some would think so.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  brett2013 on Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:21 pm

Well, besides other things, my bonsai trees are like pets to me. They give me joy and relieve stress. As Walter Pall mentioned in one of his articles or interview, one can play tennis happily even if one is not an expert tennis player. Same for me in the context of bonsai.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  neveryonas on Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:20 pm

I am just new to really studying and actually applying the art of Bonsai on real live trees, although Bonsai and Penjing have always fascinated me. I have a deep respect for mother earth and have always considered trees as the ambassadors of her strength and beauty. They connect the world in ways that many people seem to have lost the ability to  feel on that primal level and that is very sad. I have always been a tree lover and quite literally a TREE HUGGER as well. I have spent years wrapping protective bands with tanglefoot around the Elm trees (Dutch Elm Disease) in Winnipeg with my own business called Banding Together. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada has the largest population in of urban Elm trees North America and I am proud to be part of that process to help keep them protected.

Family obligations are less, I have more time and I am excited to become more involved in the art of Bonsai. I have already spent many hours on this forum reading all the wonderful posts and gaining more insight to this exquisite art form.

I have several tamaracks, elms and junipers (in training) wintering over in my garden, just waiting for the coldest winter in over a hundred years to finally be over!

Canopy of Elm trees in Winnipeg

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  theBalance on Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:13 pm

A REALLY interesting discussion !
For me it is One hobby that gives me so many things…

1. the most relaxing thing I know ( just being with my collection – staring at them or training with them ) a direct connection to nature that surrounds me that allow me to connect to nature.
2. a living proof that is part of my life of what one can achieve little by little if he does it long enough ( an inspiration for me for raising my children, and developing my employees, or becoming better at something )
3. they allow me to understand  nature
4. stirs my imagination, take me to ancient worlds with elfs, warriors, dragons
5. the perfect medium for me as an artist to pass a message
6. Yamadori trips are for me “treasure hunting” trips , I have only a private collection and I am not selling trees, but for me to find something with great potential that currently looks nothing and knowing what I can turn it into makes me WOW
7. I am kind of a messenger, I feel that people who see my collection, becomes more a ware of nature, respect it more.
8. Most of my trees will continue to live long after I’m gone, so it’s also my legacy – something that is greater than me
9. Did I mention my private name ? it’s “Alon” that is the Hebrew name for the Oak tree 

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Andrew Legg on Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:59 pm

Will I be forever ostracised if I say I got into it cause Karate Kid was like super cool?

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  theBalance on Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:10 pm

Andrew - absolutely NOT, I guess karate kid was a great way of introducing this art and it's quality to the western audience Smile

the question is - what keeps you in this since then ?

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  MichaelJ on Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:12 pm

Andrew Legg wrote:Will I be forever ostracised if I say I got into it cause Karate Kid was like super cool?

The first time I recall ever seeing a bonsai was in the Karate Kid, and I thought they were awesome. That's probably what first drew my interest.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

Post  Vance Wood on Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:31 pm

The first time I saw one was in a magizine article many years ago and I was hooked.

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Re: Bonsai - why?

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