How did you get into bonsai?

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How did you get into bonsai?

Post  sitarbonsai on Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:58 pm

I thought it be interesting to start a thread about how people got into bonsai

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Kev Bailey on Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:22 pm

Good idea, we used to have a thread like this on the old IBC site.

I saw some bonsai in a plant nursery that I used to frequent in my home village. I was into cacti at the time (1966) and in one of the Victorian glasshouses that housed the Cacti there were a few small trees in pots. They were far too expensive for me to consider, on my pocket money, but I was intrigued. I was also an avid reader (mostly sci-fi) at the time, visiting the library on a weekly basis. I found a book on Japanese small trees but I remember it being very poor on detail and having only two or three black and white photo's. After a while, some of the trees at the nursery that hadn't sold died. I purchased the empty pots, so I could have a go at growing my own.

I tried many trees from seed and had a little success, but without a decent book or club to guide me, I eventually lost interest as rock climbing and mountaineering became the most important thing in my life. This led me eventually to another passion, this time for Alpine plants.

Scroll forward a few years and I'd got a young family and my own house and garden and I was selling reasonable quantites of plants that I had propagated. I started growing trees again and with the knowledge that I had developed, tending troughs of alpines etc, the growing of trees in containers was easier.

My wife Patricia bought me Dan Barton's book for my birthday in 1992, which was probably the best present I ever had! Soon after I bought Harry Tomlinson's book. I was propagating trees like mad, going through seed catalogues every winter trying to find new varieties that I could try training.

Then about '94 I found out that a club had been set up locally and I joined. Since then I've been the secretary, newsletter editor, chairman and now webmaster.

I still enjoy every aspect of plant propagation almost as much as the training of my trees, which leads me into conflict with many of my friends and mentors. They all throw up their hands in horror at the amount of stock that I have, in preparation for eventual training. I'm looking forward to retirement in a few years and the increased time that I'll be able to devote to them.

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Jim Doiron on Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:02 pm

10 yrs later I think I am still in the "getting started" phase Very Happy I got into it after my wife introduced me to plants (up until that I was a bachelor with no skill to grow anything) then bought me one of those bonsai "kits" that had a pot, soil and seeds for a juniper and no instructions on how to survive years of frustration. After a few weeks I looked at the pot of mud I had on my widow sill and thought, "this can't be right" so I too went to my library. The trees there looked nothing like what I had. The first book I purchased was Peter Chan's Bonsai Master Class which made me think I could easily find trees in the landscape. I started collecting all manner of small beat up orphan trees along the sides of streets and in alleys in my inner-city neighborhood. Most died after moving from apartment to apertment during my school years. What did survive moved to Michigan where a few more died but I continued to collect nursery stock and landscape trees and learned how to keep things from kicking the bucket.

Now I am finally in a place where I can start to collect better and larger trees and really start to get things worth looking at...in only ten more years, or two, hopefully. I am also finally able to take part in the local club (right here in town verses the 1 1/2 hrs away in Michigan) for the long term so hopefully I can finally glean something from others experience there after being a self taught loaner. (Not including the great info source that is the IBC, of course)
Very Happy

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  sitarbonsai on Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:36 pm

Kev Bailey wrote: I was into cacti at the time (1966) and in one of the Victorian glasshouses that housed the Cacti there were a few small trees in pots.

That's cool, I have two cacti myself. My friend is huge on cacti! He has many varieties and many books on cacti.

My bonsai journey started ironically at my brother's house. I went to visit him in summer and his living space was very oblique, uncomfortable and ugly. I had to sleep on his floor and I have a bad back and scoliosis, so needless to dwell on that experience, when I got back home I told myself that I'll never let my room get like my brother's and was dedicated to making it look and feel great. Like I mentioned my friend was into cacti and that really light up his room so I thought about getting some plants. I got some bamboo and found some other oriental stuff lying around my house. Since I was a child I loved Japan and dreamed of moving there and I have always loved forest and trees. I always knew about bonsai and thought it was cool, but never looked into it. When I was trying to decorate my room with an oriental vibe I thought about bonsai. I started looking into buying bonsai online, because of my inability to get to a nursery. I found websites like "Bonsai Boy" and even though that website is dismal I was so intrigued that I disband the idea of having a bonsai just an indoor decoration. I wanted to see bonsai thrive where they belong amongst nature (unless of course that is the bonsai is better suited for indoors like during the cold or my bougainvillea which absolutely detest wind), also I found "Lindsay Farr's World of Bonsai" series on youtube and that really got me hooked, and the thing with bonsai is the more you look around the internet the more you realize how much there is to learn and the more you learn the more interesting it becomes! Smile


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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:01 pm

I haven't started yet!

I have 80 or so trees in all shapes and sizes, in the ground, in training pots and in bonsai pots.

About 10 years ago I bought a small tree from a Korean road-side bonsai stand. It died!

Since then I've been trying to figure out how to get it right. I went pretty seriously for a year or two and strayed to other hobbies (bagpipes, motorcycles, wine making, chainmaille, grandkids, yada, yada, etc.) I would then find a new bonsai book and get back at it. My wife thinks I'm nuts, but it could be booze, gambling or girls, so she leaves me alone.

One of these days I might even get started! Very Happy Very Happy

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  JimLewis on Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:24 pm

I saw my first bonsai when I was 17 or 18 in Japan. This was in 1953-55. We lived in a Tokyo suburb, in a "Western" (only one room had tatami floors, and shoji screens) house attop a hill. An old gent who lived just below us had several tables of pines in the back yard just over the fence (and downhill) from us where we could see them. He wasn't too neighborly, so we never established much communication (there was still quite a bit of very hard feelings among the older Japanese, of course), but we saw him working on the trees fairly often.

I think we even got a couple of trees ourselves, but of course we couldn't bring them home when we left in '56.

My next many many years were in college, then engrossed in work, so bonsai became just a memory until the mid 70s when my mother bought the first Sunset Bonsai book for us for Christmas. She also passed on some nice Japanese pots so she must have done some dabbling at some point after I left home.

On the inside cover of that book I wrote a list of 22 trees I started in 1977-78. My first tree was a J. p. 'nana' (of course). I managed with the Sunset book(s -- I bought each later edition as it came out) until, in the mid 80s, our son went to London for a semester of university, and we jumped at the chance to fly over with him (only to be immediately snowed in in the worst storm in 100 years!).

Anyway, on a visit to Harrods, I saw a couple of bonsai for sale and several books on the subject. I bought Peter Adams' "The Art of Bonsai" and brought it home. I now have almost 200 bonsai books, but I still look at the Sunset books and Peter's (including several of his newer books which showed some of those same trees improving over the years) as often as any.

I've never looked back.

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  bobby little on Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:27 pm

harry tomlionsons sons had a stall in market square in Nottingham one christmas. Bought a couple of teeny weeny trees two for the price of one to use as presents, and kept one myself. Wor lass bereft of ideas for presents then went to Harry's place and bought me a beautiful broom style elm. which I killed in short order.

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  jjbacoomba on Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:26 pm

I am new to Bonsai. Entering my 7th month. Going through my first winter.My girlfriend and I went on a Sunday drive to Wimberly,Texas visiting the local shops.On the way back I saw a sign that said" Central Texas Bonsai Exhibit", I remembered all the bonsai I had seen in my hometown of Seattle and I decided to stop in.All those beautiful trees. I met the one of the owners,Pat Ware and I decided to buy a bonsai. It was a small Kingsville Boxwood. Beautiful lil tree with some nice nebari. Well, I brought it home and I made the newbie mistake of not watering enough and keeping it inside. It eventually died. Lesson learned. Now I am a member of the San Antonio Bonsai Society and its new librarian. I have a Trident Maple, 3 Junipers, a narrow leaf Ficus and some Yaupon Hollies I got from a club dig. So far( thanks to a mild winter) my trees are still alive and I am looking forward to my first spring. I am 52 now and I wished I had started 20 years ago. LOL!! Never too late I quess. Take care and Rock On!! Joe

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  matt addie on Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:52 pm

Great idea for a thread, it's interesting to see how we all ended up here.

For me, I got into bonsai because I became ill!

I became quite ill a few years back and was pretty much housebound for quite a few months. Although it seems like it must have been in another life, I used escape the rigours of the daily grind (lots of pressure at work, young family, etc.) by running ... a lot, 4 days a week, many happy hours of peace (and occassional pain!), just me and the road - it's where I would relax and enjoy myself. Having run half marathon distance, I dreamt of and planned for the London Marathon...

But, after a couple of years of a periodic mystery illness, I was finally struck down by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME if you prefer) in 2007. Running was no longer an option and for months, neither was walking ... or anything else for that matter. After months of rest I could slowly start to rebuild my life but I desperately needed something to fill the gap left by running.

I tried numerous (gentle!) things but I never really took to anything. I was drifting aimlessly it seemed. I had always fancied having a bonsai (not sure why, just did) and, after a little research, I bought a Chinese Elm from Kaizen Bonsai here in the UK. The day it arrived, carefully packed in a box, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! And it's a nothing tree in true bonsai standards! So now I had to keep it alive so I read books, lots of them, and subscribed to Bonsai Focus, and bought one of everything from garden centres - a forest of sticks, but I learnt a thing or two from them. Then I went to the Best of British Bonsai show this year ... Oh....My....Days!!!! So THAT's what REAL bonsai look like. Start again! Shortly after I met Tony Tickle who I am proud to call friend and teacher and I've never looked back since. I'm starting to get good (or at least reasonable!) material now, I've met loads of people at various shows and at the Burrs Workshop (inlcuding many IBC members!), and I'm always hungry for more.

Technically, I still have my illness but it's under control and I barely notice it anymore. Why? I work 4 days a week to pay the bills (although most days I do actually enjoy my job!), but every spare minute my mind is filled with bonsai - reading, studying pictures, learning from experts and talented artists. Will I ever be creating great bonsai? I really don't know but I'm having so much fun trying to find out!!

Someone once said of football/soccer "it's a funny old game". Well, so's life for me. At one time, my illness was the worst thing in the world, utterly devastating, but without it .... would I ever have discovered the all consuming passion that is bonsai? Who knows? Funny how things work out...

Oh and I still have that first Chinese Elm, got a soft spot in my heart for it!

And for the record, although it seems impossible right now, I'm still not giving up the dream of running the London Marathon either!

Matt

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  sitarbonsai on Sat Jan 23, 2010 10:06 pm

matt addie wrote:
Someone once said of football/soccer "it's a funny old game". Well, so's life for me. At one time, my illness was the worst thing in the world, utterly devastating, but without it .... would I ever have discovered the all consuming passion that is bonsai? Who knows? Funny how things work out...

I agree, when I was at my brother's in the summer sleeping on the floor with a dead leg, scoliosis, and before I left food poisoning I was pretty down, but without that maybe I wouldn't of gotten into bonsai, learned to appreciate having a bed, learned to keep my room and mind tidy or learned to appreciate life! Smile So I believe everything has it's place, although it should be said that it's a constant practice to keep my mind tidy and appreciate life above my often negative mind (only if I let it though) Wink


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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Guest on Sat Jan 23, 2010 11:06 pm

Back in 97 I'd filled up with petrol/gas, went in to pay and there on the counter were little trees in pots for a tenner. I think my little Serrisa lasted 6 months before it curled up its little roots. In the meantime, I had invested heavily in books by just about everyone but the sections on wild and collected trees particularly caught my attention.In 98 I joined the Ipswich Bonsai club and made a couple of really good friends. One of them opened up his own bonsai nursery( Green Lawns bonsai) and asked me to start up some workshops. In 2001/2, the Ipswich club put me forward for the New Talent competition. I got through the heats and won the final. I then had the opportunity, to represent the UK ,at the European Bonsai association, at Trevarez in Brittany, France. Pavel won by a country mile Very Happy I met Kevin Willson in 2002. What an inspiration! The man is a GENIUS and a good friend, who has helped greatly with my self doubt moments. I am obsessed with bonsai, just as much now as I was then. Its like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder, how I keep from going under.Ha HaHa Ha Ha

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  EdMerc on Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:28 am

In 1983 I went on an art club field trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. That's where I think I first saw bonsai. I was 13. I recall seeing the first "Karate Kid" and knowing what bonsai where already, but it did solidify the idea that I wanted to do that.

I never did have success with the mail order "bonsai" I purchased from a catalog. Many years later, my wife said she would like to have bonsai in our garden in our new home. That re-sparked my interest and I've never looked back... until now when your question forced me to. Uhg, how many years did I waste? I could have had awesome trees by now if I had just stuck with it. Sad

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  jon hultgren on Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:39 am

I am not entirely sure how I first became interested, but if I had to guess I would say I probably saw some bonsai on TV possibly as a small segment on a public TV special or possibly a quick glimpse on a cartoon. The idea festered in my mind for several years and after my freshmen year of college I decided I wanted to start a new hobby and was leaning heavily towards bonsai. My girlfriends must have told her parents as for my birthday I received a cutting off of one of their houseplants, and that got me hooked.

I spent about the first year or so after that just learning the horticulture and basic bonsai information. Last year I joined the Iowa Bonsai Association and have been getting some help from some of the more talented members of the club.

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  graham walker on Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:33 pm

I started by following my Father's love of bonsai.
He went to Japan on business several times and fell in love with the country and it's traditions
He started into bonsai in 1978 by growing from seed and collecting seedlings from local woodland.
In 1987 he joined the local Darlington Bonsai Socy as a founder member and enjoyed the meetings amd reading books on bonsai. His collection grew until at his death in 1993 there were about 50 trees, all from seed, nursery stock or collected seedlings. We disposed of many of these but kept several which my mother kept watering until she became unable to do so.

I decided in 1995/6 that it would be a shame to let all this previous hard work go to waste, my other main hobby at that time (and still is, although now secondary, was growing cactus and succulents, much like Kev Bailey) I began reading books on the subject, joined the Darlington Bonsai Socy (now Tees Valley B S following our move of venue)
and am now its Secretary for my sins!!!
I found the best way to progress was become a regular at local bonsai nurseries, attend workshops there and with other people, do not get attached to one prime teacher at the beginning, try workshops with other teachers and International artists.

As I progressed I found that the need to move up a level or two in quality, this can be expensive and also you need to move on trees which can be hard (we all become 'attached' to certain trees)
The culmination to date was a trip to Japan in 2008 to visit bonsai nurseries and Kokofu Ten exhibition

Yes, I still have a few trees that my Father started off in 1978 and 1981, they will never make good bonsai, but I will keep some for sentimental reasons, to remember my motivation to start the hobby
Graham

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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Tony on Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:17 pm

‘How did you get into Bonsai?’ this is a question I as most folk I meet for the first time at conventions and shows… it’s a great ‘ice breaker’ and everyone has a tale to tell. Here is mine.

Way back in the summer of ‘82 or thereabouts a neighbour gestured that I take a look in his garden… it was full of little trees that he had collected on walks in the countryside. They were in buckets, washing up bowls, colanders, boxes of all shapes and sizes… and the odd one in a ‘bonsai’ pot.

In 1983 I had a bad canoeing accident that left me immobile for quite a few months, Carolyn brought me Japanese garden and bonsai books from the library because I was fascinated by the culture and seemingly impossible miniature trees in pots. I joined Accrington and District Bonsai Society and stayed for 10 years. In 1991 the world convention in Birmingham UK changed my whole outlook… that’s how I started

Since then I have traveled extensively with bonsai, created a couple of nice trees, won l few certificates and awards, met hundreds of great people made lots of friends on the way… created Burrs.. and now I have just started an international School with Enrico Savini… what will the next 25 years hold.. who knows?... and I am still fascinated by the culture and seemingly impossible miniature trees in pots.


Last edited by Tony on Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:19 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : coz I can)

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How I started...

Post  Todd Ellis on Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:40 pm

I am glad for this new thread; I want to share my story too...
I first saw bonsai in California at a "friend of a friend's" back yard, where he had this collection of mame and shohin size trees. At the time I didn't know about the different size categories, but was intrigued nonetheless. I moved back to my parents and we thenmoved to Raleigh, North Carolina. My first Winter in Raleigh, I decided I could create my own bonsai and dug up a small Loblolly, collected clay mud (it was January during a brief thaw) and found a shallow cook pan which "looked" like a bonsai pot. I enjoyed the tree ontop of my dresser until it died. Since I'm color blind, I wasn't sure if the needles were green or brownor both. I then found out about the Raleigh Bonsai Society and was mentored by Howard Kazan, while I attended one of the local universities. I was hooked and started collecting material from local nurseries. At that time, you could still find great bargains on old nursery material before they too discovered that they could make a profit on their throwaways. Anyway, I moved away and planted my trees in my parents yard. Years later, on a honeymoon to Montreal, I visited the Penjing and Bonsai collection at the Montreal Botanical Garden. I took pictures of every tree, and my partner at the time, "joking" thought I lost my mind; that I was passionate about these trees. I have since found my soul mate who encourages me to do my bonsai.
I landed in Northern VA and participated in the Potomac Bonsai Association. I was active in the workshops and shows, symposia, and was able to participate in workshops with John Naka, Roy Nagatoshi, Yuji Yoshimura, Martha Meehan, Hal Mahoney, and a host of others. I learned alot about propagating from Pete Jones in Arlington. I also had a friend who volunteered at the Nat'l Arboretum and was allowed to pinch some foliage on Goshin - what a thrill! Dan Chiplis and I had many talks about trees. I use to walk with him around the museum and I learned alot from him. He was a gentle soul, a talented grower, and is greatly missed. I also use to talk for hours with Mary Mrose. She was a jewel indeed! There are many others who have passed on, Bill Merritt, Chris Yeapanis, Margaret Lewis, who enriched my walk on this earth - bless them all!

I collected and grew material "like crazy" and then had a spiritual quest that my new wife and I chose to involve ourselves with. After giving and selling just about everything we owned, including trees, we completed our mission in Pine Ridge and returned to VA. I thought I would never do bonsai again (this was a learning curve for me, a lesson learned) My wife, Jane, knew otherwise and convinced me to plant "...this lovely little beat-up Pierris, in that old bonsai pot you still have...." The rest is history. Until my hips rebelled five years ago and I had both hips replaced at the same time in March, 2008. Since I couldn't lift the big material anymore, I sold most of my large trees to club patrons. After a months of rehabilitating, I discovered that I could indeed still do bonsai and have been collecting and growing with a passion. I wife and I are social workers and we live modestly. I do the best I can with what resources I have. Bonsai on a budget - which is why collecting material is attractive to me - no one styles a tree like Mother Earth!

I started doing local demonstrations in the Charlottesville, Staunton area last year and hope to get a club started this year. If I'm not "doing" bonsai, I'm thinking about it, constantly thinking about styling, pruning, collecting, repotting, propagating, and now Jane and I are collecting stones. Actually, we have always loved stones together and have them throughout our home and yard,collected from places we have been.

This IBC forum is wonderful and I'm glad to meet you all. Thank you.

Todd Ellis
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Re: How did you get into bonsai?

Post  Stone Monkey on Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:06 pm

My journey into Bonsai started with a wind up in 1993!

My now ex wife, well she did always say they were sticks in pots, was given the task of looking after her then manager's Bonsai whilst he was away on holiday. We had the custody of this huge Beech which at the time I thought looked magnificent, looking back now it was a little pants. Well after 3 days of baby sitting the leaves went brown and crispy in the height of summer. I started to panic and watered it more and fed it more and talked to it etc etc. Two weeks later Mr Crispy Beech was no better and I was crapping myself. It looked dead! What do I do? What would I say?

Well after deducing the tree had shed its mortal coil I found a local nursery near Brentwood in Essex called "Roots n Shoots" which had a great Bonsai selection. So I bought Dave, the owner of the deceased, Peter Chans "Bonsai Masterclass" book and a few other nick nacks to say sorry.

After plucking up the courage to speak to Dave and say sorry about his recent loss I was met with the response of hearty laughter. It transpired that Dave thought it a good idea to pay back my ex wife with another wind up of baby sitting a tree with 48hr weed killer on it. To cut a long story short he felt bad, I kept the book and nick nacks and he gave me a few trees to play with as he felt bad. Fast foward to 2004 started playing with clay and my alter ego the "Stone Monkey" was born. I still have some trees and love Bonsai immensely, but sorry guys the clay has taken over now.

I have alot to thank for that wind up. Falling in love with Bonsai and clay and meeting so many good friends, virtually and in person. What a wonderful hobby we have I am sure you all agree Very Happy If the leaders of this god forsaken planet treated its inhabitants as well as we treat our trees and each other it would surely be a better place.

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Andy

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