Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

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Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:16 am

(Technically, this should be in the Announcements department, but I put it here because it is particularly addressed to n-----s Beginners in Bonsai, and most of them frequent Bonsai Questions.
Newcomers to bonsai are usually advised to read as many bonsai books as they can find, and if possible, to join the nearest bonsai club. They are also urged to visit bonsai collections and exhibits, if not for real, at least on the Internet. This is all good advice, but there is an important piece missing.
If you are new to bonsai, but are not an experienced gardener, and have not grown many pot plants, you must get yourself some basic information on botany and plant physiology. It is not enough just to get bonsai advice. You need to understand the basic scientific reasons behind this advice, so you can sort the advice out.
Even reading bonsai books and asking the experts at your club may not be enough. Unless they have a sound scientific background, they will tell you the techniques that work for them, but not why. Unless you have the exact same conditions and the same species, their advice may not help you.
If you have a college level background, go to the library and take out an introductory botany textbook. Otherwise, see if you can find a high school level biology book with a good botany section. The reference librarian can undoubtedly help you find the right material. You need to learn how trees grow and why they behave in different ways. There is probably a lot of material on the Web.
In between bonsai club meetings and bonsai shows, get out and examine regular trees. If you can't get out in the woods, at least go to a park. If there is a botanical garden or arboretum within driving distance, even better.
Another valuable tool is a field guide to the trees and shrubs of your part of the country. Every modern country has these field guides. They are important in identifying collected trees and unlabeled nursery stock.
And one more bit of advice, from the late Wu Yee-sun, the famous Hong Kong bonsai artist. Visit art exhibits. Yes, really.
Iris


Last edited by JimLewis on Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:24 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Terminology)

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  John Quinn on Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:26 am

Good advice, Iris!

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Mike Jones on Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:04 am

Completely disagree with you Iris!

If I were a 'newbie' as you put it....I think my interest in Bonsai would have just gone right out the window after your post.

Bonsai is not a career (for almost all enthusiasts), or anything that one initially needs a great level of knowledge in. Bonsai is a an interest, a hobby, something that a person may be slightly interested in. Far better to have some fun and enjoy without all the extra worry ..."Am I doing it the right way?"

If everyone else wishes to agree with you that is fine...Sorry and all that...I don't.

With respect and no offence meant to you.

Mike

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  stavros on Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:17 am

Iris has some valid points there

I think the most important thing is to keep your trees alive for starters. This means some basic knowledge in botany. As a surgeon, i understand this because without sound knowledge of body physiology, a doctor (in our case a bonsai hobbyist) cannot comprehend possible health (patient or tree) problems that may arise with the wrong handling at the wrong time, or how to rectify a problematic situation. Learning proper techniques on how to bend, wire create jin etc is very important but if you end up with a dead tree, or an important to the design dead branch there is no point......

The visit to art exhibitions, bonsai exhibitions etc, will give examples and create images to our mind, thus helping us refine the art and the creation of a tree and make steps away from the basic bonsai forms that can be seen in beginners' books.

Some people may disagree, but this is the way things work scientifically and artistically, at least in my mind......

Stavros Very Happy

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Kev Bailey on Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:57 am

VERY good points Iris. I will do my best to work this up into an article, with your help, once the new site is opened.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  stavros on Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:42 pm

Kev Bailey wrote:VERY good points Iris. I will do my best to work this up into an article, with your help, once the new site is opened.

It would be a very good idea to include some interesting articles somewhere on the forum.
I am one of the moderators on the most popular greek speaking bonsai forum (www.mybonsai.gr) and we have a section for articles and basic information. It is very helpful especially for newbies. Also saves from writing too much when common questions come up over and again, but it also serves as a reference to everybody.
Very Happy

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Kev Bailey on Sun Aug 15, 2010 6:18 pm

That's what the new site will be for Stavros. We have all the old articles from the original IBC site which I am reformatting and will continue to work on new ones. It is a big job though and I am short on time at the moment.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  JimLewis on Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:27 pm

Mike Jones wrote:Completely disagree with you Iris!

If I were a 'newbie' as you put it....I think my interest in Bonsai would have just gone right out the window after your post.

Bonsai is not a career (for almost all enthusiasts), or anything that one initially needs a great level of knowledge in. Bonsai is a an interest, a hobby, something that a person may be slightly interested in. Far better to have some fun and enjoy without all the extra worry ..."Am I doing it the right way?"

If everyone else wishes to agree with you that is fine...Sorry and all that...I don't.

With respect and no offence meant to you.

Mike


EEEK!

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Attention Newbies

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:11 am

"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise."
Iris

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Jim Doiron on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:58 am

It's interesting that you bring up this topic right now for me personally. I was just thinking to myself today that the most frustrating part of my interest in bonsai is my lack of real horticultural science. I have kept plants long enough to figure out some basics by shear determination/dumb luck and have proudly saved a few trees from demise but I feel I still lack the real in-depth knowledge of botany to push things to that next level and prevent basic pit-falls as my trees (hopefully) become more developed. I read a basic botany book years ago and obviously took in some of it but found it hard to apply all that knowledge to my hobby-level practice at the time. So in that regard, for newbies, I think I agree with Mike but then it depends on what level they hope to achieve and for some it might be good. I suppose I hope that as that time line proceeds for myself I will develop friendships with more knowledgeable people in the local club here to help me along or go and get that second degree in horticulture I was thinking about years ago. I, again, was just thinking today that I might go back to the library and pick up that botany book for some light fall reading but we'll see.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Ricky Keaton on Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:11 am

Sometimes us "newbies" are just lookn for a pat on the back!

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Neil Jaeger on Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:07 am

Jim Doiron wrote:It's interesting that you bring up this topic right now for me personally. I was just thinking to myself today that the most frustrating part of my interest in bonsai is my lack of real horticultural science. I have kept plants long enough to figure out some basics by shear determination/dumb luck and have proudly saved a few trees from demise but I feel I still lack the real in-depth knowledge of botany to push things to that next level and prevent basic pit-falls as my trees (hopefully) become more developed. I read a basic botany book years ago and obviously took in some of it but found it hard to apply all that knowledge to my hobby-level practice at the time. So in that regard, for newbies, I think I agree with Mike but then it depends on what level they hope to achieve and for some it might be good. I suppose I hope that as that time line proceeds for myself I will develop friendships with more knowledgeable people in the local club here to help me along or go and get that second degree in horticulture I was thinking about years ago. I, again, was just thinking today that I might go back to the library and pick up that botany book for some light fall reading but we'll see.

this is so well put. i really like the part about developing friendships with more knwledgeable people in the local club to help. and i hope that there is somthing that i can in return help the people that help us. whether it be about bonsai or balloons knowledge is best when it is shared.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  my nellie on Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:35 am

Ricky Keaton wrote:Sometimes us "newbies" are just lookn for a pat on the back!

Jim Doiron wrote:... ... ... I was just thinking to myself today that the most frustrating part of my interest in bonsai is my lack of real horticultural science. I have kept plants long enough to figure out some basics by shear determination/dumb luck and have proudly saved a few trees from demise but I feel I still lack the real in-depth knowledge of botany to push things to that next level and prevent basic pit-falls as my trees (hopefully) become more developed. ... ... ...

Ricky and Jim, they speak my words!

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:44 am

Iris and IBC friends,

Its a good point but quite confusing, for me at least. Im one of the newbies here i think. are we now restricted to give some sort of comments or advice on this forum? if thats the case thats very fine with me. how can we filter the right and proper advice, from others point of view... Who is the expert and who is not?
in some cases, I know some people who is in this art for almost all their entire life but their work is not really that good, on the contrary i saw some "newbies" with some impressing works. in this case il take the word of advice of the new guy in the business. i think this is the reason why this side of horticulture is separated from the rest of gardening works...this is DEFINITELY an ART. some people are really born with art in them...others must learn and study the hard way to have at least some semblance of artistry.
now back on the "newbies" issue, which i found quite offensive( no offense)... to some new comers like us. Il still take the advice of the fellow newbies who has some sort of sense and has some quite new ideas and combine it with some experienced horticulturist idea for the survival of my trees. il rather sacrifice the life of some of my trees to have a few outstanding work of arts. many good painter/artist must have much more wasted canvass than few successful work of art, failure anyway is part of learning...dont you think?
like any art form...bonsai is evolving and must not be contained in the past and present ideas alone. some newbies there somewhere must have some new concept or ideas that can surpass the old dogma of this art.

im just expressing my point of view on this issue...with so much respect.


respectfully yours,
jun


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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  my nellie on Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:13 am

jun wrote: ... ... many good painter/artist must have much more wasted canvass than few successful work of art, failure anyway is part of learning...dont you think?
like any art form...bonsai is evolving and must not be contained in the past and present ideas alone. some newbies there somewhere must have some new concept or ideas that can surpass the old dogma of this art.... ...
I have the sensation that the gist is not the art form but the process to the art form.
Artistry is not the point, I think....

I mean, the most famous painter has of course learned first the use of colours and mastered what colours to blend and how to do it in order to achieve that special hue he has visualized.
Similarly the bonsai artist should first know how to maintain/develop his tree in sound condition in order to shape it to the form that he has visualized.

I, being a "newbie" to bonsai world and to IBC, did not see any offense in Iris' post! On the contrary, I believe that it is well-intentioned and reasonable.

Browsing this forum(*) I have found valuable advice and guidance on general horticultural issues from people that have their own excellent artistic concepts and bring infuence on bonsai world. This fact speaks something for itself....



EDIT:
(*) Reading reputable bonsai magazines as well


Last edited by my nellie on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:31 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:56 am

Very important and good point Iris.

Of course bonsai is art, and the reason why we all get interested in bonsai are the aesthetics of the art. Next we then look for a way to reach the results. There we need the botanic understanding to succeed.

The painter. He/she starts to paint or make a drawing without knowing the techniques. Then he/she gets more skilled and wants to know the techniques to achieve a better result and succeed if he is talented.

In bonsai, some enthusiasts do not know much or anything of the horticultural part of bonsai when they start, and they may fail and loose both trees and the courage to go on. The painter will not loose his drawing, just making new and better ones. In bonsai we risk to loose the peace we worked on when we make botanical failures.

That's what makes the art of bonsai so extraordinary. You need both the talent of the artist and the skills of the gardener. The one doesn't work well without the other.

Therefore. Get inspired and get your hands on the bonsai art whatever background you have. Then learn the basic botany so you are capable of knowing how you can deal with the trees you are styling.

You need to be a good artist and a fair gardener to achieve results in bonsai. No reason to be silent about that to please newbies or others Smile We all have to deal with this fact practising this very special art.

Best regards
Morten

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:57 am

"my nellie",
HI.
yes, i agree with you on the posting of advice of people with lot of knowledge in horticulture...in fact i think im one of the newbies here who asked one of the most numbers of questions from this respectable "guardians" of the art, specially Iris. i trust them so much that i rely on their advice, regarding the life of my trees. i have NO issue on that part.
my little problem, if you may, is that...when i first joined IBC (which i now love so much) is the part on posting guidelines stating...
" explanation of the areas of the forum. for BONSAI- look at pictures of bonsai,discuss and debate, histories,sketches,& virtual design encourage"
...for BONSAI QUESTIONS- please ask questions about your trees or any bonsai techniques here."
these are the guidelines we all must follow, which resulted in a very informative and democratic discussions.
i think (again, IMHO) if we deviate a little from these guidelines, by saying that newbies should be that much selective
on taking advice from other people. we might as well limit the guidelines stated above by saying-
for BONSAI- look at pictures of bonsai, limited discussion and debate only (be wary on the not so experts giving advice), histories, sketches and virtual not that much encourage.
for BONSAI questions- please ask questions about your trees, (be wary on the advice you are getting it might cause damaged to your tree)...

on the artistic issue... for me as an architect and landscape designer and builder. i prefer new ideas coming from all angles, newbies included. and nope, in born artists do not need to learn how to mixed hues (thats for the learned artists) to come up with good painting.

...i just want to enjoy this life, without so much complication, same goes with my trees...they are healthy thanks to people like Iris, and i hope they will grow nice and beautiful thanks to all of you.

your friend,
jun







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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  my nellie on Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:14 pm

jun wrote: ... ... ...
on the artistic issue... for me as an architect and landscape designer and builder. i prefer new ideas coming from all angles, newbies included. and nope, in born artists do not need to learn how to mixed hues (thats for the learned artists) to come up with good painting.
... ... ...

Dear Jun,
I can see exactly what you mean! ThumbsUp
You know, my 4.5 years old grand-daughter falls into this catergory of born artists who do not really need to learn how to mix hues sunny I wish I could show to you some of her sketches!
Yet, we teach her the names of colours lol!

Thank you for your time to respond and for honoring me with your frienship!

Your friend,
Alexandra.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:43 pm

Thanks Alexandra.

A local famous artist and proffessor in the University of the Phil. Fine arts school, here in our country told me once during discussion like this one... "if you see some artistic talent on your kid, no matter how big or small, dont teach them anything with regards to art, that includes pencil handling or color tones or names...just let them explore and learn by himself/herself, or else you might impede on the growth of their artistry. just give them the tools to explore with. they will learn the colors/name of hues and handling of mediums later in their life...that what makes an inborn artist special."
same thing with other form of arts, i guess. congrats on your grand child's talent. artistry is a rare commodity and a good tool for a successful life in the future.

same thing worked for me in my field of work...serve me well all the time.

your friend,
jun Smile

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Charlie2700 on Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:11 pm

I am a Bonsai 'newbie' with only about 6 months time under my belt. Early on in my quest for Bonsai knowledege I visited a website that encouraged first and foremost for all new Bonsai owners to "just focus on keeping the tree alive" for at least the first 6 months. Maybe a little trimming as you begin to invoke your expressions into the tree's shape..but no repotting, heavy feeding, no frequent tree location changes, nothing drastic. Many Bonsai newbies often feel a panic begin to set in as they are clueless what care thier little tree needs, but it is NOT a time for panic but instead the very opposite, a time for a relaxed and task-easy approach in tree care. Just keep it ALIVE! Observe your tree daily. Observe it closely. Take notes..mental or written. Let the tree 'talk to you" in it's growth, leafing, and soil condition. Be mindful and very caring about watering. If your tree has moss on the soil (I say) remove it so you can better evaluate the moisture of your tree's soil. The removed moss can be used separately in it's own smallish container as an accent piece within your Bonsai display. With moss removed, apply moderate pressure while placing your thumb on the soil and hold it there 3 seconds. After 3 seconds if your thumb senses a cool and moist sensation..not time to water yet. In ancient Japan Bonsai students were given trimming tools the very FIRST DAY and are ENCOURAGED to begin an artistic association with the tree. However those same entrusted students are restricted from watering any tree for thier first FOUR YEARS! That is an illustration how critical Bonsai watering regimens are.

So for newbies I have found (for ME) these 5 steps are the keys to a successful start with a new tree and it's owner.

1. Don't panic.
2. The only goal the first 6 months - "Keep The Tree Alive"
3. Water - ONLY- when soil requires it. (3 second thumb test)
4. Watch -and- Listen to your tree. Observe it. Take note of what you see and hear from your tree and the soil.
5. Repeat step #1 daily.

"..if all world do Bonsai then.....no more war"

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  fiona on Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:24 pm

I think we are in danger of blowing this out of context and seeing offence where none was meant. Here is my take on the two key points raised:

Point 1. Iris's comment to "newbies" is addressed to those who are newcomers to this forum who are also complete beginners in the art and/or horticultural science of bonsai. In that context her advice is wise and welcome.

However, there are also people who may be a newcomers to the forum who are not complete bonsai beginners. I think it pretty clear that you fall into this category, Jun, and therefore Iris's remarks were not intended for you.

All this highlights just what a silly and meaningless term "newbie" actually is. I'd much rather prefer to encourage new members to the forum let us know if they are complete bonsai beginners or if they have some experience rather than brand them all as newbies.


Point 2. In terms of who has the "right" to make comment on IBC: very simply, everyone who has joined has this right, irrespective of how much of an expert you may be or may perceive yourself to be. I have seen comments from beginners that have really hit the nail on the head - perhaps through seeing things with a fresh (or unbiased) pair of eyes.

I adore being part of this forum because its members are so willing to share and compare thoughts, advice and information on bonsai. A lot of the horticultural advice and information comes from experience. The art side is different.

The bottom line is that Bonsai is a learning process for all of us - and an ongoing one at that.

The best weapon you can have in your armoury an open mind and a willingness to take on new and different ideas no matter where or who they come from


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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Aug 16, 2010 1:55 pm

As usual, well said Fiona!!!

I especially like...

fiona wrote:I adore being part of this forum because its members are so willing to share and compare thoughts, advice and information on bonsai. A lot of the horticultural advice and information comes from experience. The art side is different.

The art side IS different, and boils down to personal taste. But whatever the taste level, you gotta keep it alive first.

R

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:04 pm

Fiona,
all i can say is........amen to that!!! as we catholics often say.

same with you Russell, youre one of my best teachers. Very Happy Very Happy Laughing I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Smithy on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:27 pm

I think Mike had a point in his reply to Iris.
I have a 70 year old uncle who expressed an interest in bonsai . I have given him a tree. he's not the most educated fella and if i told him he should now get a book on botany I think he would soon loose interest. He just about reads the sun newspaper. At this stage as a newbie he just needs to know he has to water it. He just needs to enjoy his tree and not get too serious.

I agree if you want to get a bit more serious then you can delve into the botany a bit more. Saying that I did a horticuture course with botany included and the only piece of information i use in bonsai is that the water comes in to the roots ,up the trunk and out the top .If that doesn't happen then it will die. Others might use a lot more botany but i don't think they are newbies. My main info i give people is to water the thing to start with. People used to say to me when i first started gardening that i had green fingers. I used to think really it meant that i could be bothered to water the thing when it needed it.

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:43 pm

Smithy,
got same story with my dad... he likes my trees a lot and wanted to own some. so i gave him a couple of trees as a gift just for him to appreciate...but the problem is that he's not interested in the process of taking care of the trees, so i am obligated to redo the trees every time i go on vacation to the province. but i cant take the trees back now ,i guess. i just let him enjoy with those trees and have a lesser complicated life..."a simple life is a happy life" Wink

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Re: Attention (N------s) Beginners in Bonsai :-)

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