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

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

Post  JimLewis on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:57 pm

Martin wrote:

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.

And he is right. And if you look at his trees, they show it. He grows shohin and smaller trees. They are MUCH more difficult horticulturally than 2 and 3-foot bonsai (and I won't get into the artistic difficulties with tiny trees). He would not have those trees if he wasn't well versed in the botany and horticulture of plants in pots.

I simply can't understand people who are proud of not knowing something. To become "good" at something, to make yourself an "expert" at something -- and even to become an "artiste" (spelling intended) in some field -- you need to know as much as possible (everything) about it. They are missing a heckuva lot about life by staying ignorant.

==============

I agree with Fiona's comments above . . . especialy about "newbies." It is an awful word, an ugly sounding word, invented 20 years ago now by some pasty-faced guy with a stoop and inch-thick glasses peering into a 9-inch green screen and saving data on 5 1/2 inch floppy (really!) disks.

I'd love it if we could all agree to never, ever use it.

The IBC has always been a forum for bonsaiests helping bonsiests. The only thing I/we ask is that when you are giving someone advice about the horticultural aspects of the sport that you be at least pretty sure you are right and are basing your comments on real expeience -- preferably yours -- and legitimate science. Bad advice can kill trees.

Artistic advice is another thing altogether. You pays yer money and yer takes yer choice of "helpful" suggestions there. At least it's probably not fatal.

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Attention Newbies

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:14 pm

I didn't intend to generate so much controversy. Embarassed
I didn't write this for someone's aged relative who just wants a tree to look at and will never write to this forum. I wrote it because I was seeing a pattern of certain questions or topics coming up over and over again.
1. Please identify this tree. I can understand this question coming from some of the more remote countries, but anyone from the US, UK, etc. should know that this information is usually available in a field guide.
2. The question of why certain trees can't or shouldn't be grown indoors and what dormancy is all about.
3. Some of the questions about pruning, where it helps to have some basic knowledge of apical dominance & how trees grow.
You recall I specifically addressed my remarks to those who are not only new to bonsai, but are new to gardening in general. For anyone who is affronted by the suggestion of reading a textbook, there are videos on all sorts of subjects. Just ask the librarian.
Iris

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

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:29 pm

Iris,
thanks.
sorry if i didnt get your message clearly.
on my part, im really more interested on showing you guys over there the other species that we have here rather than showing off some finished bonsai works that i made.
in fact one of my personal quest in this art is obtaining more undiscovered plant material suitable for bonsai use rather than to be expert in producing show quality works. there are hundreds if not thousand tropical materials suited for bonsai, and il be glad if i find a few dozens out of it. and this venue i guess is a good forum to share new knowledge on this aspect.

jun

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

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:47 pm

bonsaisr wrote:I didn't intend to generate so much controversy. Embarassed
I didn't write this for someone's aged relative who just wants a tree to look at and will never write to this forum. I wrote it because I was seeing a pattern of certain questions or topics coming up over and over again.
1. Please identify this tree. I can understand this question coming from some of the more remote countries, but anyone from the US, UK, etc. should know that this information is usually available in a field guide.
2. The question of why certain trees can't or shouldn't be grown indoors and what dormancy is all about.
3. Some of the questions about pruning, where it helps to have some basic knowledge of apical dominance & how trees grow.
You recall I specifically addressed my remarks to those who are not only new to bonsai, but are new to gardening in general. For anyone who is affronted by the suggestion of reading a textbook, there are videos on all sorts of subjects. Just ask the librarian.
Iris

Iris,

Your points are fair, relevant and valid - and I appreciate you making them.

In the past couple of weeks I've tried to make 2 points in posts on the bonsai forum: 1) When you show us your tree or ask a question about a piece of obscure material, give us the Latin name because the local, common name you use may mean nothing to anyone outside your local area (of course this excludes areas outside the western world where they may not know a Latin name); and 2) Be very careful when you tell someone their pot is too big when it may be the only thing keeping the tree alive! Like Jim said "Bad advice can kill trees."

There's a big difference between creating and growing bonsai, or just owning one.

Thanks for the controversy!!!!!!!

Russell

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Attention Newbies

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:11 pm

Russell Coker wrote:When you show us your tree or ask a question about a piece of obscure material, give us the Latin name because the local, common name you use may mean nothing to anyone outside your local area (of course this excludes areas outside the western world where they may not know a Latin name);
Russell
I have written a glossary of common to botanical names, for the most common trees in shows (mostly US). I sent a copy to Kevin to put in the FAQ when he gets it running. I will update it as time permits. If anyone wants a copy of this in PDF for their show labels, let me know. Sometimes if you have the local name, a little sophisticated Googling will arrive at the botanical name.
If it's any consolation, I have also been annoying orchid growers for 35 years about taxonomy & nomenclature. I am officially the author of a transfer of three natural hybrids from one genus to another (I had lots of help).
Iris

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

Post  JimLewis on Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:44 pm

bonsaisr wrote: I wrote it because I was seeing a pattern of certain questions or topics coming up over and over again.
1. Please identify this tree. I can understand this question coming from some of the more remote countries, but anyone from the US, UK, etc. should know that this information is usually available in a field guide.
2. The question of why certain trees can't or shouldn't be grown indoors and what dormancy is all about.
3. Some of the questions about pruning, where it helps to have some basic knowledge of apical dominance & how trees grow.

I'm afraid that for some younger folks, Do It Yourself isn't part of their vocabulary. It's easier to ask someone else.

I had a very long thread going on the old site discussing essential reference materials, and many of us contributed suggestions. It was a valuable resource. Unfortunately, while Kev has managed to save the articles on the old site, this was a part of the interactive forum, and as far as I know has disappeared into electronic limbo. I know I never saved it.

(An aside: It's so easy for electronic information to vanish. I'd really think twice -- or more often -- about using storage on the web for documents, especially important documents, unless you have COMPLETE and up to date backups stored at home somewhere.)

I'll begin work on a similar thread for this site to get something started. I have an extensive (if now a bit outdated) botanic, taxonomic, and field guide library (mostly for North America). If anyone happened to save that long thread (I forget its name), you could save me a lot of reworkiing by sending me a copy. We had references from Europe and Australia in it, too.

So stand by. I'll get something started as soon as possible.

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

Post  stavros on Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:00 pm

This "controversy" had me thinking......

Since my professional field is surgery, i think of bonsai the same way i think about cosmetic/aesthetic surgery. A surgeon who performs this type of surgery, must know every step the surgical techniques involve, he/she must have an artistic eye and must also visualize the result he/she is after and deliver it. In order to be able to perform any type of treatment, the surgeon has had training as a medical doctor and knows the physiology of the human body. Otherwise it would not be possible to treat the human body in the right way in order to deliver aestheticaly good results but also keeping the patient healthy.

Very Happy

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

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:25 pm

Jim, we are very hopeful that the vast majority of that information has also been saved, thanks to the efforts of Stefan Ulrich. It will take a while but we hope to get there eventually. Wink

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

Post  Jim Doiron on Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:44 pm


I simply can't understand people who are proud of not knowing something. To become "good" at something, to make yourself an "expert" at something -- and even to become an "artiste" (spelling intended) in some field -- you need to know as much as possible (everything) about it. They are missing a heckuva lot about life by staying ignorant.

to figure out some basics by shear determination/dumb luck and have proudly saved a few trees from demise

Hey Jim I wasn't sure if your comment was related to mine quoted above but I should have been more clear. I should have actually written it more like this:

to figure out some basics by shear determination/dumb luck and with experience and researching of a problem have proudly saved a few trees from demise.

Like I said before I'm not flying on complete stupidity despite what my friends say. Very Happy

On the general topic at hand:
I think that that early time when people are developing the interest the many trees that die on them is also a way of keeping them within their knowledge base and perhaps keeping them interested. I know there were so many trees that I killed but still wanted to have to play with and so it peaked my interest to learn about that specific species. Even that, however, raises another aspect of this in the shear number of different trees we work with in this art form. Basic botany is obviously a great basis but the particulars of knowing buxus prefer their roots to be a little warm after transplanting or making large cuts in a wet spring on a Cercidiphyllum japonicium will result in excessive seeping and die back (personal experience, still waiting for that tree to come back), or, like Kev mentioned in another topic:

Azalea branches are best cut back leaving a stub. Then rub off any regrowth from that stub, so that the sap pathways die back naturally over a year and no sap withdrawal below the branch occurs. I've always done this following the advice in Alex Kennedy's book and never had a problem.

That is the kind of idiosyncratic attribute that I worry about neglecting on a really nice piece of material and end up ruining it. Not so much that it will keep me from doing things but perhaps enough that I am a little more hesitant than I otherwise might be. I guess when I come to that point I will be sure to start a new thread titled "anything in particular I should know". Or maybe that would be a good resource thread for particular species. Unfortunately I just admitted I cannot help with it.


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

Post  stavros on Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:48 pm

Kev Bailey wrote: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.

Is there anything we can do to help?

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

Post  Neil Jaeger on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:38 pm

bonsaisr wrote:
1. Please identify this tree. I can understand this question coming from some of the more remote countries, but anyone from the US, UK, etc. should know that this information is usually available in a field guide.
2. The question of why certain trees can't or shouldn't be grown indoors and what dormancy is all about.
3. Some of the questions about pruning, where it helps to have some basic knowledge of apical dominance & how trees grow.
You recall I specifically addressed my remarks to those who are not only new to bonsai, but are new to gardening in general. For anyone who is affronted by the suggestion of reading a textbook, there are videos on all sorts of subjects. Just ask the librarian.
Iris

I feel that i may have been alittle to excited to find people that are into the same thing as i am. To my friends my bonsai are a joke. To my family they are a waste of money. So sure i could have found the exact kind of tree i was givin, or sure i probably would have got the right amount of time that my tree needed to be dormant. It was just nice to have people to talk to that didnt think what i love is a joke. I don't know if i was part of the problem but i apologize if i was.

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my two cents

Post  LSBonsai on Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:35 am

I also disagree with Iris' statement.

Botany and plant physiology are pretty useless for bonsai. Horticultural knowledge is very, very important (which I think is Iris' point), but you surely don't need any sort of a scientific background.

I have a B.Sc. (plant physiology) and an M.Sc. (plant genetics) and all of the knowledge and lab experience has been practically useless in my 6 years of bonsai. OK... entirely useless. More importantly, I know many great bonsai artists who could not care less about the details of plant biology. They get along just fine.

Even things like identifying plants. Taking a few courses in taxonomy/systematics (which is way more than any self respecting bonsai hobbyist should ever do!) still didn't prepare me to identify a significant number of species. When I need to identify a plant, I just google it.

It is really just having good sense and some decent horticulural understanding. Growing plants is not science.


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

Post  DreadyKGB on Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:54 am

Hey all,
So I've been watching this discussion unfold and have gone back and forth on it. Overall I agree with what Iris is saying about having a more than fleeting understanding of plants and horticulture. I don't think that asking a question here and getting an answers is an end all to the particular issues you may be having with a tree (artistic influences aside). What I feel she is saying is that in order for the answers to actually be helpful you must have a firm grasp on the factors that can, will, and are influencing your tree.

Often there are factors that go beyond a picture of curly browned leaves on a tree. The answer that may be given is only based on the clues presented, and should be used in conjunction with thorough research to solve the problem. Getting advice and feedback is what this site is all about, but similar symptoms does not always mean the same problem. Think about the term Flu-like symptoms, its used in medicine and relates to far to many sicknesses to be particularly reliable as a diagnosis.

What she is saying has absolutely nothing to do with the artistry of bonsai, and everything to do with the logistics of maintaining the health of a tree whether it looks good or not.

Point is research first then ask questions, the answers will be far more useable. Just MHO.

Todd

P.S. Sublime no need to apologize, I have enjoyed your threads. Asking questions is how you learn, and if you research and read up about the species of tree you will be able to incorporate the answers into a full picture of how to proceed. BTW your elm looks great to start and should provide an enjoyable future. Be patient and experiment with the cheap/free trees first.

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

Post  JimLewis on Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:02 am

NOT you, Jim.

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

Post  fiona on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:00 am

Oh Lord! Of course you don't need a sodding Masters degree in plant physiology or botany to be a decent bonsaist - Iris was not suggesting that. You don't need to be a motor mechanic to drive a car either. But it helps you get a much better performance out of your car if you do understand the rudiments of how the engine works and it sure as hell makes you a better driver to have a good understanding of roadcraft beyond knowing what a few road signs indicate. And like bonsai, if you pick up bad habits and incorrect information, you will never become a better driver.

Maybe I am old-fashioned but for me there is no such thing as "too much information". I like to know how and why things work - whether that's my car, my tv, my computer or my bonsai. So I have taken a couple of botany, plant physiology and taxonomy courses and quite frankly the suggestion that that means I cannot therefore be a "self-respecting bonsaist" is as ridiculous as it is insulting. I would not take on the responsibility of owning a dog without researching how to look after it. What on earth would make me think I could look after a tree without bothering to find out the basics of what its requirements are?

Apart from arrogance and/or ignorance that is.


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

Post  LSBonsai on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:14 am

Fiona,

I hope I did not come off as arrogant - if I did I apologize.

I fully understand that Iris was not suggesting you need a degree to be a decent bonsaiist. She was suggesting you should go out and read botany and physiology texts, and that knowing the science behind plant growth will help you interpret bonsai advice. I have found this not to be the case.

What I was trying to communicate is that my education in plant biology has had no direct benefit on my ability to grow plants, or to successfully practice bonsai. So I would never recommend that reading a botany or physiology text will improve your horticultural skill. They just don't contain much practical information. But if you do it for personal interest, thats another story.

The "self-respecting" comment was a joke, clearly poorly communicated. I was trying to send the message that I did not have much fun taking those courses and reading those books, and I would not wish the same on anyone in hopes that it would improve their bonsai practice. Bonsai should be fun. Of course, many people do enjoy those topics and I commend them. Read on.

Again, just my two cents.

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

Post  fiona on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:38 am

a2khalid wrote: ...I would never recommend that reading a botany or physiology text will improve your horticultural skill. They just don't contain much practical information.
yes there are many text books that are possibly too advanced for general purposes. But OTOH, I have come across a few really good ones whch have provided a depth of knowledge that complements and augments practical skills - mostly because they are written with the "lay person" in mind. These would include Brian Capon's "Botany for Gardeners" or his "Plant Survival", and a splendid book by Roland Ennos somewhat unimaginatively called "Trees" - complete with diagrams that make it all so easy to understand without it becoming a Janet and John exercise.
And I'd never sneer at some of the Dorling Kindersley books either, even the ones supposedly aimed at children.

a2khalid wrote: Bonsai should be fun. Of course, many people do enjoy those topics and I commend them. Read on.
Indeed.

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

Post  AlainK on Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:44 am

Iris,

I haven't read half the replies to your initial message.

I thought it was good sense;

I read some of the critics that were made, some are of interest, but basically, I think you were right.

It's not about hues, or tinges, or whatever : you can paint with your foot if you like.

But knowing what paint is, how long it takes to dry on a canvass, or if you prefer to paint on wood, or stone, or whatever, is relevant to what you want to do.

Iris, whenever you post a message, it's not only useful, but it(s aklso very kind, friendly, helpful - sorry, I'm running out of words in English which is a foreign language for me.

But I think I understand how you feel : you only meant to have people think for themselves before asking questions, and it started a row.

Oy we, that's a bloody tempest in a tea-cup.

I think what you said was right, intelligent, and you don't have to justify yourself.

Moi, je t'aime bien Wink

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

Post  AlainK on Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:58 am

OK, I'm very drunk, but I really mean what i said Wink

Anyway, if those fascists think tjhey'll get me, they're wrong: acrosss tjhe channel, the Méditerrannée, and even the atlantic, I'll make it a point to survive so they feel the grain of sand in their shoe pirat

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

Post  Pola on Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:53 am

Well..... let me thank Iris for the pointers,which i know where intended to help. I myself am a newbie,just a year in this great hobby. I think that if you really like bonsai,you will end up doing everything Iris is saying in her post anyway. I can say by my own experience. Alot of mistakes are made because of not knowing the ''whys'' of techniques,''rules'' etc. So,read everything you can about bonsai,art,horticulture,etc. and be PATIENT! Laughing

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

Post  my nellie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:48 am

AlainK wrote:... ... ...
Iris, whenever you post a message, it's not only useful, but it(s aklso very kind, friendly, helpful - sorry, I'm running out of words in English which is a foreign language for me.
... ....
I, being a new member in IBC and a beginner in bonsai art, would like to support to the outmost the above said by Alain!
Not the initial post by Iris nor any other post of similar spirit, has ever made me doubtful and discouraged me from going on with bonsais. On the contrary, I am thankful for motivating me to rectify my ignorance!
English is a foreign language to me, too.... But I would name these posts "valuable"


PS:... and believe me, Alain, I am not drunk! lol!

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Attention Beginners

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:00 pm

Good grief! Rolling Eyes
Thanks for the kind words.
I can understand those who shun books and prefer what is called experiential learning. That is their learning style. But I am jarred by those who found no connection between formal botanical education and bonsai practice. It is the opposite of my own experience. My high school biology teacher was a young genius who instilled me with a lifelong thirst for scientific knowledge. He went on to devote his career to developing techniques for teaching science to children. There is a growing body of opinion in this country that higher education which does not prepare a student for practical experience is worthless. Educators and business people are beginning to communicate with each other.
I did not intend to imply that botanical knowledge is any substitute for bonsai learning or hands-on practice. It is simply part of the background for a well-rounded bonsai artist. Most of the old-timers have learned a lot of it by experience, but glancing through a botany book or watching a video on tree growth is simply a short-cut.
Iris

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

Post  fiona on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:23 pm

Like the clairvoyant who successfully foretold the week's winning Lottery numbers, there is a happy medium.

I myself prefer to delve into both theory and practical as that way I can not only do but I know why and how I am doing it. In my bonsai learning it took a lot of both hands-on learning and reading up to get even to base camp. The starting point for me is to know what you need to know to do what you need to do. Progress comes from going beyond this basic, and again my method is to research then get help from those I believe to be expert. And like all learning, the "source" has to be reliable - whether that's a book, an online resource or even a teacher.

a2khalid's point (and I've shared this thought with him offline) reminds me of when I was a training manager for a large Parks department with a responsibility for student work experience placements. Almost invariably the students would turn up with heads exploding with scientific facts, but an inability to tell one end of a spade from the other. A significant number of the greenhorns would also have a bit of an inflated opinion of their own ability and a tendency to sneer at our time-served gardeners. Their attitude soon turned to one of awe when they realised that the years of experience working with plants, coupled with some in-house or even night class learning had turned these guys into fountains of knowledge about the plants they encountered and skill in dealing with them. I can see where a2khalid is coming from if his courses have erred too much on the side of knowledge but without the practical application, and I am sorry that his experience has been so bad. Should have come to my training school, A! Wink

People learn in diferent ways as we know. Finding the way that works for you is key to success irrespective of where you want to set your own personal goals. I leave you with the Trainers' Equation that I use when teaching teachers/trainers etc.:

Knowledge + Skill + Attitude = Competence

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

Post  stavros on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:35 pm

fiona wrote:

Knowledge + Skill + Attitude = Competence

ThumbsUp ThumbsUp ThumbsUp no need to say anything more


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

Post  fiona on Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:59 pm

Probably not. But just to prove Iris's point beyond any shadow of a doubt, my musings were disturbed by the sound of a chainsaw and I have just spent the last fifteen minutes gobsmacked at the actions and words of some cowboy gardeners in the garden across the hedge from me. They are butchering several trees in the name of "pruning", and are displaying along the way a complete ignorance of even what type of trees they are - a spruce being referred to as a pine and so on - far less showing any knowledge of how, when (or even if) the trees should be pruned. I sincerely hope the trees survive.

Game, set and match to Iris methinks.

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

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