"Japanese trees"

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"Japanese trees"

Post  Dave Martin on Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:43 am

It appears no one has started this thread. So I will, in the hope that it is allowed to be discussed sensibly and fully.

It is a subject which needs discussion if only to allay some of the misconceptions that exist, particularly in British bonsai where 'egos and agendas' appear to interject all to often.

I used to feel that it was pointless to try to compete against what were purely imported trees back in those halcyon days when such a tree cost a couple of hundred pounds and beer was 6d. a pint and you could buy a packet of cancer sticks for 1/-(shilling). Then as I matured I realised that if those trees were the best around, they deserved the plaudits! The only way for me due to beer and cancer sticks, was to improve the quality of my trees, this is something I have striven to achieve for the last 25 years. I'm not there yet but there is an improvement (and I no longer smoke, although, I am given to smoldering now and then).

What concerns me is that those who are able to buy the best material and who are amateurs but have a professional outlook on the maintenance of their trees and the manner in which they are presented in show are subjected to unfair criticism.

Last year, one such person was asked to put his trees in a separate display as the presence of his trees might put others off from showing theirs?

I can appreciate the dismay of someone who, having produced what they perceive to be a fantastic tree, see it judged as not having achieved the same quality of an imported tree, but you have to get over it and raise the the bar of your own ability to better that tree.....

In relation to 'British' trees there is a plethora of varieties larch, hornbeam, willow, common juniper, yew, guilder rose, beech, birch and hawthorn to name but a few. In respect of 'British' trees they each have a distinctive natural shape not found in most Japanese publications, the same is to be said in respect of every countries native trees. But one has to go out to view these trees in nature to appreciate them. The great shame is when one sees trees such as Scots pine, which have been shaped to become clones of the likes of Japanese black pines, thus losing the inherent natural beauty of the variety. Luckily, this seems restricted to the Continent.

Recently, there has been a series of programmes on BBC3, which have chronicled the demise of the British Variety theatres in the late 50s and early 60s. An interesting comment was that performers prior to the advent of television had used the same act for 40 years, with television becoming popular their act once seen was unusable again as the vast majority of the public had seen it. My word of caution is that with the advent of the internet, those trees which are seemingly 'hawked' around from show to show and have been shown for the last 4 or more years lose their appeal to the paying public . This will in turn lead to diminishing numbers visiting shows, to the point where shows become a place where those taking part are there to slap one another on the backs congratulating themselves on a fine turn out.

This is part of the appeal of BoBBs, where new trees can be seen every 2 years.

PS. Am now retreating to my bunker, wearing a stab-proof vest and NATO helmet. affraid

Dave Martin
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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  GerhardGerber on Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:55 am

Hi Dave

My 2c

"egos and agendas" is not only British, they are the main reason I don't belong to clubs for my 2 afterwork activities - my loss but I avoid any negative influence on the things I enjoy.

I hope to someday soon smolder instead of smoke!

Laughing Laughing Laughing

Cheers
Gerhard

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  my nellie on Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:59 am

Dave Martin wrote: ... ... PS. Am now retreating to my bunker, wearing a stab-proof vest and NATO helmet. affraid
No, Dave!
I'd better see you staying on the battlefield! Because I know more are coming to your confederacy... Very Happy

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Guest on Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:17 pm

GerhardGerber wrote:Hi Dave

My 2c

"egos and agendas" is not only British, they are the main reason I don't belong to clubs for my 2 afterwork activities - my loss but I avoid any negative influence on the things I enjoy.

I hope to someday soon smolder instead of smoke!

Laughing Laughing Laughing

Cheers
Gerhard

Oh yes! that is everywhere even here in the far east.
...I am hoping that nothing too vulgar will happen to me in my first ever entry to public bonsai show But I am preparing my self for the worst. because some guys here gave me advice to prepare for politics and egos.

...this thread though very interesting sounds very familiar....here we go again!

P.S.
Dave,

do you have extra space in your bunker for another person?. The last time I went into this, I forgot to wear my helmet. hehehe!
...
regards,
jun Smile

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Guest on Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:20 pm

Well said Dave. I used to get all twisted up about imported trees in shows, but have seen the light. I feel this inverted snobbery seems to be rife at club level(not all clubs, he says trying to cover his arse) and is not only unhealthy but backward. My passion as you know is for native material and in general, the only difference, if the right techniques are employed to the tree, is.....TIME.
At shows, I want to see top quality trees and it matters little to me how much was paid, where they came from or whether they look like Uk trees or Asian trees. You will only improve if you aspire to, and study great trees.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  sunip on Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:51 pm

Hi Dave,
Doing bonsai is like looking in to a mirror,
it gives us the ability to learn.
[quote="Dave Martin"]
"The great shame is when one sees trees such as Scots pine, which have been shaped to become clones of the likes of Japanese black pines, thus losing the inherent natural beauty of the variety. Luckily, this seems restricted to the Continent."
I feel with you but surely not all continental scots bonsai??
Here a continental Scots.

regards, Sunip;)

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  fiona on Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:30 pm

Dave Martin wrote:It appears no one has started this thread. So I will, in the hope that it is allowed to be discussed sensibly and fully.
A very well reasoned and worded post in general, Dave and I do hope your cautionary opening words are heeded - so far so good on that front.

Dave Martin wrote:What concerns me is that those who are able to buy the best material and who are amateurs but have a professional outlook on the maintenance of their trees and the manner in which they are presented in show are subjected to unfair criticism.
Maintenance, and development I would add. There is also a popular misconception that "bought trees" are easy to maintain. This is far from the case and a high level of skill is required that is so often overlooked by those whose motivation is often pure jealousy. Imagine then the skill level required to take a good tree and make it better. This is something we would associate with the professionals, but it is clear that a small but ever-growing band of very skilled and knowledeable amateurs are making significant inroads here. This is something we should be celebrating, not denigrating.

Dave Martin wrote:My word of caution is that with the advent of the internet, those trees which are seemingly 'hawked' around from show to show and have been shown for the last 4 or more years lose their appeal to the paying public . This will in turn lead to diminishing numbers visiting shows, to the point where shows become a place where those taking part are there to slap one another on the backs congratulating themselves on a fine turn out. This is part of the appeal of BoBBs, where new trees can be seen every 2 years.
Agree entirely and this is why the British Shohin Association took the decision to have a development weekend instead of another exhibition. It will hopefully be the kick-start for the future generations of shohin trees and will mean that there is a growing pool of trees from which quality exhibitions can be forthcoming. Next year's BSA event aims to keep this development aspect going and will mix the conventional show section with a bit of development - a recipe for success we hope. (See Announcements for details of the 2012 event)

Dave Martin wrote:PS. Am now retreating to my bunker, wearing a stab-proof vest and NATO helmet. affraid
This forum exists to further reasoned and informed debate. That is what you did. You should not need to feel under threat because of it. I have always said that a civilised forum needs no moderation. But when that falls down for whatever reason, the rest of us civilised members should be forming the human shield around you and letting offensive posters know what we feel - politely but firmly of course.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:28 pm

Dave,

if you simply take a pencil / eraser and paper, out to trees seen standing alone, and just draw. The information transfer will take place and the trees you train will begin to reflect that. I suspect something along these lines took place with the Japanese in the past.

Learning to identify the properties specific to each tree type, and the accidental effects that often take place [ lightening, virus attack, cows, goats etc.] as well as the variations within the typical shapes.

This then gives one the ability to alter balances, and create new designs.

With time, and much exposure, the minds that are most open, will begin to follow suit and eventually the situation will change to where, most likely, imported designs, will become the few and home grown will become the many.
Then the real fun starts, new standards, built from an understanding of the old standards.

It is already happening.

An example - Tamarinds - on the internet back in the early 2000's, all you saw were mostly collected specimens left over from stumps formed by woodcutters, looking for kindling.
Today, you see folk trying other shapes.

As the information for growing [seeds or cuttings] to bonsai use, fairly rapidly [ 3 to 5 years ] spreads, the acceptance that characteristics of age come after 10 to 15 years, and the understanding the wood takes at least 25 to 50 years to become durable if the species can do so, Bonsai should take a different direction.

Lastly, see the last video, placed in a topic by Morten A. where the Japanese gentleman suggests starting bonsai at a young age. You need the time to experiment ------or the desire to purchase a finished tree becomes very strong with middle aged folk.
The desire to exhibit is often stronger than the desire to simply enjoy.
Later.
Khaimraj

Colanders and ground growing or very large standing containers, are going to become very popular. Laughing

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  lordy on Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:46 pm

Just today I received a newsletter outlining new rules regarding an annual show I attend. One particularly relevant item was that to show a tree it must have been in your possession and care for 5 years. Proof is not yet required but is on the honor system. I have heard there are those who purchase a tree and win a juried show with prize money. Hopefully that kind of activity will cease. Definitely not the intention of that show.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Dave Martin on Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:46 pm

Sunip,

There are a couple of Continental Scots pines which could be stupendous however they little short of green blobs. In the picture you posted the tracery of the branches could still be seen. In the trees I am referring to there is no sight of the branches, just as I say green blobs. For me and a large number of people within my circle of bonsai friends the trees are spoiled, but, I still appreciate the amount of work that has gone into them.
The 'natural style' has its problems that I will concede, as a poor example of this style can look a 'dogs dinner'.

lordy611
Thankfully, in the UK prize money is usually limited to £2-5. Not much incentive to spend thousands of pounds.

With regards to showing trees that sometimes is the only yardstick as to ones development and can be a steep learning curve for those who wish to improve. Last year I had a tree come third to two of Mark and Ritta Cooper's trees, I was overjoyed to have competed against such competent contestants. I had no sense of disappointment!

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  sunip on Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:21 pm

Hi Dave,
You referring to the poodle style, yes it is the way much of those garden trees are coming in from Japan.
It is not my cup of tea either.
But then when i see them i always think,
what could i make out of it.(just think)
I to buy imported trees, but at the same time playing around,
so i repotted today some seedlings out of my garden,
and each time it is a joy to find what nature did in one or two years.
Seeing how things develop how roots you altered changed for better, really awarding.
regards, Sunip;)

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:43 pm

Sunip,

often you see the tree when it is first styled and it has all the design, negative spaces, and limits to the foliage. [ Bonsai Today issues ]

With time you see the same tree, but allowed to fill out. [ Bonsai Today Issues ]

I do wonder if what is seen as the - poddle clip - or as I knew it - the hedge look- simply isn't the tree resting.
It isn't considered to be too healthy to try and keep a bonsai styled all of the time, just for display.

Reading through the old books from the 50's or so, you see remarks about how and when to display. Only a few trees are ever on display, and the others are allowed to rest.

It is also supposed to take 2 to 3 years to bring a tree up to display standards and then the tree is allowed to rest. [Which is why one uses old photographs of the tree at it's best when showing trees on the Internet.]
Just wondering.
Khaimraj

* I would like to think a genuine Japanese nursery would explain this to a buyer.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  sunip on Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:53 pm

Hi Khaimraj,
Yes i was considering that to.
But besides, the poodle got really popular.
Even a lot of trees are designed that way i feel.
regards, Sunip;)

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:14 pm

Sunip,

popular poodle clip - then what you might be seeing is a case of - monkey see, monkey do - Smile

The Chinese stuff is poodle clipped [ hedge clipped ] and called - "Clip and Grow", because it is the fastest way to gain density --- it is called - density through disorder - real Ling Nan, would take longer and the idea is - going fast to the sales counter.

Ah the games of commercial sales.
Khaimraj

* I wonder how many read little and just visually copy.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Dave Martin on Wed Mar 23, 2011 8:17 pm

Sorry Sunip,
I am not referring to the 'poodle clip' I am referring to where the tree is trimmed to form a single green triangle with no pad detail visible just a green mass of needles. In one case the only way to see the tertiary branching is to lift the tree up and look at it from underneath which is not advisable at any show.
This particular tree was at a show so was not 'resting'.

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"Japanese trees"

Post  timatkinson on Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:01 pm

This is a good discussion, similar to those which I have followed over the years in other arts/crafts (specifically pottery). Several questions come to my mind (which I believe are common to these type discussions); Is any "style" which is non-typical for a given work (read "tree" or "bonsai") always bad? Can a non-typical style ever be good? Why might one "style" be considered superior to others? Can one's work as a craftsman/artist in a historical vein be considered valid by contemporary/evolving standards? The very concept of "bonsai" is an abstraction. If you agree with this (and I would be interested in hearing thoughts to the contrary) then the distinction between "natural/un-natural becomes moot. The criteria I use to judge a tree is whether it is emotionally evocative. If so, that tree shares a measure of success as an art form. Some are more evocative than others, some are more successful. Lastly, this distinction between a professional attitude/approach and amateur attitude/approach can be misleading. Why would anyone want to be shielded from comparison to the best, even if found lacking? That way leads not to improvement but to stagnation. Greetings to all from the rainy California redwood coast.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  sunip on Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:15 pm

[quote="Dave Martin"]Sunip,
, just as I say green blobs
Hello Dave.
I see, you mean the triangle icon and then maintained as blob.
Sunip Wink

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Ravi Kiran on Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:40 am

A very interesting thread Dave and started with apt words of caution. Its been a while since something of this sort was discussed here at IBC and your thread came like a whiff of fresh spring air. You have also spoken of a lot of points so it is kind of a mouthful for me as I am a little lost on what to respond to... scratch

Firstly I am glad that you are at it even after 25 years and humble enough to say that progress still can be made..

About politics - well it is a universal malady and affects us here in India as well. The British don't have a monopoly over that Very Happy

About purchased material, I have nothing against the same and to me it is perfectly fine to exhibit such trees. Like Fiona has said
Fiona wrote :There is also a popular misconception that "bought trees" are easy to maintain. This is far from the case and a high level of skill is required that is so often overlooked by those whose motivation is often pure jealousy. Imagine then the skill level required to take a good tree and make it better.

I'd say that to even maintain them the way they are is a major challenge. Some of my own trees which were in an acceptable shape a couple of years ago today lie in doldrums due to improper maintenance.

To keep lugging such purchased trees around to all major events will cause the novelty factor to die down over time and no two ways about it. I am sure that suck folks either need to get new trees or draw inspiration from such trees and create equally good if not better trees. The theater comparison was well in order.

Coming to shaping trees after other species natural styles. A scots pine like a Japanese black pine and so on.. or even the triangular blobs et all... there has been a lot of debate on this over the years and my personal opinion is that one need not restrict the styling of a specific tree species to its natural form. This reduces creativity and can easily lead to monotony. I'd say try as many styles as you can and as Kimura would say, "Let the tree guide you".

I really liked what Tim Atkinson said
Tim Atkinson wrote: Can a non-typical style ever be good? Why might one "style" be considered superior to others? Can one's work as a craftsman/artist in a historical vein be considered valid by contemporary/evolving standards? The very concept of "bonsai" is an abstraction. If you agree with this (and I would be interested in hearing thoughts to the contrary) then the distinction between "natural/un-natural becomes moot. The criteria I use to judge a tree is whether it is emotionally evocative. If so, that tree shares a measure of success as an art form.

The part that stuck a chord was the "emotionally evocative" bit. That is what bonsai and art are all about evoking an emotional response from the viewer. As long as this is in place the rest becomes irrelevant.

And yes you can lower your guard... its been so far so good on this thread... and I hope it stays that way..

Ravi

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Japanese trees

Post  alex e on Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:55 am





PS. Am now retreating to my bunker, wearing a stab-proof vest and NATO helmet. affraid [/quote]

Hi Dave, I started a thread like this not so long back and I,m still picking the shrapnel out of my a**e Rolling Eyes
what goes around often comes back around but on this occasion I,m pleading the Fifth silent !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alex e Bagpiper

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:45 am

General Comment.

Is it,you are exhibiting for cash / medals, or for others to enjoy the viewing ?

Secondly, what is a natural design?
[1] A tree taken from the wild and having a top dress as far as tracery is concerned ?

[2] A tree where one takes the best aspects from nature, and there is some thinking to create a design ?

Just wondering.
Khaimraj

* The only real situation I am seeing here is when a tree is purchased and shown for cash or medals.
Which does not exist on my side.


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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:35 pm

Good points, Khaimraj. To me too it rather boils down to the purpose of a bonsai show - exhibition of works or competition? I much prefer the former.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  ogie on Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:57 pm

fiona wrote:Good points, Khaimraj. To me too it rather boils down to the purpose of a bonsai show - exhibition of works or competition? I much prefer the former.

Right on the nose Fiona...when the days come all people will be happy for other having a great work and not envious deep within.It'll work.i hope we're near to that

Regards...Alex/Ogie

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:27 pm

Fiona, Alex,

mind if I share a memory with you two.

Our Bonsai Society isn't very old, 94 or 96 [ too lazy to check ] and I wasn't really for it. I preferred as we first all met, as guys who grew trees, and visited each others homes. [ I see from a recently obtained Bonsai Today, John Naka did the same years ago - More power to Mr. Naka.]

Anyhow, at our first exhibition, under the roof of the Horticultural society, we were expected to create a display and then be judged on it for plastic medals - Laughing
Additionally, best Bonsai would also be judged - by whom ???
Well we all agreed we were just exhibiting and not really into medals. However, there was one member who had won the event for best Bonsai twice before and by us not entering any events he would lose his chance at a plastic cup.

The Horticultural society, has always had a small corner for those who did Bonsai from say the 70's.
Trees were displayed in anything ---- cake pans for example and soil was clay with manure.

Anyhow, after the judging, if you saw the look on the member's face, it was as though he had actually lost something physical - an arm or a leg.

And that's when I began to understand why some enter judged events.
I felt really sorry for the member by the way and was always extra attentive to the person, until some years later, they dropped out of Bonsai completely.

The tree by the way was collected, reversing vehicle-saied , real stunner and with neglect died.
Until.
Khaimraj

* The Horticultural society has a standing rule [ since folk are always heading off to Miami to buy superior plants ] that it must be in your possession for 6 months at least, before it can be called yours and entered into competition.

AND some folk down here really get into competitions.

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  ogie on Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:47 pm

Hi Khaimraj,
I know exactly how you feel,same all over,people with openmindness like you will always encourage us to continue to share
Thanks,
Alex Smile

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Re: "Japanese trees"

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:57 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote: Anyhow, at our first exhibition, under the roof of the Horticultural society, we were expected to create a display and then be judged on it for plastic medals - Laughing
Additionally, best Bonsai would also be judged - by whom ???
Well we all agreed we were just exhibiting and not really into medals. However, there was one member who had won the event for best Bonsai twice before and by us not entering any events he would lose his chance at a plastic cup.
Oh how much you have hit the nail on the head regarding the input of the Horticultural Socities. Over here they are a bane of our lives with their insistence on making everything a competition and awarding medals to trees because they are the best of a bad lot or, as happens, the only ones in the class. I have seen a tray of sycamore seedlings win the forest planting category just because it was the only one in the class. AND, even worse, it was awarded the medal because no-one dared tell its owner - an influential person in the horticultural world (or so he liked to think) - that his offering was not up to standard. Who mentioned politics earlier?

Nah, I'm not continuing down this line - it opens up so many bugbears and I have "coped" by keeping away from these types of events. But you are so right, Khaimraj in what you say IMHO.

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