When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

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Heather Photos to come

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sat Jun 27, 2009 2:49 am

Fiona:

I have a photo of the Calluna in Photobucket. I'll try to upload it tomorrow. It's an old photo but my camera is broke at the moment.

I've never been to Scotland, but my gene's have. Very Happy I'm a descendant of Clan Forbes (my mothers maiden name). At present I run the Scottish Clan area in our local Highland games and , if I ever get off my ARSE, I plan on getting back into bagpipe lessons.

I'm a wee lad (6'4, 310 pounds) i prefer a 12 yr old single malt to any beer known to man and the sound o'tha pipes can put me right to sleep.

forbey

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Sorry about the mistake, Fiona & Norma

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sat Jun 27, 2009 2:52 am

Thanks for figuring out my screw up. Sometimes the fingers type faster than the brain can cipher what I'm typing. Laughing

forbey

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Sat Jun 27, 2009 8:53 am

forbey wrote:i prefer a 12 yr old single malt to any beer known to man and the sound o'tha pipes can put me right to sleep.
I've got one like you at home. Altho' tipple of choice is 10 year old Ardbeg as we like 'em peaty.

Grace you Guide!

fiona
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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:17 pm

Sounds perfectly delightful!

I've been stuck on most things Scot, for a few decades, although the kilt may need replaced as I've yo-yo'd a few times and have had to have it altered twice. I live with the constant dream of finding the time and funds to visit home of my gg grandparents. I want to vist a few distillerues, do some genealogy, and sit on the side of a mountain and watch the rain come in. OK, I'm a wee bit daft, but a man has to dream! Very Happy

It's trying to marry my Scots heritage with my love of bonsai that has me fit to be tied.

I also want to get my hands on the new Gaelic manuals they're using to reinvigorate the old language. Problem here is no one to practice it with.

(Personally, I'm waiting for the next generation of Cardhu to hit the states so I can determine if they were able to keep the quality level up with the changes to their distillery.)

forbey

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Guest on Wed Jul 01, 2009 2:50 am

fionnghal wrote:When is a bonsai a bonsai?

A bonsai is a bonsai when it doesn't look like a bonsai, but a bonsai is a bonsai when it looks like a tree.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  prestontolbert on Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:08 am

shimsuki wrote:
fionnghal wrote:When is a bonsai a bonsai?

A bonsai is a bonsai when it doesn't look like a bonsai, but a bonsai is a bonsai when it looks like a tree.

Rolling Eyes

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:41 am

shimsuki wrote:A bonsai is a bonsai when it doesn't look like a bonsai, but a bonsai is a bonsai when it looks like a tree.

I know what you mean here, and we are straying back into the "does a bonsai represent a stylised version of nature or are we merely trying to recreate everyday nature in miniature" issue. But the original question way back in this post was: "Is it necessary for a "proper bonsai" to be in a harmonising container before the whole entity can be truly called a bonsai?" You could argue that by Shimsuki's definition a bonsai should not have a container at all as a tree does not have any container but the soil it is rooted in. That, plus whatever, usually random "container" that soil is in - a rock crevice, an orchard, a field, and possibly, by that definition, even a wooden patio planter.

I think the topic has just about run its course (unless people see otherwise), and the general consensus seems to be that to be a "bonsai" there needs to be some form of harmonising container i.e. the bonsai "pot" carefully chosen to complement the tree and to complete the harmonious image we wish to present. We also agree for the most part that the "rules" of what is a container also include stone slabs and moon pots (do we ever see these in older pictures of bonsai?) and possibly a few other containers.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:43 am

[quote="Garykk"]I don't think one could promote or improve the growth of this plant by putting it in a container.

__gary


Image removed at Gary's request

That's true but it is not a bonsai.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Garykk on Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:20 am

Try to allow yourself to think outside the box Mr. Wood, it may do you some good. I enjoy trees designed by nature as much as trees I have seen diplayed in pots, maybe even more because it is a rare find. To me that bc is a bonsai and that is all that matters. Now if you have a problem with fitting trees in nature into your definition that is your agenda. Now try to enjoy the tree and think positive thoughts for a change.

__gary

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:30 am

Garykk wrote:Try to allow yourself to think outside the box Mr. Wood, it may do you some good. I enjoy trees designed by nature as much as trees I have seen diplayed in pots, maybe even more because it is a rare find. To me that bc is a bonsai and that is all that matters. Now if you have a problem with fitting trees in nature into your definition that is your agenda. Now try to enjoy the tree and think positive thoughts for a change.

__gary

I think the tree is beautiful, and inspirational but it is not a bonsai. It's image is bonsaiesque, and I could see it in a nice pot but as it is it is not a bonsai. Trees like this are the reason we have bonsai, but it is not a bonsai. I can show you pictures of California costal Red Woods, Douglas Firs, and Ponderosa Pines from the woods and mountains that are wonderful trees, inspirational for anyone interested in creating bonsai but most of them are anywhere from eighty to four-hundred feet tall-----beautiful but not bonsai. As to thinking outside the box, I do that a lot more than most people but I don't let my reverie run away with my reason.

As to the comments about agenda and negative thinking? I don't know where you are headed with those remarks. I meant not to offend you.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:43 am

Oh Lord, is this thread not exhausted yet? Ah well, since it clearly isn't...

I do of course agree with Gary that his "real" tree is beautiful, inspirational etc. etc. and in my head I can see it as a bonsai. But, like Vance, that vision for me includes the addition of some form of container.

However, my original question was does it have to be in a recognised bonsai container to be considered a true bonsai, and having read responses to that original post I am more of a mind that it does have to have some form of container. (Interestingly, we started pushing the bounds of what is a bonsai container when we took some trees out of pots and put them on slabs and other similar surfaces, to the extent that these are now accepted as conventional). After a long search as it is not readily available in the UK, I have recently acquired a copy of David DeGroot's work "Basic Bonsai Design". In it he states that 'Bonsai are grown in containers. A tree shaped as a bonsai but left in the ground is a garden specimen, as is a tree grown in a planter that is too large to be proportionate...A true bonsai includes the container as an essential part of the artisitic composition.' This to me answers the question I asked (which had been prompted by another poster's idea to plant three or four different trees in a large wooden patio trough planter). From what I've read, I think most of us see true bonsai as having a container as an integral part of the whole; indeed part of the "art" of bonsai for me is choosing the appropriate pot/container as it quite clearly is not a case of any old pot will do.

To get back to Gary's point: I can wander fairly quickly over to Loch Lomond and see myriad landscapes, and in my head each one is a watercolour painting. On occasion I have been inspired enough to get out the paints and actually recreate these as paintings (of sorts). But until they are committed to paper, for me they are not paintings, just as for me a tree is not a bonsai until it is in a container.

fiona
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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:25 pm

Thank You, at least someone agrees with me, a bonsai must be portable, or give the impression of portability, not to put too fine a point on the container issue understanding that a number of years ago Kimura developed a very large Shimpaku that takes a crane to lift.

Vance Wood
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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  DaveP on Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:37 pm

Vance Wood wrote:Thank You, at least someone agrees with me, a bonsai must be portable, or give the impression of portability, not to put too fine a point on the container issue understanding that a number of years ago Kimura developed a very large Shimpaku that takes a crane to lift.

Hrmm.. I didn't realize the impression of portability (actual or otherwise) was ever up as discussion point. I thought that was pretty integral to the entire point of a container in some form or fashion. Very Happy

Kindest~
-d

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:45 pm

DaveP wrote:
Vance Wood wrote:Thank You, at least someone agrees with me, a bonsai must be portable, or give the impression of portability, not to put too fine a point on the container issue understanding that a number of years ago Kimura developed a very large Shimpaku that takes a crane to lift.

Hrmm.. I didn't realize the impression of portability (actual or otherwise) was ever up as discussion point. I thought that was pretty integral to the entire point of a container in some form or fashion. Very Happy

Kindest~
-d

It's something to think about amidst the continuing discussions about defining what a bonsai is, and what a bonsai is not. In my feeble way of looking at things this is the one and only thing that seems beyond the realm of modern discussion.

Vance Wood
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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  DaveP on Thu Jul 16, 2009 12:59 pm

Vance Wood wrote:
It's something to think about amidst the continuing discussions about defining what a bonsai is, and what a bonsai is not. In my feeble way of looking at things this is the one and only thing that seems beyond the realm of modern discussion.

Vance,

A very interesting observation! Having not really considered it to be otherwise, this point had totally escaped me! I would completely agree with the lack of discussion surrounding whether or not the impression of portability is central to the concept of bonsai. If we travel back through the majority consensus of bonsai origins, the point was to allow various plants with desirable traits to be carried from one location to another alongside the people benefiting from these plants. To me, that puts the portability issue in lock-step with bonsai from its inception. Then again, that's just my take on it. Smile

Kindest~
-d

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:39 pm

DaveP wrote:
Vance Wood wrote:
It's something to think about amidst the continuing discussions about defining what a bonsai is, and what a bonsai is not. In my feeble way of looking at things this is the one and only thing that seems beyond the realm of modern discussion.

Vance,

A very interesting observation! Having not really considered it to be otherwise, this point had totally escaped me! I would completely agree with the lack of discussion surrounding whether or not the impression of portability is central to the concept of bonsai. If we travel back through the majority consensus of bonsai origins, the point was to allow various plants with desirable traits to be carried from one location to another alongside the people benefiting from these plants. To me, that puts the portability issue in lock-step with bonsai from its inception. Then again, that's just my take on it. Smile

I think we all agree that regardless of how you translate the word bonsai, interprate the charactors used in the word bonsai there is one thing that is certain, there is a container involved.

Kindest~
-d

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Thu Jul 16, 2009 1:39 pm

Vance Wood wrote:Thank You, at least someone agrees with me, a bonsai must be portable, or give the impression of portability, not to put too fine a point on the container issue understanding that a number of years ago Kimura developed a very large Shimpaku that takes a crane to lift.

I'm sensing from the responses that most people would agree that a true bonsai has some form of container as an integral part, irrespective of the size of bonsai. I have a couple of pines larger than myself (my more cynical friends tell me the reason I got married was so Him Indoors could do the lifting!), and my local guru Craig Coussins has trees that it takes three people to lift! But the point is each is in its specially selected, carefully chosen pot.

It's possibly time to put this thread to bed now. There will always be people who disagree and that is their right. The argument for them is that Art develops because people are prepared to push the boundaries and so it should be. If Painting hadn't changed and evolved over the years, we'd still all be painting bison on cave walls. Maybe in a few decades, people will laugh at us old fogeys who put their bonsai in pots. But as they say in Scotland - I hae ma doots. (roughly translated as I have my doubts Very Happy ) I'm satisfied in my own mind that a true bonsai has a container.


PS Takes a crane to lift, eh? Clever birds those cranes!

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:02 pm

It is possible and inevitable I might say, for an art to develop, someone somewhere must push the envelope. However; if this has an effect, or validates itself, it must be accepted by some within the community and copied by others. If this does not happen then it is the vain ramblings of an iconoclastic agenda of debunking accepted virtues and not,---- the expression of some deeper artistic vision as yet unrealized. My larger fear in this effort is that the one pursuing this way may not know the difference between iconoclasm and artistic effort. Thinking they have found a new way they may choose to ward off any criticism by claiming artistic expression that you and I are too dumb to understand when in fact they have reinvented the turd---(I hope I am allowed to use that word).

My point is that many years ago there were people in America designing some really ugly, grotesque bonsai. Some people claim we still do, but that's a subject for another time. When criticism was raised about design features that were not pleasing they fired the "It's an American Bonsai" gun and deflected criticism. To what avail? Today the illusive American Bonsai is still a myth. The truth is; a bonsai is a bonsai regardless of where it originates and the basic principles of art must always prevail or the fruits of those efforts will be ignored. Styles may be developed that reflect local environments but they must be realized within the frame work of artistic sensibilities. These regional styles are often copied by people living in other parts of the world as bonsai period.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:29 pm

Vance Wood wrote:when in fact they have reinvented the turd---(I hope I am allowed to use that word).
Why not? I used it in another post and no-one's thrown it back at me yet! scratch

Vance Wood wrote: the basic principles of art must always prevail or the fruits of those efforts will be ignored.
As one whose art form is words, I do not have the benefit of the expert pictorial "artist's eye". However my recent reading (DeGroot, Robert Steven to name but a couple) have now introduced me to aspects like line, form, colour etc. and their paramount importance in bonsai design. This has not only shown me where my early bonsai attempts went wrong, but has given me a deeper understanding of what you call the basic art principles behind the process. I feel I am considerably the wiser for it and can look at bonsai in a more meaningful and critical way now. regarding the "shock jocks" who appear in art of whatever form: I have also always been an adherent to the principle of "if you want to break the rules, you first have to know what they are" and I think that's the danger with wanton iconoclasm - as you say it becomes breaking rules for the sake of it rather than to produce a viable alternative. The poster who wanted to put all his/her trees in the one wooden trough was planning to do so because they thought it would "look nice" and because if he/she considered that this was bonsai, then it was bonsai and to hang with all those centuries of tradition. The poster quite clearly wasn't interested in the principles and philosophies of either bonsai or art and along the way, ironically, accused those who responded to the post of adopting and "it's my way or the wrong way" attitude.

Anyway. Thanks for your insight on this matter, especially the portability aspect which, I must confess, I had assumed as a given. I use this forum very much as a learning basis not just for bonsai techniques but for all the valuable insights of a more philosophical nature. I've already done motorcycle maintenance so I think I'll take up Zen now.


Last edited by fionnghal on Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:30 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : another ******* typo!)

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:19 pm

Portability only depends on will power and mechanical advantage.
In the Japanese Imperial Palace bonsai collection there are many "large tree" in large pots- over 10 feet tall. Outside the Omiya Bonsai Village train station there is a forest planting that is about 40 feet across.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Garykk on Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:57 pm

Now the bonsai must be portable? Let us look at the big picture and try to avoid all these special rules to enter the bonsai kingdom. We all understand that portable is nonsense esp if you have ever visited Japan or China. How about a tree that was in a pot and now is planted in the ground in a rock pocket? No longer a bonsai, took a machine to lift it? Around around we go.

__gary


Image removed at Gary's request

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:41 pm

Garykk wrote:Now the bonsai must be portable? Let us look at the big picture and try to avoid all these special rules to enter the bonsai kingdom. We all understand that portable is nonsense esp if you have ever visited Japan or China. How about a tree that was in a pot and now is planted in the ground in a rock pocket? No longer a bonsai, took a machine to lift it? Around around we go.

__gary


Image removed at Gary's request

Then it is no longer a bonsai, what's the problem? Referring back to my caveat concerning portability I said it has to be portable or give the impression of portability. I also mentioned that Kimura in Bonsai Today a number of years ago worked on a very large Shimpaku Juniper (he could actually climb into it) planted in a very large Bronze pot. Both tree and pot weighed in tons and no mortal man or ten could pick this tree up and carry it off. But once the tree was designed and detailed the tree for all the world looked like you could pick it up without any other recognizable item to make a size comparison. In short it looked like a potted, containerized tree, commonly referred to and recognized as a--------Bonsai.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jul 16, 2009 6:58 pm

Vance,

It wasn't Kimura, it was Chiharu Imai.

Kind regards,
Jose Luis

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tree in a pot

Post  Gæst on Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:06 pm

Bonsai means a tree in a pot. That’s it - almost. The rest is about aesthetical preferences, history or tradition. Rules are not rules. Rules are guidelines. What is the meaning of this discussion? What does it lead to? Wink

Regards
Morten Albek

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Lee Kennedy on Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:38 pm

Garykk wrote:Try to allow yourself to think outside the box Mr. Wood, it may do you some good. I enjoy trees designed by nature as much as trees I have seen diplayed in pots, maybe even more because it is a rare find. To me that bc is a bonsai and that is all that matters. Now if you have a problem with fitting trees in nature into your definition that is your agenda. Now try to enjoy the tree and think positive thoughts for a change.

__gary
Gary with all due respect the word bonsai is in two parts and quite obviously means tree-pot,hence this tree in the wild isnt a bonsai,and as is could never become a bonsai,let's all just thank god that BONSAI is a japanese pastime and as such is inherently bound by there ways,traditions and definitions.

Lee Kennedy
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