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How does a guy spend twenty years with bonsai and still feel like a beginner? By doing it wrong! I have been doing things wrong for so long, I’m an expert! LEARN FROM ME!


I have not laid out any sort of plan for sharing my misdoings (ironically, as you will see in a moment) but I am going to move forward confident that putting a “#1” in the title will be the right path. There could, no doubt, be many of these. So, what is number 1? 
I never refined a tree!

The experts do address this issue, in a way. I would distill the related ideas into two statements:

  1. Every tree is in training.
  2. A tree can’t always be show ready. 

The problem is, I took these ideas to the extreme and for two decades never even tried to get a tree to a refined state. What’s worse, I also wasn’t taking advantage of this time to properly develop thick trunks and nice branch structure. (If only!) I kept every tree either untrained (because I didn’t know what to do with it yet) or I pruned just to maintain a shape or size without any proper techniques for improving the design or ramification. Neither approach will make a great tree no matter how long you try!

Here’s my advice to avoid making the same mistake: Make a plan for each tree – a five or ten year plan if you must. What steps must you take to develop a refined, show-ready tree. Sure, you may have to adjust as you go along, but without a plan, you are just keeping a tree  alive. A good start, sure, but you can do better. 

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