Friday, 11 December 2015

Losing My Way

I've mentioned previously that one of the benefits of belonging to a bonsai club is the help and advice I get from other members when I attend our club's workshops.

Of course an important factor is learning which advice to follow and which to ignore. Follow the right advice and you may end up with a far better tree than you would ever have imagined. Follow the wrong advice and you may lose your way, as I did with this tree.

In late 2007, shortly before I joined my club, I bought a young fig tree at a flea market. At the time that this photo was taken I'd done no styling. The stick was there for support and was probably there when I bought it.

Young fig tree, October 2007

As it was young and thin, I didn't rush to do much to it, but in early 2008 I replaced the stick with bonsai wire  and left it to grow.

February 2008 - first wiring

I don't remember how long I left that wire on the tree, but clearly it wasn't long enough for it to do its job because by the end of the year the tree had developed quite a slant and I really wasn't happy with how it was developing.

December 2008 - slanted

What I hated most however was the big empty section of trunk above the first two branches, so a few months later I decided to chop the trunk back and see what happened.

Trunk chop, May 2009 - early winter, hence the ugly foliage

The tree responded well but I still wasn't happy with where it was headed, so in March 2010 I took it to a workshop. This is how it looked before that workshop.

March 2010 - before workshop

The first advice I received that day came from a man who believes in working with the branches a tree has to offer so he advised me to wire that back branch into a more horizontal position. Normally one doesn't have the first branch at the back, and in this case I felt it looked totally wrong, so when he left I asked another member for his opinion. He agreed that the back branch had to go, and after I'd removed it, the tree looked slightly better, but not very interesting.

March 2010 - after workshop

He also suggested a far more extreme chop, but I was reluctant to do it, so I put the idea on the back-burner for a while. However a few months later, as I looked at its bare silhouette in early spring, I had second thoughts.

August 2010 - early spring, before chop

So, following his advice, I removed everything above the first branch, leaving me with this:

August 2010 - extreme chop

I think I was happy with my decision at the time, but I soon came to regret it. The slant of the tree just didn't seem to work with the chosen style.

In the five years since then I've allowed the tree to follow a really strange path, and I'll write about that later. First I want to take it to the club for critique and see if I somebody comes up with a better path for its future than the one I have in mind.

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