Being an impetuous person by nature, the patience and perseverance Bonsai demands was a concept that I struggled with for many years. Learning that if I wished to become involved and collaborate with nature, I needed to first learn the respect and patience it demanded. As human beings we are quite often arrogant in our chosen pursuits, without giving a second thought to the world around us. In the early years of learning this craft I thought that I could style, re-pot and interfere with my trees whenever the urge overcame me, which of course led to plenty of dead trees, lost branches and designs set- backs.
People often ask me “what’s involved with making Bonsai”and I’m never able to answer them in a simple concise sentence. Almost 10 years on, I still find myself learning new techniques, refining what I know and becoming a more observant student of nature.
I now enjoy the journey of creating Bonsai, rather than rushing to achieve a final result. I look back and reflect upon my work and take note of how I could improve my techniques and visualise how this tree will look once it’s had time to respond to my work.
Looking back through my archives I came across a Wild Olive I collected as a stump back in 2012 – it nicely demonstrates the art of patience and persistence. Whilst this tree had a nice wide base (nebari), there wasn’t really much in the way of natural beauty or interest. It did however present a great canvas for me to explore my creativity and hone my carving skills.
Once collected, this Olive took almost a full year to shoot new buds. It was left to grow almost completely unchecked for 2 years before the primary branches were selected. The tree suffered quite a bit of natural die back as part of the collection process and was now largely comprised of deadwood with small live veins feeding the remaining foliage and branching.
About 3 months ago, I got around to revisiting this Olive, exploiting much of the deadwood, shortening back the primary branches and moving it to a smaller container. It will now be left to grow unchecked for another 6-12 months, as the newly created deadwood naturalises from exposure to the elements and I slowly chip away at the primary and secondary branches. I estimate it will take another 2-3 years before this will look anything like a Bonsai and perhaps another 2-3 after that before it could be displayed in an exhibition.
Bonsai becomes so much more enjoyable when you fall in love with the journey, not just the final result.