Feb 17, 2017

Patience & Perseverance

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.


Digging up this old olive in cold muddy conditions circa July 2012
Onsite Collecting This Large Wild Olive – Circa July 2012


A days worth of hard digging in the middle of winter in soggy clay
Loaded up and ready to go


Wild Olive Pre - Bonsai potted up in this large wooden crate. My fave coffee cup for scale
Potted up in a large wooden crate


Initial rough carving complete. Time to let it naturalise and continue to develop the primary branches
As of 17/2/17 – Initial wood carving complete.


A close up of the carving on this Wild Olive Pre-Bonsai
Another angle


Wood Carving on a Wild Olive Pre-Bonsai
The carving on the opposite side