Bonsai (Americanized)

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These are my Bonsai trees, or more specifically, Mame. Mame is the word for really small Bonsai trees. I could pretty easily hold all three of these on the palm of my hand. The tallest tree measures 7" including pot. The tall one is a Myrtle, and the short one is Serissa. Both will bloom eventually if I quit picking at them. The middle one is a companion planting of a dwarf Japanese grass. Eventually, I would like to move the grass to the back and have another small companion plant in the group, but I haven't decided what yet.

I have learned a lot about Bonsai in the past year. But I also made the decision early on that while I would be studying a Japanese art form, I would not hold myself too strictly to a Japanese style. On one hand, I want my trees to be accepted as Bonsai, and on the other hand I really don't care. I still struggle with the balance. This planting is made to remind me of the deciduous forests I grew up with in the Midwest.

I just spent the afternoon repotting these. In Bonsai, pot selection is very important, and there are rules regarding what shape and color the pots should be. Pot selection is also interpretational. It's hard! :) I have had the second tree for a year now, I think. I have trained it a lot in that time. I worked really hard placing moss, rocks and plants to make them look natural.

I hope you like them.
Very nice. I would really like to get into this, but I have no more space. Great work.

This was the serissa when I bought it a year ago. It was in a super tiny pot, and wasn't in a style I liked at all. But there was just something about it.


I chose a new front for the tree. I moved it to a bigger pot so the roots had room to spread out while I trained it, and then I cut the hell out of it. I know cutting is stressful to the tree, so I wanted the root system to be able to compensate by having plenty of good soil to explore. You can see the branches I cut off sticking out of the other side of the pot. I was going to root them and grow some other trees, but abandoned that.


And here she is today. I would love to see her grow some fuller branches. But she takes her time, and I have learned there is just no rushing a female. :)

I have only had the tall tree for a few days, so I haven't really started any sort of styling. The previous owner gave it a flat-top haircut before selling it. : (
Nice bonsai!
Serissa has to be one of my favorites but the dropping leaves can drive someone nuts.
I also like ficus, but they aren't really suited for mame because of the leaf size

I prefer the orginal arrangement of the serissa, but thats my opinion
smartie2000 said:
Nice bonsai!
Serissa has to be one of my favorites but the dropping leaves can drive someone nuts.

I haven't had a problem with leaf drop. But then again, my greenhouse stays constant in regards to humidity and temperature. It's my understanding that they drop their leaves when shocked, like taking them from warm temps to cold temps rapidly.

smartie2000 said:
I prefer the orginal arrangement of the serissa, but thats my opinion

The original style of the tree wasn't really formal Bonsai style (alternating branches with an overall triangular shape), but more like two lower branches sticking straight out with a clump of growth at the top of the tree. There were major holes in the canopy. It was a half-hearted attempt at formal Japanese style by the previous owner. And the nebari was a mess. It pointed straight down.

But with a slight turn of the tree I found a great flowing line which tapered well from bottom to top. I spread the nebari out and to my surprise, they were more than happy to stay that way without training. I want the canopy to fill in before I do anything else to the tree, so I am just letting it grow for the next year or two.

This is one of my photos of inspiration...


I just have to keep reminding myself that my tree is only three and a half inches tall. So, much of my training has to show an interpretation of the shape of the tree.
I'm really impressed Phrag! I know nothing about the guidelines of bonsai, but before I read your text I was thinking how artistic and natural they looked. And I was amazed when I read how tiny they are--they have the proportions and other visual clues to be much larger plants; it seems like that should be a sign of success! And the pots are wonderful. Beautifully done!
Thanks for the compliments. The hardest part of learning bonsai is patience. You can't change anything overnight, and there is always something that could be improved about a tree.

For scale...


PHRAG said:
Thanks for the compliments. The hardest part of learning bonsai is patience. You can't change anything overnight, and there is always something that could be improved about a tree.

My problem is, I'd mess with it so much I wouldn't know when to stop pruning and would end up with nothing left! :rollhappy:
Wow, that's tiny! I was struggling with visualising the size so thanks for those last couple of photos. I know nothing about Bonsai but I always found it fascinating.
Hey Phrag,
I saw these bonsai being displayed at the Longwood Gardens while I was attending the orchid show.


Wisteria bonsai


From the tag it read "Training started in 1909"

Maybe this will form some new inspiration!
Mame tend not to have the same perfection as a larger tree because it is difficult to achieve. The orginal tree had excellent character and age with its form and nebrari (it will have to remain a mame forever if grown this way since it will not grow into a good large tree). I do think the canopy of the orginal tree should be redone, so I agree on that. I know the nebrari isn't the idealistic one but I think they are guidelines and depends on the styling of the tree. The orginal tree was not styled in a formal way and I would expect a broader canopy to match its roots. I also think that tree would have been a excellent companion tree for a larger tree in a display after some work on the canopy. I imagine either a short tree with a broad canopy or semi cascade or slant in the future with the nebrari you have.
'Bonsai' is a name that can be used nowadays to gather all these similar stylings of asian trees together in the western world. Some how Japanese (bonsai), vietnamese (Cay canh, I am not sure about this one though) and Chinese (penjing) have their own names for their hobby of training miniature trees when many trees are interchangable. Some people seem to really want to split bonsai and penjing up even though the differences are minor. Somehow japanese names are used in the western world so often even when many things orginated from china, such as bonsai and origami. Perhaps Japanese names are easier to pronouce in english I guess, but i'm not sure if we pronouce them right as I am not japanese.

The major flaw of the large tree in the "photo of inspiration" is that the two bottom most branches diverge at the same point. I would probably end up cutting off one of the lowest branches. The eyes are split on which direction do follow. But still an excellent trained tree and I would love to own something that nice....

Anyways I've gotta start using some native trees for my own bonsai because its too cold outside here. My mass produced S-shaped trees aren't very impressive so I'm gonna eventually rid of them or regrow the entire trunk. Regrowing the entire trunk is difficult because they aren't hardy to my winters. I really am starting to hate my fukien tea even though it has good trunk girth for a fukien tea (if my climate was right I would do a trunk chop and regrow the top portion of my fukien tea. I need a green house for these types of trees). Time to eBay some off my bad ones off. The only tree I have with some potential is my large ficus, but it needs years of work to achieve greatness.

I like this tree. It's a pomegranate. Unfortunately I can't find its orginal source, it's not my photo
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You and I are walking down different paths concerning Bonsai.

I am following the lead of Walter Paul, the most incredible Bonsai artist on the planet (in my opinion). He has chosen to use the training methods of Bonsai, but infuses his own interpretation into the artistic side. Walter Paul is from Germany. The trees he grew up with are massive Oaks, Ash and other deciduous trees, and resemble nothing that comes from Japan. And since Bonsai is supposed to be an expression of the heart of the creator, why should Mr. Paul create something that he is not familiar with, or something that doesn't mean anything to him?

Look at this gallery of his work. You will find all kinds of traditional Bonsai "mistakes" and yet, he has the most amazing, and natural looking trees.

I didn't grow up climbing Japanese spruce trees. I grew up with Oak and Walnut. Triangular Japanese trees don't conjure up memories for me when I look at them like a naturalistic broom style tree does. And that's why I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my trees. Now if I can just be patient for the next five or ten years, I think I am on the right path to make that happen. :)
Here is another example. This is a well respected Japanese broom-style bonsai.


I have a ton of photos saved of non-traditional bonsai.
:clap: that's a perfected broom style

The asian rules of styling are only guidelines for the artist otherwise every tree will be the same.:) Everyone wants to see a unique tree that still achieves balance and esthetics
Hear Hear Phrag !!!!
Walter Pall has been a hero of mine for years, as too Kimura. Both are considered non-conformists. Damn, I really need to pay for Frontpage so I can get back into my website and update it. (long story, I am just too old to learn HTML coding from scratch)
I have been growing orchids as Kusamono for years. I have a wonderful Masd Orange Ice in a little drum pot that is just great. I have a Promanea in a Sarah Rayner mame pot that is equally cool. None of my trees are exhibit worthy - yet. But they are coming along. Someday. It is a worthy project to apply the principles of display to our orchid growing.

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