Beginner Videos: What more do you want to know?

Hi there beginners,

Your bonsai MC Eve here, I am looking for some help and suggestions from our beginner members! We always want our content to best cater to the questions and gaps you all have in your bonsai knowledge. What are some beginner concepts that you would love to see a video about? This can be as simple as nursery stock videos, education on common tools and how to use them, or even common vocabulary words that are so often tossed around in the bonsai universe.

If you are a bit more advanced than a beginner, what do you wish you had known as a beginner? Was there something that could have really helped you earlier on in your bonsai practice?

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HI MC Eve:

I just joined your community for a year subscription yesterday, what a great question to start out with! I would like to see you do a live stream for beginner’s on what we should expect if we take further education in our own areas. What I mean by that is how does a beginning student know whether they have met a real bonsai professional. I have never heard of Bonsai Professionals meeting any sort-of Bonsai Certification criteria. How does one interview a bonsai practitioner to know you have a good fit. I went to rendezvous and took classes from professionals and sat for hours frozen not knowing where to start or why!. Got a a couple of trees out of the experience but not much else. Cost a few thousand dollars for that experience. This is one reason I quit Bonsai after I had just begun, after a 5 year gap, I’m trying to pick it up one more time. I would never take a course at Bonsai Mirai, you are way too advanced for me, it would scare me to death to even start to work on a tree in your presence.
I keep asking myself as a hobbyist /beginner what do I expect out of Bonsai, which is, I would like to have a couple of happy healthy tree species that I can place on my condominium deck and enjoy working on and taking care of them. Having said that, what base fundamentals do we need in our tool belt to accomplished this. My trees are not bound for the next National Exhibition.
MC Eve, the problem is there is some much good information on the site that I have found in my limited browsing to date that I’m not sure that you haven’t already answered all the beginner questions one would have. My first real study has been Fundamental Pruning, great information!
Richard

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Some of these concepts I still need help on, while others took a while to catch on to. When I started I wish I had an elevated sense of these topics early. It probably would have saved me some time and money.

  • Tree energy. How does the tree utilize stored energy? How does it gain/store energy?
  • Basic timing/calendar of operations. Key indicators explained. (ie, what does bud swell look like)
  • Design elements in nature. What to look for? Where to look?
  • Differences between basic and elevated bonsai. In both searching for stock, or buying pre-bonsai, or ‘finished’ bonsai.
    *Pre-Bonsai selection. How does this differ from hunting for nursery stock?

And, doesn’t Ryan just use one tool to prune, cut roots, and to cut wire? :stuck_out_tongue:

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I think that most of us start with a very limited knowledge base of plant / tree physiology. Ryan has done a tremendous job of incorporating physiology into the practice of bonsai so a task isn’t done a particular way or at a particular time due to is having always been done that way but instead, a task is done based on what the plant is doing at a particular time.
A lecture on tree physiology for hardy species and another on tropical material might be dry but if anybody could make this interesting, Ryan would be the man.

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The biggest barrier to entry for me was building a foundation. There’s a lot to that. I could get into the horticultural side of things or I could talk about zone envy and what it takes to break yourself of that. I’d say what every beginner wants to learn is “what do I do?” That typically comes from a place of not knowing how to design a tree.

One of the Mirai-isms is “What are you trying to accomplish?” Well, for a beginner they typically don’t even know what that “what” is.

That’s what I loved about the nursery stock streams. The break down of what to look for in material to maximizing what’s there to building for the future is a really nice progression on material that most of us have accessible to us.

There seems to be a few trees in the streams that have made some nice progressions as well. However, following the progression is difficult as there’s not much connecting one stream to its ancestors or successors. In addition to that; it may be kind of cool for Josh to put together a progression video using clips from each video over a given tree’s timeline. Then Ryan could do a sort of “postmortem voice over” discussing the techniques employed at each stage.

The more focused technical videos are great too. Ceramics primer, apical formation, structural wiring, detail wiring, repotting, etc. For a beginner these would be hard to find. We’ve got the beginner videos pinned in this category which is great. A more formal grouping within the library would be excellent. Perhaps even in order of progression. Kind of an online class of sorts.

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From my end I would add two things:

  1. Comparison always works (for me) and in the wiring videos you show the poor application vs good/ appropriate application of wire. So for me it would be good to see how beginner would approach a nursery stock material vs how would Ryan. So maybe to see two similar humble trees worked at the same time: 1 by Ryan and 1 by Josh (if he still considers himself as a beginner :wink: ).
  2. Nursery stock - I know that we have couple videos with that but when I started (and even now) and I was hunting (and I was hunting a lot!) for a stock - I was never close to such material (like lindens or criptomeria). So I think beginners would benefit to see how Ryan is breaking down really humble material (similar to the one Josh did) as a part of ministreams. I think this will allow people to build confidence and some initial skills to move forward.

Hope it makes sense :wink:

Cheers,
Michal/ Michael/ Mike :slight_smile:

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Two things:

  1. I would love to see more streams on the initial work on trees that are becoming bonsai for the first time, preferably nursery stock.
  2. More small trees so that we can see whatever scope of work is being taught from beginning to end across the whole tree.

It’s fun to watch Ryan work on expensive and rare trees but I learn a lot more from watching him work on humble material. I would love to see him really lean into the concept he teaches that no tree is beneath a true bonsai practitioner. Ryan’s expertise that enables him to work world-class trees also put him in a unique position to show us how to make trees that are truly remarkable from the common, ordinary nursery trees that most of us are probably working.

As a beginner, when I practice bonsai I am most often in the position of styling or potting a new tree for the first time or trying to figure out how to set an affordable piece of nursery stock ($30 - $50) off on its bonsai journey.

To be more specific, the thing I would like to see most is the initial creation (styling and wiring) and potting of one of the shohin junipers that were made from the grafting whips that were in this year’s tree sale. This seems like the ideal project for a beginner because it encompasses so many aspects of what constitutes the practice of bonsai and the creation of bonsai. You get pruning, wiring, and potting all in one video. For a close approximation of what I’m talking about, see the Pomegranate Design stream where Ryan set the structure and did the first potting of a field grown tree. Another example is Nursery Stock Series Pt. 3 and then the follow up re-potting video.

In a perfect world there would be a stream for the initial styling and initial potting of a raw tree for every category of tree in the library (elongating, deciduous, different types of pines, etc.).

One more thing: I’ve really gotten a lot out of seeing the progression of the black pine from this stream. It would be awesome to see more progressions of singular trees over multiple years/streams.

Thanks so much @Eve and the rest of the Mirai team for always reaching out to us in various ways to figure out how to better equip us with Bonsai knowledge!!!

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@Eve

I think the hardest thing as a beginner is visually the journey from step to step.

For instance it is great to see the first steps like the Josh beginner videos but it would great to see the steps over the next 5 to 10 years. You guys have a time machine right?

Perhaps you could stitch together existing videos and follow a few trees progress over the last 3+ years of Mirai Live. Ryan could talk through the changes between each clip that maybe we didn’t see.

Mike

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I’ll second the idea of a basic calendar / timing of operations… I think Ryan is great at explaining this in each video for the operation he’s performing, but unless I make a note of it each time I watch a video, I’ll need to pore back through a bunch of clips to figure out when I’m supposed to prune my elongating species when that time comes.

A primer that walked through early/middle/late of each season and what scopes of work are applicable for various categories of species and outlier species would be great. And also then mapping horticultural indicators that might let us know if our region is in the early / middle / late part of a season as it may vary from Mirai’s seasons.

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I’m 4 yrs into this Bonsai madness now. When I first started I wish I could have found videos that showed how nursery stock (both coniferous and deciduous) is taken from purchase, initial working, then ongoing development over the following years into the beginning of refinement. I still have fears about when to do major pruning, and what can/can’t be done for the rest of the year (i.e. the No Double Insult rule).

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One of the hardest things for me is figuring out how to shape a branch that facilitates its future development. What changes are good to promote evolution of the branch (with examples) and what is a mistake that will never just “grow out and be okay”.

I feel like this material is covered almost every stream (at least every stream on structural or secondary development) but I never saw it explained succinctly and it took me the longest to visualize, especially when every species is different in this regard.

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Detailed pruning to create/maintain branches and foliage distribution. It would be nice to have this scope consolidated and with more time on the detail camera. The back and forth between cameras during things like scissor work is frustrating.

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Have you read the Blog Sustainable Design? It helps me to look at what will thrive and grow well. Sustainable Design | Bonsai Mirai

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@Eve, thanks for asking. So I’m not being redundant I’d like to reiterate @WestSeattleDavid

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About halfway through this stream is a great example of nursery stock dissection.

Super excited to see another Nursery Stock stream this week too!

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so it doesn’t get whacked https://live.bonsaimirai.com/library/video/deciduous-structure

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A 2-hour overview of common species and what their needs and requirements are would be great. Something which is indexed for quick reference so folks don’t have to dig through a half dozen 2-hour pine videos to find the answer to a specific but common question. Maybe identify the most common 15-20 species, and have Ryan go through a checklist on each one of different requirements and peculiarities. Some checklist items would be a brief calendar of work, soil and watering requirements, basic pruning approach for development and refinement, let it grow out or cut it back for back budding, etc… I feel like Ryan could knock out an overview for most species in 5-10 minutes. This would probably allow for 15-20 species to be covered in a 2 hour video, with no questions from the chat.

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" I would love to see him really lean into the concept he teaches that no tree is beneath a true bonsai practitioner."

THAT is a fantastic and insightful statement!

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Eve!
What a great idea! I love the live stream, but I find that I can rarely participate. As I watch at a later date, questions come up that I regret not being able to be there to ask. But if I could ask for something in general, it might be a sort of calendar, or for a different word/description, we might call it “Rewrap”. Not a stream, or feature, but excerpts from both/all content. My example would be junipers. There are bits of information scattered all throughout Ryan’s lessons, but remembering which stream, where in the stream, etc. to go back and refresh, is impossible. (for me). So I’d like to see the bits extracted, and placed in a chronological order. And both in video, and written form, with Ryan narrating, and even referencing where the bits can be located.
The types of info I’m looking for…How often, and when in the cycle (growth/year) should a juniper get cleaned out (crotch growth, downward foliage, creating alternating branching, etc.). When should this NOT be done? When should live vein work be done/not done. Same for styling, repotting, heavy bending, compared to maintenance wiring. When should growing tips be removed, and what to expect as a result of those actions. The different treatments for running, as opposed to mounding, and the different times to do those things. Timing for grafts. When not to do those things. Describe treatments for seedlings, cuttings, layers, and from development to transition, to refinement
I’d love to see this type of format for any tree species, in as much detail as possible. And these can be added to, or updated at any time.
I know this is a big ask…but thanks for reading

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