How do you count years in training? and is it more important than the age of the tree?

Do you count years in training from the point it was collected, first styled, first placed in a bonsai container? Any?

More controversial perhaps, do you find years in training more impressive (and more important information) that the age of the tree? - of course age adds character and we are all more impressed by a 3000 year old tree than a 2 year old sapling but time in training means daily human dedication, care and thought. Like Ryan mentioned, bonsai (training) years are like dog years.

I’d say that from my perspective years in training start counting once a specimen has been selected to become a bonsai, it can still be in the field but you chopped the trunk, planted as a seed or it can be in a garden centre plastic growing pot but you bought it home with an idea of how you envision it as bonsai. Once it gets your mental stamp ‘For bonsai purposes’ that’s it. And me personally, I find years in training a much more interesting piece of information than the age. I often see exhibitions that mention the age of the tree (for example the Montreal Botanical garden’s fantastic collection) and it is interesting to know it as it adds respect for the tree but I wish people would also provide years in training as additional information as it adds respect for the creators of that bonsai.


I am with u Rafi!
I think the age most people give theyr Bonsai is verry
The time it is in training is real!
I use a diary app for my trees,I take a photo the day i get it ,ad some informations of the tree like in the Mirai galery and then Edit every step like repoting styling and so on…
I would like to know what the aluminum plates in the Mirai trees are?
Is it for treediarys?


What app do you use?

I think the aluminium tags are to keep an inventory of the trees with some sort of ID but I don’t know if they keep any form of diary outside Ryan’s head…

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The tags are for tree inventory - so we know whose tree it is, who it was collected or purchased from, whether it’s for sale, etc. But we don’t keep a diary, like Rafi said. Ryan remembers every tree, where/when it was source and the work that’s been done on it - just the way his brain works I guess!


Rafi, I like to count years in my care, developement and refinement. Age can oly be an intelligent guestimate.
I keep a diary like you do, Jens. Lots of it is in a MS Access based database. I’m pretty negligent about maintaining it, but I do diligently write everything down in a little booklet.
Like Ryan I know the when and where for most of my trees and how I got them. The ones from bonsai dealers are usually imports and without any information other than " got that one at Noalanders" or from Dealer x,y,or z. The dealers did not tell me which nursury the bonsai was imported from.

The App is called Universal Tagebuch(universal diary)
I do not buy important trees anymore, I only buy collected raw material.
In mach i meet Mauro Stemberger,I want him to build a buisines relationship with me.
I think he is the best collector in Europa!
Already got some of his trees(raw material )


@ Jens Yes, Mauro Stemberger has nice yamadori raw material. And has great yamadoris that he styled himself. Otmar Auer (Brixen, Italy) has good already pot trained raw native material and his personally styled trees are very good. Imported: right, but if you want a hinoki, a chinese juniper, or, or ,or… you need someone that imports.

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Both have value in my perspective.

The educated guess of a trees age adds to the reverence, respect, and majestic quality.

Years in training are the respect and admiration I give to the artist for their craft and horticulture knowledge.

Both I value individually and when together can be awesome inspiring.

I tried doing that, but eventually it turned into a “…was it 2012 or 2013?” thing with me. It was hard to remember what I did when and to what tree. So I also started keeping a diary with all the work I do on the trees. Makes it really easy to reference back to my the styling idea / work I did on a tree.

I’ve also been trying Bonsai Droid off the Play Store. It does a great job of letting me keep track of what I think is important with every tree, without forcing me through a lot of input. It also has a great option where you can type up your own care calendars / species guides, and use the app to remind you of work. You can also share those guides with others.

I definitely suggest that you keep some kind of record though. Makes it easy to see where I’ve grown in knowledge, and where the trees have improved.


I think the style of a tree that has been worked on is self evident and it is ok to have a fresh look each time and not be bound by drawings or other biases. In terms of work the only thing that may be hard to remember in a large collection is when it was repotted. Considering that the interval for repotting a tree is unlikely to get longer than 12 years, it just occurred to me that a little tag with a chinese year character is enough to remember when it was repotted. For example all trees reported this year would be year of the dog trees and only in 12 years it will repeat itself. Other important information that may need a diary is provenance and cost for both trees and pots and finally it is interesting to keep a photographic record of a tree to keep track of it’s evolution but also for security purposes.

Years in training for me begins with the first tool used.

But, I think an argument could he made for earlier in the tree’s life.

What if you find a tree, but the trunk isn’t quite what you want. So you monitor it for a few years, and extract it when it is ready. The tree was being monitored. You wanted it to be doing just what it was doing. When it’s extracted, it’s because leaving it in the ground will take it away from your plan. No tools touched for years after you first found it. But wasn’t it doing what was needed? I wouldn’t be opposed to saying that the tree was in bonsai training while it was I’m the ground.


I think it is good to know the age of a tree and how long it has been in training for, but the real question for me is “How old does the bonsai look?”. If the tree is 10years old and been in training for 5years but looks like it could be 50years old, I think you have done an excellent job as a bonsai practitioner and artist. This is just how I look at it…

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