What was your biggest thing to overcome?

@Strooz Great topic! This will help many bonsaists new and experienced. My first half of my bonsai journey was plagued with failure due to over aggressive pruning and terrible potting and repotting practices. I would find some material that had a decent trunk, nebari, interesting movement and then butcher the crap out of it. Then I would go back and constantly prune and repot far too frequently and sometimes even out of season . The trees eventually became exhausted and became diseased or died. I’m still guilty of some of these things. Mostly over aggressive pruning while in development. I dont remember which video it was but Ryan basically stated that removing major branches is far more detrimental to the tree than leaving it there and using it to gain vigor and replacing it or incorporating it in the design later on. Thanks for the reminder and good luck with your bonsai.


Hi all
Leaving my trees alone was my biggest hold back. Think its because i don’t (learning quicker now on mirai) know how to control species. Kidding myself its clip and grow. Lol.

I also think i over water.

And i cant stop buying trees. Iv slowed down. Iv 4 new raw material arriving this week. You must stop Paul. Lol…

Reading the tree, as opposed to working on a “schedule”. Also, overworking trees. I must have killed 10 JM nursery stock from pinching new growth to death.

Right now it’s cutting of branches and trying not to do too much. I’m doing structural wiring on my hinoki and it’s hard to commit to cutting primary branches because I know that a hinoki will not back-bud on the trunk. At the same time I know that I have to many branches. While doing structural it was difficult not to do detail wiring as well even though I know that I need to push the tree into back budding along the branch, so why bother with detail wiring. :confused:



Novel use of a stand-up classic

the wire to the tips, to turn them up, can help gain strength and energy, though.

For me the time between the beginning of winter and the end of autumn is always very stressful. Normally the first very cold temperatures arrive at the end of November (-15 or -18 Celsius) but since 3 or 4 years it is more and more early. Last year I waited a week too late. Overnight the temperature dropped from 5 to -18 degrees Celsius for 3 days. I lost several advanced trees. This year I will put my trees in shelters in October.

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For me, two things stand out:

  1. Not being selective enough and impulse buying (or collecting) material which wasn’t as good as I thought when I was in the moment. Space on the benches quickly fills up. Now I try hard to be less impulsive and more analytical.

  2. Underestimating how quickly wire can bite in on some deciduous species and then to make it worse, being too hasty and not careful enough in removing the write upon noticing the bite. Stupidly, I would hurry to remove the wire, as if those few minutes would make any difference! Regretfully I had to repeat this mistake a few times to learn the hard way.

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Oh, and I forgot about understanding that tree can have areas where it is refined as well as areas where it is in development. That helped me advance a lot (of course in my opinion :wink: )

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great topic. I think the biggest problem I had was to many bits of advice. You know" to many cooks spoil the broth". Way too many trees, lost an awful lot in the early days. But that is what we all go through, eventually we find our niche and go from there. But I am still guilty of collecting something I know I should’t just to have a go.

Repotting and wiring. Slow with repotting same with wiring. Interesting story this year. Live in 2nd story apartment and keep trees on deck with all Cascades hanging over the railing. Surprise snow of March 2nd(?) took 6 trees over the edge to yard below. Four needed repotted including a certain Black pine and a Douglas fir. Well that was done as soon as practical. After good growth was done about early June here comes a really windy day and these two trees take the dive again and get EMERGENCY repotted again as soon as I got home that day. Only a couple small twigs killed and the trees miraculously survived in good health. Amazing what good aftercare of a healthy tree can accomplish. That’s generally my strongest strength unlike getting around to repotting and wiring:face_with_raised_eyebrow:.

I could have sworn I added mine a while ago… anywho

For me (so far) it has been learning to work with the tree, rather than imposing my will upon it - both in terms of horticulture and design.

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That is a nice one. I’m also paying attention now on the origin of the branch regarding its possition on a trunk. ;o)

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Lol, watch this stream.

I really cannot speak to what I’ve overcome. I can however speak to what I have learned.

  • Trees have been here for untold millions of years. They are durable, cling to life, and will be here long after humans no longer exist. But don’t worry. Even as a beginner you have the talent, skill and knowledge to easily kill them.
  • Your trees will never love you as much as you love them.
  • A tree is the ultimate infant. It cannot tell you want it needs, what is wrong, or why it is doing what it is doing. It thrives or dies based on how observant you are.
  • Meticulously follow all the rules of bonsai.
  • Systematically break all the rules of bonsai. Just not all on the same tree.
  • Not every tree is destine be a show tree or museum piece. But it’s my ugly ducklings that get the most compliments.
  • Try as you might the tree will do as it wishes. It knows it’s own beauty. You just have to accept that.
  • There are alternatives to akadama.
  • There is always room for one more tree on the bench.
  • The only thing you can force a tree to do is die.
  • Don’t cut wire with 90$ pruning shears.
  • Learn how to sharpen your tools. Because at some point you will cut wire with 90$ pruning shears.
  • Sacrifice your sacrifice branches when it’s time to sacrifice them.

Grudgingly giving up the things that have worked well for 40 years; and killing 40 year old trees. Then finding out WHY.
It is a harmonious SYSTEM, not a point change.
Sunset Magazine was only 40+ pages… Ignorence is bliss.
However, NOW I am BACK AGAIN to organic fertilizers, microbioms, and moss…:blush:

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Great summary @sparkytwobillion

You can find mine here: https://forum.bonsaimirai.com/t/why-i-hate-mirai/2724

I’m still only eight months into my own learning and practice.
I’ve killed one tree.
Struggling to keep four others alive.
And learning a ton.
What on earth are the alternatives to akadama?!

Only a few months in, overwatering for sure & learning to just let them grow. Be patient prune, wire etc. when best time for trees, not because I can’t stop myself…still not 100% there yet I’m afraid.