Why nature is the best teacher when creating bonsai

An important learning tool in my box when teaching bonsai is telling students to get out into the wilds and see old and ancient trees in their natural habitat. It’s not enough to read the books, visit the shows or surf the web for inspiration, being out in the wild walking the hills and mountains is crucial to understanding the natural growing habits of our native trees.

In my early years with bonsai I remember creating a juniper bonsai with deadwood and receiving a snide comment from a long standing club member “I have never seen a tree with white wood before” my retort was that he should look beyond the trees in the local park.

There is no substitute for standing under an ancient and appreciating all the human history that the tree has witnessed plus the hundreds of harsh winters, cold winds and blistering sun that has created the beauty of the living specimen.

Earlier this week I took a walk in the hills with a close friend and naturally I took my camera, along with taking photos of trees, I record bark, branch structure, root spread and aspect.

Here is a VERY old Oak tree that was perched on a granite outcrop in the bottom of a glacial valley, the root bole was over 5 meters circumference and the tree less than 7 meters in height, as you can see from the photos, no wire or pruning has taken place to create this amazing tree.

The last photo is another Oak on the same outcrop. The way that the trunk spreads over the stone is fascinating and a great ‘model’ to work towards when creating this style of bonsai.

Old Oak 2 Old Oak 3 Old Oak 4 Old Oak 5

5 comments on “Why nature is the best teacher when creating bonsai

  1. Beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration! I get to see ancient pines and junipers while I’m out collecting all the time. I need to remember to stop more often to snap photo’s.


  2. Tony ;Your article is spot on.The oak “models”are perfect.Love those stalwart oaks.Outstanding nebari of the last really old beauty.


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