Don’t get me wrong – professional bonsai work can be great fun. What I’ve realized in the past year is how satisfying it can be to sit back and let others work on your trees.
Like most everyone in bonsai, for years I’ve been responsible for wiring, clipping, plucking, scrubbing and repotting my own trees. I’ve received excellent advice and assistance in workshops to which I owe almost everything I know about bonsai. (Let me be clear – I owe my bonsai knowledge and sensibility to Boon.) What I’ve realized only recently is that the alternative – letting others work on your trees – can be just as rewarding.
Michael working on a stewartia
On several occasions now, Michael Hagedorn (crataegus.com) has worked on a number of my trees. The effect has been super – for the trees and for my understanding of bonsai. When I work on my collection I usually have a good idea how the work is going to come out. I usually know, for example, what the effect on a tree will be when I cut or wire.
Not so when someone else does the work. By paying close attention to Michael’s work I can see new techniques for cutback and then learn how the trees respond throughout the year. I can learn about branch selection and seasonal maintenance. And I learn by examining beautiful wiring and branch-setting.
Of course it also saves a lot of time and helps me make the most of my annual bonsai “budget” (the total time and money I spend on bonsai each year).
Even if I had the money – which I don’t – to hire out the full maintenance of my collection, I wouldn’t do it. I enjoy the work too much and have learned much from what I do right (and from what I do wrong). But by leaving some of this work for others, I’ve gained significant opportunities to learn for which I’ll always be grateful.
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