Lesson #2: DEVELOPING THE FORM
Training bonsai successfully requires discipline and the utmost concern for the health of the plant. Do not attempt to train a plant that was recently potted. Size up the plant and make a sketch showing the branches and the number of leaves on each branch. Allow each growth point to add at least 2 to 3 new compound leaves. If you've received a KEIKI BONSAI, give it a week or two to adjust to your environment. Review the cultural information, and if there is any doubt, call us at (808) 982-9880 if you have questions. We'll try to help as much as possible.
Whether you have a HS-8 small size Dwarf Schefflera lava planting that has been established in a pot using a #8 Conversion Kit for 2-3 months or have recently received a pre-planted KEIKI BONSAI, you're ready to embark on your first bonsai journey!
But before you begin, you've got to get into the proper mental attitude. As a youth I took judo (Japanese martial art wrestling) and we began each lesson with discipline exercises and a silent meditation period. It was a time to clear our minds of distractions and to reinforce our commitment and objectives. I find that this simple exercise is very effective as I begin any bonsai training session.
Here, its necessary to recognize that the tree is at your mercy. "Keiki" in Hawaiian is a young and innocent child. In the same sense, the tree before you depends upon you to provide for its needs, to receive help in attaining a beautiful form, and for its very existence. Training bonsai is just like raising children! They require love and attention.
The essence of bonsai is the sacred relationship between the tree and its trainer. Study the tree and SMILE! Place the tree on boxes or books to bring the pot up to eye level and in front of a plain background. Peer at the tree through slightly closed eyelids and imagine a young tree growing on a rocky mound. Can you see it?
Turn the tree and study it from another angle and SMILE! Repeat several times until you can imagine the tree from all sides and your smile comes naturally! The aristocratic Chinese believe that the secret of creativity is in the smile! When you smile, you become receptive and pleasant thoughts and ideas pour into your brain. If you can dream, if you can picture your tree in your mind's eye, then you can begin to imagine which part you'll allow to grow, which portions you'll keep near it's present size, and which portions you'll remove. If you aren't successful in getting a very clear mental image, put it aside and come back in a day or two.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON OF BONSAI! Don't do anything until you've developed a gameplan. You can only train once. You can't glue back a branch that was cut too hastily. Bonsai is not a race so take your time!
It's important to believe in yourself and to accept full responsibility for the health and future beauty of your tree. Believe that you have the ability to know what you like and also what you don't like. Do you want the tree to be stout and short or taller? Do you want more branches for a very full appearance or do you prefer a simpler elegant line with fewer branches?
Bonsai is a mental activity. It's really not necessary to overly discuss pruning concepts and the fine points in the beginning. Over time you'll learn techniques, but from the beginning you must have a vision and gameplan! Not having a gameplan is like a person religiously going to painting classes and studying technique under a master for many years. No matter how long the person studies technique and copies the work of others, the effort is uninspiring until original designs are developed.
I end Lesson 2 without doing anything to the tree. This lesson is to prepare your mind, to help you to keenly focus on the tree to notice tiny details that are unique to your tree. Set it aside and study it again later. The more times you come back to the tree, the better you'll understand it. When your smile comes out automatically, you'll have begun to establish the sacred bond between tree and owner-trainer! If you've created a strong mental image and gameplan, you're almost ready to begin!
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