I’ve been trawling through some of my old photos lately, pictures of previously sold or styled bonsai or trees that I’ve worked on over the years.

It’s been good to look over them with a fresh set of eyes, noticing all the mistakes, problems and weaknesses. Trees that I was once proud of now show bare my shortcomings during that period.

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A tree I styled almost 10 years ago while in Japan in 2007. When cleaning the foliage I was overly keen on stripping old growth from the first branch, leaving it weak, and was reprimanded accordingly. I didn’t do that again.

Some of those trees still bare signs of those errors years later and it will take many more years to correct them. It is a good reminder of just how far my skills have improved over time and how this art we pursue is an ever evolving learning process.

Just when you think you think you are getting a handle on what it is you are doing, a new avenue of possibility opens up and challenges your understanding.

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A huge flat bottom pad. I would approach that differently these days.

The beauty of bonsai is that the trees we work on evolve over time along with our skills, vision and understanding of the art. Your actions on the tree, right or wrong, shape both the bonsai and yourself.

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I was overly concerned with needle length over health and candled pruned when I shouldn’t have. It set this tree back years and is only really just getting back into it’s rhythm again 5 years later.

There are trees that I have worked that have shaped the way I look at bonsai as much as I have shaped them. I am constantly challenged and surprised by trees I see which keeps the art fresh and engaging.

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I tightened the bends in the deadwood, leaving it less interesting than when I begun.

I’ve enjoyed digging back through time in this way and I look forward to gazing back in another few years time and seeing how my understanding of the art has once again changed, improved and ultimately furthered my approach to creating bonsai.

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