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How To Properly Ask For Bonsai Advice

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Welcome Back To Bonsai-En

Today I am going to show you how to get the best and most accurate advice for your trees when you are asking for help.

When starting out in Bonsai we all have 1000 questions and as time goes on it seems like we have 1000 more. Usually people take to Youtube to watch how to videos, Go on Bonsai Forums, Head to social media groups and venture out to their local Bonsai Club. These are all fantastic ways to gain information but there can be a few problems you run into with each of these.

Lets start with Youtube.

Youtube is a great method of learning Bonsai as it ads an element of visual demonstration that you just don’t get from books, Books have pictures but that picture is just 1 second in time and you have to imagine what the rest looks like. The problem with youtube though is generally you are watching someone work on their trees in their environment and unless you live locally to that person what they are doing or teaching might be entirely useless to you and your collection, Here at Bonsai-En we try our hardest to try and expand on points to cover most situations if possible but this can be difficult.

Ok so what about Bonsai Forums and Social media pages? Im going to lump these 2 together as they are much the same. Sometimes these can almost be the worst place for advice but they are the most accessible for most people so they are a mecca for people asking for and giving advice.

One of the main issues I see with forums and social media groups is Bonsai Bully's and Elitists.

I see it so often someone asking a question and they get flamed by some hero with a keyboard or maybe someone gives someone else advice and the elitists will go after them. 9/10 from what I have seen is people with this behaviour believe in only what works in their area or what they have read or being taught, They are ignorant to other environments, species, horticulture etc etc. I myself have been hunted down by these types of people and it makes me laugh every time they write something and I can see their tunnel vision. Don’t let these people ruin Bonsai for you.

So how do you go about getting some decent advice on these forums then?

The best way is to ask a proper question and to look at where the answers are coming from and if they took into consideration your situation. For example the most common question is see is “ What soil mix do you guys recommend” …. I usually follow this up with more questions such as, What species are you working with?, what type of container are you going into?, are you in development or refinement?, what is your environment like? Do you have a lot of humidity or is it arid?, what soil mediums do you actually have available to you in your area? How often are you home to water?

If people don’t know these pieces of information they can not give you an accurate answer so anybody who responds with a soil mix throw it out the window because even though that mix might work perfectly for them it may be disastrous for you.

A better way to ask that question would be “ Hi guys, I have a Juniper Nana that I have been developing and its time to go into a Bonsai Pot, I live in an area with hot dry summers and will be putting the tree in a shallow container. I work during the day 9 – 5 but I can water before I leave for work and when I come home, im looking to start refining the tree and gain small compact foliage. I can get access to most things such as Akadama, pumice, lava rock, scoria, perlite and zeolite.

What would you guys recommend?

With this information more experience people can help you a lot better but still take their answers with a grain of salt as most times you wont know if they are just telling you what they use or if they are actually helping you put together a mix especially for your situation.

Now the best place to go for advice is your local Bonsai Club.

I would 100% recommend this to anybody, the advantages are, you can see the work of the people giving you the advice, they likely live in the same area as you so the advice they give will suit your tree and environment, you can have a face to face conversation and through back and forth conversation the questions and answers can be a lot more precise, and they can also recommend where to get supplies local at the best prices and service. The other great thing is that generally people at local clubs and workshops are not internet heros, they are down to earth people who just love Bonsai and love to help others.

Now for a Bonus tip and probably the one that will help the most.

Learning knowledge and techniques so you can have all the knowledge you need in your arsenal to make you own educated decisions without having to rely on what can sometimes be sketchy information.

Now for a minute this will sound like a shameless plug but hang with me for a second.

The best way to learn is to do some kind of formal education, Youtube is great but most of the time it is vague, take our own channel here at Bonsai-En for example, We do what I consider to be great videos covering basic information but where the real learning happens is through our Online Master Class Series Bonsai Courses. With this we have structured learning in which we can pick you up at what ever level you are currently at and continue on teaching you the knowledge you need to know in the correct order of what and when you will need to know it. This way you learn in depth knowledge on subjects such as soil mediums and how to choose your own mix, you can also be sure the information you are getting is correct and you can see live examples of trees to ensure that when this knowledge is applied it works!..

I hope this has helped you understand how to ask a proper questions and how to determine if the answer given is an accurate one.

Until next time Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.

Transcript Taken From Bonsai-En Youtube Video Here

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