While I enjoy all aspects of bonsai gardening, I especially love pruning. Not only does it offer a relaxing break from daily stress, but I’ve found it offers a creative outlet as I try to shape my trees into miniature art forms.
As I was trimming some bonsai the other day, it occurred to me that the lessons I’ve learned can really apply to real life. So here are five of my pruning secrets, and I hope they help you with your bonsai and help you navigate life a little better, too!
Five Bonsai Pruning/Real-Life Tips
- Start slow. I learned this lesson the hard way one year when I rented a power washer to clean my front deck. Instead of starting in a far-away corner, I began right under my front door. Turns out I had the machine on the wrong setting and promptly blasted an ugly scratch in the wood that still shows today. My advice: Whenever you’re unsure about what you’re doing, start in an inconspicuous area until you feel comfortable. That way, mistakes (and mistakes do happen!) won’t be quite so glaring.
- Focus on the big picture and don’t waste time with the small stuff. I’ve wasted a lot of valuable time (in pruning and in life) by focusing on those things that didn’t really matter. With bonsai, I used to start by cutting the smallest branches first, only to discover that I wanted to cut the larger branches they were attached to. Not only did this waste time and create more of a mess, but it made me reluctant to prune further, which had an adverse effect on the overall shape of the tree. Which leads me to my next point …
- Take risks. Sometimes you have to be bold, so if you’re going to cut, cut. I’ve found that sometimes the only way to bring out a new angle or shape is to get a little aggressive and try something new. Like they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so don’t always play it safe. But at the same time …
- Be disciplined and in control. One time, I was trimming a Japanese Maple and got frustrated in the process. A certain amount of apathy set in, and I kept snipping away. When I was finished, the poor tree looked like some sort of sheep-shearing incident gone horribly wrong. So, take it easy and step back and take a look every so often, so things don’t get out of control.
- Stand up for your vision. Bonsai, like life, is a constant learning experience. So, don’t be worried about your day-to-day results, be proud of yourself, and apply a little of what you learn to the next interaction. That’s all we can do.
So in many ways, bonsai emulates life and can even teach us more than we’d ever expect. Next time you’re pruning, pay attention to the process and you may just learn something new you can apply in your own life, too!