Jonas Dupuich Tells Us About ‘The Little Book of Bonsai’: Guest Post

By Jonas Dupuich

Some time ago, Michael Hagedorn suggested that he and I swap posts to share the stories of why we wrote our respective books: Bonsai Heresy in Michael’s case, and The Little Book of Bonsai in mine.

Jonas Dupuich and a pine he wired in Japan

I’d known about Michael’s interest in debunking bonsai myths for years, but I didn’t know what shape his book would take until recently.

I, too, had thought about writing a bonsai book for a long time, but didn’t start working on one until 2014.

What made me want to pursue such a project? After writing hundreds of posts on Bonsai Tonight, I didn’t feel like I could offer people who were new to bonsai a clear starting point for keeping their trees healthy. I wanted to change that, so I started writing a basic care guide.

I’d thought my first book would focus more on bonsai techniques as that’s what I’ve written so much about on the blog, but after interacting with enthusiasts who were struggling with the basics, I thought the best starting point would be the absolute beginning: how to water, how to fertilize, and how to identify a suitable spot for bonsai to grow.

After writing the first two chapters, life got in the way and I paused work on the book until I received a note several years later from an editor at Ten Speed Press. It turned out they were looking for an author to write a bonsai book aimed at beginners – almost the exact book I’d already started!

In March of 2018, on the same day I wrote my 900th post for Bonsai Tonight, I received a signed contract from the publisher. I also received a building permit to renovate my bonsai workshop. Within the space of a single day, I knew that 2018 would be a busy year.

My main goal for the book was to provide answers to a few basic questions: How does one care for a bonsai? What makes a bonsai look like a bonsai? What are the basic techniques one needs to know as a beginner? How can one select a container for a tree or display it for others? Where can one find more information if they want to learn more?

I wanted to answer these questions and at the same time suggest that bonsai can have far more character and beauty than the mass produced trees we see in garden centers. For this, I selected the best trees I could find in my garden and in the gardens of several friends to illustrate the book.

By the time I submitted the finished manuscript, I had finally learned that writing a book about bonsai basics was much harder than I’d ever imagined.

Thankfully, some friends, including Michael Hagedorn, identified areas for improvement along the way and helped me get the book into shape before it went to the publisher. It was these conversations, and the conversations that followed when Michael was working on Bonsai Heresy, that made it clear to me that it’s time for more good conversations about bonsai.

I expect we’ll have more to say about that in the future. In the meantime, here’s a link to Michael’s post about Bonsai Heresy on my blog. I recommend you check it out!

Jonas, Boon, and myself in Boon’s garden around 2001. I believe this was taken at Boon’s very first Bonsai Intensive.

Find reviews and copies of The Little Book of Bonsai at Bonsai Tonight.

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1 Comment

  1. Skipp Serrano says:

    Great another book on Bonsai. I’ll probably spend the money, if only for the read on something that has held my fascination for years. I’d like to see a Bonsai book that tells the reader in, simple terms, the importance of branch selection, why one branch must be the first branch. Why is this branch more desirable than this other branch.
    Maybe I just don’t grasp the abstraction but, my empirical thought process requires concrete basic understanding. Just as the nebari isupports the trunk, the trunk the branch, etc.,
    As I said, I’ll find and read the tome and still be fascinated by the living art Thais Bonsai.

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