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 Post subject: Profile: Wolfgang Putz
PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 6:43 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Member Profile: Wolfgang Putz
Photograph by Robert Barth

Austrian, Wolfgang Putz, is an accomplished bonsai artist and cultivates many species of flowering and decorative plants besides bonsai. Wolfgang is a remarkable presence in the world of bonsai, his work with kusamono and bonsai is recognized and respected around the globe. He has been published in many English and German publications, won numerous awards, and is an active collector of yamadori. His gallery of kusamono here at the Art of Bonsai project highlights his talent for this art form.

*The following is an on-line interview conducted with Wolfgang Putz:

AoB: How did you get started in bonsai and who was your teacher or teachers?

Wolfgang: During my studies as garden- and landscape architect at the Horticultural College in Vienna, Austria, I had the chance to visit the Alpine Rock Garden of the Belvedere Castle (Vienna) in 1984. There by chance I found the state-run bonsai collection and for the first time in my life saw a bonsai. I was impressed so deeply that I started to collect deer-grazed beeches and hornbeams the following fall. I planted them into common flat flower pots which were really meant as coasters. By making a serious mistake during over wintering I lost my whole collection in 1989. But I started to collect again right away. In 1994 finally I was infected incurably by the bonsai virus. I began to collect larches, spruce and mugo pines in the Austrian Alps. Then I extended my collection with imported trees which I partially traded and nursery grown raw material plus the stuff collected in the mountains to end up with about 200 to 250 trees by now. I would not call most of my trees bonsai though, the majority are modest small trees with some potential. That this assessment is correct I could clearly see e.g. at the recent Gingko Award exhibitions 2003 and 2005 in Belgium.

It is very important to constantly care for your trees and continuously maintain and improve them. Personal education with seminars and workshops helped me or rather still help me a lot. I worked with Manfred Roth, Pius Notter, Angel Mota, Serge Clemence, Gerhard Vorderwuelbecke, Kazuichi Kokubo, Juergen Zaar, and Othmar Auer. One always stays student when learning about bonsai.

Aob:[/color] What changes have you seen since then?

Wolfgang: In 2001 I started an educational curriculum with Othmar Auer from Brixen, Italy, which takes several years. Othmar Auer was educated by Hideo Suzuki as student of "Scuola D'Arte Bonsai" which is a subsidiary of the bonsai school of master Hamano from Omiya, Japan. This multi-year curriculum teaches the foundations and rules of Japanese bonsai styling. I realized very quickly that such a well-founded education is substantially more instructive than a five hour workshop at a Saturday afternoon.

AoB: You also are an avid collector of rocks and minerals and your collection of such is quite extensive. Has this passion effected the way you see bonsai and it's relationship to bonsai pottery?

Wolfgang: No, I can not see a relation to my bonsai hobby. Already as a small boy I was fascinated by the glittering crystals and began to collect rocks and minerals. Since about two years I'm into collecting petrified wood. As trained gardener I am fascinated by the fossil remnants of plants; some of these used to grow 300 million years ago on our planet. This passion for collecting is simply another one of my hobbies which I mostly practice in the winter months. The summer months belong wholly to my garden!
Photograph by Robert Barth

AoB: You have degrees in horticulture and garden and landscape design, how has this helped you in bonsai and would you recommend similar education for all those interested in bonsai?

Wolfgang: My education as garden designer which took five years and my job as landscaper gardener facilitate the handling of plants and trees tremendously. Many things I take for granted as gardener while laymen or non-gardeners find insolvable puzzles there. I must laugh every year, not gleefully really, when I hear that someone has re-potted three trees in none Saturday afternoon, while I re pot 50 - 70 bonsai in one weekend.

AoB: Wolfgang, you are an avid collector of wild trees for bonsai use. In your opinion, is there one particular species that is more suitable for this treatment? Why?

Wolfgang: Every collector of yamadori trees has his preferred species. It depends on personal experience and personal liking an also on the possibilities to find a suitable collecting area. I personally prefer to collect pines (mugo and Austrian black pine), Norway spruce, and European larch because I find these trees in my surrounding area, the Austrian Alps.

AoB: You are highly regarded as an expert with Yamadori, what advice would you give the person who is just starting to collect from the wild?

Wolfgang: Collecting of trees in the wilderness is strictly only permissible with a permit of the land owner or the forest service. National parks and protected areas are absolutely OFF LIMITS for collecting trees. A precondition is responsible handling of nature. Like it is terrible to go for a mountain hike in summer and tear out trees which are going to die anyway. In addition one must have the appropriate gardening experience. Otherwise one becomes a tree murderer in spite of all the well meaning excitement.
With great horror I watch the development of collecting trees in the wild in recent years. Hundreds of trees are being ripped out in spring and fall in the mountains every year. Only a tiny portion of these survive. Whole mountain sides are plowed though and cut off branches and roots of the collected trees remain next to the big open holes. Due to this depletion I expect prohibition of collecting trees for the whole Alpine region in the future.

AoB: Do you have any memorable collecting moments, humorous, dangerous, or otherwise?.

Wolfgang: Collecting trips in the high mountains are a great experience every time! Because of the extremely exposed locations of such trees caution is always called for. At one tour I was really lucky when I tumbled over a steep cliff and have not hurt myself seriously. Since then I never go all by myself anymore and often safeguard myself with climbing rope and lap belt.

AoB: In your opinion, besides those that are uncollectible, are there trees that should be left in the wild?

Wolfgang: By all means! There are trees which absolutely cannot be collected or brought back to the car safely. Under no circumstances one should rip out these because they would not survive anyway. I know many such trees which I leave where they are or rather have to leave. I visit them on my collecting tours, admire them and take photographs.
Photograph by Marguerite Baumann

AoB: Your reputation in the bonsai scene precedes you. How many hours each week do you devote to the art?

Wolfgang: I spend every available minute of my leisure time from spring to fall in my bonsai garden. I don't count the hours because this activity is not considered work but rather a wonderful balance to my professional work. In addition the personal contact to bonsai colleagues in many European countries is very important and I constantly visit exhibits and private gardens for that. But I count as bonsai friends artists and practitioners from South Africa, Canada, USA, and New Zealand. This thread of friendship goes around the whole world. Also for this reason bonsai is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HOBBY ON EARTH!

AoB: If you could only teach one thing to aspiring bonsai artists, what would that be?

Wolfgang: Patience, patience and patience again!
Bonsai is not a short term affair for 2 to 3 years. It is a long term project which you should plan several decades for.

AoB: How would you rate the current state of bonsai in your country and where do you see the art 50 years from now?

Wolfgang: That's difficult to say. In Austria there are about 250 members in local bonsai societies. But there is only a handful of folks who work with bonsai intensely. I will wait and let the future surprise me.

AoB: You have a huge collection of accent plants and Kusamono, what is your favorite species to use? Why?

Wolfgang: I am working intensely with accent plants and own around 250 of them. Among them more than 120 dwarf hosta, many sempervivum species, Japanese ferns, dwarf grasses. Hosta impress me because of their varying foliage shapes and colors as well as for their flowers.

The arrangement of an appealing bonsai garden and a well done presentation of may trees and accent plants always was an important aim for me. Therefore I seek stimulation in many bonsai gardens and books. I rearranged my garden often in the past years. Accent plants should be in every bonsai garden.

Photograph by Walter Pall

AoB: Your accent plants and Kusamono in your gallery here at AoB are truly inspiring, what would you say was the most important consideration in composing a planting?

Wolfgang: When combining several different plants it is important to mind the height of the arrangement (this is similar to ikebana) and the selection of plants which stand next to each other because of the same demands. One must avoid mixing plants which require a lot of moisture with plants from arid origins. Also plants which require widely different pH should not be planted together. Examples of suitable combinations are e.g. shadow loving plants with bog plants and of grasses with thymus.

Very important is the existence of moss on the surface. The moss looks "old", and it conveys maturity as well as it covers the "dirty" soil, as the Japanese say. The required maturity of an accent plant is reached only after many years of cultivation, just like with a bonsai tree.

Hosta and other small shrubs in pots are not always classical accent plants for the traditional Japanese bonsai presentation. Often these plants are loosening up the bonsai exhibit and decorate with their wonderful foliage and flowers.

AoB: What is your definition of bonsai?

Wolfgang: Since the standard definition of bonsai ? 'tree in a pot' , should be well known by everybody, here is my personal view:

Bonsai must not degenerate into an Asian martial art! It is not about designing the most beautiful, best, and spectacular tree. It is about intensive, responsible activity with this treelike creatures. Our short lived time leads us to accomplish everything within the shortest period of time. Way too often one starts too soon after collecting a tree with the design because they want to present the half way finished bonsai as soon as possible at a big exhibit. Where is the reverence for these old crippled trees? Such a living creature has a right to acclimatise after collecting for several years and to gain vigor. Only after that a tree can be styled and structured over several years to become a bonsai. We owe this to the trees. Think about it!

Photograph by Walter Pall

*Translated from Wolfgang's native German by Walter Pall

 Post subject: A true dedicated lover of bonsai.
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:28 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 6:16 am
Posts: 89
As always, it is a pleasure reading about Wolfgang, as well as observing his fine work. A true dedicated lover of bonsai.

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