How Czechia Flattened the Curve (Maybe, Hopefully)

Our current prime minister has been in the past often criticized as akin to Donald Trump re: conflict of interests and use of state resources to enrich himself and his family. And rightly so in my opinion, I cannot stand the man personally and politically.

However, when SARS-CoV-2 hit the Czech Republic, he, unlike Donald Trump, has done the right thing. In response to the pandemic, he has left decisions on the policy to actual epidemiology experts from the very beginning. Thus when CZ had mere 116 cases, 12 days after the first three on March 1., he declared a state of national emergency and just two days later virtually everything was put on hold except the absolute bare minimum (grocery stores, delivery services, apothecaries and some more). It was criticized by the opposition (our equivalent of US conservatives) as needless panic-making and fearmongering and the measures as needlessly draconian and a PR for himself and his party. Especially the order of mandatory face masks (home-made and improvised masks are allowed) was met with scorn.

On March 18. I have taken the data of confirmed cases so far, plotted them on a graph and calculated the best-fit exponential curve. It was at a daily increase of 39%, an effective doubling every two-three days, approsimately the same trajectory it has had all over Europe. This growth meant we should have over 140.000 cases today, but we, luckily, do not. We have less than 5.000. Howso?

Look at this graph:

The red curve is the actual cumulative cases as reported every day at midnight. The blue curve is the exponential best fit that I have calculated on March 18. And then there is the orange curve, which is also an exponential best-fit but only for the last week from March 28. to April 3. You can see that the two best-fit lines intersect on March 21.-22.

That is, in my opinion, the day when the enacted measures started to have a visible effect – eight to ten days after they were enacted. I do not know whether I am doing the right thing here mathematically – I have dabbled in statistics at work, but not in epidemiology – but it does seem right to me.

The new rate of growth is still exponential, but instead of 38% daily it is 8% daily. And although the difference between multiplying the cases daily by 1,08 instead of 1,39 does not intuitively look like much, it means the doubling of the cases is prolonged from mere 2-3 days to 10-11 days. Still not enough for an illness that can take up to 6 weeks to heal and kills 1% of infected people, but a very noticeable drop.

And AFAIK that drop is not due to insufficient testing. Testing has grown proportionally, although still not as much as it perhaps should have. But the ratio between positive/negative tests is getting lower, and that indicates that the drop in overall cases is real.

Now there is certainly much more to it than this oversimplified graph. For example, Germany took longer to enact strict active measures, relatively speaking. That is, CZ government enacted nation-wide strict measures when we had just several hundred people ill, whilst the German government did leave many decisions to individual states and instead of strict orders tried to control the situation with recommendations only at first. This has led to a bit of inconsistent reaction and different measures being enacted (and ignored by people) in different states. It worked, but not as much as was desired. Strong nation-wide measures started being implemented only when there were several thousand people ill already- at about the same time as in CZ. And at about the same weekend the curve began to break in Germany as well.

It was similar in Italy too, there the curve began to break at around March 15. (only estimated, I did not calculate the fit curves for Italy, I am doing this in OpenOffice and that is not the best program for this kind of work), about two weeks after the most-hit municipalities were put on lock-down.

Another quick analysis that can be done just by looking at the numbers – In Italy, it took 22 days for the cases to grow from about 100 to 20.000. In Germany, it took 24 days, in Spain 18 days, in UK and France 25 days and in the USA 20 days. The Czech Republic is now 24 days from its 100th case and we are nowhere near 20.000.

So even these amateurish and quick&dirty analyses show that quick reaction, regardless of what the nay-sayers say, is essential in avoiding the worst in case of an epidemic. The enacted measures work as intended. I only hope that our government and our people do not relax too soon.

Stay safe, stay at home whenever possible, and fingers crossed for you and your loved ones.

YouTube Video: I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike

I have a hate-hate relationship with all professional sports*, especially with zero-sum competitions. Apparently even that IMO shitty environment can be made even shittier for women by men who have no clue but wield a lot of power.

This video spoke to me for some reason.

*In short, they are unhealthy and they more often than not foster self-harm, tribalism, and abuse.

TNET 38 – Brooklyn 99

Previous thread.

Thanks to the wisdom of YouTube algorithm, I found out about the show Brooklyn 99 recently, and I have been watching it a lot. As far as LGBTQ representation in media goes, this is the best I have ever seen and I highly recommend it as the ultimate “woke” show. It shows that it is possble to make humor involving LGBTQ people without them being the butt of the jokes.

Open thread, talk whatever you want, just don’t be an a-hole.

Bonsai for Beginners – Part 6 – Where to get your first tree

Previus post.

Where you should get your first tree, and what kind of tree should it be, depends on where you live, where you want to keep it and what experience you have. I am living in a temperate climate and therefore my personal experience is limited to the plants that grow around here plus some subtropical and tropical plants that I grow indoors. I also have very limited – and universally negative – experience with Australian flora, so, unfortunately, I cannot give too much info about that. But whatever I write here should be applicable throughout Eurasia and North America.

So first thing first – where you should get your first tree? If you have indoor plants, you should first look whether you have a suitable plant already that could perhaps be converted to bonsai. There is plenty of commonly grown indoor potted plants that are also suitable bonsai species. Two of my most impressive and valuable trees were converted from 40 years old plants that my mother grew.

If you have a garden and want to have an outdoor bonsai, then I would recommend using local species or some decorative species that you might already have. You can either try and take a twig and plant it – many species take root easily – or look around your garden for a seedling that started to grow where it should not have, perhaps too close to a hedge or similar.

Such plants have a huge advantage over anything that you buy in that you can be reasonably sure that they can prosper in the environment you can provide for them and you might already know how to care for them.

Do not buy anything that has “bonsai” in the name. Neither a good expensive tree nor one of the mass-produced cheap ones in supermarkets. In the first case, you probably would not be able to take proper care of the tree yet, and in the second case you would not be buying a bonsai but a crippled plant that can become one in a few years at the best, or will die soon no matter what you do at worst. The cheapo “bonsai” from supermarkets can be a good source of twig cuttings for your own planting though, sometimes it is the only way to get your hands on certain species. And absolutely never buy “bonsai kit”. There is no such thing as bonsai seeds. Those are ordinary tree seeds in fancy packaging and without proper care will, therefore, grow into ordinary trees – if they germinate at all.

Do not poach trees in the forest or on someone else’s property. There are environmentally friendly and IMO morally OK ways to do it – for example trees that grow near train tracks or roads and are periodically cut down for maintenance because they are a weed – but it is still illegal and you should not do it without the permission of the property owner. And then there is, of course, the morally reprehensible poaching in parks and mountain forests. In Japan poaching of trees for commerce has lead to significant environmental damage in mountainous areas for example. Yup, the Japanese are not above commercializing their heritage and destroying their environment in due course. And to poach a tree without it dying requires a lot of experience, take my word for it.

If you lack suitable species at home and cannot find anything in your garden and therefore must buy something, then buy plants of suitable species at your local gardening store. Look for plants that do not have overtly visible scars from grafting and are healthy and with a bit of luck, you can find a tree that can be converted into a bonsai within one-two years.

And here a very short and incomplete list of species/genera, in three categories. The taxa are listed in no particular order from the top of my head. I only write about species/genera that I have personal experience with or can reasonably extrapolate to from closely related taxa. And because English tree nomenclature is a complete nonsensical mess, I will only use Latin names.

  1. Ideal for a beginner:
    Indoor – Myrthus communis, Hibiscus sp., Laurus nobilis, Fuchsia sp., Crassula ovata, Serissa foetida, Adonium obesum, Punica granatum
    Outdoor – Acer sp., Betula sp., Larix sp.,  Ulmus sp., Taxus sp., Ligustrum sp., Buxus sp., Carpinus sp., Tilia sp.
  2. Not ideal, but still suitable with caveats:
    Indoor – Ficus sp., Euphorbia milli, Portulacaria afra, Olea europaea
    Outdoor – Juniperus sp., Thuja sp. Cupressus sp., Chamaecyparis sp., Thujopsis sp., Pinus sp., Fagus sp. Malus sp., Prunus sp., Illex sp. Cedrus sp., Tamarix sp., Crataegus sp.,
  3. Not suitable for a beginner at all:
    Indoor – Podocarpus sp., Eucalyptus sp., Annona sp., Citrus sp., Camelia sp., Cuphea hissopifolia
    Outdoor – Picea sp., Fraxinus sp., Salix sp., Populus sp. Vitis vinifera, Forsythia sp., Corylus sp., Visteria sp., Calluna vulgaris, Vaccinium sp., Azalea sp., Rhododendron sp., Sambucus sp., Hedera helix

Each of these taxa may get their own extra article in due course. I will start with some of the most suitable ones.

A Walnut Collecting Thingamajig

Collecting walnuts is a really unpleasant chore each fall. For a week or so we have to pick up several hundred walnuts each day from the ground and put them into a bucket, putting a big strain on back and legs. Two years ago I have improvised a little thingy that makes this work a lot easier, and this year I have perfected the design and made two pieces.

It © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is nothing complicated, just a ladle with a very, very long handle. The handle should be so long that when you hold it against the ground at a comfortable angle where you can scoop up the walnut, it should be almost balanced at the point where you hold it, just a few cm before your hand. That way it requires almost no strength to manipulate and you can pick up the walnuts from the ground and put them into a bucket with minimal effort. It works so well that even my mother was able to do it even though she cannot walk around without a cane anymore.

The first prototype was made from a tin can and an aluminum pipe for window curtains, the second prototype was an old soup ladle with an old broom handle.

For the final version, I bought two cheap stainless steel ladles with flat handles. Then I took two willow branches, stripped them from bark and let them dry for a few days indoors over the radiator. When they were sufficiently dry, I have scraped and sandpapered them to a smooth surface finish so there are no splinters anywhere.

There are several options on how to fix the ladle to the end of the stick. I have simply cut about 15 cm slit into the thinner end of the sticks it and I also cut a piece of pipe that fits snugly around it. Then I inserted the ladle handle into the pipe, then into the cut in the stick and I hammered the pipe over the stick as a bolster. It does not need to be super strong, just strong enough to hold the ladle in place. Should it ever get loose, it should be possible to fasten it either by hammering the pipe further up the stick or by inserting a wedge.

As a final touch, I have screwed two steel hooks on the end so I can hang it in the shed, and I covered it with linseed oil to protect against moisture.

I have chosen willow, because it is extremely light and porous, dries up quickly and is for me relatively easy to get at appropriate size. But you could also buy shovel handles for this if you decide to make your own. They will be slightly heavier, but they will work. Broom handles would work too, but they are straight, and that is not optimal.

As you can see, these sticks are not straight, they have a slight bend to them, just as a shovel handle does. This helps a bit because the ladle naturally balances to a position where the nut stays in it. So you only need to exert force when picking up something, or tipping it out, not to keep it in. But one of the sticks was not only bent but downright crooked in all kinds of directions. And I did not guess the balance correctly when cutting the groove for the ladle handle on that one. That one tended to twist in the hand, causing it to not function comfortably.

So I had to re-shape it.

In case you ever need to correct a bend in a piece of wood, here is the most minimalist way:

1) Fix the piece of wood to your table or in a vice near the portion where you want to bend it, with one end freely accessible.

2) Hang some weight on the end of the stick and make any adjustments so it bends the stick in the desired direction. Here you can see me using a bucked and two bricks with a rope. That also allows me to regulate the extent to which the wood will bend – when the bucket rests on the ground, bending stops.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

3) Wrap the area where you want to bend the stick with a towel – paper or cloth, does not matter – soaked in water. Really soaked, water should drip from it. Then wrap the towel tightly with tinfoil, but do not squeeze the water out of it.

4) Try and build something around the tinfoil that will help to keep hot air to hold in place there for a bit. Here you can see me improvising with fireclay bricks and a piece of aluminum profile.

5) Heat carefully the tinfoil with either heat gun or propane torch at least until hot water starts boiling and dripping out of it around the edges and then some more. With a heat gun at 550°C it took me about two minutes. The wood gets soft and pliable under the foil and as long as it is hot, it can be bent a lot more than it would normally be without cracking.

6) You can either let it cool wrapped or if you are in a hurry, remove the foil and wet towels without burning yourself. The wood cools quickly and when it does, it will retain most of its new shape.

7) Repeat on different parts of the stick as many times as it takes to get it right.

Making Kitchen Knives – Interlude 2 – Picklin’ Scales

Today I took a bit of time and I have chosen and cut to size some wood for the handle scales. Among the species that I have chosen for this experiment are: Black locust, Cherry, Jatoba, Black elder, Larch, Oak and some unknown semi-rotten wood, probably birch.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Because the purpose of this project is to gather information, I have taken all these various pieces of wood and I have given them into a jar with a mixture of ammonia and alcohol. I have written about this process before as “ammonia fuming”. The ammonia reacts with acidic lignin compounds in the wood and thus artificially ages it. In some woods the effect is really subtle – and I already know that using it for maple is a waste of resources – but on some woods, it can be really profound by giving the wood significantly darker and richer color. Oak should get almost ebony black after a few days. The rule of thumb is that if the wood has differently colored heartwood, then it is worth a try.

Some color will leech out into the solution, as you can see already (it was not a fresh solution), but that should not be a problem, it will not seep into the wood itself any more than any other pigment would. What is important here is the chemical reaction, if the wood does not react with the ammonia, it won’t change color significantly no matter what.

Ideally, only ammonia fumes would be used, with the sitting wood above the solution. But I cannot do that comfortably yet, for that I will have to make a grit of sorts that I can put into the jar. If I will ever bother, because whilst that process is a bit safer, it is a lot slower.

That is why I have added alcohol to the solution. It reduces the swelling of the wood during the soaking and subsequently reduces shrinkage and risk of cracks when drying. Plus it makes the subsequent drying a bit faster. That is something that I have tested already on two pieces of fresh birch which I have subsequently put away somewhere in my wood stash and now I cannot find them.

I will take the pieces out of the solution after a few days and let them dry outside for a bit (they stink like hell as you can probably imagine). Then we shall see what has happened to which wood. Some effects can already be seen after a few hours.

Bonsai Tree – Well, Thats Officialy Weird…

Previous Post.

Today, the terminal bud started definitively growing. There is no longer any doubt that it is alive and that last years’ growth did not go down the drain. Persimmon seeds are rare, so I am a bit fussier about this tree than I am for example about pomegranates or hibiscuses. So these last two weeks I was worried that the terminal bud is dead.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

However, I did not worry that the tree itself is dead. Because it did, in fact, begin to grow just one day after my last post. Only it did not start to grow at the tip. It sprouted a second trunk near the base. Which grows slowly, but steadily, ever since. This week the leaves started to get bigger and I have started to turn the plant 90° clockwise daily in order to achieve straight growth.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

However, this is not something that I expected. From pictures on the internet I have assumed that Diospyros kaki are small to medium-sized trees with strong apical dominance, akin to apples or pear trees. But this type of growth, where new suckers start growing at the root base and outpace in growth the main stem is usually the domain of shrubs and bushes, like the common hazel Corylus avellana. And even there it usually does not happen during the second year already, it usually takes a few years to establish the main stem first.

I can only speculate about the cause, so here goes: The root-trimming stopped the inhibition of one of the two buds at the base of cotyledons. Those remained underground in this plant, unlike for example in apple, where they rise above the ground. And since cotyledons are modified leaves, they have buds at their base, only those are usually extremely inhibited and do not start growing unless the main stem is damaged.

This gives me some information about the plant.

First, I will see next year what the root system looks like, but this might mean I will get multiple plants out of this, or one plant with multiple stems. Or that it will be very difficult to get bonsai out of this plant at all because the plant has insufficient apical dominance for that.

Second and more important – it means this species should be strong enough to handle even severe trimming and should be able to start growing even from older wood from extremely inhibited buds. That is, in fact, a very good property in a bonsai tree, because those might need to be scaled back occasionally by trimming several years old branches.

So while this was really unexpected and it is a bit weird, It is not bad news and it makes me hopeful that it will go well. We’ll see how the growth pattern develops from now on, I won’t interfere with the trees shape for at least a year at all.

Making Kitchen Knives – Part 15 – Tumble Time!

I was on and off working on this project in February. I have filled my tumbler with very fine sand (one that is used to fill in the spaces between concrete pavement bricks) and walnut shells and I polished the blades with increasing grit belts, then I stuck them into the tumbler for a day or two until I thought I can get the scratches all out after 12 hours evaluation.

It was still more time consuming than I would like to, mostly because many blades were ever so slightly bent, a problem that I really hope to solve with plate quenching in the future. On a bent blade, the concave part gets polished quickly, but the convex is a pain in the ass.

So I progressed slowly and at 150 grit I stopped, thinking that the fine sand can take the scratches out in time. It did, however, it took over a week in the tumbler, so next time I will go probably somewhere around 240 or perhaps even 320 grit before going to the tumbler. The blades did have a nice sand-blasted like look to them, so they were de-facto good to go functionally, but I thought they might be still improved by putting them in the tumbler some more. So I did, into a mixture of jeweler’s rouge (Fe2O3 powder) and crushed walnut shells. And I was right, they have now a very nice satin finish that I think is perfect for kitchen knives.

A mirror polish can be a bit sticky, so for kitchen knives, it is not the best option. I will see how sticky this polish is in a bit, but it looks good. Unfortunately, pictures do not give it justice, I won’t even try.

Time-wise, I have spent about 110 minutes per blade with this polishing process to achieve this result. So an improvement of 58%, but with a different look in the end.

Here is the blade line-up from worst to best:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The first left blade has a slight crack on the edge. Not from the tumbler – that would be possible, but it did not happen – but from the one time where I forgot that the blades are drying on a rug and I took it to wipe my hands. All twelve fell to the floor and this one cracked near the edge and will have to be re-ground to a different shape – I do not know which yet. It was also one of the curly ones and that might have played a role too.

The second blade from the left would be perfectly OK if I did not mess it up. There is a place about 1/3 from the tip where I run accidentally not over the edge of the platen but over the corner. I nearly ground through the blade there, making an unseemly spot where it is paper-thin. I will probably prototype this to a much smaller blade, like a peeling knife. A lesson for the future.

The third and fourth are the remaining two of the curly-wavy blades. One will be re-shaped into a fish gutting/filleting knife for my uncle, one will remain an all-purpose kitchen knife, only with a slightly narrower blade than intended. It will be more similar to the knife I gave my mom and my brother.

The next five blades have a slight bend to the right side that I was unable to straighten out. They will be functional, but cutting straight will be a bit difficult, so not ideal for bigger things like cabbage, but still OK for carrots, leeks and onions, and sausages.

The last three are what I intended to achieve. 25% success rate – a disaster. But I am still learning, so hopefully next batch comes out better.


“It is just a flu” Should Never be Comforting Phrase in the First Place

I do not know whether this applies to the anglophone world, but in Germany, and to the same extent in CZ, “flu” and “cold” are treated as more or less synonymous. And because the common cold is, well, common, most people when they say they came down with flu, what they really want to say is they had/have a bad case of the common cold.

One of my former colleagues thus thought that flu is something trivial and she always disparaged me when I said that flu is a serious illness and not something to be flippant about. I do not know how she managed to live for over thirty years and get herself a kid without encountering real flu, but she was among the lucky ones in this regard I guess. A healthy, strong woman in her thirties.

But in 2008 her luck ran out. In the morning she came to work as normal, but just mere two hours later she began to have fever and chills and got a splitting headache. She excused herself from work at noon and went home and did not return for two weeks.

When she came back, a rare thing happened – she acknowledged that she was wrong and I was right in our previous discussions about this. She just had a case of real flu and for a few days during that time, she actually feared for her life, because there were times when the fever made her see double and she was barely able to go the loo.

It is a sad reality that some people – I dare say many people – actually, really need to experience some hardship first hand to be able to believe it is real. Be it flu, or poverty, or discrimination.

When some people were saying that Covid-19 is just another flu in a derogatory and dismissive way, I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly strained them. Even if Covid-19 were just a new strain of flu, a new strain of flu would be terrifying. Even old and established strains of flu can be terrifying when they encounter an unvaccinated person who never got flu before.

“It’s just another flu” should have been a call to arms, not a placating head pat, even if it were true.

Bobbin Lace Moth

Go big or go home. I have drawn and then made a bobbin lace moth of a little advanced design.

First I browsed the net for inspiration and I looked at especially the beautiful saturniid moths and then I made a sketch, with a biro on paper.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I scanned the sketch and in Photoshop I went through several modifications and experiments with color. In the end, I have drawn a template which I subsequently printed out. I forgot to draw in the positions for pins this time, so hopefully, I won’t forget next time, because it was a pain in the ass to get the pins symmetrically.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The next step was, of course, the work itself. I did not time it precisely, but I worked on it this whole week from Monday till today, so I estimate it at somewhere around 30 hours. The outer parts of the wings were very time consuming, each side took me about 8 hours. It is 20 bobbins lace after all. Here you can see the work in progress, as it was today a few hours before the finish line.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The last step was to frame it. We do not have too many fabrics that could be used for background, but from those that we do have a shiny grey worked best.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Learning Bob in Lace

Since I could not work too much in the workshop and the garden, I have decided to learn how to make bobbin lace from my mother. It is a bit frustrating because as much as I love my mom, she is terrible at explaining things. But I have learned how to make lace as a kid, and once forgotten things are easier to learn again, so I have succeeded somewhat and I have learned two basic lace-making techniques.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

These are bookmarks. The green leaves are meant to stick out of the book. I have decided to learn by making these because they are a bit useful whilst being enough boring to learn the necessary muscle-memory. And the eleven curves were excellent exercise – that part took three times as long as the straight part.

The red and blue ones are made with technique “plátno” (canvas). I started with the red ones, that s why those have three different colors in them, so I can easier keep tracks of the various threads. On the blue ones, I was more confident so the body is made entirely of blue with just the outer line white. The yellow ones are made with technique “polohod” (half-throw) and are the last ones I have made. I already knew sort-of what to expect and the colors were chosen for the looks.

In order to keep my hands functioning, I will have to interrupt knife-making and gardening with easier tasks, and bobbin lace seems to be a good fit. It can be interrupted at almost any time, it is easier than drawing or painting, it can be done whilst watching a movie and once prepared it can be done either just a few minutes a day or a few hours a day, whatever one can fit into the schedule. And it does not strain fingers, which is why my mother could continue doing it even after having metacarpal bones in both thumbs destroyed by arthritis to the point they had to be replaced by plastic ones.

Only now I have nine bookmarks without actually needing more than one. Well, I have more knives than I need too…

Bonsai for Beginners – Part 5 – Last Bit of Tree Physiology (possibly)

Previous post.

You didnae thunk I was done, didya?

I talked about the influence of apical dominance on tree buds, I talked about types of growth, but I did not talk about tree buds themselves. So let’s do that now.

Not all tree buds are created equal. As written in the last article, in some trees the buds are just small leaf-precursors bunched up together, in some trees they are covered by modified leaves to protect them during winter and in some trees they contain thus hidden precursors to whole twigs. However, there is more, much more, to them than even that.

You have probably noted that most buds form at the base of leaves and needles, but that is not the only place where they form. They can occasionally also form on injuries, from the meristematic tissue, just like roots can in some plants. And while the buds that form at leaf bases, but do not develop because they are inhibited by apical dominance sometimes may lose their ability to grow altogether, but in many trees, they can be re-activated and start growing under the right conditions. In some trees, buds can even form on roots, and that is where suckers come from – and those can be pretty annoying.

As a beginner, you are best off with plants that have at least one of these two properties – either forming meristemic buds on injuries or waking inhibited buds. They are both godsent. Plants without these properties can be grown as bonsai, and indeed are grown as bonsai, but they require often specific approach and advanced techniques.

The reason for this is simple – contrary to what I found to be a popular belief, bonsai do not grow slowly and keep their shape. They do grow slower than they would normally, but this is achieved in part by cutting the roots and by cutting the twigs. When you stop pruning your bonsai, in a few years you get a huge mess (which many people find out when they buy the mass-produced little trees sold as bonsai in supermarkets). And when you plant it in free soil and stop pruning, in a few years you get a normal-sized tree. This means that bonsai get bigger each year, but you once they reach the size you want, you need to keep them near that size for a long time. And that means occasionally having to cut back to older wood, removing twigs and branches and growing new ones in their stead. In some plants, this can only be achieved by grafting.

That is, unfortunately, another strike against coniferous trees, especially pines and spruces. I have seen what seemed like a revived old-tree bud sprout from a spruce trunk, but it is a rare occurrence that I think happens only under very exceptional circumstances. On a pine that cannot happen at all.

That is still not all. There is more to tree buds than that.

Many trees are grown as bonsai not for the beauty of their foliage, but for their blossoms. But trees often require special conditions in order to form blossoming buds. Sometimes it is given by the age of the tree, sometimes by the position of a tree-bud on the twig, sometimes by both and some more like the temperature in winter etc. This issue is quite species-specific and cannot be summed up succinctly.

So for a beginner, the best option is trees that can grow back from older wood and that are not grown for their flowers but for their leaves/needles. That does not mean however that you should avoid other plants altogether, it only means that once you start seeing any success with those, you are no longer a beginner.

Next, I will write where to get your first tree and write a short list of species/genera suitable for beginners. Later on, I will write about each of those in more detail.