Bonsai stock

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Bonsai stock

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:22 pm

We see a lot of people on the forum who post poor pathetic plants that will never be good Bonsai. Usually these are beginners who don't have a lot of money and really like plants. I try to be nice or just say nothing, but what I would really like to say is:

"Quit wasting your time and money on this junk. Spend some money and get a few good starter trees. In the long run I think you will be happier and less frustrated."

The late Ron Martin of South Carolina told me a long time ago that he never bought stock for himself worth less than $100.

I know to a young person just starting out with a wife, two kids, a dog and a cat, that sounds like a lot of money. But, what do you spend on one night out with your wife or date these days?

Go out one less time and spend the money and time on a quality tree. Invite the date or wife to help select the tree and work on it.

I am just trying to share something I have learned over many years in Bonsai.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Storm on Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:37 pm

I think its good that you say this Billy. I started out the same way, and bought tons of cheap S shaped trees for nothing. But still, I thought they looked nice back then. Some of my friends told me they thought it was insane of me to buy a pot for about 80$ once. But, as I said like you did; Thats the same amount that you've drunk for during the time out on town a half evening. While I was home with a crossword puzzle. Each to their own. Wink
But the nice thing with this cheap stuff, is that most likely, you will kill several trees at the start, and try out different techniques which will kill trees. Good thing it was 5$ and not 100$ trees.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sun Aug 21, 2011 11:06 pm

I think it was Guy Guidry of Louisiana and South Carolina that recommended buying 100, one gallon Junipers and working on them to learn technique.

And there is the saying that you must kill a 1000 trees to become a master, not sure I agree with that.

I just feel frustrated with some of the stock I see posted and trying to remain positive.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  GaryWood on Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:07 am

Billy, I truly empathize with you but for some there must be a learning curve. " You Just Don't Know What You Don't Know".
Wood

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Jim Doiron on Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:28 am

I'm pretty sure I am one of those that has posted a few of those "poor pathetic plants that will never be good Bonsai" and I am in exactly that place you speak of, "just starting out with a wife, two kids, a dog and a cat". I'm embarrassed to say however I am not really new to this just really slow to come up to speed. More than spending the money (which I also don't have) I don't have the time to dedicate to keeping a collection of $100 trees alive. I bought and lost a few of these in the last few years and it killed me because I had to choke down the cost then and now I have a couple hundred dollars worth of dead stumps. I think more than anything this last year or so I have tried to be a better collector of urban yamadori. I am more willing to search out owners of material and ask if I can dig things up. So far I haven't landed any real stellar material but I guess it has given me something to work with in the mean time (including learning to work through frustration). I think think we (my wife and I) are going to be in a better place in the near future with jobs and such meaning I might have more to spend and hopefully as the kids become a little more independent I will gain a little more time to keep things alive. Until then I continue to search for the great white yamadori that haunts my dreams.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  MrFancyPlants on Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:42 am

There is certainly a learning curve. I've been at it for a while, but am only recently getting my soil mixture right for my watering methods and climate. I have purchased a few pricey trees in the last few years, but in my collection right now all that I have are survivors. I am working my way up to it and and building my confidence for pricey material, but am not quite there yet. In the meantime I am planning to build a grow bed so that I can alternate years of ground and pot training with my immature material.

Although the exception and certainly not the rule, many fantastic bonsai come from humble origins such as detailed towards the end of this recent thread.

I am not in a hurry to have finished bonsai. I enjoy the peace that the process brings me. Pardon my curtness, but if it brings too much frustration to you to see sticks in pots then stay out of the questions section.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Gentleman G. on Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:30 am

I have quite a bit of poor stock, that's why I don't post many pictures... yet. When I started I didn't really know what to look for. All you veterans say look for something with good movement, nice branch placement, good nebari, etc., etc. But when you are eager to get some plants and start learning, everything has all of the right attributes Very Happy It wasn't until after I had been looking at pictures of bonsai (literally thousands) for months that I finally got it. And now that I do know what to look for, there aren't any bonsai nurseries in my immediate area. Plus, the local nurseries selections aren't always that great Sad So, rather than pay for a trip to a place that carries nice stock, then pay $100 for a stock tree (which I'm afraid I may kill), I figured I'd start of small. I don't think I've spent more than $400 on the 30-40 trees on my benches. Some have died, some look like they may be on their way out, but I know why and I've learned valuable lessons along the way. Now that I know what I'm doing, I plan on going to some bonsai nurseries and purchasing a nicer piece of stock soon. Some of my other "cheap" plants are coming along rather nicely too! May be ready for some pics soon, who knows? I do agree with what you're saying overall, as long as one has learned what to look for Very Happy


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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:53 am

Poor stock? you can always do something nice with any kind of tree if you know what you are doing...and then there's is the expensive stock worth a thousand bucks, It will always turn out looking cheap and poorly crafted bonsai if you do not know what you are doing.

So my suggestion for the beginners is save the money not for expensive starter trees but for very nice and informative books with lot of photos of good bonsai. If it is in you, you will learn and will become a good bonsai craftsman,, if it is not, no matter what you do or buy for that matter you will not be a good "craftsman"...(rude but true). I have seen some people here doing bonsai for almost their entire life but their best tree cannot match up with a beginners tree. (rude and true).

regards,
jun Smile

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:30 am

Depending on the newest technique I'm planning on trying, I may prefer cheap stock. If I screw it up it doesn't cost as much and I can really experiment on the nursery material.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  coh on Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:39 am

Quite the range of views!

I like the idea that you can "do something nice with any tree if you know what you're doing". Personally, as a beginner (about a year into this), I have to say that I often have as much trouble seeing what to do design-wise with good stock (> $100) as with cheap (Lowes type) stock. And even when I think I see what a tree should/could look like, there's still the issue of how to get there! That's where there's room for both kinds of stock - more expensive stuff that is further along with larger trunk and other desirable features, and the cheap stock where you can experiment without so much concern about losing the investment.

I'd rather see someone buy some cheap stock and post asking how to develop it, than the other posts where people buy "bonsai trees" from the mall and then ask "how do I take care of it?" It's a lot easier to research basic plant care than training techniques for a particular piece of material.

Chris

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  ponsmaldo on Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:38 am

here in the Philippines (specially in the province) $100 dollars is half a months wage Sad so I resort to hunting Very Happy sometimes though I buy non native species. but still far from a hundred dollars something for a beginner to work with and experiment on. No offense meant Smile .

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  my nellie on Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:51 am

May I...? Smile
Well, I have started making research and enquiries about the bonsai issue more than three years ago. So I am a beginner aged four years already.
I have started to experiment with live trees the last two years and I have bought some shohin bonsai trees as well as some prebonsai stock from abroad but also from locla nurseries.
A Greek friend of mine who has been doing bonsai for the last 25-30 years is always telling me: "Alexandra, do not waste your money here and there. Buy one or two nursery plants for implementation of techniques and save the amount for small bonsai into a piggy bank. Soon you will have the money needed to buy a decent tree from a nursery to work with"
I can confess with all my honesty that he was absolutely right. I have realized this after having made so many mistaken buys....
So now I am looking forward to a future tour to the nurseries of my territory since one cannot buy any yamadori locally. And buying a yamadori prebonsai from abroad without been there in person to look at it I think this is risky and becomes riskier also because we beginners we do not know how to keep a collected tree alive, at least I do not know. My opinion.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  JimLewis on Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:50 pm

Gosh, Billy . . . while I agree with you wholeheartedly, you need to look at some of the stuff posted on some of the OTHER bonsai sites; generally speaking, they make the bad stuff we see here look pretty good. But those are the folks we need to encourage if we're going to grow as a sport -- which is why I visit those places.

That, and many fewer egos to wrestle with . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Mon Aug 22, 2011 5:19 pm

But those are the folks we need to encourage if we're going to grow as a sport

And that is why I try to be nice or say nothing.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  gman on Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:12 pm

Like some others I do agree with you Billy and I have a lot of sticks in pots, HOWEVER they look completely different to many of the general public, who isn’t into this hobby. Example, I have a Vine maple forest that some (OK maybe many Very Happy )here would laugh at... but my daughter-in-law loves it, as it reminds her of an enchanted forest.
The other thing I would tell beginners is that these sticks in pots can and do provide a huge amount of learning opportunities ….even if they do die. I have many Mountain Hemlock (add in your highest number of local species in your collection) in my collection that will never be show trees but I’ve learnt how and when to repot, prune and wire them so that when I do purchase those at or over $100, I will know how to look after it. Cheers G

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Damienindesert on Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:17 pm

Thankfully, bonsai is an art. As such the practitioner is free to express whatever he or she wishes through, what is effectively, a sculpture using a live plant as a medium. As such your choice of philosophies, inspiration and aesthetic outcome are not only endless, but entirely yours. In short, no amount of arrogance can qualify someone to even hint that it is pathetic.

I have a few specimen trees, but they give me no less satisfaction than 'pathetic' seedlings climbing their first ascent to bonsai-dom. Perhaps some of us need to evaluate our reasons for practicing the art, and start drawing enrichment from every part of the process of transformation of our little trees.

The question of budget is a very valid one for many people, and should in no way be a prohibitive factor, as creativity and willingness for a challenge is as important, if not more so, than good material.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to self-satifaction.

If a bonsai, of any shape or form, is enjoyed by someone, than it is worth a tremendous amount more than material value.

Just my 10 cents (which I have spare because I only spent 10 dollars on my last tree albino )

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What do you want?

Post  Tony on Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:03 pm

The Question all members should ask themselves is "what do I want from my bonsai"

If all you wish to do is potter around in your garden and are happy that you are simply keeping a plant alive in a pot then continue with your 'pencils in pots'... THIS is NOT bonsai.

If attending your local club, comparing your trees with fellow club members, showing your trees at the town hall or local flower show makes you happy... that's fine... This is bonsai of sorts.

BUT if you want more than that... if you want to create bonsai that is world class... bonsai that is going to be included in major shows, bonsai that will feature in publications... then pencils in pots simply will not do!

I know of an IBC member that after visiting a major show in Europe he realised that he was not happy with the bonsai in his garden and that his 'mission' was to have a tree in THAT exhibition in the future.

I also know of folk who visit the same show and marvel at the trees on display... then go home to their pencils in pots. I can only guess that they believe that these 'wonders' are beyond their reach and they comfort themselves with that thought.

So... "What do you want?" if it is keeping a plant alive, or showing at a flower show... why are you here? Because Bonsai... REAL bonsai is so much more than that.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Damienindesert on Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:30 pm

Hi Tony.

Respectfully, I completely disagree. A 'pencil in a pot' could represent comlpetely different things to different people. If that pencil is a miniaturized tree, then it IS bonsai, whether or not it is to your liking. When art becomes comparitive, a chunk of it's credibility falls away with every generation.

That's not to take anything away from the grand, classical specimens we see in shows. Not at all.

At the end of it, aesthetics have no rules and each pair of eyes that view a given piece, will draw something different from the exercise. I love Salvador Dali's work, but don't have much time for Picasso. That's not to say that Picasso was a poor artist. It just means that I have a sense of aesthetics that leans more in favour of surrealism and less towards cubism.

Many amazing bonsai started life off as a pencil in a pot too. Imagine the gratification of looking at pictures of your pencil from 10 years back and seeing a well-formed little tree in the present.

I have two pencils in pots that are looking fabntastic! Not in comparison to anything in a show, but only in comparison to what they looked like last summer.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  coh on Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:41 pm

Thanks, I was trying to write up a reply to Tony's post but was having trouble putting the words together...your post expressed my thoughts pretty well!

I have also seen quite a few examples of currently US (maybe world) class trees that started as cuttings or seedlings. It may take 20, 30 years or more, but who's to say some of the trees being derisively referred to as "sticks in a pot" won't be world class someday? Might be good to get them out of bonsai pots and into larger grow pots, though!

Chris

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Tony on Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:37 pm

So Damien... what do you want? world class of or second class?

Because your pencil in a pot will NEVER be in a world class show... but you will be happy... and for you... that's OK

This is NOT a dig at you please do not take this the wrong way... BUT no bonsai in any European show in the last 15 years started life as a pencil in a pot. It may well have been a seedling...

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‎"Study me as much as you like, you will never know me, for I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see." — Rumi

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  fiona on Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:04 pm

I think there's something here that is being overlooked. Most of those who have posted here in defence of "sticks in pots" have by dint of what they have written acknowledged these trees to be inferior in quality. Leaving aside the financial or the useful for practising on arguments, the difference between us and the newbie posters is that we know these are poor quality trees; the newbie posters almost invariably think that what they have bought is a world-class tree.

In that light I think there is a faint glimmer of mileage in Billy's original point in terms of what we say to beginners. The forum has a very good informal educational function and I think one truly good thing we can do is let the beginner see that there is a world outside the £5 chinese elm. BUT, the trick is to do that in such a way that the beginner is then able to make his or her own choice as to what they want get from their bonsai. Then we come in with advice on how best they can achieve that - irrespective of how "high" or how "low" they set that aim.

Surely that way we all win?


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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  John Quinn on Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:10 pm

"BUT no bonsai in any European show in the last 15 years started life as a pencil in a pot. It may well have been a seedling... "
I think most would lump 'seedlings' into the stick in a pot category, but that may just be semantics.

"why are you here?"...I think most are here because they are enchanted by really good bonsai, but may not yet realize how to get there. And some will not have the inclination to devote the time and resources to achieving that goal either. They should still feel welcome.

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  tim stubbs on Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:26 pm

I agree with Tony , but have to admit I did buy the £5 chinese elm from morrisons (coz i lost the last one in the winter) and the £8 podocarpus (coz i never had one before) and they wont make a show , but i am prepared to save up a months wages to buy a good piece that will be good enough some time to do a big show in the future , and together with the work in progress trees i have , someone better than me will say its right to go to the show

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Tony on Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:19 am

John Quinn wrote:"why are you here?"...I think most are here because they are enchanted by really good bonsai, but may not yet realize how to get there. And some will not have the inclination to devote the time and resources to achieving that goal either. They should still feel welcome.

I second that emotion John, I have a firm belief that starting with good material, timely instruction and the patience to see it through most can achieve truly fantastic bonsai.

If I were training to be a chef I would cook with the very best produce, the freshest meat and learn from a Master Chef... I would not source my ingredients from a garbage can... why should Bonsai be any different?

One day this will be a great bonsai?... not in my lifetime No


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‎"Study me as much as you like, you will never know me, for I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see." — Rumi

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Re: Bonsai stock

Post  Eastern Bonsai on Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:39 am

Billy,

I would have to disagree. We have all started somewhere, and mostly with cheap trees. I would rather test new techniques on cheap trees than on expensive pre-bonsai. After all once you go to a nursery and mention the word Bonsai prices go up. I see you posted a large Simpsons Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), I hope you didn't pay 100.00 for it. There is not much taper. I think alot of us would be delighted to see a photo off your collection.

Regards,
Abe


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