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Bonsai Banter Issue # 034-New Beginnings
January 03, 2013

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New Beginnings

As I was preparing this issue of Bonsai Banter, I received a request from Texas bonsai friend - Versie Marks. She wanted to reprint one of the articles I had written many years ago.

You have no idea how that one article improved my collection.”

I pulled up the article. It's about a lesson I learned very late in my bonsai career and I wanted to share it. The holidays are a time of reflection on days gone by as well as plans and goals for the future. This article is a little bit of both, so this seemed the perfect time to share it again.



Growing Bonsai Trees
A Word of Warning – A Lesson Learned
(Better known as the “Stuff” Article)

It’s been over 30 years since I began growing bonsai trees. During those years I found it necessary to buy many plants (just to make sure I didn’t miss out on anything) ... species I had never tried, specials I saw at garden centers, bargains at club auctions. It was seemingly endless.

Somewhere along the way, I also decided I should have one of every tropical with any bonsai potential and I expanded my hunt. Of course, not all the plants I bought were even beginner bonsai trees, but I could grow them on.

After a few years, I started selling some of the plants I had gathered and rejected. The selling became a business. It grew and so did my habit of buying. I sold lots of the ‘stuff’ and watched others make decent bonsai out of it.

It took about 15 years to discover I had lots of plants, I had very few bonsai.

Where did the time go? After 30+ years of supposedly growing bonsai trees, I finally figured it out.

I had so much ‘stuff’, I had no time to develop it or even take care of it properly.

It was not an easy habit to break, but I think I’ve managed to do it. Now that I don’t have the business, I have a little more time. Things are changing.

I began to use one of the bonsai how-to lessons I teach ... taper, taper, taper ... and cut off the huge branches on an old Bougainvillea.

I root pruned several small Ficus and placed them in the shallow pots I always recommend.

I tossed or sold everything without a decent trunk -- as per bonsai lesson number one. I also narrowed down the number of plants. (Ask any of the old timers about my auctions and sales.) I cleaned up the dead wood and painted lime sulfur on my favorite Conocarpus (buttonwood). Even the weeds are almost under control.

For those of you just getting started in bonsai - and some of you old-timers who have similar buying habits - discipline yourselves!

After 25 years of neglect, your ‘stuff’ will be nothing but ‘old stuff’.

‘Old stuff’ does not go to shows or end up in magazines, it’s still just ‘stuff’ no matter how old it is.


This and many other articles are available on the BonsaiMary website.

My Appreciation

Thank you for continuing to share your bonsai thoughts, pictures and questions with me.

Here’s to better bonsai in 2013!

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