Collecting in the East

rockm

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I've been discussing collection via a private conversation with another BNut member. The other member asked what's happened to the Eastern and Southern collectors and why the best native material is coming from Western states now. I have a theory--it might be controversial, or just a mental tick that could be taken care of with a Thorazine drip:D Below is my answer to the other member's question:

Funny thing about collecting. Used to be the majority of "professional" collectors were in the East and/or South. Ten or 15 years ago, there were half a dozen collectors in a few eastern states offering all sorts of great things. Louisiana had more than its share, offering alot more than just BC. I visited a guy in St. Francisville (up around Baton Rouge) who collected a ton of stuff, from Willow oak, water elm, American elm, pepperidge (tupelo), BC, live oak, old estate boxwood, and just about anything he thought might work as bonsai. I still have his booklet of offerings and care instructions for 15 species.

Texas is another state that had alot of collectors. Vito Megna, in Austin, was legendary for collecting cedar elm, live oak, and host of other Texas natives. I have two of his trees. The "Big Thicket" area of East Texas and Hill Country further South, hold some of the most majestic oaks and other trees I've ever seen. The majority of species have never been tried as bonsai.

All the stuff these guys were collecting was of extreme quality and age. Ultimately, alot of those collectors either suffered financially, or got too old--Vito had to give up because of chronic back problems.

There is all manner of stunning material in the East that equals anything collected out in the Rockies. It's just not coniferous and therefore isn't "in". For instance, there's an old plantation site near me with boxwood hedging that is over 250 years old (the bill of sales for the plants and shipping manifest is still in Fairfax County's records) I managed to get permission from the caretaker of the property to collect one of the trunks. I managed to kill it over five years, as I was new to the sport at the time. Stuff like that is not uncommon--Ever been out to Gunston Hall and taken a gander at the original "dwarf" boxwood planted hedging there? The 4 to 5 foot tall trunks equal anything I've seen dug out west-the park service has been considering replacing them for years...I keep an eye on local papers about news of its garden renovation plans.

That's just in this area. The Blue Ridge (where I grew up) and the Appalachians beyond, hold endless possibilities--hickory pine, red spruce, alpine species abound in the Highlands out there--including Old Growth dwarfed trees-same as out West. Thing is, permission is very hard, if impossible, to get...If we had BLM land, we too could get things like western collectors do.

Right now, big conifers are in fashion. There's great appeal to the core audience of bonsaiists for "macho" pines (no offense --Walter Pall's and the lesser European artists work (and attitude) with pines has sparked demand for big collected pines here. While I think that's great, America holds vastly more species than Europe and a universe of opportunity that the Euros can't touch.
 
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greerhw

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All the stuff these guys were collecting was of extreme quality and age. Ultimately, alot of those collectors either suffered financially, or got too old--Vito had to give up because of chronic back problems.QUOTE



And he wanted to go fishing all the time, but he was one of the good guys in the hobby.

keep it green,
Harry
 

rockm

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"he was one of the good guys in the hobby."

That he was. He is sorely missed. I can't believe what cedar elm is going for these days (if you can find one...)
 

good_ol_jr77

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Its nice to hear about collecting in the East thanks for the post. I just started collecting this spring, I moved here (Winchester, VA) last August. There is lots of great material. I still do not have much experience with the wild species in this area but there seems to be a lot more than the stuff we had in upstate NY. I have collected some really great slippery elm this spring along with some honeysuckle and great virginia creeper. I have just started getting into the collecting aspect of the hobby but being young and an outdoors sports enthusiast it is right up my alley. So far the getting permission seems to be the hardest thing. I've read on Andy Smith's site about getting permits to collect in national forests but have checked the web for the G.Washington and T.Jefferson national forests here in the Shenandoah and they don't seem to allow such collecting. Any other ideas besides knowing private land owners to be able to collect in this area? Ideas are welcome.
 

cquinn

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I've been working with a buddy on finding good Virginia Pine, and I think we hit the jackpot last weekend in a chirt rock mine in Alabama. Big trunked pines, with lots of movement and thick bark. We're looking at Aug to dig them. The mine has apparently been there for awhile. Virginia pine are actually better suited for bonsai than Ponderosa's as there needles are a lot smaller and they backbud on old wood. It's just hard to find big knarley naturally dwarfed ones that you can dig. Most of the good ones hang from cliffs. I'll take pictures, but I think we've really found a treasure trove this time.
 

rockm

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Best bet on collecting is private land and getting to know the local bonsai club--Winchester might have some Potomac Bonsai Association members...

Permits to dig in Jeff and George NPs depends on permission from the local ranger districts. Find the closest one and ask about plant collecting permits, then edge into bonsai. You never know what you'll response you'll get
 

rockm

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Mine sites are an excellent place to find bonsai. I know someone who got a pretty nice pin oak off a mine site in W.Va.

Hope you have better luck with Va. Pine than I have. They tend to grow in very poor soil in these parts, which results in extremely diffuse and running root systems. It's not unusual for a nice specimen to have roots that run for twenty feet before breaking into feeders...:(:eek:
 

cquinn

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Mine sites are an excellent place to find bonsai. I know someone who got a pretty nice pin oak off a mine site in W.Va.

Hope you have better luck with Va. Pine than I have. They tend to grow in very poor soil in these parts, which results in extremely diffuse and running root systems. It's not unusual for a nice specimen to have roots that run for twenty feet before breaking into feeders...:(:eek:

It's the same here. I've had the best luck keeping the native dirt around the first 12 inches around the trunk, and then chasing roots that best I can. I then wrap the roots around the inside of the grow box. I've had good luck with them living this way, but I've not gotten around to reducing those roots yet. Hopefully they will grow closer in over time.
 

JasonG

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Hey Rock,

I read your post and agree with some to most of it.... the part I take exception with is the part about trees from the west only bieng popular because they are conifers. They are popular because of the trunks, nowhere else in America do they grow trunks like that. If you look at bonsai in the world the best trees are the gnarly old collected pine and junipers in Europe, Japan and now America. It is clearly the best suited material for bonsai out there.

THat is not to say what is collected east of the Rockies is junk because we both know that isn't true. Bald Cypress are cool but they are straight and common because they all grow in the same way. I have seen the cedar elms and they will make some killer trees. Its all about the deadwood and twisty trunks that make what comes from the Rockies the best out there.

Here is to happy collecting no matter where you live!
 

greerhw

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"he was one of the good guys in the hobby."

That he was. He is sorely missed. I can't believe what cedar elm is going for these days (if you can find one...)

I know a guy that has one Vito collected that could be bought. PM me if interested.

keep it green,
Harry
 

amkhalid

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Yes I agree with Jason here... comparing rocky mountain conifers to east coast trees is basically comparing apples and oranges... both have their merits.

And I think I might disagree with the idea that collecting twisted conifers is now 'in vogue'... I would like to think that this attraction has come as a result of N. Americans setting a higher standard for their conifer bonsai... quality yamadori has always been in vogue in bonsai circles who are in-the-know... I think.

But yeah, east coast has it going on in its own way... up north too... anyone heard of Nick Lenz's larches?
 

good_ol_jr77

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Well I think this is a discussion that is long overdue. I think that there are a bunch of leaders out in the western yamadori scene and therefore information on collecting out there is free-flowing. I think that if we can share information amongst ourselves in the right ways it could go a long way toward promoting Eastern collecting. This thread is a great start when I get a chance I'll post the trees I've collected this year. Thanks for the advice about asking local rangers, school is out (I'm a teacher), so I've got lots of time and now some trips to make.
 

rockm

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"They are popular because of the trunks, nowhere else in America do they grow trunks like that."

No. There aren't many conifers with trunks like that here in the East (although I've seen a few in Blue Ridge that might be in the same category). We don't have the same species you do in the West, nor the species and altitude that produces huge, but dwarfed, trunks.

What we do have are some pretty decent native conifers that have gone unnused as bonsai material. There are places in the Appalachians were there are some pretty nice, big, naturally dwarfed specimens with pretty substantial trunks--I've seen 'em.

The issue isn't quality. There is plenty of it. The issue is collectibility. In the East, access to Federal parks is extremely restricted and irregular. That may be for good reason, as National Parks in the East are crowded and getting more so.

"And I think I might disagree with the idea that collecting twisted conifers is now 'in vogue'... I would like to think that this attraction has come as a result of N. Americans setting a higher standard for their conifer bonsai... quality yamadori has always been in vogue in bonsai circles who are in-the-know... I think."

You're dreaming pal :D:D. The quality of yamadori in Europe is extremely high. We've got better trees and more of them in our mountain ranges, but it remains uncollected and unworked. North Americans see Euro yamadori and simply try to match it instead of trying to do their own thing with our own species. Quality yamadori is mostly by default classified as coniferous, have BIG trunks (sometimes grossly exaggerated) and rather nasty looking.

This is neither good nor bad. It is just fashionable :D. There have always been species and styles that are in style and out of style. That will continue.

Here in the East and South, we have a wealth of deciduous species--where the West has conifers, we have hardwood species (that are scarce in bonsai use--partially because everyone wants a BIG conifer from out West :D:D)

Live oak (the main species and Escarpment live oak)
http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=QUFU

Tupelo--black gum
http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/n/nyssyl/nyssyl1.html

Swamp Tupelo
http://www.rnr.lsu.edu/plantid/webtour/species/swamptupelo/swamptupelo.htm

American, cedar, slippery elms
Common Persimmon, blackhaw, black cherry, common juniper, hackberry, the list is long and deep.

Here's a list of "remarkable" trees here in Va. (there are other species, especially in the South that aren't on this list, that are also potential stars for bonsai) I'd say almost every species listed might be adaptable to bonsai, with the exception of the compound leafed and huge leafed species (hickories and magnolias)

http://www.cnr.vt.edu/4h/remarkabletree/results.cfm

My point here is, that there currently is somewhat of a fixation on huge trunked conifers as the ideal collectible material. I'd say that's rather limiting...There is a vast well of species that might be used that aren't, especially in the Eastern and Southern US.
 

HotAction

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If you live in the West, it makes sense to collect there. I live in the NE, so I will collect here. If you live in Louisiana, it makes sense to collect in Louisiana. The point is, to get better at it with each trip.

-Dave

p.s. Larch are by far the best material for bonsai. I feel sorry for those of you who can't keep them. I shall burn the carcass of long dead california junis while imbibing copious quantities of the devil's elixer as I perform a ritutal dance/song routine to appease the gods of bonsai. (much more effective than this humic acid mumbo-jumbo)
 
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