Hobbyist only

irene_b

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Sounds like a Oxy-Moran...
Why not have tree sales?
I would prefer to buy from Someone at a Bonsai related Biz!
At least you would not have to explain what we look for...
Irene
 
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Hobbyist only? Hmmmm.

I personally prefer to handle my trees that I buy. I like to see them in person, slide the root ball out of the pot, inspect the health, and these things just can not be done with a picture.

Seedlings and young rough stock are another matter, but these can be purchased on-line already from reputable dealers such as Evergreen Garden Works.


Will
(not a hobbyist)
 

Vance Wood

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For someone new to the art and considering themselves as a hobbyist only, a bonsai related store is as good a place as any to start out at as long as the hobbyist understands that a bonsai related store will have prices somewhat to significantly higher than a standard nursery. The advantage is being associated with someone who has enough passion for bonsai to risk the capitol investment to start this kind of business. As the owner there is a high probability he/she may know something about bonsai and be able to assist the beginner/hobbyist with questions and offer advise. However once the hobbyist gains some knowledge the standard nursery will be the best place to get good stock at a price that does not rival a new car.
 

Jon Chown

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Vance said,
However once the hobbyist gains some knowledge the standard nursery will be the best place to get good stock at a price that does not rival a new car.
Is it only me or do others have an issue with statements such as this one. Perhaps garden nurseries are better in America than the ones in Australia. There would be no such thing as good stock in an Australian nursery – cheap stock maybe, young seedling or beginner stock perhaps, but definitely nothing that could put a candle to a specialist bonsai nursery stock that has had many years of selective pruning and development so that the artist can actually produce something that with another five years or so could be actually called a bonsai.

The problem as I see it is that most people seem to approach this Hobby with a limited budget and are happy to pay $10 for a starter stick or seedling and spend the next 50 years attempting to transform it into a bonsai but they balk at the thought of investing a couple of hundred dollars into an advanced pre styled piece of stock. Knowing a couple of people over here who specialize in growing stock for Bonsai Nurseries and how much time and effort that they must put into a tree (over many years) in order to produce something that resembles good stock reminds me of a line that someone has as a signature ‘If you want to make a small fortune out of bonsai, start with a large fortune and try to please the hobbyist’.

We really must change our attitude towards the Bonsai nurseries that are trying to provide for us or we will be limited to the second rate crap from the home nursery or start collecting from the wild.

Jon
 

Graydon

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No - I have no issues with Vance's statement. As you begin to understand how plants grow a good local nursery can provide you with some excellent material - and here is the kicker - it was growing in your area so it should continue to grow once you get it home. The US is large and has many growing regions. If I asked Vance to pick out some stock for me and ship it to me he would be hard pressed to find a plant in his region that could live in mine. Same with someone in other areas, even you in Australia.

Vance has some great photos of material he has worked on that he got from local nurseries to prove his point.

I can see your point as well. I do believe one should own some decent material at some point early in the hobby so they are doing more than cultivating sticks in pots. And a big amen to supporting people who become invested in this hobby by catering to us.

Anyhow - I think Irene was pointing out that this thread was for sales by hobbyists only, not professional growers. I get her point as well.
 

bonsai barry

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I love to visit landscape nurseries because they often have stock that has been around for awhile and developed some interesting characterisitcs. They usually don't have their trees will marked and often sell by the size of the containter rather than the variety of species. Box stores, however, have a quick turn around and much younger plants, so even though I can't resist visiting their nursery departments, there is usually nothing there of interest.
 

Dwight

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Seems to me that if someone has a tree for sale it makes little to no difference if they are a " pro " or not. I've spent much more time on koi than on bonsai and I'm pretty sure that in many respects the " pros " there are in many ways still hobbyests. I also suspect the same is true for bonsai. I'd love to see someone who is making real money with bonsai who doesn't have the hearty of a hobbyest. Also , like Irene intimated , I'd feel better spending more money for a tree from someone with a bunch more experience I have and knowing that if I nees help I'df probably get it. I've even had " pros " offer to do first stylings for me if I only pay freight. Good bunch , why not support them.
 

cbobgo

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I guess it depends on what is meant by "good stock." If you mean stuff that is cheap and you can practice on it and maybe turn out some half decent stuff in 5-10 years, then yeah, you could find that at a local nursery.

But if you mean good in the sence that you might end up with a high quality bonsai, that you might enter in a show, then you would have to spend ALOT of time at local nurseries, or just a little time and a little extra money at a bonsai nursery, purchasing something that has been grown from day one with bonsai in mind.

And if you want to end up with something great, then you will probably be looking for collected material. I would be willing to put money on the fact that the best of show trees at just about any show around the world did not start out in a garden nursery.

- bob
 

Tachigi

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Is it only me or do others have an issue with statements such as this one. Perhaps garden nurseries are better in America than the ones in Australia.
Yes to a degree, the statement "However once the hobbyist gains some knowledge the standard nursery will be the best place to get good stock at a price that does not rival a new car" I believe for one thing, this perpetuates the economic idea of mallsai type of material. Why develop good quality material if after you get someone started they may never return? Bonsai sundries will only carry the purveyor of bonsai supplies so far. The second being that quality trees produced from nursery stock are far and few between. Perhaps that because people are still waiting on them to develop to make a credible tree. Jon, having been to Australia in the navy and to visit my brother in Perth. I can say that there is no difference between nurseries here and there. Nor would I expect there to be. Business and economics of plants here or there is the same the world over.

I've spent much more time on koi than on bonsai and I'm pretty sure that in many respects the " pros " there are in many ways still hobbyists. I also suspect the same is true for bonsai. I'd love to see someone who is making real money with bonsai who doesn't have the hearty of a hobbyist.
Dwight, I appreciate your statement. Being one that gave up a good six figure income, and tested my wife's patience to pursue the commercial end of bonsai. I really can't agree that I am a hobbyist or have the heart of one. I can't walk away from it or depend on a friend to water my trees. I believe anyone that has mortgaged the bank, knowing that they most likely will not become the next Brussels, and that their income will be for the most part static in relation to the trees produced has a little more heart than a hobbyist, and probably a good deal less sanity as well.

Sometimes when I read threads of this nature, I can't help but get dejected. I hope and pray that my decision to pursue creating substancial material to contribute to American bonsai isn't a waste of time. That people will begin to understand that good material at a fair price is away to advance and improve.
 
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For someone new to the art and considering themselves as a hobbyist only, a bonsai related store is as good a place as any to start out at as long as the hobbyist understands that a bonsai related store will have prices somewhat to significantly higher than a standard nursery. The advantage is being associated with someone who has enough passion for bonsai to risk the capitol investment to start this kind of business. As the owner there is a high probability he/she may know something about bonsai and be able to assist the beginner/hobbyist with questions and offer advise. However once the hobbyist gains some knowledge the standard nursery will be the best place to get good stock at a price that does not rival a new car.
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest disservices "old-school" bonsai has done to bonsai in the United States. This has filtered down from greats like John Naka and Ben Oki and has produced a generation of hobbyists who will not consider buying prebonsai. Many local club members think that the demonstration is the thing, and that it's not bonsai unless it's nursery stock that you are afraid to cut on.

The problem with this process is that you have all these n00bs and even some long-time enthusiasts with a backyard full of trees that will never be good bonsai, many that will never be more than sticks in pots. There are a great many things that need to be learned on more advanced material and cannot be adequately taught with nursery-chop stuff.

Are there great new bonsai artists coming on the stage all the time? I guarantee they aren't working with nursery stock, they are working with prebonsai or yamadori. Europe or the U.S., it doesn't really matter. Collecting primarily from local commercial nurseries will keep American bonsai where it has been for the last 40 years.

When I started my bonsai business a few years ago, I purchased some fairly decent stock wholesale from reputable nurseries like Brussel's, Miami Tropical, New England Bonsai, and Bonsai Northwest. Local club members turned up their noses. They do an annual "nursery crawl" so they can teach the n00bs how to find nursery stock to chop down. That year, they would not bring anyone to my place...they went to nurseries on Saturday and expected me to load up and bring my stuff to the meeting on Sunday! Of course by that time, each n00b had purchased a tree, some of which were species that had no business being bought for bonsai. There were many reasons that I had to fold my business, so I am not laying blame. I am just saying, if we want more quality material available in the U.S., we are going to have to support it.

Aside from the primo names I mentioned above, there are a number of others coming on. Of course Evergreengardenworks has been around for years, and here in the heartland we have Sonlight Nurseries (Oklahoma) and Vons Gardens (Arkansas) which both seem to have some pretty nice stock growing specifically for bonsai at fairly reasonable prices. Before I would ever let a n00b go on a nursery crawl, I would require them to at least work on some of that material.
 

bonsai barry

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Chris and Tom bring out some excellent points. I admire both for their commitment to furthering bonsai in the U.S. Although I have already posted that I enjoy visiting landscape nurseries, I should have added that I frequent a local bonsai nursery on a regular basis, and that my best trees are a result of those visits. Of course, one reason prices are more expensive is the additional years and extra hours of labor needed to create prebonsai stock rather than the mass produced nursery stock.

I buy at Muranaka Bonsai nursery in Nipomo, CA. His prices range from reasonable for prebonsai stock, to expensive material you'd expect to pay big bucks for. As an example of the lower end, he carries juniper procumbens for $8 in one gallon pots. This is about the same as a retail nuresery. The difference is that he has staked his so trees and has planted them in a sandy rather than loomy soil which means you are now at a head start for creating something worthy of a pot.

A further bonus is that he has visited the middle school where I teach and led an afterschool bonsai seminar where the students had the experience of creating their own bonsai for $10. (One student claims he sold his on e-bay for $75). You don't get that kind of service from Lowes.
 
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Vance Wood

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Perhaps I painted with too broad of a brush. However of the two bonsai nurseries close to my location the only material sold is of mallsai quality, and most of that indoor material. I prefer outdoor trees and trying to find good outdoor material is very difficult. Finding this kind of thing in a bonsai nursery is near impossible----so far. If per-chance you do find what I have described it is a fair bet you are going to be paying through the nose for it. That's my major complaint with "Bonsai Nurseries", not that I fault them for wanting to make a profit, but the fact I know I can do better elsewhere skews my decision to purchase this kind of material. Maybe your landscape nurseries are not very good, and your bonsai nurseries are exceptional; then you make the choices that are good for you and fit your needs.

Making the observation that bonsai nurseries do not carry high end material because they cannot sell it is another broad brush exercise in illustration. The problem is not so much good material but the cost to alternate choices ratio that kills this end of the business. In the US, and that means places outside of California which I would exempt from this debate, bonsai nurseries will continue to founder until they put forth the effort to find good stock themselves and not rely on the same old distributors of the same ol' crap sold to the same stores across a given market. A bonsai business must, in my mind, take the time to develop stock as they would develop a market. Consistently good stock, accessories and assistance will cause a business to grow, sitting back with a nose in a book or watching TV will guarantee that your business will pretty much stay where it is at becoming significant only after it becomes a former bonsai business.
 
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Perhaps I painted with too broad of a brush. However of the two bonsai nurseries close to my location the only material sold is of mallsai quality, and most of that indoor material. I prefer outdoor trees and trying to find good outdoor material is very difficult. Finding this kind of thing in a bonsai nursery is near impossible----so far.
I would absolutely agree with you that mallsai is the wrong way to go, and if you have two nurseries that sell that crap near you, that's a shame. And of course, having a nusery within driving distance is a big deal, since buying trees sight unseen can be a disaster. But with digital photography, one can often get a very good idea of what's available. But "near impossible" to find outdoor trees in a bonsai nursery?

If per-chance you do find what I have described it is a fair bet you are going to be paying through the nose for it. That's my major complaint with "Bonsai Nurseries", not that I fault them for wanting to make a profit, but the fact I know I can do better elsewhere skews my decision to purchase this kind of material. Maybe your landscape nurseries are not very good, and your bonsai nurseries are exceptional; then you make the choices that are good for you and fit your needs.
"Through the nose" of course must be defined by each individual's budget. Trying to do this art on the cheap produces cheap bonsai. Of course you can do better at your local nursery than you can at the two mallsai places. I have resolved not to buy trees unless they are quality, though. Perhaps an example: the tree below was had for $150 from Vons Gardens, along with a couple of other trees. You can't see much here because I had not cleaned it up yet. It's not great material but will make a nice upright tree.

Making the observation that bonsai nurseries do not carry high end material because they cannot sell it is another broad brush exercise in illustration. The problem is not so much good material but the cost to alternate choices ratio that kills this end of the business. In the US, and that means places outside of California which I would exempt from this debate, bonsai nurseries will continue to founder until they put forth the effort to find good stock themselves and not rely on the same old distributors of the same ol' crap sold to the same stores across a given market.
Again you have to define high end material. A trip to Brussel's will certainly turn up some nice trees, possibly a bit pricey, and I have never been to other professional nurseries other than Johnny Uchida's Grove Way nursery in Hayward, CA. I find many things that seem to me to be overpriced, as well as some bargains to be had here and there. I found too many trees that were priced correctly or bargains to decide among them, at Vons Gardens!

A bonsai business must, in my mind, take the time to develop stock as they would develop a market. Consistently good stock, accessories and assistance will cause a business to grow, sitting back with a nose in a book or watching TV will guarantee that your business will pretty much stay where it is at becoming significant only after it becomes a former bonsai business.
Yeah, and it helps to be capitalized properly, and to not try to run a bonsai nursery out of a suburban yard, and it helps to have business sense in many other areas that pertain to any business.....but it helps to have some local support, too. Clubs must support local vendors. There is no other way around it.
 

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By the term "hobbyist only" in this forum, we mean for hobbyists to sell to other hobbyists. We feel that legitimate bonsai businesses have other avenues for selling their stock, including their own retail establishments and web sites. If you happen to be a hobbyist with 100 trees and want to sell 5 of them, you aren't going to open a store or put up a web site to do so. Rather than going first to an auction site like eBay, we thought it would be nice to offer people an avenue here to offer trees to other enthusiasts.

BonsaiNut is not a commercial site. However if we WERE a commercial site, we would probably sponsor bonsai businesses with their own banner ads and support forums, in which case it would be important to differentiate the "commercial" paid forums from the non-commercial public ones. When vendors would post to their own forums, they would be able to say anything they wanted about their products, trees, etc. We have a fair number of current members who own/operate their own bonsai businesses. However they are here as enthusiasts first and business people second. If they started actively hawking their wares on the forums, I would have to talk to them :)
 

Vance Wood

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Chris: I don't mean or intend to start something with you but the $150 JBP is not something I would pay $150 for. You say you have to pay good money for decent stock. That's true but this particular tree does not say $150 buy me now to me. I too know Johny Uchida, we had him as a guest speaker a number of years ago, we purchase a bunch of field grown JBPs from his as well and they were all decent trees. Not one of them cost $150. But, in my post I did mention that I exempted California from my judgement on decent stock. California has a number of first rate bonsai businesses competing with each other, and most as I remember even in the 60s had decent stock at reasonable prices.

My motivation is to get the best stock. I don't happen to adhere to the philosophy that a real bad Japanese Black Pine is inherently better stock than a real good Mugo Pine. I can buy a Mugo Pine for less than $50 and make a better bonsai of it in a lot less time than most $150 Japanese Black Pines I have seen. The only difference is the mystique of having a Japanese Black Pine, the $100 dollar difference is not worth it to me. You (in the generic sense) can call me cheap all you want I look for good material not prestige. You want to talk about cheap? How about those who harvest yamadori? Now that's cheap. A lot of work, but cheap. Is this bad material because a lot of money was not payed for it? You can find a lot of really nice bonsai material in a landscape nursery if you know what to look for and how to look for it.

I don't mean to demean any source of good bonsai material. As to bonsai stores? I support them as much as I can in the areas where they have things I cannot get elsewhere. Sometimes that means a tree, but mostly pots, books, and wire. But I don't think we should go out and buy things from a bonsai store just because they need our support. I believe that they should have the sense to understand their market and try to fit into it. I also know that most bonsai stores, at least around here, pretty much sell only tropical, and semi-tropical material. They seem to do pretty well doing this and feel they have no need to change. This means that for me to find decent material of the kind I want I have to go elsewhere.
 

Tachigi

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the $150 JBP is not something I would pay $150 for
I'm not going to comment on whether this is a good value or not. I will use it as a lead to an example.

Vance, Lets set up a hypothetical scenario. You run across a Jap. Maple of interest to you. It has been field grown from a chopped trunk for about 8 years, keeping in mind the acquisition of stock, time and material. The purveyor has religiously root pruned and did what is necessary to the trunk to provide interesting stock. What hypothetically would this piece be worth? I realize in this example you can't see it feel it or touch it, but with some imagination I'm sure could visualize a close approximation. I ask not to be smart, but have a genuine interest on your opinion of this subject.

One last question Vance. I know you said the suppliers around you have indoor tree that didn't present interest for you. Have you ever visited the Growing Grounds in SC, or NE Bonsai in Mass.? If you have whats your take on there material?
 

Bonsai Nut

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We could probably differentiate bonsai customers into different markets:

1) The "impulse buyer" who sees a bonsai somewhere (anywhere) and decides then and there to buy it, with no idea of care, etc. They often start with a mallsai. In some cases they progress to another level in the hobby, but for the vast majority their entire experience is one or maybe two trees at this level. Most trees die shortly after being purchased.

2) The "beginner" who enters the industry and has a curious and inquisitive mind. They read books, seek out information, and start to learn enough about bonsai that they can keep trees alive. They may seek out less expensive trees online, visit bonsai nurseries, etc. They do not have the skill necessary to maintain difficult trees like pines, and may become discouraged and leave the hobby because they cannot achieve the success they see in bonsai books and magazines.

3) The "hobbyist" who makes the big leap and starts taking bonsai classes and potentially joins a bonsai society. They realize that 99% of the time spent in stages (1) and (2) above was wasted. They start obtaining and training better quality trees, including some that might be show quality. With success, they buy more difficult and expensive trees, and start to make the switch from lots of cheap trees to few expensive trees.

4) The "enthusiast" who spends a lot of time at stage (3) and goes one step further. They seek out training / instruction from numerous sources. They own a library of books and subscribe to magazines. They can refer to back-issue articles. They understand and utilize advanced bonsai techniques, including a fair amount of propogation. They start supplementing their collection of lots of expensive trees with lots of cheap trees that they are trying to "grow out" quickly. Their backyard looks like a small bonsai center.

5) The "professional" who spends time at stage (4) and decides that they might actually be able to make a living at their hobby. For the fortunate few, they actually can. For the unfortunate majority, they struggle with the fact that the MAJORITY of the market for bonsai in the U.S. are the stage (1) and stage (2) people above who do not require, nor appreciate, stage 4 material.

Most stage 3+ people understand that bonsai quality and bonsai development time are often directly correlated. To get quality fast you have to pay a premium. So most people try to find that "sweet spot" where for them the quality/time tradeoff is acceptable. The same person that might buy a $1000 show quality tree could balk at paying $150 for a higher potential, but less finished, bonsai. Likewise there are fools out there (myself included) that find some perverse pleasure in growing bonsai from seed. However show me the right tree at the right price, and my checkbook comes out :) Unfortunately, I think there are too few of the stage 3+ people out there. If I were to ever start a bonsai business I would spend a lot of time trying to find the stage 2 people and growing them to stage 3.
 

Vance Wood

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I'm not going to comment on whether this is a good value or not. I will use it as a lead to an example.

Vance, Lets set up a hypothetical scenario. You run across a Jap. Maple of interest to you. It has been field grown from a chopped trunk for about 8 years, keeping in mind the acquisition of stock, time and material. The purveyor has religiously root pruned and did what is necessary to the trunk to provide interesting stock. What hypothetically would this piece be worth? I realize in this example you can't see it feel it or touch it, but with some imagination I'm sure could visualize a close approximation. I ask not to be smart, but have a genuine interest on your opinion of this subject.

One last question Vance. I know you said the suppliers around you have indoor tree that didn't present interest for you. Have you ever visited the Growing Grounds in SC, or NE Bonsai in Mass.? If you have whats your take on there material?
Take the last question first: I cannot judge what I have not seen. The very name Growing Grounds sounds like these people would have something I might be interested in.

Your Japanese Maple scenario: Been there done that. 1994 I purchase a trunk chopped Japanese Maple stump from a grower selling at the Chicago Show that year. I purchased the item for $70. The trunk was real good and the nebari was interesting. I didn't just buy it because it was a big Japanese Maple trunk, it had things I was looking for. Incidentally this is the most I have ever paid for a piece of stock.

The tree below is the result.
 

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Vance Wood

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Vance, that's beautiful. Do you have any photos without leaves?
No I don't. If there is one problem with this tree is that it does not want to ramify well. Of course it might help if I defoliated it, something I have not done for the last two years because it interfered with our clubs show schedule. This time for sure, to quote Bullwinkle J. Moose. It does have wonderful color both spring and fall, this picture is a spring display. It is a lot like Koto Hime but I think it is just plain ol' Mountain Maple.
 
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