Mallsai, the way many are introduced to bonsai

onlyrey

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I've been in bonsai now for about 2 years. In these two years I've learned a tremendous amount, but I understand I am still a beginner. My first bonsai was a mallsai, and my last addition is a couple of mallsais that I want to tell myself I rescued from a BJ's (similar to Costco, Sams, Makro) store.

I believe (or want to believe) these two trees are will prove a good addition to my collection at $12.95 each. Not a bad price for the trunks, but only time will tell.

While mallsai might be doing a service by spreading bonsai to many(I think these trees are chinese elms, and the instructions tell the future bonsaist to keep it moist always and protect it from direct light), they might be doing a disservice by frustrating a future customer and assigning certain death to a tree. If the potential bonsaist seeks help, he or she will be able to figure out what the tree's needs are, and what to do to take care of it, ussually starting by removing the glued-on rocks.

I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Nevertheless, please feel free to post your thoughts about the good, the bad, and the interesting things about mallsai.
 

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It is not the price paid or the location purchased at that makes good stock. What makes good stock is in the tree itself, trunk, Nebari, branching, taper,etc or the possibilities to create the aforementioned attributes.

Anything that brings people into the art is a positive thing. Sure some will get discouraged, but those few are most likely the ones who would have got discouraged sooner than later anyhow, after all, how many trees lose their lives in the name of education?

Last Sunday, at our club meeting, I watched a young Japanese couple walk around the area we were in (we meet in a nursery/greenhouse). As they were walking away I stopped them and introduced myself. It turns out that they had tried bonsai a few times but always ended up killing the trees, I told them a few stories and we laughed...and they realized that it's a normal thing at first. To make a long story short, we swapped email addresses and they are coming to our next meeting as my guests.

Back to the posts, you have a couple nice pieces here, keep us updated.


Will
 

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The thing about elms is that you can cut off ALL the branches in the winter, and in the spring you can start all over with branch selection from the 1000's of buds all over the trunk :) The trunk and nebari are the most important things to focus on - they take the longest to change or fix. An elm with good nebari and trunk almost CAN'T be a mallsai because the rest of the tree is so easy to change.
 

BonsaiWes

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The smaller one doesn't need a chop at all, I think the trunk isn't s curved enough to warrant it. I bet you could make a feminine informal broom from it rather soon.
 

Tachigi

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Mallsai, the way many are introduced to bonsai
Hi Onlyrey,
This statement is true. However in my opinion, not the best way to go. As many mallsai are doomed before the purchaser ever lays eyes on them. I must admit a mild spark of interest in your two subjects since they are elms, and with elms there are many possiblities that can be achieved quickly.

You have pursued bonsai for two + years now. Its time to spread your wings and fly. Look to find other material and challenge yourself. The pursuit of aquiring stock be it from the wild or a nursery will enhance your knowledge and improve your eye. Going back to "mallsai" material will not serve you well in the long run.

JUst my 2 cents worth :)
 

Rick Moquin

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You have pursued bonsai for two + years now. Its time to spread your wings and fly. Look to find other material and challenge yourself. The pursuit of aquiring stock be it from the wild or a nursery will enhance your knowledge and improve your eye. Going back to "mallsai" material will not serve you well in the long run.

JUst my 2 cents worth :)
How true! It is amazing how much one can grow artistically in a year. With the right books, studying trees in nature, resisting the urge to buy a "bargain plant" (although some good material can be found like this, but few and far between), studying the growth patterns of the various species and limiting the species one has, until one has mastered the growth pattern and intricacies of all species one possesses.

Having said that, there has been several good articles on selecting nursery stock. These are invaluable references, studied carefully will only lead to large dividends in the future, knowing what to look for and waiting for the right tree is all part of the bonsaii experience and gratifying to say the least.
 
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To continue on the thoughts here about Mallsai, I recently posted an article on the same subject OnlyRey brought up, that can be seen here.


Will
 

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Great article Will! Well written and provides a positive perspective on an often maligned beginning point for many.

My passion for Bonsai started around 18 years ago at the Japan section of Epcot center in Florida where they were selling Bonsai kits in small red boxes which included a Juniper starter plant, terra cotta rectangular pot and an instruction booklet. I bought one and kept this 'Mallsai" on a dresser in a bright South window but of course it died. But, I was hooked and still have fond memories of the trip and the resulting Bonsai journey.

Eric
 
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onlyrey

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Excellent article. Has a humbleness to it that is in need in the community. Thanks.
 

Tiberious

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Darn I dont have the link, but Vance Wood wrote a very inspiring article on the subject of mallsai. I will look for it and post it if I can find it. Mallsai rules!!
 

Vance Wood

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emk

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My passion for Bonsai started around 18 years ago at the Japan section of Epcot center in Florida where they were selling Bonsai kits in small red boxes which included a Juniper starter plant, terra cotta rectangular pot and an instruction booklet. I bought one and kept this 'Mallsai" on a dresser in a bright South window but of course it died. But, I was hooked and still have fond memories of the trip and the resulting Bonsai journey.
Nice to see I wasn't the only one. My first tree was from Epcot as well, just as you described it. I left it in the care of my sister when I went away for a few weeks and it was nice and dead when I got back (she thought placing it right next to a heating vent was a great idea).
 

Pete-Regina

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The first tree I ever bought was a juniper from Safeway that the clerk had been keeping submerged in a tray of water because she "knew that they needed a lot of water". That was my first bonsai pot. Over the years, I collected a lot of bonsai pots this way. Buy the tree, kill the tree, put the pot in a box. I'm ashamed to say I did this for almost 20 years before I figured out what I was doing wrong. I think it's the cold winters (zone 3 Canada) that make us persistent. ;)

There's a saying that goes something like "To be a good bonsai artist, you need to kill a few trees." You will be happy to know that the 20 years worth of pots are now filled and thriving, sometimes to my amazement, but mostly to my joy.

I think it basicly comes down to what gives you pleasure out of it. The two trees look awesome. Have fun with it! The worst case scenario, you have two new pots to fill. :D

Pete
 

litoalansalon

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Thank you to this thread, I finally found (at least) the origin of the word "Mallsai". So, it's another
American terminology (thank you Vance for the word and Will for the article). And because of the mallsai, more people went into bonsai culture. Mallsai is a commercial success just like coke or pepsi, you can buy them almost anywhere. It is almost owned by everybody even the so called masters, artists, experts, professionals, non-professionals, etc. Let us therefore congratulate the chinese for being proactive by developing this materials and successfully selling them universally (imagine since
1986?). And they continue to market them, they must have a lots of them, as somebody called it - a factory of mallsai.
 

Vance Wood

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Thank you to this thread, I finally found (at least) the origin of the word "Mallsai". So, it's another
American terminology (thank you Vance for the word and Will for the article). And because of the mallsai, more people went into bonsai culture. Mallsai is a commercial success just like coke or pepsi, you can buy them almost anywhere. It is almost owned by everybody even the so called masters, artists, experts, professionals, non-professionals, etc. Let us therefore congratulate the chinese for being proactive by developing this materials and successfully selling them universally (imagine since
1986?). And they continue to market them, they must have a lots of them, as somebody called it - a factory of mallsai.
Actually a lot of the Juniper Mallsais come out of Florida. Most of the tropicals come, or came from China. It is my understanding, and granted it may be an Urban myth, that the Green Ash Bore came from bonsai imported from China. The owner of a bonsai business I happen to visit from time to time gets a lot of Elms, Fukien Teas and Bamboos direct from her realitives in China. I am not now certain what kind of restrictions are placed on the Chinese imports and how this may have impacted her business. It seems over the last several years these restrictions have been tightened across the board.

I am not trying to harpoon your post but to just add some additional input and or facts as best as I can recall them. A lot bad can be said about Mallsais as far as quality etc., but the fact remains many have come to bonsai through this item being their first introduction to actual bonsai after the Karate Kid move. For this reason Mallsais are not such a bad thing.
 

Steve

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Hi Onlyrey,
How I wish we had mallsai here. You are so lucky to have such semi advanced trees available for so little money. At a nursery here you may get a so called bonsai, a stick in a bonsai pot that has been hacked to keep it small, little or no shaping for $50 Australian. If it's been wired, closer to $100. Your Elms are far superior to anything we have available here in Tasmania.

I am sure you will make great little bonsai from them.

Regards, Steve.
 

Gardener

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I've been in bonsai now for about 2 years. In these two years I've learned a tremendous amount, but I understand I am still a beginner. My first bonsai was a mallsai, and my last addition is a couple of mallsais that I want to tell myself I rescued from a BJ's (similar to Costco, Sams, Makro) store.

I believe (or want to believe) these two trees are will prove a good addition to my collection at $12.95 each. Not a bad price for the trunks, but only time will tell.

While mallsai might be doing a service by spreading bonsai to many(I think these trees are chinese elms, and the instructions tell the future bonsaist to keep it moist always and protect it from direct light), they might be doing a disservice by frustrating a future customer and assigning certain death to a tree. If the potential bonsaist seeks help, he or she will be able to figure out what the tree's needs are, and what to do to take care of it, ussually starting by removing the glued-on rocks.

I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Nevertheless, please feel free to post your thoughts about the good, the bad, and the interesting things about mallsai.

I baught two Ficuses that came in pot exactly like the ones you've shown. I got my Ficus Benjamina from a Walmart for about the same price. I broke the glued stones and threw away the pots...I had two pots that were the same that I got for $10 for the pair (which was a steal for the size they are) so I got two exact same trees so every thing matches. I've had these Ficuses for about two years now and they are doing very well. At first I wasn't sure if I should buy a "Bonsai" tree from a store like Walmart but I thought, if they die then I didn't spend much money. It was hard to choose two trees because most of them didn't taper well. Most of them looked real thick at the bottum of the trunk and real thin where the branches started. I selected a couple that in my opinion tapered the best. I was warned by a so-called bonsai expert that Ficus are tempermentle plants, this expert was wrong, my ficuses are doing very well dispite all the things I've done to them.

When I pick out a plant I try to think of my plans for the plant and what I want it to look like. Secondly I look at the health of the plant. And then I compramized between the two. I look for the healthiest, best looking plant for MY selection. Sometimes it is hard to compramize and I have to bring the health of the plant up - these plants I buy as sort of a science experiment, if it dies it dies.


I was hesitant on buying a ficus because of the things this bonsai "expert" told me about them.
 

Vance Wood

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I baught two Ficuses that came in pot exactly like the ones you've shown. I got my Ficus Benjamina from a Walmart for about the same price. I broke the glued stones and threw away the pots...I had two pots that were the same that I got for $10 for the pair (which was a steal for the size they are) so I got two exact same trees so every thing matches. I've had these Ficuses for about two years now and they are doing very well. At first I wasn't sure if I should buy a "Bonsai" tree from a store like Walmart but I thought, if they die then I didn't spend much money. It was hard to choose two trees because most of them didn't taper well. Most of them looked real thick at the bottum of the trunk and real thin where the branches started. I selected a couple that in my opinion tapered the best. I was warned by a so-called bonsai expert that Ficus are tempermentle plants, this expert was wrong, my ficuses are doing very well dispite all the things I've done to them.

When I pick out a plant I try to think of my plans for the plant and what I want it to look like. Secondly I look at the health of the plant. And then I compramized between the two. I look for the healthiest, best looking plant for MY selection. Sometimes it is hard to compramize and I have to bring the health of the plant up - these plants I buy as sort of a science experiment, if it dies it dies.


I was hesitant on buying a ficus because of the things this bonsai "expert" told me about them.
I think your bonsai expert is nospert. Ficus are as tough as leather most of the time, I have even had mine outdoors in two successive hard frosts before bringing them indoors. They did not even drop a leaf.
 

GerhardG

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Where it all started.....

Hi

You will never catch me asking for styling advice on this one.....
The photo is about 2 months old and it looks way different (if not MUCH better) now.

I could write an unpublishable book about what this Ficus Unknowntalis has gone through, let's just leave it at he had many two-legged little friends with roots growing out the bottom of tiny dark blue pots, and I was hooked.....

I know better now and wouldn't buy one today, but I have it, and it planted a seed 6 odd years ago and I'm thankful.

One of my favourite pass-times is thinking up highly sarcastic names for the little guy......AWOL Rock & such.....:D

Cheers
Gerhard
 

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litoalansalon

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Most of the "mallsai" comes as small to medium in size. These are the sizes often bought by enthusiasts like me or even some "advance" enthusiasts. But pretty soon, bigger sizes will be coming, such as some sample photos below, taken recently.
 

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