Here’s a roadmap to getting your own $1000 starter tree:
- Stop wishing you could afford expensive trees from areas where you don’t live
- Join a local club, go to the meetings, attend workshops (especially on local trees)
- Learn about local species and then learn some more
- Learn how to keep these trees alive
- Learn what makes these trees unique and how to focus on these features as bonsai
- Find out who collects local species and learn from them
- Learn local land laws
- Ask to go on collecting trips
- Keep your trees alive
- Learn WHY you killed your trees and stop doing those things
- Go out on your own
When it comes to rocky mountain juniper, Randy collects in Oregon and Ryan lives in Oregon. The trees have their own peculiarities for collecting, growing, repotting, and such. Do it wrong and a 100-year-old tree dies and that’s a crime. Unless these trees are growing within an hour of where you live and within the same USDA zone as where you live, I say forget them. Come to Bonsai Mirai to learn techniques for styling; techniques for learning about the peculiarities of trees and how Ryan addresses them; apply the approach of learning rather than the exact techniques.
I collect bald cypress. It is in a genus unlike any other. I have dedicated a majority of my learning to developing just one species. The trees are essentially free to me, but some of the trees I’ve pulled I’ve sold for hundreds of dollars within months of collecting them. I followed that roadmap, above, and I no longer look at artists like Ryan and complain that they just did a great job of turning a $2,000 tree into a $10,000 tree. When Ryan is working on a RMJ, I appreciate his artistry and knowledge, but I’m also looking for ways to apply what he’s teaching us to bald cypress, Japanese boxwoods, Hong Kong kumquats, false jade, shimpaku, ficus, fukien tea, and whatever else is on my benches.
Another approach is urban collecting. I happen to work for a university in the nicest part of the city. Landscaping crews are constantly pulling out hedges that are decades old. I keep black plastic bags in my SUV on the chance that something nice is being tossed to the curb. I may not keep and develop everything I find, so I donate most of it to the local club. Keep your eyes and ears open to opportunities to take a garbage tree out of someone’s yard that is a treasured tree in bonsai.