The hobby of bonsai brings trees into our collection from all different sources. Some members grow bonsai lovingly from seed, some as cuttings, some bought as seedlings, some collected, but it is not that unusual to find trees being passed between members. Sometimes as an almost finished article, and sometimes as a starter tree ready for developing into a bonsai. Once a year our meeting focusses on this.
Often you can find yourself getting stuck in a rut with a tree, but fresh eyes see something new, something that excites or pleases them. It always amuses me to hear the discussions of the new owner, often mixed in with the groans of disappointment from the old owner who had not considered such an alternative action! Not a groan at what the new owner has done, but what the old owner missed! The below shows a white pine when first received from previous owner and then a couple of years later. Not a huge change apart from the pot, but the angle was lifted as one bottom branch died back. Some trees are not happy with cascading branches because the more upright ones get all the drive and goodness, especially if the tree is apically dominant.
As with any hobby it can get rather addictive! One of our members is a rarity in bonsai, she keeps herself to approximately 8 trees. If one dies it is replaced. Her time is limited as she has another immersing hobby yet she wants it to feel achievable (and pleasurable) to look after trees and give them what they require. This particular meeting was dedicated to one such member whose love for having ” just one more tree” has resulted in many trees being passed on to other members. There are not that many members in the club who can say they do not have a tree previously owned by this person!
If the tree does not give you any pleasure then you are unlikely to keep it or worse still, actually do nothing with it. One member brought in a tree and as it was a lovely tree, a number of members offered to take it off of their hands. However the owner was quite clear this one was for keeping. But, how many of you look at your trees when deciding to work on some, and bypass the same ones over and over because you just don’t know what to do with them?
One person’s headache is another person’s project. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees (sorry, couldn’t resist!). You just can’t decide what to do with a tree and why it isn’t working for you, and so you leave it for another day. After all you have another couple of dozen that you could give your attention to and you only have a limited time to give them. Just because you don’t know what to do with it, does not mean that someone else won’t. Often all it needs is a new pair of eyes.
A solution is to bring the tree to a meeting. Members are always willing to give their opinion, often it is worth listening to discussions rather than asking. Often a tree will be put up for discussion and after some initial polite comments, someone is often brave enough to put a suggestion forward. Once this happens others are often more honest with their opinions. We always try to be positive with our suggestions though, we do not tell you to burn it! By considering this method you are free to either take on their suggestions or not. Sometimes we come armed with tools, so you will need to speak up if you do not want your tree touched.
A brave option is to offer your tree to a member (who seems to have some ideas for it) to take away and work on for a year. Now you will have to give them carte blanche, but of course by doing this you cannot be upset if you do not like how the tree comes back to you.
The last option is to sell or give away your tree permanently. Now if a member buys it you have to cut off all sentimental attachment to the tree. If the tree comes back looking worse, then that was your choice to give up the tree. However, if it comes back looking so much better your only option, if you decide you want the tree back, is to convince its new owner that you would love it and expect to pay a premium for it!
The choice is yours!
My parting shot is to treat your trees like your favourite pet. There is not a bonsai equivalent of the RSPCA, but if there was, don’t let your trees need to be rescued by it. If you find yourself neglecting a particular tree, perhaps it is time to find it a new and loving home?