On a recent trip to Atlanta, I visited many places that you’ll probably hear about in upcoming posts, but the highlight was a trip to Clermont, GA to talk with Steve Cratty at Plant City Bonsai. He took the time to talk with me about almost every aspect of his bonsai stock and even helped me choose a fine specimen to take home (which I’ll talk about in the future). Plant City Bonsai has many specimens, but most of the stock is for beginner bonsai artists like myself that is a step above nursery material so that your only choices aren’t a $10 5 year old tree and a $500 30 year-old tree. Steve tries to fill that gap with material that is already started on it’s way to being a good bonsai, but still leaves you plenty of creative control over what the final look will be. I found the experience to be very enjoying and sorry that I missed Warren Hill, who was appearing there the next day. I’ve included some pictures of my visit, and sadly, did not video the tour that he gave me. This is definitely a labor of love with Steve and I got that hint that it may have given him a few gray hairs along the way 🙂
This site is really amazing and something I was reading about at Stone Lantern’s Blog called Bonsai Bark. Shin-Boku Nurseries create specimen garden trees and the images are incredible. If a person wasn’t standing beside the tree, I would think it was a bonsai, and I guess technically, it is.
Recently over at BonsaiSite.com’s forums, someone lamented about the poor conditions of the bonsai at a Home Depot store that were dried out and uncared for. Routinely, these are called “mallsai” because they are packaged for uneducated buyers to take home a tree from The Karate Kid. Here’s my response to this and there are several other good responses in the thread:
The “mallsai” problem is really not a problem with the vendors. It’s uneducated people buying a tree when they know nothing about bonsai. If they didn’t buy, the vendors wouldn’t be there. A real bonsai nursery must not be able to keep up with the volume or price point, because Home Depot is not opposed to better quality at the same price.
So, basically, mallsai is a cheap test for every bonsai owner. Do you want to learn about this? Or is an ornament for your desk. There has to be vendors out there that would satisfy the ornament on your desk customers. And I wouldn’t want that to pre-bonsai trees raised with care. For the people that really want to learn about bonsai, it was a cheap entry fee into a world that is a lot more complex than they initially thought.
So, the system works. The main thing any real bonsai artist should be concerned about is easy access to good information. Books, online articles, etc. This should be one of the main objectives of any bonsai society that is struggling.
Ohh, anytime I see that someone “rescued a mallsai” I wince. You just promoted more poor quality bonsai trees to be put on the market. This is not unlike the pet world where people buy puppies at pet stores that usually get their puppies from puppy farms. Caring dog owner forums complain about these puppy farm sales all the time. It’s heartbreaking to see the conditions of these places. Just like I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to see the conditions that these bonsai are sold at.
Here is a link to the thread: http://forums.bonsaisite.com/index.php?showtopic=16835
Here is another good post on the importance of research before buying: http://forums.bonsaisite.com/index.php?showtopic=7763
The sad thing is, if your reading this, then you probably are researching or you have already bought a mallsai and are now researching how to care for it. I still think it’s important that when you start thinking about getting a second or third tree, that you do not buy these mallsai to “rescue” them or because they are cheap and readily available. Buy from a bonsai nursery or step over to the nursery section at that Home Depot and buy nursery stock that you intend to develop into a bonsai over time.
One of the most knowledgeable people in the United States on bonsai and the propagation of trees is Brent Walston. He runs a bonsai nursery in California called Evergreen Garden Works, has an excellent collection of online articles, and has a blog that he has just started posting to again. He has recently written an article on freeze protection which we don’t have to worry about as much in the South, but this winter we have seen some temps in the lower 20’s often and early. Here’s the article: