(What we don’t like talking about…) TOO MANY BONSAI-

Many of us are natural ‘gatherers’. We collect things, much like bower birds and pack rats. And then we either present them in display cases, tuck them into storage units, or, if they are bonsai, arrange them in our backyards. Gathering is an endearing trait. And we have things to show off when friends visit.

And yet we can get into a bit of a kerfuffle with bonsai if volume is increased past our ability to care for them.

The bigger the bonsai collection the more we can lose sight of our objectives…

2014698506-overwhelmed

…and these objectives might include timely repotting for all trees, monitoring them for pests and disease, growth management, and aesthetics. And prancing around proudly for friends, of course.

In some over-stocked backyards I’ve seen hundreds of trees in various states of entropy, in some cases there are nearly as many trees as the professionals have. Only the professionals are working on them every day (or at least their apprentices are doing so, cough).

With fewer trees, somewhere on the order of 15-25, the backyard bonsai aficionado can keep up with them all at a very high level. (As I’ve told many students though, having 3 trees is nearly as bad, as the instinct is to fiddle with them to death.) One of my favorite bonsai gardens has only about 12 trees, all well managed and beautifully presented.

But more and more bonsai…that’s rarely a path to beautiful bonsai. It’s often a clue to a problem in the making, or one fully made, toward the ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ sinkhole.

Paths to freedom include:

  • Setting a number goal based on available time to maintain them; reduce over time to that
  • A tree in, a tree out; improve your collection by swapping not adding
  • Yearly reassessment of goal

Failing all that, ask friends to board your trees and pay them to come visit…passing on a problem is a great way to make temporary friends. Who then might help you reduce.

7 Comments

  1. Ray says:

    Very good point Michael😎.

  2. Maura says:

    The same applies to one’s clothing closet!

  3. peter says:

    Hi Michael, I believe you may be setting up an intervention for many of us, or do I only speak for myself? It is so hard to cull when many trees have been a long term project, albeit a project often going nowhere. It is high time I deal with my underlying pathology and let some trees move on to another home.
    Now that I have solved the bonsai dilemma it may be time to deal with the buckets of short pieces of wire, the balls of string and all the pairs of socks and mittens that have lost their partners. Wow, after a big cleanup I will have room for more trees….hmmm…. I may have just missed the point.

  4. David Wheeler says:

    Michael……your usage of the English language is truly admirable……can’t wait for your new book to be out on the shelves David

    On Sat, Sep 21, 2019 at 3:03 AM michael hagedorn wrote:

    > crataegus posted: “Many of us are natural ‘gatherers’. We collect things, > much like bower birds and pack rats. And then we either present them in > display cases, tuck them into storage units, or, if they are bonsai, > arrange them in our backyards. Gathering is an endearing tr” >

  5. Richard Dorfman says:

    Great reminder that “less is often better than more”. 😎

  6. Collin Murphy says:

    Great article. I have about 80 so I need to make a big reduction. I have started reducing my collection size and it turned out I didn’t miss them at all, I was actually glad to give them a new home.

  7. Brian Schindler says:

    Many years ago I heard John Naka say that the ideal number of Bonsai is 20.

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