I spent some time over the last weekend at a couple of garden outlets just browsing. Whilst there I noticed they had Bonsai for sale priced from $20 – $200. Naturally I picked a couple up and looked at them, just out of interest. The people I was with have no Bonsai knowledge or experience and started looking as well. There was a selection of varieties Japanese maple trees, ficus, Chinese elm and wisteria.
They then started to make comments about how nice the bonsai trees were and one person made a point of dragging me over to look at a “great” 2′ high bonsai that was a bargain at just $120.
Well all of the bonsai including the “great” one that was a Chinese Elm had problems, now to an experienced Bonsai keeper they could all be sorted out. But to me for a beginner all the bonsai I saw presented trouble that would mean a dead bonsai in the not to distant future.
I took the time to explain what the problems where and why these bonsai trees represented potential trouble. The people I was with exclaimed they never would have noticed the faults if I hadn’t pointed them out. So here are a few of the things I noticed and you need to look for when thinking of buying from these types of outlets.
Obvious damage and missing parts, these could let disease in and put the bonsai on its last legs.
Missing bark and bark damage due to poor wiring and attempts to shape the bonsai tree. Again this might lead to a sick bonsai tree.
Look under the pot, most of the bonsai I did this to had roots growing from the drainage holes. This would require either a re-potting or root pruning, possibly both. This is not a task a first time bonsai buyer really wants to have to do when they have just bought their bonsai tree.
And finally, I picked up the 2′ high Chinese Elm and quit a few leaves fell off. My friend commented, the bonsai must need watering. Wrong.
Readers of this blog having read the recent posts know exactly what the leaves dropping off means, especially when coupled with the fact the bonsai soil was soaking wet. Just in case you don’t lets put this into context.
Most of the people working in the majority of places that sell bonsai, know nothing about growing them. They are told, go water the plants, and give all the plants in the outlet a thorough soaking, whether they need it or not. Probably doing more harm than good to the new bonsai stock.
Now don’t get me wrong, these bonsai trees would all be OK, for a bonsai enthusiast to grow. However first time bonsai owners need a bonsai tree that requires the minimum input and is as healthy as possible.
So take a good look at all the ones on show and buy the best to start with. Then try drying them out before starting a proper watering regime.
All the best with your new bonsai.