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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"Budget" Doesn't Have to Mean "Uninteresting"

     Many of us are practicing bonsai on a budget. There are different reasons. Maybe our budget will only stretch so far. Maybe other pursuits are higher in our personal priorities than bonsai. (I'll forgive you.) Maybe we don't want to spend a lot on bonsai material until our skills improve.

Many in the bonsai world are familiar with the name of Jerry Meislik, retired ophthalmologist, long-time bonsai artist and teacher, and author of the book Ficus: The Exotic Bonsai. Jerry now has many splendid trees, trees to make any bonsai enthusiast drool, but that wasn't always the case. In a Facebook comment a few weeks ago, he said, "I still remember well lamenting the fact that I could not find material to create fantastic huge-trunk bonsai, and the material I could find and afford was pathetic." [Emphasis added.]

He went on to say, "Now I know that some really nice stuff can be made if one is willing to go with certain styles of bonsai."

Earlier that day Jerry had posted a composite picture of some of his recent creations, saying, "Many bonsai lovers have difficulty since their only material is young and long, and not showing huge bases and [an aged] appearance. For some years I have been working with young, long and uninteresting  material. I think you can do the same thing and create some fun bonsai."

Here are some of the pictures from the composite, full-sized and used with permission. For a sense of scale, it looks to me as if all but the third are resting on an upright piece of standard 4" x 4" lumber (approximately 10 cm x 10 cm).

All photos by Jerry Meislik. No commercial use without permission.
Some of the trees were recently defoliated, which allows more of their structure to be seen. While the trees show different styles (semi-cascade, slanting, etc.), most also show the bunjin (literati) variation.

All the bonsai in the pictures are Ficus, grown from cuttings from Jerry's larger trees, but there are other species and genera that can be used for the same purpose. Among tropical species, parrot's-beak (Gmelina), bougainvillea and schefflera are quite flexible when young. The same is true, if not to quite the same degree, for some temperate species, particularly in the pine family (Pinaceae): pine, spruce, hemlock and others. In addition, young and thin stock of almost any species can  be used for multi-trunk and forest plantings.

So, as Jerry's pictures demonstrate: if you are willing to work within certain limits of size, style and species, there is nothing to stop you from creating eye-pleasing, personally satisfying bonsai!

(With thanks to Jerry Meislik for putting this idea in my head. To visit Jerry's website, click here.)

:-)  :-)  :-)