Paul Pikel’s Philosophy
When I started Bonsai the temptation to have every kind of tree and every type of style was very attractive. I scoured nurseries, roadsides, friend’s landscaping for potential bonsai material. I had nursery pots, seeds, and trees of all shapes and sizes. Most were in the pre-bonsai state, and even those that were finished were not impressive.
My first Bonsai Collection
As I began to see other people’s collections and trees at exhibits I started to see a drastic difference between the trees that I had and those that were on display. So I would return from these exhibits to take a long hard look at my collection. I would look at the tree itself and ask myself two questions, “What potential does this tree have?” and “How long will it take to reach that potential?”
In many cases many of them really didn’t have much potential at all. They were straight, young trees that were not the type of bonsai I even wanted. So those went over the fence. The next question, how long will it take? Well for many of them the biggest challenge with their thin trunks. This meant years of just letting the trunk thicken up to a size that would make a nice Bonsai with attractive taper. Those that would take more than 5 years went over the fence. The reason for this was that I could spend an extra $50 or so and save 5 years of waiting time, and allow myself to work with better material sooner.
I like to refer to these “clearing house activities” as stages. I have gone through several stages with my collection and find that every time I do my collection gets better. I find myself eliminating trees that I used to think were keepers because they really do not have what I am looking for. Therefore it is essential to look at great bonsai whether at bonsai exhibits, on-line, in books, or even visiting other bonsai collections. All of these can inspire you to improve your collection, and can help train your eye as to what makes a great bonsai.
One of more fortunate occurrences had been moving into a house with very little space for keeping my bonsai. This forces me to think every time I buy a bonsai, because I will have to get rid of one so that I can have room on my benches. This is good in a number of ways. First it ensures that my collection is not getting too big so that I know I can give the attention each trees requires. It was said that your collection should be limited. Think of it as each tree requires 1 hour of training per week. So, if you have ten trees that means you should be spending 10 hours taking care of your trees each week. Having limited space always means that my collection is constantly upgrading. That is why this site changes so much. I have to either sell or give one of my existing trees away so that I can have room for the new one.