Caring Takes Time

Caring Takes Time

Do you know that we lose very few bonsai out of the thousands we have to care for?

Working with hundreds of bonsai at the nursery, I am always amazed at the beauty and variety. Hitoshi and Teddi have always stressed health and beauty (with health
always being the first focus – my motto has become ‘without health there is no beauty’).

This is not just bluster but a result of the priority of maintaining healthy trees. I work with
many students and customers, both in classes and privately to help evaluate trees, promote health and beauty by repotting, pruning, wiring, etc. I have to say that there is a certain sadness that goes along with this as I often see many trees in decline that were once very beautiful (or had the potential of becoming very beautiful bonsai).

There are many levels of bonsai enthusiasm:
~ Customers and friends who simply like to acquire beautiful trees while leaving
the maintenance and styling to us. There is nothing wrong with this. Patrons of the arts
are always needed. That people are willing to pay to
have professionals maintain the health and beauty of their trees is a good thing.
~ The vast majority of enthusiasts are practitioners at one level or another ñ from the
casual bonsai hobbyist to the bonsai addict (you know who you are!) Looking for and
acquiring good pre-bonsai or bonsai to further develop and maintain is their passion. The
art of doing bonsai is the joy ñ repotting, searching for good material, wiring, learning
new techniques and advancing in the art/practice, pruning, etc. are all enjoyable
endeavors. However, we are all affected in some way by the strong cultural tendency to
acquire things but not invest the necessary time to maintain these living sculptures.

I have been at the nursery for over 10 years (friend of NEBG since the days of South Natick) and have seen many fantastic bonsai and some very simple but still beautiful ones.
I’ve met many wonderful enthusiasts here. I have seen trees that were wonderfully styled
by a visting master (eg. Kenji Miyata, Mr. Tsukada, Mario Komsta, Mitsuo Matsuda) and then have watched the trees decline in health or slowed in progression for various reasons.

We all have busy and sometimes difficult lives and sometimes we have a major event in
our lives prevent us from temporarily focusing on our trees (my hip replacement last
summer slowed much of the work that my trees needed). I am not trying to make this a
guilt trip by any means but would like you to think about your approach to bonsai and
your trees. Are you doing the necessary work to keep them healthy and progressing
towards beauty?
What can you/I do if we find that we need to do more but am not sure how? I’ll make a
few suggestions:
~ consider taking some time to schedule a tutorial with me at the nursery. We can
accomplish a lot in an hour or at least I can point you in the right direction as far as goals,
tasks to keep you trees healthy. I can teach you or a small group to wire or prune
properly, etc. I usually schedule all day PT’s at least once a season and often do not get
many takers!
~ if health is good but styling is needed, you can also bring your tree to the nursery for us
to evaluate or request that I (or visiting artist) prune and wire your tree towards beauty.
~ take a class! We offer a multitude of classes. I also offer the Wednesday night mid
week open workbench.
~ do you have too many trees? This hard fact afflicts all of us to a degree with the
impulse towards owning things, etc.
Consider quality over quantity. As most enthusiasts progress with this art, they tend to buy better trees. Yes, this usually means more expensive trees but you have to pay for quality. If you have too many quality trees, focus on the better ones and the ones you are good at maintaining. You also can sell/trade your trees back to nursery or put them on consignment here.

~ Finally, work with species that you do well with and are hardy in our area rather than
ones that you definitely do not have the time to maintain. I meet people who are
magicians with tropical species while others, like myself, work with hardier varieties that
winter well in our region.

As Dr. Spock says (with a little twist): ‘may your trees live long and prosper’
If you’d like to set up a time for a private or group tutorial, you can email me at:

Peace in bonsai-


About New England Bonsai Gardens

New England Bonsai Gardens is the largest bonsai nursery in New England. Our nursery in Bellingham, Massachusetts currently has eight greenhouses and more trees than we care to count. We have served the bonsai community for over 20 years, providing bonsai trees, pre-bonsai, pots, tools, soils, books, tree-sitting services, and more. We also teach bonsai workshops for all levels of students. Check out our workshop schedule for a complete listing.
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