Our club president, George Haas presented an excellent program on the art of collecting bonsai at our June meeting. This is a topic which has not been covered by any area bonsai club within recent memory, so most of the material presented was eye-opening for members. While many bonsai enthusiasts would not venture to the mountains collecting trees in the High Sierra, George’s description of the perils and rewards of collecting gave us all a heightened appreciation for these bonsai. And for those looking for bonsai closer to home George had plenty of tips that applied to urban and suburban collecting as well, something many of us can do in our own backyards.
Before launching into the details of collecting George emphasized the importance of ethical collecting. It might seem like a good way to jump-start your bonsai collection with trees that are decades or even centuries old and have intriguing deadwood features, but there is a right way to collect, and many wrong ways. Unfortunately with the growing popularity of bonsai more bad behavior has been observed: collectors not getting permission from property owners, or permits from government agencies to collect, collectors digging only part of the tree from the ground and giving up – not filling the hole back in so the tree can live, trying to collect too large a tree and not preserving enough of the roots and foliage to allow it to survive, leaving trash and debris behind. Whether you are collecting two hundred year old Sierra junipers or your neighbor’s boxwood hedges George enumerated the many steps of successful collecting.