Author Topic: You get what you pay for....True?  (Read 7297 times)

Chrisl

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #30 on: October 16, 2011, 12:58 PM »
I was just about to post the same thing Jerry, what an interesting thread.  For me, age is catching up to me.  So my buying new material needs to be somewhat established/old, field grown stock, or say collected for instance.  I'm comfortable spending more as I know I can keep them alive, and thrive. 

But I also admit I still have a lot to learn, hence my Bonsai Intermediate level class starts next week.  I'm, at this point in my life, willing to spend the time and energy and money on getting more direct experience.  I agree with Al, you can only get so much out of videos.  Nothing compares to direct experience.  I'd like to eventually take those weekend classes offered by Boon or Ryan Neil.  I'd learn a ton from either of these two gentlemen.  And I'm actually prioritizing taking classes here locally, and saving for these weekend classes, over buying new material right now.  Material can always be had, developing an eye and being able to translate that material into a 'specimen' bonsai is something else.  And I want to get to that level before I kick the bucket...I'm "only" 50 right now lol  So hopefully I'll have another 20 yrs to get there  ;D
 

jtucker

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #31 on: October 16, 2011, 01:28 PM »
I like what Jerry said about getting what you CHOOSE... and Al was definitely making the point that a discerning eye is key. There have been several times that I paid 60-80 dollars for stuff at club sales or conventions, and these trees are nowhere near as good (development-wise, or having as much potential for me to figure out) as some trees I recently bought at a club sale for 20 dollars. It wasn't the quality of material that changed, it was my knowledge gained from the mistake of buying junk trees, and I didn't want to do that any more. So I really looked for good trees instead of finding the most expensive one I could afford and thinking that was the best.

Anyone else have hit-and-miss luck at club sales?
 

Elliott

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #32 on: October 16, 2011, 02:30 PM »
Al, Not all untouched truly raw stock is inexpensive. I have seen some untouched (except for being watered and nursed along until established) recently dug Ca. junipers that were selling for a pretty penny because they had the potential to be specimen trees. If you want something like that, you will have to dig it yourself (that's not cheap either) or pay for it.
 Just yesterday, I a paid a large chunk of change for an old Japanese ume that was imported many years ago from Japan. It is very old and it looks it with its natural Shari's, uro's and live vein and deadwood. No artist created that. Time and mother nature did. (A deer unfortunately ate most of its branches off this last summer, but it is full of buds all over the live parts, so I will eventually be able to style them as I wish -for good or bad). Your 3 dollar pine (although wired in a technically correct and in a common and basic style) even if worked on by Jesus Christ, moses, Buddha, Allah and miss Thailand, will never have the wabi sabi of my expensive ume in our lifetime.
 I will be at the GSBF convention and hopefully I will run into you so we can get a laugh out of all this, After all, we are just trying to get a little joy out of our trees before the big coronary or runaway bus full of Jerry's kids takes us off the set for good. :)
 
 

Jerry Norbury

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #33 on: October 16, 2011, 02:43 PM »
I'll go further and say that price, age and country of origin (read Japan) still mean less than applying the basic selection rules I presented earlier.
I see tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of bonsai every year - (http://www.flickr.com/photos/norbury/collections/72157623748358300/) and it's certainly not like I see perfect trees coming in from Japan - I'd still reject probably 90%-95%. Having said that I probably reject 99.5% of the Chinese trees which I look at - but at least they are cheap...(doh - breaking my price rule)...
 

coh

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #34 on: October 16, 2011, 03:18 PM »
This has turned into a very interesting discussion. I'm interested more in creating my own trees as opposed to maintaining bonsai developed by someone else.  But those interests have changed some over the past couple of years as I've learned more, so now I've got a wide range of material - from small seedlings planted in the ground to grow, to "trunk-finished" stock (that I paid more for than I ever thought I would), to collected trees and relatively finished trees picked up at club auctions.

Initially I bought cheap, small "pre bonsai" plants (from Brent Walston, for example) intending to grow them out for bonsai use. Pretty quickly I realized that it would be quite a while before most of them got to the point where I could even begin doing branch development type work, so I started looking for more advanced stock - trees that had been grown specifically for bonsai use, with larger trunks, developed nebari, but no branching - trees on which I could immediately begin the branch development process. Then I realized it might be nice to have some more finished bonsai so I could get some experience with the maintenance techniques. I picked up a few of those from a club member who was selling off part of his collection. They're not "great" trees but they're decent...and will suit the purpose. And yes, club auctions do seem to be very much hit and miss - which is to be expected, since the trees being sold are usually trees that someone else doesn't want. Sometimes because of basic flaws, but sometimes because someone just isn't sure how to proceed...

I guess my feelings (as a relative beginner) are (1) you sometimes get what you pay for, but you have to know what to look for, and (2) as someone said earlier, it makes sense to have a range of material (age, size, cost, state of development) to work and learn on.

Chris

 

AlexV

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #35 on: October 16, 2011, 05:28 PM »
Many good points have been made, and honestly so long as you are having fun that is all that really counts.  Any time you try to make a statement like "trees that cost more will always be better" you are just asking for problems.  If you go to the garden of a bonsai professional, it is however true, you will get what you pay for.

As for home depot material, there are a couple things you will not get there.  You will not get a tree with no scars, and you will not get old bark.  These are the two things that command the highest prices in Japan, and they are things you cannot fake.  The reason to spend $1000 on a black pine is because it is 100 years old with flakey awesome bark.  You cannot get that at home depot.  You will also not find a tree with perfect branches and a tapering trunk that doesn't involve lots of chopping.  And large chops at that, that will show up.  If you are just making a tree you wanna smile at in your back yard, that is fine, who cares, but if you want to make trees that compete with those in Japan, trunk chops don't get it done.  Akio told me that out of 1000 trees that are specifically grown in Japan to be bonsai, only one will be a good tree.  By good he means it could win Kokufu.

As an example, look up the Kokufu 70 show book.  you will see a giant red pine which won a kokufu award, it has branches only at the apex, and inverse taper the entire trunk and no nebari to speak of.  So how the hell did this tree win?  Answer: It is hundreds of years old with immaculate bark that is like 3" deep and it has not a single scar anywhere on it.  When i took the book to Boon to ask him why this tree with so many issues could possibly win, Jonas immediately upon my description said "oh, its the red pine you are talking about right?"  They knew what tree I was talking about just based on my incredulity at it winning.  It is a very famous tree, and close to priceless.

Some trees you spend money on because you could not train that tree to that point in your life time.  Other times, it is just nice to have a developed tree to work on while working on your trees still in training.  Working on refined trees with good ramification teaches you how to get a tree to that point.  It is a bit of a chicken vs. egg problem.  If you never work on a refined tree, don't see them regularly, you will have a very difficult time ever getting a tree to that point unless you have the aid of a professional.  Working on refined trees also gives you insight into things you can do earlier in the tree's process to speed it up.

It is a balance everyone chooses for themselves.  Buy good trees or try to find trees with potential and make them good, do all the work yourself or work with a professional.  And each is a sliding scale.  It isn't a black and white question, it is all about what gives you the most rewarding experience. 

Personally I have bought a few trees that are ready to be refined, and I spent a bunch of money on them (as a grad student I don't have a lot to spend on trees).  Mostly I am growing trees from seedlings specifically to be bonsai because I also enjoy growing the trees from scratch.  Find your own balance.
 

Elliott

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #36 on: October 16, 2011, 05:36 PM »
Alex, your my new hero! ;D
 

John Kirby

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #37 on: October 16, 2011, 06:33 PM »
Interesting thread, still. I always love it when Al pops in, good material, lots of work and makes the most of what he has in front of him. Unlike most who have posted on this thread, I own a Bonsai Nursery. I try not to use these threads as opportunities to sell trees. We have a few thousand trees in various states of development. I buy trees, I sell trees. Over the past few years I have shifted from an attitude of everything is for sale, to there are some trees that I will not sell. These trees will at some point get passed on to competent friends with the requirement that they be passed on to others with skills when necessary.

I have sold a lot of trees, including a lot that I would still like to have. We start trees from seed, we start seed from cuttings, we graft, we field grow, we collect. The point is, I have watched people walk up and buy trees for years. This last summer, I was vending in Dallas. While there I was decandling and Wiring JBP, Peter Tea was with me and he was wiring JBP. A nice person came up to the vending area and looked at a few of the Pines I had for sale ($250 range). I had decandled a tree and was wondering why I had priced it so low, but the person asked me which of the pines I would pick, I offered up the tree I was working on. They looked at me and said, that tree doesn't look healthy, it is too thin. I started to explain the importance of decandling and needle plucking for balancing growth, when they explained to me that they had had the classes and understood decandling. I smiled and asked them which tree they preferred, they picked a very straight yet not formal upright that had not yet been decandled. It was healthier they said. I took their cash and sent a nice tree to its new home. I took the nicer tree home and subsequently sold it for a good deal more. This happens all the time.  Foliage sells, look at Jerry's list, don't be that sucker who buys a nice (yet untrained canopy).

John
(I have 800 or so tridents in the ground- several years- you dig and haul $15 per tree minimum of 100 trees)
 

JRob

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #38 on: October 16, 2011, 07:46 PM »
Good Evening All,

Been following this thread with interest. You get what you pay for - true? The assumption that if you pay more you are buying a better tree. I do not necessarily think so. Bad trees can be highly priced and good trees can be found at reasonable prices. As an art we train our eyes to recognize good trees - thats why every week I pour over my bonsai show book studying good trees. Bonsai is an art form and art is always subjective, after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder but there are established norms.

As a living art a tree is never finished and they are in a continual state of change. The question for all of us is how much time and patience do we have. Trees in my collection are in all stages. Some I will never live long enough to see their full potential realized but my son will. Others are stunners. Some I keep purely for sentimental reasons and the memories they invoke when I view them (just like our kids school art that we tac to the fridge.) Some of my trees I have spent a lot on and others barely anything at all. But the good trees were good regardless of what I paid for them. Yet I enjoy seeing them all and working on each one is a pleasure.

My rule when purchasing a tree is to buy the trunk and the nebari. On all trees I look for movement of the trunk as it comes up from the soil and are the roots balanced giving a sense of stability and rootedness to the earth regardless of the trees age. I look for trees with a good skeleton. I buy early in the season just as the buds are pushing so I can see the trees form and pines after decandling and needle thinning. You should make your selection first before you ever check it's price. Then buy what you can afford. I know use a judging score sheet that my teacher gave at a study group and rate all trees I purchase before I even consider buying them regardless of price. If the tree is worthy - I to consider buying it. If not I move on. This more than anything has helped build the quality of my collection.

JRob
 

Elliott

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #39 on: October 16, 2011, 10:36 PM »
I think that we should all just agree that the "right way" is the way that allows us to enjoy our hobbie the most. If we all did the same thing, it would be very boring to go to a show or cruise around the internet looking at tree galleries. My trees are for my pleasure and if someone else likes them fine, if not, so what? I have no right to tell someone how to go about their hobbie. If they want my opinion, I will give it and then you make your own decision.
 It makes me happy to see so many people from all over the globe put in their 2 cents. It makes me feel like Im not the only one who almost runs into the car ahead of me cause the craype myrtle growing next to the bus stop has great potential. Im glad I paid for the extra insurance LOL!
 

akeppler

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #40 on: October 17, 2011, 02:13 AM »
My only regret is not having a larger budget. Just think what would happen if I could afford $10.00 crappy stock to cut up!
 

Larry Gockley

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #41 on: October 17, 2011, 09:03 AM »
Good point Al. My only regret is not starting 30 years sooner. :'(  I guess the bottom line is you get what you pay for ,  IF you know what to look for. Not unlike buying a used car. LOL   Larry
 

Jay

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #42 on: October 17, 2011, 09:27 AM »
Thought I'd step in again. I'm finding it interesting, all the takes on the question. My belief is when you aquire a tree either by collection or from another, 'You get what you get' what you do with it from that point on is what is of import. Obtaining a liner and being able to see the future will in time get you a nice tree, with no insight or goal it will get you a malsai. Obtaining a tree with some or a lot of training prior to your acquiring it will if you have a vision get you a nice tree. If you just have money to burn and don't know what you're doing it will probably end up worth less and be less of a Bonsai than when you started.

my 2 cents
J
 

Jerry Norbury

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #43 on: October 17, 2011, 12:19 PM »
My only regret is not having a larger budget. Just think what would happen if I could afford $10.00 crappy stock to cut up!
Accessibility to masses of material is a downward spiral...
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: You get what you pay for....True?
« Reply #44 on: October 17, 2011, 12:35 PM »
Jerry, the first step is admitting you have a problem.