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Interview with Boon Manakitivipart (Part 5-Boon on Soil)

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bonsaikc:
Sashi-eda: Boon, when discussing bonsai soil, everyone seems to be emotionally involved with their favorite recipe. In fact, it reaches the fervor of a religious belief sometimes. You have a recipe that you use and teach your students to use. (Boon's soil mix.) Are you dogmatic about that soil mix?


Boon: No dogma. I use the one that works the best. That is the one that I am loyal to. My basic mix is basically what my master used. It has been tested out for a few decades now. But if something better came along, I would switch at once. It is not about the soil, it is about the trees. I used to use a similar mix or even the same mix many are using. I have seen what happens to those trees in a different mix.

But there is an additional thing about soil and bonsai people. I have found people's evaluation of soils faulty, because many bonsai people do not make a difference between "alive" and "healthy." So many think if their trees are not dying, their soil must be a good one. But death or no death is not what you are looking for. A healthy tree has the right amount of bust, the right color. Healthy trees are more flexible than trees that are just able to keep themselves alive. Here is where training is important. Every species may tell you in a different way whether they are healthy or not. Just because it is not dying does not mean that it is healthy.

My two favorite negatives about my soil that I remember are these two:

   1. "I am not putting any of that God damned Japanese crap in my soil."
   2. I have to admit that my trees are healthier in your soil mix than in mine. But you know what, I am not going to use it."

I am sure you have met people in bonsai with a similar mindset.

It should be no surprise that I like my own soil mix. It is successfully used in Texas, Washington, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, and Canada--and many other places. So far, it works perfectly as long as people correctly sift, repot, do root work, water, and fertilize. In California I also use a layer of New Zealand Sphagnum moss (also used for orchids) on top of the soil for retention of humidity during the summer. In wet and humid parts of the country, I recommend adding a more pumice and using little or no moss. In try and arid parts of the country, a thicker layer of moss--as a very general rule.

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