Back in the day, when I had more hair on my head and less on my chin I thought life would work out a certain way, probably not unlike my father perhaps. Then I stumbled ass first into bonsai and, given a few years it ran away with me and became a business. I had hoped that by now I might be taking life a little easier, trouble is the bonsai business doesn’t make shit and so here I am working harder than when I was a spotty teenager with no prospects other than a life of drudgery and grunt work, got that right then. Because of bonsai Catherine and I have never had a holiday in any way despite being together for well over twenty years now. Both of us are working like slaves every single day 24/7/365 as modern parlance goes. I don’t mind, men were made to work, not retire to an easy chair and die of boredom and the doctor said, just last week, I am in very good shape. Don’t laugh, round is a shape! So the hard graft must be paying dividends in some respect.
Bonsai is a hard task master and making a business of it puts one under the iron fist of a slave driver. What saddens me a lot is that I don’t get the time to spend on what I love the most, doing bonsai my way. I rather wish I had kept bonsai as a hobby which I have now lost. Just yesterday I spent fourteen hours straight working on bonsai trees but that was all commercial stock (some of it very good). In the last four days I have spent forty four hours working on trees, good for honing one’s skills (and aggravating my tendinitis) but not exactly rewarding to my artistic sensibilities (don’t laugh). However I guess most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, it just happens my work is everyone else’s hobby. There are worse ways to make a living!
Recently we had a rather large delivery of new bonsai and material turn up at the house. At a guess I would think this lot is over two hundred pieces. It’s certainly the most money I have ever spent on something not made of bricks. This year we have a lot more small and mid sized bonsai, ideal for all the old blokes who keep telling me they can’t lift much these days 😉 Quality is good this year but increasingly we are seeing top quality costing a lot more. Simply put, the demand for quality bonsai is outstripping supply and as always in that case prices are rising. Even the cost of legitimately collected yamadori is going through the roof. Collectors costs for things like permits are rocketing and since demand is high stock is going to the highest bidder. Like for like I would estimate prices have risen this year by a high single figure which considering exchange rate movement is pretty impressive. That’s great news for anyone who owns good bonsai trees and bad news if you are in the throes of building a collection. But, in comparison with a lot of the mass produced, ultimately worthless shit we fill our lives with bonsai trees still represent astonishing value for money considering the time invested and skill expended in their production. Buy a new car for a good five figure sum and watch that money dwindle to nothing in ten to fifteen years. Spend that same amount on a good bonsai tree, take care of it properly, allow it to enrich your life and in fifteen years sell it for a bonafide index linked real world profit.
Here I have taken a few snap shots of what arrived. There really are all sorts here, good, very good, average and even some ugly trees too. Within the next two weeks we are expecting a (literally) lorry load of yamadori. This lot is, by and large Japanese bonsai, Chinese bonsai and other nursery produced stock with a smattering of yamadori and even a few pieces from a private collection and some PX stock too. This year I have also lifted a hundred little trees I was growing in the ground. There genuinely is a lot more but so far I have not had a chance to drag it in from the drive way. By the time spring actually arrives I would estimate there will be close to three and a half thousand plants in the yard. This will all be for sale sooner or later. Perhaps if I sold it all and didn’t replace it I could retire like my old man did at 52 but that ship sailed already. There might be the kernel of an idea there though, where’s that calculator?