I’ve enjoyed bonsai auctions for a long time. You never know what material will show up or how much it will go for. They are a great way to gauge the market for given trees within a given audience and can be a great source for new material.
Bay Island Bonsai holds an auction every year on the first day of their annual exhibit – typically the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I got to help with the event this year, logging purchases as bidding on each lot closed.
A mix of medium sized trees
As I was busy before the event, I didn’t get much of an opportunity to look closely at the trees for sale. I noticed there was a good mix of coniferous and deciduous trees for both large and small budgets, but I didn’t plan to bid on any – I have plenty of trees to keep me busy in my small garden.
Pine, ume, junpier and maple on the block
Going once, going twice…
As so often happens, I watched lots come and go only to get caught up in the bidding. That one looks interesting, I thought as I tried to catch glimpses of a white pine on the other side of the room. And the price seems reasonable, I told myself as my bidder card rose into view. Before it was over, I had two new trees.
The first was a white pine that upon closer inspection revealed teeny, tiny, green needles surrounded by the previous year’s yellow needles. The tree was healthy, but not vigorous. More interesting was the tree’s bark. Turns out the tree was grafted, but onto what stock I do not know. Jimmy Inadomi performed the graft years ago so I may have an opportunity to investigate further.
The main reason I bid on the white pine was that I like the variety and they are hard to come by. With nice movement and some interesting deadwood, I figured the tree could make a nice project.
The second tree I bid on was a Utah juniper. Although it lacks the twisting so characteristic of good juniper bonsai, it has interesting deadwood with some age on it. It’s also a reasonable size – easy to carry and a nice potential addition to a medium display.
Both trees need plenty of work to get them into shape, but it’s the kind of work I enjoy – getting the trees healthy and making key styling decisions.
If you missed BIB’s auction, fret not – the Golden State Bonsai Federation is hosting their Annual Fundraiser at the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt on February 23-24. The event includes an auction on the 23rd. See you there?
Ever wonder what it’s like to wander around a world-class bonsai convention held in Japan? It’s pretty great. Everywhere I turned I saw wonderful trees, tools, pots, stands and other bonsai paraphernalia. It was fun to see which trees came from which gardens and how much they cost. And because the quality was so high, it was like wandering, at times, through a giant, disorganized exhibit.
The location didn’t hurt either. The convention was held in Takamatsu, a port city on the north coast of Shikoku facing the Inland Sea. The region is famous for producing pine bonsai, lacquer-ware and udon. Convention events were spread between two adjacent hotels at Sunport Takamatsu.
Many vendors priced their trees on the high side with the expectation that some bargaining would precede the sales. This was particularly true for the more expensive trees. Less expensive items tended to sell closer to their posted prices.
Some people held off their purchases toward the end of the event in hopes of getting a better price. I tended to get what I could while it was still available. At one point I found a box of Kokufu books beneath a sales table – oh boy! In the time it took me to pick up half of the books, another convention-goer grabbed the other half.
By the end of the event, I had filled my bags with pots, tools, books and little quince slabs for displaying accent plants. It was the unpurchased trees, however, that left the greatest impression. What fun it would be to bring some of them home!
Takayuki Fukushima’s table
Junichiro Tanaka and Ken Fujiwara’s table
Peter Warren at Kunio Kobayashi’s sales tables
Antique root stand – likely priced well over $10,000
Little red and blue pots
Half of the vendors were situated in a tent right on the Inland Sea. The selection inside was great.
Detached vendor area
Trees for sale
Junipers for sale
One vendor filled two tables with nothing but shimpaku. They ranged from rough material to Important Bonsai Masterpieces.
Shimpaku – $1,800
Shimpaku – $1,800
Shimpaku – $21,600
Shimpaku, Important Bonsai Masterpiece – no price listed
The quality really was amazing. Although S-CUBE set the high bar in terms of quality, many vendors offered outstanding trees.
Small deciduous tree in Koyo pot
Assorted deciduous trees
Red princess persimmon – $190
A word about princess persimmons – although they look delicious, the experience of eating them is far from enjoyable. Like any unripe persimmon, princess persimmons are very astringent. So much so that after tasting one, my mouth wasn’t the same for a whole week. Has anyone else given these a try?