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?
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Kathy Sloan says
Hi Jonas, Really enjoy your posts. What would you do to improve the health of the white pine? Thanks, Kathy
Jonas Dupuich says
Thanks Kathy – As the tree was repotted last year and is in good soil, the main thing I can do this year to improve the tree’s health is to watch the watering. I plan to feed the tree lightly and water occasionally and see how it does – different varieties respond differently to water and fertilizer. The best thing I could do would be to move to someplace with warmer summers and colder winters, but for now the tree will have to do with Bay Area weather.
I really enjoy bonsai auctions, thanks for covering this end of the BIB show!
Jonas have you considered getting a mini freezer and fitting it with fluorescent lamps for white pines in the winter? That way you could slowly ramp the temp down to just below freezing, and still give them a bit of light. Having grown tropicals indoors here in MI for ~4 years now, I am betting it would work pretty well once the kinks get worked out.
Jonas Dupuich says
That, Alex, would be a fun experiment.
I know folks who have tried using “beer coolers” in Louisiana, lots of fungus issues, didn’t work. Need a much larger cooler to manage the humidity. Good thought, might be a good experiment for Jonas in all of hs free time.