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Bonsai : Quality vs Quantity

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

How many bonsai tree's is too many bonsai trees? Can you have too many bonsai trees? This is a question that is asked usually as a joke from people in the beginning stages of their journey. So let's have a proper look.

We have all been there, We start out in Bonsai and we get our first Juniper ( for most people ). Then we want a maple, then an elm then some natives. This continues until we have 1 of each species, then we decide we want a cascade juniper, a semi cascade juniper, a windswept juniper..... Suddenly your collection is huge. This for most people is a place for bragging rights because they have 100 trees or more, But for the trained eye you see a future of 100+ mediocre trees. Now I'm not trying to sound like a bonsai snob or put out any kind of negativity but in bonsai you will learn that the more trees you have to look after the less care each tree actually receives. Each tree in your collection will require proper watering, sometimes 2-3 times a day in the hotter months, and proper watering as well, we don't just wet the soil surface and walk a way we need to make sure we let the soil take on all the water it can. Then we need to prune, wire, style, fertilise, weed, re-pot, spray for pests and fungus etc etc. Now imagine that 100x. You start to skip work, you get so busy you miss windows of opportunity because remember in bonsai we don't do things at any old time, we have to get our timing perfect. Now you might think well that just applies to trees in refinement, but it doesn't. If you are trying to develop trees for bonsai and want to do it properly there is work that goes into that as well including fertilising, watering, pruning, wiring and slip potting.

If you work a full time job i would suggest keeping your collection fairly modest, To a proper bonsai enthusiast they would rather see 20 fantastic trees then a yard full of missed work and rough material. In bonsai it is truly all about the quality and never about the quantity.

I myself only have a collection of around 40 trees, i can get through work a little quicker then others and have more time to focus on bonsai then others, but i also have a business to run so i cap my collection otherwise the whole collection will suffer in terms of quality. There has been a few times when i have bought a new tree and pushed another tree out of my collection.

As a bonus tip to this article i just want to point out that Bonsai isn't all about how big the tree is either, A small bonsai can be far more impressive them a big stump. I've seen many photos of big stumps in pots with little to no branch structure and bad styling and people thinking its impressive just because of the size of the trunk. An impressive tree is a display of the artists commitment to the piece and shows years of well timed work and patience to achieve proper taper, branch structure, leaf reduction and overall health, Sure you can achieve all this from a stump but make sure it is the work that you are impressed by and not the overall girth.

I hope this has helped shift your mindset a little towards having quality bonsai and not a lot of bonsai, Focus on creating a handful and fantastic trees that you would be proud to show.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.

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