Nigel's bonsai journey.
Hi I'm Nigel and I started growing bonsai trees in 1975! I was 25 then and had been given a very simple book by my mother for my birthday.
I read the 45 pages or so in no time at all and concluded this would be a great hobby to start now, and really enjoy when I got to retirement. By which time my trees would hopefully be more than just twigs in pots.
Armed with the simple bonsai book I started my search for material to work on, or potensai as it is officially known. I didn't have to look far. In my own back garden, which was just outside Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, there were seedlings of cherry, ash, birch and even I think an acorn just sprouting!
These got planted into whatever pot like object I had to hand, and my early collection of twigs lived in catering cans! They grew a bit rusty on the outside, I guess a bit of paint before I left them to the elements may have improved their outside appearance, but would have made no difference to their usefulness as starter pots for no cost.
The important thing for anyone just starting out is to choose pots or receptacles that will hold enough soil and enough water to keep your twig growing happily. Drainage holes are also a necessity to avoid drowning the tree. Willows will survive this as may Alders, but most trees like some air around their roots.
I also discovered early on that roots will happily grow through drainage holes and into the soil beneath! This can make it tricky to root prune your trees if you discover they have developed a tap root two foot long anchoring tree and pot to the ground.
For many years I have used various forms of tray beneath my collection, filled with pea shingle of various sizes. This has always had a useful side benefit of acting as a water reservoir beneath the pots and provided a micro-climate for them in hot weather. Plus you can easily prune off any roots that have escaped the pot.
Having quite quickly amassed 20 or so potential trees in my tin cans my next task was just to keep them watered and wait for them to give me some clue as to their preferred direction of growth. Would they like to be 'windswept?', 'broom?', 'root over rock?' Or just natural? While I waited, somewhat impatiently (callow youth) I kept my eyes open for further material, which I found in friend's gardens, by the roadside, in woods, on disused ground, in fact just about everywhere. All my collection is sourced from gardens, roadsides, the occasional wood, cuttings or seeds. Mostly deciduous and all species which grow happily in our climate all year round.
I kept a simple exercise book, in which I wrote the date and place of acquisition, the species, if known, and anything else relevant or possibly not. I still have the book with many of the entries crossed through as my early experiments refused to put up with me and died off.
It was quite early in my hobby when a new magazine came out just for bonsai enthusiasts like me, Bonsai magazine, published by Colin Lewis. It was a quarterly publication and I devoured it avidly. Full of pictures of proper bonsai trees and with stories on collecting, training and even exhibiting trees. I have every copy of this. from the very first one, now out of print, through to number 56, when the magazine got taken over by European publishers and its character changed.
Well all too soon retirement arrived and as I considered what I want to do in retirement the prospect of playing with my tree collection was no longer as appealing as it was from 40 years ago. True some of my trees are much more than twigs in pots. Many of them, if not all of them still have plenty of work left in them for someone with more appetite and energy than me.
I am therefore selling part of my collection (about 20 pots worth, some single trees, some multiple or groups). Some 40 - 60 years old, some younger. Not only trees, but bonsai magazines and books, pots and trays.
I want to do this in a personal way, matching the tree to its next custodian/artist. Some of them I won't part with unless the money is right. So some are expensive, some are cheap and some are in the middle. A percentage of sales revenue will go to the club funds.
I have photos, origin when I can remember where I found them, and a potted history, as befits all potted trees! These are collated on a private website, to which I can grant viewer access by person. I live in Totton and the trees can be viewed safely in my garden.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org