Bonsai on a budget.

Is bonsai becoming a hobby for those with deep pockets? There is no doubt that as a hobby it can get to be expensive, you can pay thousands of pounds for specimen trees.But it does not have to be, you can do so on a much smaller budget.

As an example, I recently attended Markham Grange Bonsai Boot Sale, this is an ideal event to pick up material for bonsai with trees ranging from a few pounds up to hundreds. The most expensive tree I saw was priced at £1150. Had I been willing to pay that much I would only be worried about the responsibility of keeping such a specimen. But that’s just my way of thinking.

I have trees which were bought from bonsai nurseries and my local club, but I also have some which I sourced from garden centres, collected from the wild and even one from a skip. So now you know that I am careful with the pennies, no not stingey just careful.

Here are a few examples of bonsai on a budget.

This Itoigawa juniper is something I bought from such a bonsai nursery several years ago. When bought it was clearly a recent import and sold as a starter tree which was reflected in its price. I have been training it for several years and have made several changes to the original tree. It still needs further refinement but that’s part of the fun in bonsai.

Grown from an acorn collected some years ago at Tarn Hows near Hawkshead in the Lake District. This little Oak tree cost absolutely nothing apart from my time and a little of my energy. Something anyone can do. (Had it been planted in the ground it would be significantly bigger but has always been grown in a pot)

Developing bonsai takes time and there are no instant results unless you buy specimen trees and they also need continuing care.

Garden centre material suitable for bonsai include Pyracantha, Cotoneaster, Potentilla and various evergreen species. These can be bought for a few pounds but again they do not become bonsai overnight, they need to be styled as starter bonsai and then developed which can take several years.

This pyracantha was grown by a past member of the bonsai society from a garden centre plant which probably cost only a few pounds. Planted in a mica pot it makes quite a nice bonsai and importantly pyracantha are hardy plants coping easily with the UK climate. The use of flowering and fruiting plants adds colour to any bonsai collection and as an added bonus we get to watch birds taking the fruit.

I have seen some really nice flowering bonsai and potentilla are one of the popular species.

Readily availablefrom any garden centre they can in time make nice bonsai at reasonably low cost. This little potentilla was bought from the Sale area of a garden centre, it has been pruned and given a brief styling. It will take several years to develop as bonsai.

When looking for suitable material look at the trunkline for some attractive movement, if need be you can grow the rest of the branches. Then scrape away some of the compost at the surface to see where the roots are in relation to the visible trunk.

Bonsai nurseries often offer starter trees and seedlings and these are well worth considering as there can be a great sense of satisfaction in growing such materia. This hornbeam was bought as a ‘seedling’ from a bonsai nursery. Its development has taken about twenty years but when bought it cost almost nothing.

Proof that you don’t need deep pockets to enjoy bonsai, although doubtless we all see things which tempt us.