It's the start of a new year in many ways for me, and hopefully for the better. My surgeon pronounced me 'cured' in December, and my oncologist will be seeing me only two or three times a year to make sure that everything is still ok. I am back to working now, but manual labor is still limited to three or four hours a day and I am still not up to speed in terms of strength and endurance. That will still take several more months. Knock on wood, I am probably as normal as I am going to get. There's no getting around getting older (65 this year), and this means I have to work smarter. No more abusing the body in heroic efforts of grunt labor.
And to that end, the nursery is getting leaner and more mature. If you are a long time customer, you have no doubt seen the catalog offerings diminish slightly each year. We will also stop selling tools sometime this year. But having said that, the offerings won't change much from here on out, although some things are not going to be offered in smaller sizes. It is time to develop the massive amount of mature inventory that we have and concentrate more on specimen trees. I still hope to get a decent amount of this material online, starting this year. I know, I have been saying that for years, but this year, there is a sizeable number of plants that are advanced far enough to be sold. I just finished pruning the pines, and there are some fantastic trunks that were revealed. The plants are a little naked right now, but that is best for seeing the possibilities, so I will photograph much of it this spring and followup with a second set of photos after the new growth emerges this summer.
So what's coming out? The long wait for cutting grown specimens of Pinus thunbergii 'Hachi Gen' and 'Mi Nishiki' is just about over. These will probably be the first specimen pines offered, starting at $150 and up for twelve year old cutting grown material. A limited amount of cultivars may also make it to the website this summer, including a few larger 'Hayabusa', 'Brocade', and 'Yatsubusa' black pines. We also have about fifty 'Shimpaku' junipers in five gallon size that will be soon cut back and offered this spring or summer. These are great workshop trees with 1 1/2 inch caliper trunks and great branching. These will start at $150. I have been selling a number of 7 gallon ancient mugo pines at the nursery and hope to offer some of these as well. These trees are over twenty years old and have had considerable training over the years. I have been pricing these at $200 each and folks have been gobbling them up.
The big field grown maples that I got from Randy Knight of Oregon Bonsai have finally begun to get some branch taper and ramification. It has been quite a struggle since our area isn't really suitable for Japanese maples. But that struggling has finally turned them into fantastic, unique trees with four to six inch trunks, but they are only twelve to sixteen inches tall. These are starting at $400. Many of the 'jungle' rescued trees were repotted and pruned last summer and are now ready to go. There are many one and two gallon deciduous trees in this lot. Specimen one gallon material is starting at $75. And lastly, a good deal of field grown material can be dug this year, although I may not get around to doing more than a handful of these since it's so much work and there's so much to do. But this stuff just keeps getting bigger and better. From this area you get unique offerings like three and four inch 'Paul's Scarlet' hawthorn trunks that are CUTTING grown, not grafted, and a half dozen different cultivars of cutting grown crabapples with large trunks.
And what about the future? Well, I put about fifty cedars in the ground last year, and an equal number of black pines. There are about forty 'San Jose' junipers in containers and in the ground with enormous trunks of six to eight inches. These are real monsters that are still being pruned for back branching and will make awesome specimens with either their own foliage or grafted over to 'Shimpaku'. These are probably too big and heavy to ship and will be available for nursery pickup only. I will probably began to unload a lot of my larger Japanese maples soon. It is just too difficult to protect this much larger stock from our spring freezes. I need to cut them down to size and start moving them.
We have plans for a larger greenhouse soon, hopefully this spring, and that will be our last nursery construction project. It's been a long road since 1998, and I'm glad it's almost over, and none too soon! We still have work to do on the house and property, but the pace is definitely slowing down and my time and energy can go into more plant development. Bonsai is a funny business. If you want to make money, you sell a jillion little crappy junipers in $2 Chinese pots with zero long term interest in plant material. But if you really want to do BONSAI, then you spend your life developing one or two crops. Since I was in my thirties when I got started, it has been a single crop and little more. Inventory isn't just stuff you sell, it's passing on life to friends. You try to charge as little as possible to make sure it goes to good homes, but you have to collect for half a lifetime of care. It's a tough call.