Vance Wood wrote:
Bill made remarks in this area I think more or less voiced this opinion that Europeans work more with imported raw material and yamadori. His observation that Europeans do not deal much with the cultivation of raw material where as Americans do, kind of got him in trouble with some contrary comments. Thinking through this I believe Bill had a valid argument. However we are discussing more or less finished bonsai in this thread and the evidence is there to be seen. Bonsai Today has published numerous galleries containing trees from all over the world and usually American Bonsai do not hit the top in comparison---what ever the reason.
Lets look at the options: Imported material is a real problem here because it is difficult to obtain good imports because of the import restrictions. Yamadori are not so difficult but seem to be widely neglected. Over the years I have seen examples of some really nice collected stuff but they seem to fall off the table as one waits to see updates. I remember several years ago on Garden Web Bonsai Forum a really beautiful Douglas fir was posted. I keep hoping some day that the owner will post an update but so far I have not seen this tree again.
I have seen several really good Western Hemlocks but it seems the majority of the collected trees you are likely to encounter are Ponderosa Pine, (a really dreadful tree for bonsai in my opinion), Rocky Mountain Juniper and the occasional California Juniper. Walter Pall has a beautiful Ponderosa Pine but that is the only one of this species I would look at twice.
The point of all of this is that Americans are ignoring the best trees because of the problems of obtaining them. I don't think anyone here is a stranger to what happens when a discussion on an Internet forum turns to collecting material. The environmental gestapo turns out in force and the collector gets accused of destroying the environment. It is no wonder Americans work mostly with nursery stock or cultivated stock, it is just too much trouble to do anything else. If this is the reason American bonsai are less than their contemporaries in Europe I am at a loss as what to do about it.
The use of collected material is not that rare in some areas of the US. In Florida collected Bald Cypress, Buttonwood, Bougainvillea, American Elm, Hackberry, Podocarpus, Crape Myrtle, Live Oak, Simpson Stopper, Privet, Water Elm, and even ficus make up a large portion of the better collections. (I'm going collecting on Saturday.) In California the California Juniper, Sierra Juniper, Coastal Live Oak, Redwoods along with Urban yamadori mentioned for Florida grace many of the better collections. The northwest has mountain Hemlock (which you mentioned) a couple varieties of pine, spruce, cedar, and Rocky Mountain Juniper, cotoneaster. The northeast US has Larch, Apple, White Cedar, Scrub Pine, Honeysuckle, American Beech, and Hornbeam. Now think about the European yamadori - the species I have seen are Taxus, Hawthorne, Pinus Mugo and Scots pine, Olive, English Oak, Spruce and Common Juniper and Juniper sabina along with urban yamadori. The US has plenty to offer in terms of collectable material - at least equal to and probably more than in Europe.
Based on what I saw in Germany when in the Army, the Wald Meister's are just as protective of their forests as American land owners. I seriously doubt collecting without permission is the legitimate way to go in Europe anymore than it is the US or Japan or Taiwan for that matter.