Hi Jon, I can't find it now, but I read a comment of yours a few weeks ago about your unhappy service at a bonsai shop here when you wanted to buy an olive...
It got me thinking, I wanted to say a few things to have you want to come back to the Melbourne shops again one day.
There are about 5 I go to on a regular basis, not to buy, god forbid the prices, but to browse and get motivation. I find it very lucky we love an art form that allows us free entry every time to look at our passion.
the shop in Hawthorn you mentioned is run by a husband and wife. I find the man a little eccentric, but his wife is a nice lady, not sure who you got that day, but sometimes I go for a browse and chat with her a little. She can enjoy a chat about this plant or that etc. The man i find hard to talk to, not sure why, maybe he's too busy with other thoughts somehow.
There are 4 other great shops specialising in bonsai that I know, i presume there are others but only look at these that I know.
There is another on Mahoneys Rd in Campbelfield, a Chinese couple run it. Quite OK, they can be nice, but it is run out of their house and it is probably the most amaturish of the shops I visit. I think it's called oriental Bonsai Nursery. However, a bonsai fan will always enjoy.
In Huntingdale rd Oakleigh is another called Williams Nursery. The man there Ted is an enlderly gentleman, very well respected and has a nice small yard FULL to the brim of inspiration, he and his wife can be up for a chat too. They have a few incredible ones on display too, some amazing specimens.
Then on Old Dandenong Road, Bonsai Art Nursery, a brilliant place for more inspiration and stock and display. I love it. Only had a few very short conversations with the people there, they are polite and friendly, but seem busy. Quite a large place too with a lot of pre-bonsai, large and small, and a lot of mature stock, great place.
Then the best place of all, my Bonsai Mecca, Gardenworld, Springvale road Springvale. What a place! lots on display, lots of small, medium and large, great great great!!! Prices can be unfavourable sometimes, but every now and then you can get something where "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and grab a bargain. Not to meniton the entire complex here is very large, a big cafe is always used as it takes time to wander around and anjoy.
I'm not sure exactly if I am allowed to spruik specific shops here, however I wanted to say next time you are down, try these places if you get a chance. I thoroughly enjoy wnadering around these places given half a chance. Again, how lucky are we that we enjoy an art that has free exhibitions every day of the week!