Best starter material for a newbee

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Best starter material for a newbee

Post  remist17 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 8:57 pm

I am torn on what material to start with. I currently have some maples and one elm, but I would like to get one or two more trees to work with. I can only afford prebonsai material. Any suggestions for a quick growing tree that can take some abuse?

I live in South Central PA
I understand how to take care of trees with regards to water and feeding.
I am still learning how to style
I do not have a green house or a heat buiding to store over winter. So what ever it is needs to be able to stand the winter cold and be only covered with mulch

Your help is appreciated.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  leatherback on Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:03 pm

I would say Junipers are about as forgiving as you can get; Get a simple 5$ juniper from a garden centre to train yourself in styling etc.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:06 pm

+1 on juniper. Also check olive, azalea, and crape myrtle. Do get more elms...one is not enough Wink

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  remist17 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:35 pm

I have gotten some box store junipers. I have tried to style and basically stink at them. I promised myself I would not waste the money on the boxstore juni anymore. I would like to learn more on the trees. But the more I look the more I can decide I really can not afford the larger trees. $100+ dollars are a little more than what I can justify spending on one tree.

Can anyone adivse on good places I can secure stock (young) over the internet for a reasonable price?


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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:38 pm



-1 on the juniper. Boxwoods are great beginner material.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:50 pm

Russell Coker wrote:Boxwoods are great beginner material.
I love boxwood but not aware it can take PA weather.

Another that I love worth checking if it can survive your area is yaupon holly.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Orion on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:13 pm

remist17 wrote:I have gotten some box store junipers. I have tried to style and basically stink at them. I promised myself I would not waste the money on the boxstore juni anymore. I would like to learn more on the trees. But the more I look the more I can decide I really can not afford the larger trees. $100+ dollars are a little more than what I can justify spending on one tree.

Can anyone adivse on good places I can secure stock (young) over the internet for a reasonable price?


Where are you, around Altoona, or just west of Gettysburg? You're not going to have any problem climate-wise with Boxwoods; those things are a dime-a-dozen in PA. Don't give up on the junis just yet. Instead of going to chain store nurseries, find a mom and pop place since they tend to have more interesting material (interesting fat trunks, etc.). I always make rounds to those places this time of year and see what's left over. Usually I end up with some really interesting material for anywhere between $5-$15; just be really selective. You can even get some of the much bigger stuff too for under $100, you just have to hunt a bit for it. Check out Nature's Way Nursery out by Harrisburg. Contact Jim Doyle and let him know what you're looking for and the price range. Although I've never purchased material from him yet, there are people on this site who will swear by him.

Happy hunting

p.s. you want to try something rewarding, try crabapple.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  JudyB on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:22 pm

I would think twice about olive and crape myrtle, they are not very cold hardy, I have to keep them in my cold greenhouse (I keep it right around freezing)
There are plenty of options, like spruces, and cold hardy pines, bald cypress, and of course LARCH! I love deciduous trees, but to learn more about growth patterns, there's nothing like an evergreen variety to teach you some things.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Sam Ogranaja on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:25 pm

Orion wrote:
remist17 wrote:I have gotten some box store junipers. I have tried to style and basically stink at them. I promised myself I would not waste the money on the boxstore juni anymore. I would like to learn more on the trees. But the more I look the more I can decide I really can not afford the larger trees. $100+ dollars are a little more than what I can justify spending on one tree.

Can anyone adivse on good places I can secure stock (young) over the internet for a reasonable price?

Check out Nature's Way Nursery out by Harrisburg. Contact Jim Doyle and let him know what you're looking for and the price range. Although I've never purchased material from him yet, there are people on this site who will swear by him..

I've been to Jim's place and it is DEFINITELY a place worth checking out. Beginner or not....they'll set you on the right path.

Good luck!!!
Sam

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Mitch Thomas on Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:49 pm

All over above are great choices. But when first starting out you should look for a tree that is forgiving to the culture of bonsai. Here are some of my suggestions. Indiginious trees to your area are where you should first start. Why. Well because they will be the hardiest to your area and conditions. I like trees that are forgiving like elms. They grow much faster than a juniper and you will learn much more in a growing season than say if you are growing Junipers. You will learn faster beacaues of the accelerated growth. More growth means more pruning which will teach how to predict growth patterns.

One tree we have down south is a weed tree called Chinese Tallow. It's a fast growing deciduous tree that is almost impossible to kill. It is evasive in many areas and much caution must be given when handleing, beacause it's sap is poisonous! You should use rubber gloves and goggles when pruning and shaping. But the rewards are almost instanious. You can Get 3 to 4 years of development in 1 season.

Ask 50 different bonsaist and you will get 50 different answers to you question. My advise find some thing that's is easy to keep, fast growing, and you will learn faster.

Mitch

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  coh on Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:32 pm

What about a tropical or two? Do you have a good indoor location or can you set one up (i.e. fluorescent lighting)? It gives you something to do during the winter, and since many of the tropicals have multiple growth flushes per season, you can get more opportunities to prune, wire, etc.

For hardy plants...most of the standard boxwoods available locally would probably survive the winter if protected outdoors (or in a garage, shed, etc). I know they do up here in western NY. Larch would be a very good choice. Everyone says junipers are great but I have trouble keeping them healthy. That probably says something about my growing techniques but I haven't figured it out yet.

Chris

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:36 pm

coh wrote:Everyone says junipers are great but I have trouble keeping them healthy. That probably says something about my growing techniques but I haven't figured it out yet.
Chris, Try neglecting them (other than the occasional watering)...they should thrive well. That tells you about my growing technique LOL Wink

Honestly, they probably are on the "one insult per year" group. My tropicals are in the "can be abused several times group". Boxwood is in the "hard to kill group" Very Happy

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  remist17 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:57 pm

Thanks for all the replies.
1- I live in Hanover PA in between York and Gettysburg PA.
2- I have some indoor ficus and orchids. I have a light set up, but the ficus is still young and small.
3- I will need to make a trip up to natures way. Its about 1 hour and 15 minutes from me and through some traffic. I really hate traffic.
4- In my close range most small nurseries have gone out of business thanks to HD and LW. I do have a nice larger nursery that has two locations that I visit. But when the snow flies all there stuff is gone...no left over from year to year.
5- Working on a budget is seemingly harder and harder to find items for bonsai from bonsai dealers. When I do find something i can afford from a nursery I look at it and have no clue were to start. This is a interesting hobby but frustrating for newbees.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  coh on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:16 pm

remist17 wrote:
3- I will need to make a trip up to natures way. Its about 1 hour and 15 minutes from me and through some traffic. I really hate traffic.
Definitely worth a visit, I've been there a couple of times and have an engelmann spruce from Jim. They have a large assortment of interesting collected material at a variety of prices, mostly conifers I believe. Also younger non collected material, but I didn't look at that stuff too closely so I can't comment on the species, sizes, etc.
remist17 wrote:
5- Working on a budget is seemingly harder and harder to find items for bonsai from bonsai dealers. When I do find something i can afford from a nursery I look at it and have no clue were to start. This is a interesting hobby but frustrating for newbees.
Couple of thoughts on this one - (1) Are there any clubs within a reasonable distance? They often have sales, auctions, etc where you might be able to obtain decent material at good prices. Also can offer styling advice, workshops, etc. (2) Consider attending the mid atlantic bonsai symposium next April (I believe), pretty sure it will be in Harrisburg again (near Natures Way). I was there last year, decent number of vendors with wide range of material. Also, you get a substantial discount on the actual symposium if you're a first time attendee - half price, I think (3) Definitely post (good) photos of your trees here and you should get a range of opinions and suggestions on how to proceed.

You can find good material at reasonable prices on ebay if you do your homework. You can also find cr&p at inflated prices.

Chris

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Treedwarfer on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:20 pm

If you're on a tight budget, as many of us are these days, your best purchase would be a spade. Chances are there are plants worth digging in your own yard, or maybe a close and generous friend's.

Small garden center plants are weaker and much easier to kill than older more robust plants, and the latter make far better bonsai. Garden center plants are really only intended to survive in their pots until they are sold and planted out.

Practicing with a juniper will teach you about junipers. If you work with deciduous species, you will learn about them, and the same goes for pines, so you will need to try all three groups at some point. (Lowes and HD may have some tasty little mugho pines left.)

Bear in mind that anything you buy from a bonsai nursery will cost more because the word bonsai is attached.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  David D on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:27 pm

I agree with Mitch, try an indiginous tree. When I started out in bonsai I found a white Mulberry growing in the fencerow. It transitioned to a pot easily, grew fast, trunk fattened nicely. responded to styling and over wintered like a champ. It even developed berries the year before it perished do to a house fire. They are an unwanted tree around here and i am sure you have plenty in Pa. and they are free.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:31 pm

Treedwarfer wrote:If you're on a tight budget, as many of us are these days, your best purchase would be a spade. Chances are there are plants worth digging in your own yard, or maybe a close and generous friend's.
+1 to this. But you actually need more. Mine consist of; a battery powered Sawzall (reciprocating saw), a small pick, a lopper, small trowel, and trenching/transplanting spade.

Now is the wrong time but if you can wait till spring, there may be lots of opportunity to collect free plants. I am also new but have close to 100 plants now...about 2/3 of it is collected free. Most are probably beyond what I can afford if I try to buy them from nurseries...more so from bonsai stores. My main lead source is craigslist but keep your eyes open as well. If you see anyone ripping plants or re-landscaping, stop by and ask. Construction (especially old bldg demolition) area can be an opportunity. Be creative, FREE plants are out there...you just need to look harder.

Good luck!


Last edited by Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:35 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  coh on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:33 pm

It's true that collecting plants could be the cheapest option. But most plants that haven't been specifically groomed for bonsai will have lousy roots (or at least roots that need adjustment and reduction over time), may take a year to collect (prep one year, dig the next), then require significant after-care to establish them in a pot before any bonsai styling can be done. So basically, if you practice collecting trees, you'll learn how to collect trees.

I think it does make sense to acquire both started material and collected material. This way you can learn how to style while waiting for the collected trees to become established in pots.

Chris

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:39 pm

Chris, Yes and no depending on species.

My collected boxwood & yaupon holly are being styled no later than any nursery plants I purchased. It may be possible only because of our warmer weather though.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  coh on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:03 pm

Granted...but, playing devils advocate...most of your trees are very recently collected, right? So the long term success remains to be seen. Plants often push growth from stored resources even if they have no (or weak) roots, then they eventually decline and perish. Not saying yours are going to, but how often have we seen people posting trees they've collected, assuming they're OK just because they are pushing new growth? Cuttings often do this, then die when they run out of energy.

Thinking about it some more, older neglected nursery plants can be very difficult to manage because they're often incredibly rootbound. It can take years to reduce/rebuild the root system.

Your longer growing season probably gives you an advantage, though the blazing hot summer most likely offsets that to some degree.

Chris

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:20 pm

The hot weather does slow or stop the trees for a while.

Though I am new to bonsai, I am not new to plants. I grew up in a farm and surrounded by mountains and rivers. I hardly collected trees before but we do transplant and in my line of work (construction), we deal with it year long. I do not want to sound arrogant but for me, there is a distinct difference between stored energy growth and sustained growth by established plant that I can easily tell. I guess I should have qualified my statements too that it depends on species AND how much fine feeder roots you got intact.

I have some trees that had the spurt growth then stopped...that is a sure sign of stored energy growth and the tree must never be "touched" (pinched, pruned, etc.) at least until next season. There are those that just keep throwing vigorous (which you can easily tell) growth and grows better than in the original collection site...these I "abuse" Very Happy

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  remist17 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:28 pm

I have several collected trees from last winter.
2 regular red maples
2 oaks
1 dogwood
1 forthisa

I have bought 4 junipers. (2 nana procumbus)
I bought 2 elms
I bought 2 japanese maples.






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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Poink88 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:34 pm

You've been holding back on us! Wink That is more than couple of maples and an elm! Some are collected too!

Nice start! ThumbsUp

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  Treedwarfer on Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:07 pm

You want more?! I suggest you work with what you already have before burdening yourself with more. It's all about quality rather than quantity.

BTW, I think one of your elms is a zelkova.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

Post  PeacefulAres on Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:09 pm

As someone who is also a bit of a beginner, I would suggest you get some mulberries. I have one that grew six feet in the last three months. They're beastly growers and nearly impossible to kill. Their leaves also reduce nicely, in a very short amount of time, and are interesting to look at.

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Re: Best starter material for a newbee

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