Potentially stupid new guy questions.

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Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  Ashiod on Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:53 am

I managed to exit out of the page by accident before finishing this post the first time, so I'll avoid the wall-o-text that I had planned to use to introduce myself. It's been a while since I participated in an active internet forum, but the members here seem to have a generally high level of intelligence, maturity, and knowledge, and also seem to be pretty cool with new people. This said, I figured I would pose a few questions and introduce myself(somewhat) in the hopes that I can learn from those who have years more experience with the art and hope that I'll learn enough to actively participate in discussion and argument in the future.
So, I'm from South-central Indiana(USA), USDA hardiness zone 6a. I'm in my early 20s, and completely new to bonsai/gardening as of a few months ago, so I hope you'll forgive any stupid questions or impatience that happen to arise from the inexperience of youth, but I'm driven to learn and that usually involves breaking things early on as part of the process. At this point, most of what I'm interested in working on and growing are roughly shohin sized plants with the potential for a mame sized tree or two since I'm likely to have more dorms and apartments in my near future... not to mention the typical tight budget of a college student(reflected in the super high prices I've paid for my current material).
I'm currently the proud owner of several trees and shrubs of varying size and species(which I'll list), and would appreciate any insights or tips general or species specific that might have been skipped over in the various care guides on the web.
1-2 year juniperus procumbens, likely from cutting, bought from walmart for around $10(usd). Currently in poor/dead health pale
0-1 year Punica granatum seedling bought through amazon for roughly $10, assumed healthy and slowly dropping leaves for dormancy indoors(I hope).
2-5 year Lingustrum vicaryi bought from Home Depot for just under $5, healthy despite having to have a slight root reduction for repotting late in the fall(original pot was destroyed before purchase)
2-5 year Juniperus chinensis 'old gold', purchased from Home Depot for less than $2, healthy though somewhat root bound, likely to become my pet project, came in a size #2 pot
2-7 year Juniperus horizontalis 'Hughes', purchased with the chinensis for just under $8, healthy and also root bound, came in a size #5 pot
Mostly guessing the ages from research and examples I've seen.

Skip to here to avoid my rambling and get to the questions:
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1. Will my trees take damage from the radical temperature shifts (70-freezing-70-freezing) associated with the change from fall to winter in my state if left in an enclosed porch?

2. Is it dangerous to do moderate-heavy pruning in late fall/early winter?

3. Understanding that most of the change in shape associated with wiring happens during the plants active growth period, is it hazardous to wire a plant(junipers specifically) as they begin to go into their dormant phase?

4. I've seen copper and aluminum wire used almost exclusively for training trees, knowing that aluminum oxide and copper oxide are less than helpful to plants, is there a special type of treatment that these wires should have, or is copper wire I would pull out of electrical wire fine? Is it safe to use any other metals that may be cheaper, or plastic coated wires?

5. If I've injured a tree(my procumbens) to the point where the foliage has started to become brittle, but there is still green under the bark, how would you suggest bringing it back to health. Also, is it safe to move outside(now that I know the right general care of the tree) while the nights are closing in on, or dipping below freezing? How might I prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future aside from moving the tree outside(which I plan to as soon as it's safe)?

6. I've seen a few methods for inducing dormancy on tropical trees in northern climates, but does anyone have any particular insights on what methods work best with dwarf pomegranates?

7. I've noticed a few threads about water and contaminant levels, is it safe to use hard(city) water on my plants considering I have no illusions of them becoming world class bonsai?

8. I've seen the use of guy wires between a branch and screw placed in a branch, and while I see no practical difference, is it "ok" to use a method that involves branch-pot or branch-alternative non plant surface to achieve directional change? ex. Wiring the trunk/branches of my horizontalis to the pot to achieve a more windblown look than its current I'm-growing-wherever-I-damn-well-please look.

9. I know legitimate bonsai soil is highly recommended because it promotes ease of drainage and growth of fine feeder roots, but is normal potting soil an acceptable medium for filling gaps and protecting surface roots where a plant has had to be repotted ahead of time(as in my privet) until I can mix a decent bonsai soil and replant the plants safely next year?(assuming that I have left as much of the original root system and soil as possible when moving between pots)

10. When using fertilizers, is it better to use a solid pellet mix, or liquid mixed with water?


If the answers to these questions are available in a simple google search or in another thread and I've simply passed over them, feel free to tell me and I'll go hunt them down. If the answers are obvious or the questions outright stupid, feel free to give me a poke. I appreciate any answers and insights you guys are willing to share, and apologize for coming as an ignorant newby, but as I like to say, it's usually the master of failure who becomes the king of success(and usually the one who appreciates it most).

Ashiod
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  Jkd2572 on Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:00 am

Lesson 1'
More people will answer, but the most important thing to know is your junipers will most likely die if left indoors. They need to be outside. I'm only guessing they will be inside because you mentioned dorm. There are a 1000 more answers to your questions.

Jkd2572
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  drgonzo on Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:05 am

Ashiod wrote:
6. I've seen a few methods for inducing dormancy on tropical trees in northern climates, but does anyone have any particular insights on what methods work best with dwarf pomegranates?

I'll take number 6,

With Punica what I do is let it sit outside until all leaves have yellowed and dropped. If a night is going to be in the mid-low 30's I'll bring it in for just that night then back outside the next day if the temps will stay above 40F.

Once all leaves are off the tree it will want to 'rest.' I have had good luck with mine in a deep west facing window sill in a cool room. It will still require watering during this rest period but only just enough to keep the soil barely moist..say once a week. Punica in zone 6 and lower is a pain.

-Jay

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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  Ashiod on Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:11 am

drgonzo wrote: Punica in zone 6 and lower is a pain.
Thanks for the tip, I might be able to pull it off since the temperature are still in the period where they fluctuate wildly. I had worried about keeping it dormant until spring inside since the house is currently well heated, but I think I have a window that might be perfect.
I've considered growing persimmon from seed or cutting since they're pretty hardy in my zone, readily available, have some sentimental value, and are damn near impossible to kill in nature without the use of pretty hardcore chemicals(longish story). Would this be a more suitable substitute as a deciduous fruiting tree in the likely event that I fail miserably?

Ashiod
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  Ashiod on Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:30 am

Jkd2572 wrote:Lesson 1'
More people will answer, but the most important thing to know is your junipers will most likely die if left indoors. They need to be outside. I'm only guessing they will be inside because you mentioned dorm. There are a 1000 more answers to your questions.
I came upon the info about junipers being unlikely to survive indoors about the time that our first cold spells were hitting and worried that the rapid temperature shift from ~70 to freezing might kill it outright. It's not a mistake I'll make again, but most likely its current status is due to my overzealousness in my desire for hands on experience. I probably shouldn't mourn a mallsai much if it dies, but learning to bring a juniper back from the brink would also be a good learning experience. I probably won't keep anything indoors at any point aside from tropicals in winter after this, fire escapes, window sill planters, and porches will be the norm I think...

Ashiod
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  coh on Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:14 pm

Regarding # 7 - the answer would have to be "maybe". Most people seem to do fine using their tap water. However, if you have concerns about the water quality you can send a sample off for lab analysis...probably would cost about $75. Check with local nursery owners (and/or bonsai and orchid growers) to see if they feel the need to adjust their water (RO, acid, etc) or collect rainwater. It's a big topic of discussion and if you search the site you'll find plenty of information and opinions.

coh
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  JudyB on Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:14 pm

I'll try on #2. I would say that at your current level of (in) experience, that it would be safer to wait till late winter to do the pruning. I do pruning at repotting time, depending on the type of tree of course.

Answers to your questions will all largely be tree specie dependent. You should do a search for each type of tree you have, and read up on each one. There are rarely blanket statements that can cover all bonsai subjects.

If you are really going to be moving into and out of different dorms, then outside trees will be difficult if not impossible for you. You should give some thought to trees that can actually be grown inside. Like Ficus.
Welcome, and good growing.

JudyB
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  ironhorse on Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:44 pm

Q4 - Depending on the thickness of the part you want to reshape, plastic coated 'garden' wire in various thicknesses is cost effective, I have used solid copper wire stripped from redundant cabling too, this needs to be annealled (heated then quenched) before use.

Dave

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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  ironhorse on Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:05 pm

and Q8 - Yes, but you need to consider balancing the strain of a guy wire so that the whole tree remains firmly anchored in its pot. How you do this depends on your particular requirements - for example, I wired an upright juniper last year to enhance the existing trunk curve (looking for more windswept style) using just garden wire and rubber rings to protect the trunk at top and base, the lower connection braced the base firmly to one end of the training pot and I then just pulled the top down with that wire running under the pot to the base wiring so the whole thing was rock solid. On other trees I've wired branches down on opposite sides, joining the wires under the pot, some thin branches will shape down using wire hooks and a selection of steel washes as weights.
Just experiment - its all part of the learning process!

Dave

ironhorse
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  dorothy7774 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:28 am

Ashiod wrote:..
5. If I've injured a tree(my procumbens) to the point where the foliage has started to become brittle, but there is still green under the bark, how would you suggest bringing it back to health.
...

Place some cottonballs around the injured trunk/branch and secure with tape. Keep it moist. That's it. Maybe a prayer Very Happy

Best,
Dorothy

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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

Post  Ashiod on Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:45 am

JudyB wrote:Answers to your questions will all largely be tree specie dependent. You should do a search for each type of tree you have, and read up on each one. There are rarely blanket statements that can cover all bonsai subjects.

If you are really going to be moving into and out of different dorms, then outside trees will be difficult if not impossible for you. You should give some thought to trees that can actually be grown inside. Like Ficus.
Welcome, and good growing.

ironhorse wrote:Just experiment - its all part of the learning process!

I'm beginning to get the "few things are concrete" idea that is oddly endearing(psych major, go figure). I've always been a fan of the hands on approach to problem solving, so I'm thrilled that this art leaves room to experiment and learn, although guides and particularly the help you guys are giving me is excellent.
On the subject of working tropicals/"indoor" trees, would you suggest field growing my current plants until a time when I have copious space to train them, then recollecting them? Also, are there any small-leafed(short leaf) ficus or "indoor" capable conifers that come to mind as particularly good?(already googling it and planning a trip to the library)

With the wire treatment, I'm already familiar and comfortable with metalworking because of my unfortunate tendency toward many and varied interests, and have a plentiful supply of electrical wire to work with, so that's a huge sigh of relief. On the wire, I would probably have been better to put that question off for a while, but the answer was excellent and there is a small nursery down the street I could stop and ask.

dorothy7774 wrote:Place some cottonballs around the injured trunk/branch and secure with tape. Keep it moist. That's it. Maybe a prayer
I think it probably needs a lot more than prayer in my rather incapable hands, but I hadn't thought of using cotton balls to promote absorption through the bark, thanks for the tip!


I really appreciate the answers and help, hopefully soon I'll be able to break away from being a total idiot to simply being moderately inept soon. Any more answers, tips, tricks, or poking in the right direction is always welcome! Very Happy

Ashiod
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Re: Potentially stupid new guy questions.

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