Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

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Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  bryanscott on Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:42 pm

H folks. I'm relatively new to bonsai. Starting playing around last spring, and now I'm hooked. The problem, though, is that I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is probably most famous for its brutally cold winters. A typical nighttime low in the dead of winter is -13'F, and it's not uncommon to reach -40'F. This winter was particularly dreadful. It came early, it was cold, and the snow was never-ending; it even snowed a bit today. Spring is on the way, though, with highs in the mid-60s expected next week. Once summer is here, it's great. Quite common to reach highs of 95 in July and August.

Anyways, my point is this: I'm looking for suggestions for bonsai material that can live indoors year-round. I'm growing plenty of tropicals right now (a few varieties of ficus, schefflera, jades, and hedera hedera ivy) but am looking for other options. I have lots of nice southern-exposure light, and plenty of room outdoors during the summer months.

I should note that I tried wintering a couple of junipers in an unheated garage, but failed miserably. I might try again, but I'd really much rather have more indoor-friendly plants that I can look at year-round.

My research online has lead me to these suggestions: Chinese Elm, Indian Azalea, Tammarindus Tree, Bougainvillea, Ligustrum, Cottoneaster and Brazillian Raintree. Some of these might require a certain degree of wintering—that is, winter temperatures that are cool, but not freezing. I have no space in my house that fits this description, so I need to avoid trees that require that.

Thanks for reading!
Bryan

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  PeacefulAres on Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:35 pm

What kind of trees can be found naturally growing your area? To put it simply, why jump through hoops trying to grow non native plants indoors, if you have native plants at your disposal, which will be able to withstand the harsh weather?

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  bryanscott on Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:39 pm

Trees that grow locally won't work for me—I'm not skilled enough to winter these trees in bonsai pots and have them survive. Also, I'd like to be able to enjoy the plants throughout the entire year. That's why tropicals work best.

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  JimLewis on Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:03 pm

Take a look at willow leaf fig (it has various Latin names). Jerry Meislik's book "Ficus, the exotic bonsai" will offer other suggestions. He lives in the North Central USA, so has a similar problem as you. www.stonelantern.com sells the book.

Chinese Elm, Indian Azalea, Tammarindus Tree, Bougainvillea, Ligustrum, Cottoneaster and Brazillian Raintree.

Most of these will require a rather complex indoor system to maintain in good health.

Some folks say that several of the Jade trees make decent bonsai, but IMHO that's doubtful (personal opinion).

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  EpicusMaximus on Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:01 am

I'm in the same climate.

I think you are safe with anything zone 2 or 3, and 4-5 with some protection.

Try amur maple.

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  bryanscott on Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:16 am

JimLewis wrote:Take a look at willow leaf fig (it has various Latin names). Jerry Meislik's book "Ficus, the exotic bonsai" will offer other suggestions. He lives in the North Central USA, so has a similar problem as you. www.stonelantern.com sells the book.

Some folks say that several of the Jade trees make decent bonsai, but IMHO that's doubtful (personal opinion).

I'm growing a couple of Willow Leaf Figs. Jades too. I've seen some dwarf varieties of Jades online that are absolutely gorgeous.

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  bryanscott on Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:19 am

EpicusMaximus wrote:I'm in the same climate.

I think you are safe with anything zone 2 or 3, and 4-5 with some protection.

Try amur maple.

Keeping the pots alive in pots over the winter remains the concern. It's my understanding that roots in shallow pots are very difficult to keep from freezing, whereas roots in the ground remain protected. What's your secret?

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  tombeur on Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:27 am

In Ottawa Ontario I just set them on the ground in a sheltered spot. Pines, juniper, tamarack,
and amur maple. It was as low as -25 C here this winter but the snow insulates them.

Also there is a club in Winnipeg ( http://www.bonsaiwinnipeg.ca/ ) - they would be your best source of information.

Cheers,

Steve

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  EpicusMaximus on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:37 am

This year I filled a raised bed with maple leaves from the yard and all my pots were surrounded by maple leaves and mulched on top.

Ill know in a few weeks if everything survived.

I have a weeping willow, 3 junipers, a prunus x Cestina, and 2 small maples and so far everything looks ok..

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  rps on Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:16 am

tombeur wrote:there is a club in Winnipeg ( http://www.bonsaiwinnipeg.ca/ ) - they would be your best source of information.

Bryan, from one boreal forest dweller to another: the tamarack is your friend --- but even those hearty lads need winter protection once shepherded into a container. Without Mother Earth's warming embrace, the potted tree's roots are subject to atmospheric temperatures and that spells 'curtains' for most species hereabouts. As pointed out, that problem can be successfully addressed by finding a sheltered corner and either nestling the pots directly into the ground or setting them on the surface + mulching up above the container. I prefer mulch ( only because it's less work ), but the timing is a bit fussier --- better to wait until after the first frost when most rodents ave already settled into hibernation, or your mulch becomes a very attractive winter nest complete with a season's worth of tree bark to graze on (don't get me started). Of course, wait too long and (as you know) late autumn can turn into bitter winter overnight.

If you haven't already attended a club meeting, I would encourage you to try to make it out to one. Along with the monthly general meetings, we have less formal backyard meetings every weekend in May and June. These are a good environment to address maintenance and styling chores with the immediate guidance of more seasoned enthusiasts. I can honestly say, that I've never been to a meeting where I didn't learn at least one new tidbit. You will certainly find plenty of people willing to discuss (in great detail) the pros+cons of various temperates, semi-temperates, sub-tropicals and tropicals --- and the techniques (and odds) of keeping them alive.

With spring so heartbreakingly late this year, the jury's out on whether the club's annual spring dig will happen or not. But if the stars align and the weather plays nice, we may yet forge out into the local bogs and woods in search of eastern white cedar, larch, balsam fir and jack pine --- all worthy species. Conducted with the guidance of experienced collectors, the probability of survival for the foundlings is greatly improved.

One can make a go here of most of the 'indoor' species you catalogued; albeit, the important distinction between 'survive' vs 'thrive' comes into play. The club usually facilitates a couple of group tree orders each year, as well. Or, at least, works closely with one of the local greenhouse nurseries to guide the inbound inventory of tropical pre-bonsai.

Again, if you haven't made a meeting, I'd encourage you to do so.


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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  bryanscott on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:20 pm

rps wrote:One can make a go here of most of the 'indoor' species you catalogued; albeit, the important distinction between 'survive' vs 'thrive' comes into play. The club usually facilitates a couple of group tree orders each year, as well. Or, at least, works closely with one of the local greenhouse nurseries to guide the inbound inventory of tropical pre-bonsai.

Again, if you haven't made a meeting, I'd encourage you to do so.

Sticking with tropicals might just be my best bet. Aside from the dice rolling involved in keeping non-tropical plants alive outside in the winter, it's just nice to be able to have plants inside all year, which makes the cold months more bearable.

Thanks for the suggestions. Will try to attend a future meeting.


Last edited by bryanscott on Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:44 pm

To try - get as seedlings if possible first, see if you like them.

Fukien tea
Serissa s.
Chinese elm.
Podocarpus

something unusual but already tested since Victorian times.
Buddleia indica.

Tamarind from seed are very fast.

Gmelina, can be had from Bonsaiboy [ Amazon ]
Known by the Chinese as the Indoor maple.

Good Luck.
Khaimraj

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Tropicals in the Far North

Post  bonsaisr on Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:54 pm

bryanscott wrote:
My research online has lead me to these suggestions: Chinese Elm, Indian Azalea, Tammarindus Tree, Bougainvillea, Ligustrum, Cottoneaster and Brazillian Raintree.
Bryan
Chinese elm is not an indoor tree. I don't think it's for you.
Indian azalea is probably Vireya. Read the thread on that subject.
I have my doubts about Ligustrum & Cotoneaster in your conditions. They are also not indoor genera.
Your main limitation will probably be humidity. Get a humidity gauge. Most tropicals other than figs & jade plant require higher humidity than the average home in winter. Here in Zone 5, I have four humidifiers running all winter in my plant room, & I can barely make 70%. Serissa, for example, requires about 65%. Can you enclose your window area? Humidifying the entire room will ruin your furniture & carpets.
Iris

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Re: Suitable Materials for Bonsai in the Far North

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