Is this normal?

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Is this normal?

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Aug 13, 2013 4:24 am

I'm still pretty new to bonsai, and while I feel like I've been learning a lot, I can't help but notice all of the trouble I'm having. I think I've killed at least 8 or 9 plants this year. I assume it's mostly due to the fact that I'm working with quite a few rarely used species of trees. Still, it's frustrating trying to find success via process of elimination. Does everybody go through this period, and is it just a mater of figuring what works for your plants in your area?

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Ashiod on Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:09 am

I think most people go through a phase where we kill a few trees while learning the horticultural aspects of keeping potted trees. I'm sure the number varies from person to person, but everyone eventually kills a few through ignorance or just to natural loss. It would help if you gave us some information about your location and habits when caring for the trees. What species have you lost, how much sun do they get(are they even outside), how much do you water them, and what area do you live in? Also, what abnormal symptoms did the trees exhibit? Did they have yellowing leaves/needles? Did the leaves/needles blacken and fall off? Did you notice any insect, mold, or mildew infestations? There are a lot of ways to kill a tree, and they usually let us know what we're messing up if you understand their language. It's all part of the learning process, but the only ways to learn are to bull your way through a lot of mistakes or to get help from people who know what they're doing. Fortunately, you have access to some seriously brilliant people on this forum who should be able to give you a push in the right direction if you provide a bit of background info Very Happy .

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Bonsaiteen on Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:18 am

What were the names of the trees that you killed.

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  marcus watts on Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:23 am

hi,

in the early days you kill trees because you are eager to learn and have not really learnt that styling and other bonsai techniques have optimal months to do the work and many parts of the year where the tree is better left untouched. Working (wiring i mean) on juniper while they are in active growth can cause lots of branch and foliage death in the following 6-9 months - late winter is perfect, the trees can take far more extreme work. We are all aware of repotting season etc but many think wiring and styling is ok year round when really it isn't.

Species awareness takes time to learn too - some trees can only survive very gentle root pruning, others respond to harder pruning. Same with foliage - some species need more foliage left on to maintain strength while others are not weakened by large percentage foliage removal.

it is a normal phase, just learn from every death and dont make the same mistake with the same tree species twice

good luck Marcus

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:56 am

For reference the species that I killed were mostly Common Hackberries(Celtis Occidentalis) and Groundsel Trees(Baccharis halimifolia). I know the hackberries died because I was too aggressive with the way I root pruned them when I originally collected them, and they did produce feeder roots. They just sent out strong shoots from their stored up energy and proceeded to die. I had 3 Groundsel trees, and one of them is still doing fine. Of the other two, one just didn't produce any roots, and the other died after I transplanted it into the ground. Even though I didn't mess with the roots much, I think the transplant and the summer heat was too much and it died.

The tree I've had the most luck with has been my crape myrtles. I have 10 that are thriving right now. Some are in pots and a few are in the ground, but they're all doing amazingly.

EDIT: For further information, I live in Florida, in zone 10a. Almost all of my plants are in full sun, because that is what they naturally prefer. I don't really have any plants that prefer anything less than full sun. My plants are either natives or plant species that are tolerant of this climate(Crapes, siberian/chinese elms, black locust trees and Osage oranges).

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  JimLewis on Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:53 pm

Bonsaiteen wrote:What were the names of the trees that you killed.
Fred, Jack, and Molly.

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  rrubberbandman on Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:58 pm

Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing 
JimLewis wrote:
Bonsaiteen wrote:What were the names of the trees that you killed.
Fred, Jack, and Molly.

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Andre Beaurain on Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:06 pm

rrubberbandman wrote:Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing 
JimLewis wrote:
Bonsaiteen wrote:What were the names of the trees that you killed.
Fred, Jack, and Molly.
Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing  definately made my day, thank you Jim

Celtis are very easy, you have another problem...maybe not enough water?

Love and light

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:48 pm

Peaceful,

Hackberrys grow too fast, to waste time taking large trunked specimens. Why not try for pencil thin specimens and just grow them in pond baskets or colanders for say 3 years and get a feel for them. Get enough to just grow and enough to satisfy the sculptor in you, practice your grow and clip.
[ In a few weeks I am removing a airlayer for continued growth.]

You could do this with all of the plants you are harvesting. That way when you have mastered the technique of keeping them healthy, then go back and take the very large trunked trees.

I wonder when you repot do you leave them in the shade for at least a week?

Crape myrtle will grow like a weed from even cuttings just dropped on moist soil.

Hopefully your mix is also freely draining and you are fertilising less rather than more or with 1/3 strength applications.
Keep on trying. was the same for me.
Stay Well.
Khaimraj

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  amanluthra688 on Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:17 pm

Trees i killed are ficus philkan and ficus guler . When i started my first bonsai i was eager to.put in the bonsai pot and i cut the roots to short. Though the ficus adapts to root cutting but i madr another mistake by putting the pot in semi shade area where the morning sun heat destroyed the new plants. But the lesson i learnt helped me to look for the temp. Season time.of year while triming roots. Well said if u never fall u will never learn to fly

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:49 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Peaceful,

Hackberrys grow too fast, to waste time taking large trunked specimens. Why not try for pencil thin specimens and just grow them in pond baskets or colanders for say 3 years and get a feel for them. Get enough to just grow and enough to satisfy the sculptor in you, practice your grow and clip.
[ In a few weeks I am removing a airlayer for continued growth.]

You could do this with all of the plants you are harvesting. That way when you have mastered the technique of keeping them healthy, then go back and take the very large trunked trees.

I wonder when you repot do you leave them in the shade for at least a week?

Crape myrtle will grow like a weed from even cuttings just dropped on moist soil.

Hopefully your mix is also freely draining and you are fertilising less rather than more or with 1/3 strength applications.
Keep on trying. was the same for me.
Stay Well.
Khaimraj
When I've left them with some decent roots, I've had a good experience with the larger hackberries. I think some of them might need to be trenched because the poor soil forces them to send out very long root systems. I was just too aggressive with cutting the roots back when I collected them.



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Is This Normal

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:30 pm

amanluthra688 wrote:Trees i killed are ficus philkan and ficus guler .
Philkan is Ficus virens. Guler is Ficus racemosa. If you have the proper botanical name you can get all the available information.
Iris

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Bonsaiteen on Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:59 am

JimLewis wrote:
Bonsaiteen wrote:What were the names of the trees that you killed.
Fred, Jack, and Molly.
I should have been more specific

I seem to only kill conifers they last for awhile but decline very rapidly.

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Jkd2572 on Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:27 pm

I dont know if this is the cause, but worth saying. If you get anymore conifers pay very close attention to their water needs. They are easily overwatered. They generally have a much smaller root mass than deciduous.

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Re: Is this normal?

Post  Leo Schordje on Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:52 am

Seems the more I know about bonsai, the more trees I can kill at once. Twisted Evil 

It is normal to kill a few trees. Sometimes quite a few. All part of learning what techniquies you should do, should not do, and what you can get away with.

Been dabbling with bonsai more than 30 years, and I will tell you that most likely every year you will have at least one or two fatalities. In a bad year, 20, 30 or more trees turn to compost. Sometimes an entire flat of seedlings get killed, don't even count that, I think of loosing a flat as loosing one. Fortunately, they are seedlings, haven't had them long enough to get "Emotionally attached".   Shocked 

But I do hate wasting money. So I really do try to avoid all deaths.

For me there are 3 main causes.

1) I do too much to a tree the same growing season. Push it too fast, too hard, and not give it adequate recovery time. Pune off too much, trunk chop too late in season, prune off too many growing tips on a juniper. All fatal mistakes. Also enthusiastically repotting into a new unfamiliar potting mix, and not knowing how different the watering will need to be to make that "latest and greatest new potting media" work.  

2.) Bad timing. I repot too late in the season, prune at the wrong time, remove candles at the wrong time. Just don't have the calendar down right for the tree in front of me. My collection has a wide range of species, can't always remember what should be done when. Often run out of time and energy during that brief ideal window of time in spring when everything seems to need to be repotted.

3.) Accidental neglect, life interferes, I get busy, something doesn't get watered, something in dire need of repotting just doesn't get repotted in time. Have had to travel away from home in very hot weather. Also lost trees during a prolonged illness. Work always seemed to have a crisis occur just about the time I needed to take a day off to work on the bonsai. The day off would have to wait. I also get casual, I pay lots of attention to my 'difficult' trees, the pines and azaleas, the easy ones get neglected. Every year or two I have to pick up another chinese elm, because I neglected and killed the previous one or two. I tend to neglect ficus & junipers too.

This year seems to be another bad year, we had what seemed like 60 days straight of rain in Spring, and many of my trees showed problems from being too wet. Now that it has dried out, I got caught napping, things may have dried out too hard. The alternation between too wet and too dry is a set up for disaster. But so far, I have my fingers crossed. One azalea and one mugo pine drowned this year seems to be the only casualties. Neither were very far along in the bonsai process, still potensai more than bonsai.

Elms, hornbeams and beech seem to be my highest death rates, finally stopped loosing JBP the last couple years. Ginkgo seems to be pretty resiliant.

Hopefully I will keep learning.

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Re: Is this normal?

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