first bonsai---help please?

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first bonsai---help please?

Post  crhistian on Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:35 pm

Hello all. My name is Crhistian I live in Austin Minnesota. I'm new to IBC as well as Bonsai in general. I have taken my Bonsai interest to the next level to actually create and tend to a tree. As most novices I want to dive right in and start doing things but it seems I have encountered a barrier. For my first tree I went to Menards and got what I believe is a suitable shrub. It is a llex glabra chamzin it is woody and has small leaves and already a treelike structure is visible. I have several novice questions that I hope some of you more experienced Bonsai growers would be so kind to answer.

QUESTIONS

1. I think I am trying to enter Bonsai in the wrong season from what I have read repotting and root shaping is not appropriate at this time. Would it be better for me to just wait until early spring until I actually do anything?

2. Why is Bonsai soil different from other soil. I have read of the consistency of bonsai soil and realize that it is more grainy and rocky but for what reason? and furthermore why can't regular soil used be used? it seems to be currently working.

3. My father dabbled in gardening and he has pruning tools that I would be able to use. Are these appropriate or would I have to specifically get Bonsai tools.

4. Do you have any advice for me as a new Bonsai grower. Any would be appreciated. Thank you for your time Smile

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first bonsai---help please?

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:36 pm

Ilex glabra is inkberry. It is frequently used for bonsai. If you post a picture, the experts will tell you how to style it. You can repot it next spring.
Most garden tools are not suitable for bonsai. Start with a pair of kitchen shears & build up your tool kit gradually.
Most important advice:
Join the nearest bonsai club.
Read all the bonsai books you can find in the library.
Iris

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:02 pm

Whatever kind of scissors you end up using, they must be SHARP. You should be able to snip right through a pencil-thin branch and not leave a "fuzzy" stump behind. A good pair of by-pass garden pruners does well for large work $20.00. A pair off ARS garden scissors are invaluable $10-$12.00 (see picture below).



Eventually you will want one bonsai tool -- a pair of "concave cutters" but don't get those until you can keep a few trees alive. From there, the sky's the limit. These, however, will do to start.

Bonsai soil needs to have a coarse grain and should be largely inorganic. As often as we water our plants, the soil needs to drain quickly -- otherwise roots will rot. You CAN use nursery soil, but you need to be very cautious how you water.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  crhistian on Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:02 pm

Iris-

Yes I will probably post a picture as soon as I can find the camera Razz and I have looked for clubs near me unfortunately the nearest one is two hours away and I've read two bonsai books so far and working on my third. Each one has a little bit of knowledge that the other one didn't cover so that helps Smile but thank you for the advice

JimLewis-

I've read about concave cutters and was definitely planning on getting one of those but the branches I don't believe are large enough to require one. But I was wondering if you knew the gel that is put on the end of the cut to hydrate it and promote growth? I read about it but forgot the name and can't seem to find it again.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:47 pm

You don't need cut paste for a tree that's too small for concave cutters.

I tend to be among those who think that you seldom need cut paste at all.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  crhistian on Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:14 pm

I have more questions Razz

1. I don't want the trunk of my tree to grow too tall. Since I can't move it to the small pot till spring is there anything else I can do to dwarf it?

2. Can I still prune and form my tree even though it is not in its small pot or should I just wait until Spring?

Thanks!

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:43 pm

Yes, you can cut and shape your tree while it is in the nursery pot. In fact, it may be best his way, as Ilex tend to not like too much done to them at one time and top and bottom work might be a bit much.

Can you post a picture of your tree? And maybe indicate your thoughts? Someone here may have other (not necessarily better) ideas for you to consider.

Try to take the picture against a plain background and from several sides. Eye level with the trunk and canopy.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Pictures

Post  crhistian on Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:16 pm

Ok so here are pictures of my tree. I took 4 pictures rotated at 90 degree angles. The 5th picture is a close up of its trunk area. As you can see it looks as if there's almost two seperate trees growing I think I will get rid of one but I'm not sure yet. If anyone has any suggestions on what would be a good way of shaping it or any input at all it would be greatly appreciated.

On a side note. I noticed there were spots on the leaves almost as if the leaves were being burnt and there were even a couple of dead leaves. Does anybody know what this is? I believe it might just be the sun burning them a little so I will probably keep the tree in the shade a bit more but if it is something more I would like to know what it is and the treatment available.

Thanks in advance Smile







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Pictures p.s.

Post  crhistian on Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:17 pm

Oh and also this is about as plain a background as I could find. Sorry

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:03 pm

I put the img tags around the upload url's so they show here.

Looks perfectly healthy to me. Three trunks there. The one that is distanced from the rest may have enough roots to alow it to be separated in spring. The two trunks that are in a V formation need to be checked to see whether there is more stem below the soil, if not it could form a twin trunk style bonsai.

I'm not familiar with Ilex glabra but it looks like an ideal candidate for bonsai.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:10 pm

That background is Ok.

Your tree is pretty young and slender, and the foliage starts a long way up on the trunk/branches.

For now, I think the only thing you should do is to cut the top 1/2 to 2/3 of the foliage off. This will -- with luck -- begin to force some backbudding to give you some new growth on the bare parts of the branches. Beyond that, it will be a while before you can do much "bonsai" work on the tree. Fertilize and water and let it grow a bit.

If it were mine, I would find a nice spot in the garden and plant it there for 2-3 years to let it grow and the trunks to thicken.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  Ricky Keaton on Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:58 pm

I would find a nice spot in the garden and plant it there for 2-3 years to let it grow and the trunks to thicken.[/quote]

is that the same thinking for perennial flowers after transplanting, the first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap? it takes that long to get started again?

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  bonsaisr on Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:37 am

Ricky Keaton wrote: I would find a nice spot in the garden and plant it there for 2-3 years to let it grow and the trunks to thicken.
is that the same thinking for perennial flowers after transplanting, the first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap? it takes that long to get started again? [/quote]
Not exactly. Most woody plants in good health will respond rather quickly to being planted in the ground. But of course they have to grow some more roots before the trunk will respond. Christian's tree will need two or three years before the trunk looks like anything.
Iris

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  crhistian on Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:52 am

2-3 years huh? That's kind of a bummer I was hoping I could start forming a bonsai this spring. Well you guys are the experts. I think I will put it in the ground and trim the tree like JimLewis said to hopefully get some leaves closer to the trunk. For spring time I was thinking of getting a thick branch from my girlfriend's crab apple tree anyways although I realize that air-layering also takes a year. I suppose my best bet for starting a bonsai tree in the spring is to find a shrub with a thick trunk. Well thanks for the help guys.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  JimLewis on Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:08 pm

The standard "instant bonsai" is a juniper of some sort. You can get small garden junipers from the box stores or (slightly better ones) from a "real" nursery. Another good option is a Cotoneaster. Again, though, early spring is the time to do much of the real "bonsai" work.

Meanwhile, go to a bookstore or library and buy or check out some books on bonsai. Read. Look at pictures in the books and here to get an idea what a decent bonsai looks like.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  EdMerc on Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:52 pm

Christian,
Welcome to the site and to bonsai. There is a LOT to absorb and it's going to be awhile before you really feel comfortable with what you want to achieve.

One of the things that I try to impart on people just starting out is that one doesn't typically "grow" a bonsai from something immature and not already possessing the qualities you are looking for. You start with material that has the potential and qualities already there. Of course, that begs the question, what are the qualities you should be looking for?

There are many aspects that make a bonsai what it is, but there are two that are absolute deal breakers. If your tree doesn't have these, then you should move on to something else. Those two things are roots and trunk. In that order.

Of course every tree has roots, and every tree has (at least) one trunk. But look at the many great looking trees you see in books, shows, and posted here on this site. From the show ready masterpieces, to the just purchased nursery stock, if it's good material, you are going to see good root flare and your are going to see interesting trunks.

Learn what that looks like. Get a really good idea of what great bonsai have in common. Then when you go out to look for material, you will know what look for. Not the leaves. Not the branches. None of that matters. Roots and trunks. Everything else is grown.

I hope this helps you some. I wish I had known this when I started. I'd have a much better collection by now.

Good luck,
Ed

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  crhistian on Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:42 am

Jim Lewis-

Thanks, I was looking at the nursery's blue junipers but they were a bit spendy about 40 bucks. I think I'm going to walk around my friend's woods and hopefully I can get some nice starter trees.

Ed Merc-

Very good advice some of which I have already started learning. It is definitely a lot easier to shape leaves and branches as opposed to trunks and roots. I'm in search of a good tree right now. One which I can begin to shape in the spring.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:05 am

If you start with good material, your end up with better material. $40 seems like a lot for a young person, but one $40 tree will out shine 10 $4 trees.

Northern nurseries frequently give big discounts on plants as winter nears. I visit Ohio in mid October and find the discounts, the trees will not survive in Florida so it does me no good.

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:59 am

crhistian wrote:I think I'm going to walk around my friend's woods and hopefully I can get some nice starter trees.
Whoa. You have to go into your friend's woods knowing which Minnesota natives are suitable for bonsai. There aren't many. Also, that is not the way to get a bonsai if you are in a hurry. Training a collected tree takes years. You first have to put it into the ground or a big box for a couple of years. You MUST read Bonsai From the Wild, by Nick Lenz. Start with a nursery tree. You don't have to spend $40.
Iris

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Re: first bonsai---help please?

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