New guy with questions

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New guy with questions

Post  mikeb210 on Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:42 pm

Hello all. I've been keeping planted aquariums for around 5 years and I understand the basics of pruning and controlling growth, but I'm lost when it comes to where to start. I guess I'll just give my ideas and then you more knowledgeable folks could weigh in and tell me where I'm wrong. I'll put my questions in parenthesis.

I plan to collect a tree locally as it seems they would be best equipped to deal with the climate here in North Carolina. I've found an area near my home where lots of sapling pines are growing, around 4' tall and maybe 1-2" diameter trunks. I'm not sure about a species, is there a great difference between species living in the same region as far as requirements go?

(What needs to happen to transistion a tree from growing in the woods to growing in a pot on my deck?)

I'm planning to use Flourite aquarium substrate as my soil because I have lots of it available and can't afford to buy a bonsai-specific substrate.

(How long after taking the tree from the woods should I wait to begin cutting it down?)

(When is the best season for digging up, transplanting and trunk cutting a tree?)

(I've got a lot of dry NPK fertilizer from my aquariums, would that be acceptable fertilizer for the tree also?)

Sorry for a long post and so many questions and thank you for taking the time to help.

Regards,

Mike

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  Guest on Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:46 pm

Hi Mike

You need to buy a beginners book on the subject of bonsai. I am sure you will find many of your answers there. It will take a long time to explain these question thoroughly to you here (for me at least). And one question will lead to another, so better get that book Very Happy

Books are available at local bonsai stores, or at the internet. Try www.stonelantern.com/Bonsai_Books_s/35.htm e.g.

cheers
Morten

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  JimLewis on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:05 pm

You don't say where you are in North Carolina, but most of our native pines aren't well suited for bonsai, although they can become bonsai after a lot of work. They also are difficult to collect and -- I suspect -- impossible for someone who is as new to bonsai and to collecting as you seem to be.

An arrow straight, 4-foot-tall pine with a 2-inch trunk isn't well suited to bonsai, anyway, but you'd be dealing with a taproot that is at least half that deep, and lateral roots that spread several feet from the trunk. Any tree dug like that would be unlikely to survive. That said, now is the time to collect. Once dug it would have to recuperate at least a year before you do any bonsai work on it, and when that time comes, with a pine, there is a lot more to it than just "cutting it down."

We really cannot give you a complete course in bonsai here. I'd suggest you do one or all of the following:

1. Visit your library and look for books on bonsai, or find a bookstore and order/buy a couple. A couple of decent beginner books to look for: Bonsai Workshop by Herb Gustafson, or Bonsai Survival Manual, by Colin Lewis. I've seen both at NC bookstores recently, and they're available from on-line sources, too.

2. Visit www.Evergreengardenworks.com and read all of Brent Walston's articles. While I think it is impossible to learn bonsai from the World Wide Web, Brent's site comes closest to making it possible.

3. Look at the list of North Carolina Bonsai Clubs (below, from the American Bonsai Society site) and join one near you, then let the members be your guide, both to bonsai technique and to suitable local trees.

North Carolina Bonsai Clubs

NORTH CAROLINA - Asheville
Blue Ridge Bonsai Society. We assemble around 1:30 with the program
starting at 2pm. Bring a tree for show and tell or to ask questions.
Beginners are especially welcome! Yearly membership is $25. Meets at
the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd.,
Asheville,NC. For further info about our club contact Bob Thatcher at
828-667-9563 tman15@earthlink.net


NORTH CAROLINA - Charlotte
The Bonsai Society of the Carolinas, the oldest bonsai club in the
Carolinas, normally meets the second weekend of each month at the
Bonsai Learning Center at 4416 Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte, NC.
Meetings vary between Saturday and Sunday, depending upon the
availability of the speaker. Both beginner and advanced programs are
offered. Out of state artists are frequently featured. Annually, the
society sponsors a bonai pavillion at the Southern Spring Show in
Charlotte, NC. This event is usually the last week in February. For
more information, visit the society web page -
http://www.bonsaicarolina.com For more info contact: Bob Wymer, 8328
Kapplewood Ct., Charlotte, NC 28226, tel: (704) 541-5776 or Tel: (24
hour bonsai hotline) - (704) 552-6551

NORTH CAROLINA - Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill
Triangle Bonsai Society. Meets at The Commons Building, Wake County
Office Park, 4011 Carya Dr., Raleigh, NC. Meeting dates vary by month,
please check the website for current information - Contact Harold
Johnson. 6806 Knotty Pine Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27517 email

NORTH CAROLINA - Winston-Salem
North Carolina Bonsai Association. Contact: Terry W. Brandsma, 4208 Brentonshire Ln., High Point, NC 27265

_________________
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: New guy with questions

Post  mikeb210 on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:13 pm

A few oversights:

I'm in Raleigh, NC. I'm also not set on pine, though I do love how they look. Really I would prefer the most forgiving local species as a first tree (any suggestions?) I'm thinking local because they're free and easily replaced if I screw up terribly (hoping to avoid that with research and patience though.) I'm going to pick up the Bonsai Workshop book, found it at the local library.

Thanks again for the quick responses and help.

Mike

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  Jesse on Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:43 pm

Sounds like you are on the right track Mike. Great feedback and guidance Jim.

Jesse
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Re: New guy with questions

Post  JimLewis on Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:10 pm

Around Raleigh you might find the Youpon Holly (Ilex vomitoria), which makes good bonsai.

A non-native that I'm sure grows everywhere around there is the Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinensis); they are an invasive species and you'd be doing every one a favor by digging one up. They also make very nice bonsai after a little work.

Any tree or shrub with small leaves is a candidate. Herb's book will give you more ideas. Herb lives in Oregon, so he won't recommend any of our natives, but they have relatives.

However, you can't just go out somewhere and dig. You need to have permission from the landowner, whether that is a government, a company or an individual.

_________________
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: New guy with questions

Post  Ravi Kiran on Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:11 am

Just a quick one Mike besides what Jim has already said which is very valid, for a beginner, I'd not recommend collecting trees from wild or neighborhood. I'd suggest that you get the species that Jim recommends from a nursery where they are already set.... then you can start working on them (Spring will be around sooner than later and that is the best time to work on tres) without having to wait for the trees to settle down (if you collect them). Once you get a book or two and with a few trees from a nursery... then work on them and enjoy the journey. Then give yourself sometime before you make the next step of collecting trees. All the best....

Ravi

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  DreadyKGB on Sat Feb 12, 2011 2:18 pm

Mike,
I agree with Jim and Ravi here about the collecting. Your best bet is to start with nursery stock. It is already established and you can usually get something cheap to play with. I made the mistake of attempting to collect trees early on in my learning and was disappointed by their death. Walter pall has written a good article about collecting trees from the wild which may give you some insight into what it entails,here is a link to part 1 of 3 http://www.bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATcollectring%20trees%20from%20the%20wild%20W%20Pall.htm

This site Bonsai4me.com has plenty of good information as well as those already listed. Good luck bonsai is a great endeavor.

Todd

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  mikeb210 on Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:20 pm

Thanks everyone for the responses. So what I'm gathering from the replies is:

Digging up a small tree is not as simple as it sounds. Hack and slash jobs will not do. Incidentally, the trees were going to be removed from my own property, some saplings that grew up after we cut some of the bigger trees out. All the warnings did make me laugh at the image of a guy standing on the median of some highway digging up the shrubs.

Even if it is dug up and lives, there will be a period of recovery

Wild-caught(?) trees face a more difficult recovery than nursery raised trees and may not be in good enough shape to work with in spring, which is the optimal time for working on them*

All in all, for someone of my "experience," collecting a tree from the wild will most likely result in failure and time wasted.

I guess I will start browsing the nurseries near me and keep reading. Thanks again for the help

Mike



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Re: New guy with questions

Post  stephen clarke on Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:07 pm

The advice you have been given is the best you can get,i to have just started and have purchased my trees,i will repot and trim them and more or less get experience as well as confidence,before i go on to tackle bigger challenges good luck i hope you get to enjoy it as much as i am,

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  JimLewis on Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:57 pm

All the warnings did make me laugh at the image of a guy standing on the median of some highway digging up the shrubs.

Ha! The one I had in mind was a guy digging a tree from a forest preserve while the park rangers, guns drawn, closed in on him.

I think you got the message nicely. <g> I do urge you to visit a REAL nursery, though, and not one of the plant warehouses attached to the big box stores. And, when you get there, look hard at the plants you select from.

What you want is a mature plant -- NOT a tiny, "stick in a pot." To start, you want one with a single trunk, that tapers from a wide base to a thin top. Branches should be evenly spaced, bottom to top, with the larger branches being at the lower part of the plant. Foliage on the branches should NOT be limited to a pom-om on the ends of the branch.

When, after several hours of futile looking, you find a potential bonsai, grip it firmly by the trunk and try to move it in its pot. If it moves easily, DO NOT BUY IT. The tree has been recently repotted from a smaller nursery pot and may not be healthy.

Once you find a nice tree that is secure in the pot, start scratching into the soil around the base to see how deeply the surface roots are buried. (If you find an otherwise good tree with a tangle of twisted roots on the surface, think twice. It's difficult -- sometimes impossible -- to untangle them. Many newcomers thing that tangled-up surface roots look like an old bonsai, but if you look at a good bonsai, you will see that the roots are always very orderly. You CAN fix them, but that's not something you want to tackle with your first tree.)

If you find 3-4 roots under the soil that seem to radiate from all sides of the plant, BUY IT!

Once it's home, don't do anything for a while; you cannot UNDO an ill-thought-out pruning. Read Herb's book while you're looking at your new plant, and try to see a bonsai in it. Put it on a turntable and look at it from all sides. Tilt it a bit and look some more.

Then, take it to that club that I hope you've joined in Raleigh and discuss the tree with the members.

Be prepared to make mistakes, so don't try to do it all at once.

But most of all, have fun. Some of us take bonsai MUCH too seriously.

_________________
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: New guy with questions

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:11 am

mikeb210 wrote:
I'm planning to use Flourite aquarium substrate as my soil because I have lots of it available and can't afford to buy a bonsai-specific substrate.
Mike

Flourite is useful as one ingredient in bonsai soil. I have used it as a substitute for Turface calcined clay. I would still add silica gravel or granite chicken grit, and chopped bark. These are not expensive ingredients.
Iris

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Re: New guy with questions

Post  Ravi Kiran on Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:17 am

That was some excellent advice from Jim. To add on.. take someone to the nursery who is into bonsai if you could and in the inadvertent event of you killing a tree... don't fret or worse still quit... all that is part of learning. After 10 years into bonsai I am still at it... killing trees... lost about 3 of them this repotting season...

Have patience and here's wishing you luck...

Ravi

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