IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

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IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  nemomnibus on Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:09 pm

ok so I mentioned I have virtually never planted or cared for a plant, but have always loved trees titanically, I want to start growing bonsai's,
I have gone to ebay and filled up my list with all sorts of bonsai seeds, (I have pasted them here on the bottom). I've tried to read up on bonsai but my university's entire library had one relevant book. Anyway, I tend to make big unreasonable leaps in life, and often fall flat on my ass, so I need you to reason things out for me:
I live in new york, our temperatures dont fall below zero farenheit....
A) Does the climate zone that limits tree variety in areas apply to bonsai's.......for example can I grow the Australian Baob or a tropical fig as a bonsai here in new york..........
B) When is ideal time to start plantin............am I too late.......our winter here has been very harsh, it still dabbles in the forties here.
C) If it is possible that I can grow all these bonsais, do I need to take lessons from experienced gardners, or is reading books and google enough...
D) finally any advice on what trees are ideal and reasonable for me to grow, or just any reactions you may have would be appreciated.


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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:47 pm

Seeds take a LONG time! I still do it, but only on a 'playtime' schedule.

Begin by reading up on bonsai. Lots to find on the internet. Find a bonsai association in your area. Meet with fellow bonsai enthusiasts and let them help you decide what is the best (and frequently most forgiving) tree for your area.

This hobby/obsession can be very rewarding, but can also be frustrating and heartbreaking as well.

Trees take their own swet time, so should you!

Welcome aboard!

Jay

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  fiona on Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:43 pm

Hello and welcome to IBC. Well, I have to say your enthusiasm is to be commended, and as you say it's a massive project right enough.

And I don't want to dampen that enthusiasm, BUT: there are a number of issues we need to get out of the way before you even start planting. Please don't think this is in any way trying to insult your intelligence - it's just that we've been here many times before with bonsai beginners who haven't really grasped what it's all about. That's why I would agree that Jay's suggestion to at least go along to a local bonsai group should be your first port of call before a single seed is planted. It may just save you a lot of time and effort.

So to the other things you need to grasp (and apologies if you already know any/all of this):

first, you talk of "growing bonsais". In fact you grow a tree which you then turn into a bonsai. A bonsai is not a special form of a tree. It is a routine tree that you'd see in parks and gardens that then goes through a process of miniaturising to become a bonsai. Beware of unscrupulous traders who try to sell you "bonsai seeds" - no such thing; these are just all normal trees whose growth characteristics (eg smaller leaves) lend themselves more easily to the process of bonsai.

However, that is not to say you shouldn't grow your trees from seed and then turn them into bonsai. Many people enjoy the satisfaction of a tree being created this way. But your second point is this; it will take a minimum of 5 years before the seedlings are ready to do even the most basic of bonsai tasks on. To get a decent tree will take even longer. If you go for your current project, be prepared for a very long wait.

And third: you have ordered a load of seed and planting that will take a lot of space. When they need thinned out you will need a significantly larger space and as they become even more established they will take up a huge amount of space - pretty much an entire field. Have you got that available? (If the answer to that is yes, I'm sure there'll be people in your area who will be keen to get to know you Wink )

Which brings me to the fourth and last point from me: are you aware that bonsai are kept outdoors? Again apologies for seeming to insult your intelligence but you'd be surprised how many people don't know this vital point. If you didn't know - now you'll see why I made the "field" comment in the last sentence.

Anyway, I've gone on too long. As I said, don't let this put you off going for your seeds - just don't expect a quick return. What many of us do is buy a tree or two to practise on before progressing to better material or/and while we are waiting for seedlings to grow.

But whatever you opt for, always remember that bonsai is also about enjoying working with trees.

Hope this helps and don't be scared to ask away for more information. You're at the beginning of a journey and at this point there's no such thing as a stupid question.

Good luck




Last edited by fiona on Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:11 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  JimLewis on Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:28 pm

I agree with everything that Fiona said -- in spades!

It is, in MY opinion, the absolutely wrong thing for a beginner to do -- starting with seeds.

It also is wrong to start with so many.

I already know those here who -- anarchists all -- will say that I am absolutely wrong, that you can do as you damn well please.

Well, you can, of course, but if you do I don't expect to see you here for long, especially since you say:
I have virtually never planted or cared for a plant, but have always loved trees titanically,

You DO know what happened to the Titanic, don't you?

My advice:

1. Save you seeds (brown paper packets in the refigerator is best.

2. READ. Since your school library has nothing on bonsai, try a public library. Also go to www.evergreengarderworks.com and read ALL of Brent's articles.

3. Take a look at the pictures in all the pages of our "Bonsai" forum, and take note of how old most of the bonsai you see there look. How many of these do you suspect were started from seed by their present owners? If they were, how long do you think it took that tree to get such an old and hoary apperance?

4. Select one or two species (kinds) of tees that you especially like in the pictures you've seen. Google "species bonsai" (where "species" is the tree(s) you like) and read as much on these as you can.

5. Find a bonsai club -- go here: http://absbonsai.org/bonsai-club-directory/usa -- and attend a few meetings. Talk to members. Watch them work on trees. Find out from them some good local nurseries where they can find potential bonsai stock (you might beg some of them to go with you on a first visit).

6. Buy two or three plants -- NO MORE!!!!

And then, enjoy. Plant a FEW of your seeds, if you like; it won't hurt, but it is many years before you can do anything with them; work on the two or three of the plants you bought at the nursery. And remember, the most imortant skill for the beginning bonsaiest is patience. Everything doesn't need to be done today.

And finally, to answer the one question Fiona did not answer: Yes, climate zones do matter. In fact, because our plants are in pots without a lot of soil as insulation material, you can add at least one zone to whatever zone you are in (if you are in 5, treat your bonsai as if it were in 6).

I hope we see you here again as a devoted bonsaiest.

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  jwatson on Sat Apr 09, 2011 1:05 pm

Since you live in Brooklyn, you really need to go visit the bonsai exhibit at the Botanical Gardens.

http://www.bbg.org/photos/bonsai

I'd bet there would be somebody there who could point you to clubs nearby, too.

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Ignorance

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:13 pm

This is your closest society.
NEW YORK - Farmingdale
Farmingdale Chapter of Bonsai Society of Greater New York. Meets at Greenhouse, S.U.N.Y., Farmingdale, second Friday, 8:00 PM.
There is no contact person listed, so you may just have to show up at a meeting.
The only person I know anywhere near there is Marty Haber, haberm@optonline.net
Contact him, if he's still around.
Iris

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Glaucus on Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:56 pm

If you want to grow from seeds it is best to do it earlier than later.

I never understood this problem people have with seeds. Bonsai people are actually quite crazy, buying trees that are worth hundreds of euro/dollar and taking the risk of them dying. It's a strange thing. Then they will tell a person that wants to grow out some seeds that they are doing it wrong...


Growing plants and buying bonsai are two completely different things. Some people are interested in the first but would never do the second and vice versa.

Just realize that when you are growing seeds you are doing just that, growing seeds.

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  JimLewis on Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:39 am


I never understood this problem people have with seeds. Bonsai
people are actually quite crazy, buying trees that are worth hundreds
of euro/dollar and taking the risk of them dying. It's a strange thing.
Then they will tell a person that wants to grow out some seeds that
they are doing it wrong...

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with growing from seed. I never hinted at that. Many of us do it.

But this person has never grown a plant! He knows nothing of or about bonsai. He has bought hundreds of seeds -- AND. he lives in the city! Where is he gonna plant

If he has any desire to have a bonsai, he'd better start with a live, and at least somewhat mature. Where is he gonna plant several hundred seeds? Of several species that may or may not germinate without scarification of cold treatment? What's he gonna do with the seedlings?

READ the messages before you criticize. I'm 100% behind this fellow doing bonsai but I'm 1000 percent for him doing it in a way that he will end up having a few trees he might enjoy.

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Glaucus on Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:55 am

Don't accuse people of not reading. This is a general elitist trend seen on bonsai forums. People seem to want to discourage new people.

The main two things they suggest is
1) buy an expensive tree
2) be part of a bonsai association or club in your neighborhood and pay their teachers to teach you.

Maybe it is just the huge age gap, but to me this seems really silly. Bonsai is a long term thing. Let him grow his seeds and see what becomes of them in 5 years.

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  DreadyKGB on Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:13 pm

Glaucus,
I don't think that either of these two were suggested.

1) buy an expensive tree
2) be part of a bonsai association or club in your neighborhood and pay their teachers to teach you.

I think it would be more discouraging to struggle growing seeds as a beginner and then after 2 or 3 years still only having a small seedling. Then if you do something wrong and this small seedling dies well. This is what happened with me when I first started bonsai (although I didn't start with seed but with small seedlings). Then I gave up and didn't even think about bonsai for two years. I finally came back when I found Bonsai4me.com and realized that I could go out and buy an inexpensive nursery plant and reduce it back to bonsai size.

Although I don't belong to a club which would probably be of benefit I agree that growing seed is not the best way to start as a beginner. Cheap outdoor or indoor nursery stock is. It is a great learning experience for both horticultural and bonsai skills. Growing seed while playing with nursery stock would be best.

I don't think anyone here is trying to discourage beginners, nor are they advocating the spending of large sums of money on trees or learning. The main goal is to provide a a learning path with the best chance of success and proper support to get there. If no club just read, read, read, and go slowly.

Todd

P.s. Let me also add that I truly have appreciated your input into this forum and just don't want to see you misinterpreting what is being said in this thread.

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Ignorance

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:01 pm

Glaucus wrote:
2) be part of a bonsai association or club in your neighborhood and pay their teachers to teach you.
This seems very strange. Is that how they do it in the Netherlands? I want to assure Nemomnibus and other beginners that visiting a bonsai club (at least all I've seen) in the US will not cost you a penny. The more experienced members will be happy to give you free advice. After you have been to a few meetings, you will be expected to pay dues. Sometimes there is a small additional charge if they bring in a well-known speaker. The only time you would actually be paying a teacher is if you sign up for a workshop. This is a separate voluntary thing. The first time your club has a workshop, you could sign up as a silent observer, which may be free or very low cost, just to see what it's all about.
Do you live in an apartment? That will greatly influence your bonsai activities.
Meanwhile, learn about plants the way I did as a child in Brooklyn. Go to Prospect Park and really study the trees close up. Watch the buds unfold and see how the branches grow out of the trunk. Visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. They may have classes on how trees grow or other information you can use. They may even have a bonsai class. Then it may come down to paying a teacher, but it will be well worth it.
I think there may be a problem for you. Aside from the artistic angle, bonsai is just about the most advanced form of horticulture there is. Growing bonsai, when you have never grown anything before, is like trying to learn how to fly a plane when you have never driven a car. You can do it, but be prepared for some information overload. Take it step by step.
Iris

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:33 pm

Glaucus wrote:If you want to grow from seeds it is best to do it earlier than later.

I never understood this problem people have with seeds. Bonsai people are actually quite crazy, buying trees that are worth hundreds of euro/dollar and taking the risk of them dying. It's a strange thing. Then they will tell a person that wants to grow out some seeds that they are doing it wrong...


Growing plants and buying bonsai are two completely different things. Some people are interested in the first but would never do the second and vice versa.

Just realize that when you are growing seeds you are doing just that, growing seeds.

Nobody has a problem with someone growing seeds, I try it every year. Some years my success rate is better than others. However, the individual who started this thread has clearly stated his (or her) level regarding this topic. From that, I made a suggestion that they start with a little more patience and education from several directions. Seeds are fine, dead seedlings are not, and basic horticultural information is necessary to be successful. Add to that that the author also stated they were interested in bonsai... would make sense to start with something a tad more ready for transformation than waiting the 5 to 25 years before starting to "bonsai" a tree.

But that's just me!

Jay

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:48 pm

Glaucus wrote:Don't accuse people of not reading. This is a general elitist trend seen on bonsai forums. People seem to want to discourage new people.

The main two things they suggest is
1) buy an expensive tree
2) be part of a bonsai association or club in your neighborhood and pay their teachers to teach you.

Maybe it is just the huge age gap, but to me this seems really silly. Bonsai is a long term thing. Let him grow his seeds and see what becomes of them in 5 years.

I apologize if I understand this correctly; however, I find this type of response, non-productive and counter to helping a new forum member find his way in the forum.

First, he said, he tried to read up but didn't have access to bonsai books in the library. That is quite understandably frustrating for him. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the basics of bonsai and it is easier for me to sit down with a book and digest it at my own speed. Then he went straight into planting from seeds. That is fine, but it definitely slows down the progression from seeds to bonsai simply based on time.

Regarding your 2 supposed suggestions, none of those who have responded to this thread are of the philosophy that beginners should start with expensive trees. Personally, I would suggest some basic beginner nursery stock from the local home & garden store. They are usually cheap enough that a few unfortunate "executions" don't compromise the pocket book too much.

As for bonsai clubs, I hung around ours for 2 or 3 years before I finally spent the $20 to join and the club fundraisers work to offset the costs to members making it cheaper to belong than not. I fine, at least here in the states, that bonsai clubs tend to want people to join and participate. Expensive membership fees and costs as well as bonsai-snobbery would tend to run off more than they would attract new membership.

My apologies to the new members for straying from the topic.

Jay

As for Jim & Iris, I will bet they are the two fastest to the keyboard to list local clubs and other resources for beginners without any push for expensive remedies.

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  fiona on Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:21 pm

And on that note I suggest we leave this thread as the original poster may be currently wondering what in hell s/he has walked into. I sincerely hope Nemomnibus decides to come back to us.


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May I chip in?

Post  MikeF on Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:24 pm

And on that note I suggest we leave this thread

Forgive me continuing this thread. I just thought that the experiences of someone else new to bonsai might supplement the advice given so far.
In mid summer 2009, from a standpoint of total ignorance, I visited Peter Chan's bonsai nursery in Sussex.
Long story short, I bought an informal upright Japanese Maple (about 16" tall), a set of chinese-made tools, a selection of wire, and most importantly Peter's book, Bonsai Secrets.

I had read various forums which advised against "bonsai seeds" for all the reasons given here. I'm an enthusiastic gardener and realise that older trees take a long time to die, giving me time to learn by my mistakes!

The tree has survived two harsh snowy winters, a little moderate wiring, much pinching and leaf pruning, and a re-potting made necessary by the first pot shattering in the hard late winter in January 2010.

In the meantime I've also bought a 'potensai' deshojo with interesting buttress roots and a tiny (8") informal upright deshojo. I've also experimented and failed with a larch, and I'm trying to do something with a garden-centre acer bought a couple of weeks ago.

So where am I leading with this post?
I just wanted to say that, if you are enthusiastic but impatient like me, if you arm yourself with good advice it's possible to get the hobby off to an encouraging start.
I have now got 2 or 3 'reliable' trees, and my enthusiasm is undimmed by the various experiments and failures with larch, lonicera nitida, pyracantha, etc.
Of course, financial budget, climate, available space and spare time all play a part, but my introduction to bonsai has been nothing but pleasurable.

I like the analogy of learning to fly before you can drive a car, but learning to steer a plane in mid-air comes before learning to take off. Buying a tree that is already airborne is going to be more rewarding than trying to get seeds off the ground.

All IMHO of course Embarassed

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  fiona on Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:27 pm

Thank you, Mike. That was a great example of a very helpful (and honest) post and adds to Todd's "beginner's perspective" brilliantly. It was what we were trying to say all along which is don't necessarily give up on your seeds, but give yourself something to work with while you wait. That way you can end up a double winner. And it doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg.

Thanks again, Mike.


Fiona

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  Tony on Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:53 pm

MIkeF welcome to the forum... or at least putting your well crafted response. You have hit on exactly the best way to 'get involved' so often beginners wander around in the 'wilderness' of discovery... you are focus... and Peter Chan is a good nursery man and bonsai advocate...

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

Post  kaspr00 on Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:16 pm

I've been lurking here for about a week now. After reading so many articles online i figured a nice forum would assist with helping me find further reading Smile

Thanks for all your information! You are all a great help.

Good luck with your project, nemomnibus!

-Clayton

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Re: IGNORANCE.........please help, new to bonsai or planting but undertaking a massive project

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