Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

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Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:17 pm

Hello fellow Bonsai people.

First post on this forum, I looked everywhere for a very active Bonsai forum and this was the most active I could find. I do also post on GardenWeb forums as well, as there are a few very knowledgeable Bonsai enthusiasts there.

I recently caught the Bonsai addiction after my girlfriend gave me a great little P Afra (Dwarf Jade) as a gift. I recently added a very young Ficus Benjamina to keep it company.

Here is the PAfra:



Here is the Ficus Benjamina:



Here they are together:




The P Afra is healthy, growing in a mixture that I estimate to be mostly porus rock with some granite, pine bark, and soil (I received it this way). The ficus is in a mixture of what looks like fired clay, sand, sphagnum moss, and bark, with a little random potting soil (again, this is how I received it). I plan to repot both of them this spring to a mixture I have obtained for tropical bonsai, as I want to know for certain that their soil is ideal. My new mixture is a mixture of turface mvp, crushed granite, lava rock, coarse sand, and pine bark.

I still need to add a layer of rocks for the humidity tray under the ficus, I'll probably do that tomorrow.

Here is the new soil mixture:




Right now they are getting daylight from an unobstructed second floor window that faces east. The ficus I keep about 14-16" from the glass to avoid cold drafts, the PAfra doesn't seem to care at all.


I have the book "Indoor Bonsai for Beginners" and I've read it cover to cover.

My fertilizer is Foliage Pro (9-3-6) dilluted at half strength (1/4 tsp per two gallons of distilled water).


Any tips, tricks, etc....?


Right now, my only goal is to keep these plants alive and healthy through the winter months, and in the spring I will repot them, trim roots lightly if needed, and then look to doing a bit of pruning. I want to get both into a simple "broom" style, I figure its best to keep things simple at first.

Nice to meet you all!

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  thomasj on Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:44 pm

So your addicted huh? Well I guess in this case that's a good thing. Laughing Just don't let the tree buying get too much out of hand, your GF might regret what she did. Very Happy

Anyway your soil to me looks a bit on the large side. Keep in mind that the larger the particles the more you'll probably have to water since the water will be going straight through it. You'll find a thousand different replies to soil so pick one you think works best for you and see what happens.

As for repotting in the spring, most people repot their tropicals which is what your ficus is, in the summer. I'm assuming you live in an apartment and will probably be keeping the trees indoors? If that's the case it shouldn't be too bad then. If you do live in apartment, you will be limited in what you can use for bonsai, being strictly tropicals. Good luck and have fun. Very Happy

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  chappy56 on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:01 pm

Looks like you're fine. Don't water until you check the soil. Simply test it with your finger and when it feels completly dry, water the day before. Laughing
BTW, where are you in Central Illinois?

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  Kev Bailey on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:22 pm

Portulacaria afra doesn't need a humidity tray. It is a succulent used to hot dry baking for much of the year. Be very careful not to overwater as it will very likely rot. Underwatering is far preferable. Yours looks like it may not be getting enough sun. Keep it in a window that gets the maximum amount of light for the longest time each day.

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:50 pm

>BTW, where are you in Central Illinois?

Champaign/Urbana. Very Happy

As for the humidity tray: I was thinking of moving the tray over for the Ficus and not using it for the P Afra, since the P Afra is a desert species anyway. I think I will swap the trays, which will give the ficus a bit more humidity, and the PAfra a bit less.

And yes, the plants are at my office where I can care for them 5 days a week and appreciate them more often. I work a lot, so if I had them at home they would not get nearly as much care.


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Hello New Bonsai Owner

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:52 pm

Both of those species will do better in the coarse mix. Forget the humidity trays; they are only to catch drain water.
Broom style might be suitable for the Ficus, but I don't think it would work for the Portulacaria. Just keep it neatly trimmed.
Your fertilizer contains entirely too much nitrogen. You want to encourage strong branches & roots, not large leaves. A bloom or rose food is more appropriate. Feed once a month during the winter.
Both species should be allowed to dry out between waterings.
If you can possibly arrange it, find some way to put the trees outdoors next summer.
Iris

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:57 pm

bonsaisr wrote:Both of those species will do better in the coarse mix. Forget the humidity trays; they are only to catch drain water.
Broom style might be suitable for the Ficus, but I don't think it would work for the Portulacaria. Just keep it neatly trimmed.
Your fertilizer contains entirely too much nitrogen. You want to encourage strong branches & roots, not large leaves. A bloom or rose food is more appropriate. Feed once a month during the winter.
Both species should be allowed to dry out between waterings.
If you can possibly arrange it, find some way to put the trees outdoors next summer.
Iris

Iris.

Thanks. The funny thing is I started out with a 3-3-3 organic mix, but the guys over at Garden Web who have decades of bonsai experience all recommended I switch to the 9-3-6 foliage pro. I know a bit about the chemistry of plant sciences, but I was mostly just following the advice of those with more experience.

I guess you are suggesting that something like a balanced 3-3-3 might be more appropriate?

My winter fertilization schedule was going to be once monthly, only moving up to twice monthly during the spring/summer/early fall.

I appreciate the feedback.


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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  Ferdie * on Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:14 am

Hi, first of all, welcome to the club, now, that you have your first two bonsai, it will be an addiction then, so dont be a panic buyer but before considering it Very Happy Rolling Eyes cheers , just kidding, anyway, try to improve first your bonsai place, for the reason that bonsai needs more sunlight, watering it if necessary only and not everyday..so good luck to your upcoming bonsai, and dont make us wait too long.. Bagpiper ThumbsUp

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:18 am

Ferdie * wrote:Hi, first of all, welcome to the club, now, that you have your first two bonsai, it will be an addiction then, so dont be a panic buyer but before considering it Very Happy Rolling Eyes cheers , just kidding, anyway, try to improve first your bonsai place, for the reason that bonsai needs more sunlight, watering it if necessary only and not everyday..so good luck to your upcoming bonsai, and dont make us wait too long.. Bagpiper ThumbsUp

Right now they are in an east facing window where they get full sunlight until about noon or so, then indirect light plus overhead florescent (ceiling height though, so not very strong) lighting until around 8pm.

If their growth next spring/summer is bad, or they develop really long nodal lengths, I'll supplement with some spectrum appropriate, low heat lighting.

They live in my office, so I can't just drop a metal halide on top of them, I think my boss would disapprove (lol).

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  drgonzo on Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:01 am

First off let me just say this,

Its very nice to see a beginner using a chopstick to help with watering, understanding that soil mix is important and trying to get their trees into good stuff, and (and this is the big one) leaving their trees ALONE for winter and NOT asking about where and how much to chop off them. You are well ahead of where I was when I started already Laughing

of all the ficus you could have picked you picked the one that has the least requirement for light, the Benjamina. Don't worry about spraying it or misting it they don't care. Just always leave a leaf or bud on the branches you prune to draw the sap or they may die back. The trickiest thing to learn with bonsai at first is watering. a horticulturalist at a local botanical gardens out my way taught me a trick with Jade's. When the leaves start to look a little like prunes, a little shriveled like when you've been in the bath too long and you get prune fingers, then water deeply, wait again until you see the shrivel begin then water again. And indeed it could use more light if possible.

I feel these two trees are in great hands. When the Bonsai bug bites it bites hard, just don't get into cloning....thats a one way ticket to a jungle window,

P. Afra clones out very easily just so you know that, so does Benjamina but "best" in the middle of summer Twisted Evil
-Jay

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:16 pm

drgonzo wrote:First off let me just say this,

Its very nice to see a beginner using a chopstick to help with watering, understanding that soil mix is important and trying to get their trees into good stuff, and (and this is the big one) leaving their trees ALONE for winter and NOT asking about where and how much to chop off them. You are well ahead of where I was when I started already Laughing

of all the ficus you could have picked you picked the one that has the least requirement for light, the Benjamina. Don't worry about spraying it or misting it they don't care. Just always leave a leaf or bud on the branches you prune to draw the sap or they may die back. The trickiest thing to learn with bonsai at first is watering. a horticulturalist at a local botanical gardens out my way taught me a trick with Jade's. When the leaves start to look a little like prunes, a little shriveled like when you've been in the bath too long and you get prune fingers, then water deeply, wait again until you see the shrivel begin then water again. And indeed it could use more light if possible.

I feel these two trees are in great hands. When the Bonsai bug bites it bites hard, just don't get into cloning....thats a one way ticket to a jungle window,

P. Afra clones out very easily just so you know that, so does Benjamina but "best" in the middle of summer Twisted Evil
-Jay

Jay.

Thank you very much for your input and kind words. I'm definitely in the "learn how to water well for each plant and keep them alive" mode. I figure there is no reason to consider grooming them ever if I can't keep them alive.

I have heard of that trick with the jades too, I was planning on using that tell-tale sign also.



To all: I appreciate all the helpful advice. study

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Welcome and goodluck!

Post  jake4bonsai on Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:10 pm

Hello! Glad to see your interested in this fine hobby. Your plants look healthy, thats a great start. The portulacaria afra looks like it came from brussel Bonsai, Did it? If it did the mix its in is a very good mix for any bonsai. Its just simply turface and pine bark. Thats it! Always remember to stay simple on your soil. To many ingrediants or deviations dont work well. Ive found that its best to stick with no more than 3 ingrediants in a soil mix. You never know what may happen by mixing several different minerals together exspecially being in an enclose space (container, bonsai pot) and always being damp. Brussels bonsai sells that mix and it works great, Brussel Martin has been doing bonsai over 40 years. He too will help you and answer any questions you may have. Welcome to bonsai and remember keep it simple. Goodluck and happy Bonsai!

Jake

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:01 am

jake4bonsai wrote:Hello! Glad to see your interested in this fine hobby. Your plants look healthy, thats a great start. The portulacaria afra looks like it came from brussel Bonsai, Did it? If it did the mix its in is a very good mix for any bonsai. Its just simply turface and pine bark. Thats it! Always remember to stay simple on your soil. To many ingrediants or deviations dont work well. Ive found that its best to stick with no more than 3 ingrediants in a soil mix. You never know what may happen by mixing several different minerals together exspecially being in an enclose space (container, bonsai pot) and always being damp. Brussels bonsai sells that mix and it works great, Brussel Martin has been doing bonsai over 40 years. He too will help you and answer any questions you may have. Welcome to bonsai and remember keep it simple. Goodluck and happy Bonsai!

Jake

Jake.

Actually, the PAfra came from an online flower distributor, which is what started all of this. My girlfriend knew I had been wanting a bonsai for my office and she ordered one to be sent to my office for my birthday. It came in a proper pot, with a humidity tray, gravel for the tray, in pretty much the state you see in the pics.

I will definitely keep in mind Brussel Martin as a source of future bonsai, so far it seems that I got lucky with this one.

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Brussels

Post  jake4bonsai on Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:18 am

Hi again, If your dwarf Jade came from an online flower distributer it was grown and raised at Brussels bonsai Nursery in Olivebranch Mississippi. Brussels is the largest supplier of bonsai in the united states. All plant distributer companies order from a nursery. I knew soon as i seen the plant and the pot and the mix. Its the same place mine came from. Brussels grow fine quality and healthy plants. Id show you mine from there but this site wont let me post a picture. I dont know why. Its saying new members are not allowed to post external links or e-mails for 7 days. Im only trying to post a picture. I dont know, anyways your Dwarf Jade is in the same pot and the same mix as mine and how i knew is because those pots are made exclusively for Brussels and thats only place to get a pot like that and then it being in the same mix i doubt its a coincidence. Just like fujiyama brand products are made and sold only by Dallas Bonsai Gardens. You can keep buying Bonsai already done just to look at but ive found that the most rewarding approach to bonsai is to take a nursery plant or collect a native to your area and train and shape and wire and prune it into your own work of art. Theres alot of people that buy them and theres nothing wrong with that but if you want to get the most out of your bonsai hobby creating your own is much more rewarding rather than to buy them most of the artistic side has been done and the over all shape and style of the bonsai has already been chosen for you. Something to think about! Either way have fun with your bonsai and dont ever stop. lol

Jake

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:32 am

jake4bonsai wrote:Hi again, If your dwarf Jade came from an online flower distributer it was grown and raised at Brussels bonsai Nursery in Olivebranch Mississippi. Brussels is the largest supplier of bonsai in the united states. All plant distributer companies order from a nursery. I knew soon as i seen the plant and the pot and the mix. Its the same place mine came from. Brussels grow fine quality and healthy plants. Id show you mine from there but this site wont let me post a picture. I dont know why. Its saying new members are not allowed to post external links or e-mails for 7 days. Im only trying to post a picture. I dont know, anyways your Dwarf Jade is in the same pot and the same mix as mine and how i knew is because those pots are made exclusively for Brussels and thats only place to get a pot like that and then it being in the same mix i doubt its a coincidence. Just like fujiyama brand products are made and sold only by Dallas Bonsai Gardens. You can keep buying Bonsai already done just to look at but ive found that the most rewarding approach to bonsai is to take a nursery plant or collect a native to your area and train and shape and wire and prune it into your own work of art. Theres alot of people that buy them and theres nothing wrong with that but if you want to get the most out of your bonsai hobby creating your own is much more rewarding rather than to buy them most of the artistic side has been done and the over all shape and style of the bonsai has already been chosen for you. Something to think about! Either way have fun with your bonsai and dont ever stop. lol

Jake

Oh wow that is great info to have, thank you!

Brussels looks like a great operation and I'll be sure to get my next tree from them when I'm ready for another.

Very Happy

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Welcome

Post  jake4bonsai on Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:47 am

Your very welcome! I am a beginner also but i have learned alot in 3/4 of a year, and am being tought by someone thats been in bonsai 40 years and horticulture even longer. He learn from Ben Okie and Richard Strauss wich whom were two of John Nakas students. Probably the biggest name is bonsai ever, or one of the biggest anyhow. Oh yes, and thats another thing. If you want to collect and grow bonsai learn everything you can about horticulture itself. I always tell people starting out it doesnt do any good to buy bonsai if you dont have the skills to keep them alive. Thats the most important aspect exspecially if you decide to creat bonsai from nursery stock or native plants, the plant has to be very very healthy before it can be cultivated as bonsai. It must be strong and mature and no issues as far as health goes. If you develope a good horticulture back ground you will produce good bonsai.

Always here to help if i can, sometimes im the one needing help! lol.
Jake

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  drgonzo on Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:01 am

So Jake let me get this straight.

you've been doing Bonsai for 9 months and have 150 plants with 65-75 of those being bonsai or pre-bonsai?

even when I had "cloners madness" I never approached those numbers. How do you find the time to water? Bless you're plant loving heart Laughing
and welcome to the forum
-Jay

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  coh on Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:41 am

Jay, you better get busy...some catching up to do!

Chris

P.S. To the original poster (parabellum), welcome to the forum!

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  Tony on Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:33 am

Jake wrote: If you want to collect and grow bonsai learn everything you can about horticulture itself. I always tell people starting out it doesnt do any good to buy bonsai if you dont have the skills to keep them alive. Thats the most important aspect exspecially if you decide to create bonsai from nursery stock or native plants, the plant has to be very very healthy before it can be cultivated as bonsai. It must be strong and mature and no issues as far as health goes. If you develop a good horticulture back ground you will produce good bonsai.

Jake

This statement should be published every month here on IBC, this approach is fundamental to the creation of good bonsai... Jake... YOU are a HERO thumbs up

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  Guest on Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:50 am

jake4bonsai wrote:Your very welcome! I am a beginner also but i have learned alot in 3/4 of a year, and am being tought by someone thats been in bonsai 40 years and horticulture even longer. He learn from Ben Okie and Richard Strauss wich whom were two of John Nakas students. Probably the biggest name is bonsai ever, or one of the biggest anyhow. Oh yes, and thats another thing. If you want to collect and grow bonsai learn everything you can about horticulture itself. I always tell people starting out it doesnt do any good to buy bonsai if you dont have the skills to keep them alive. Thats the most important aspect exspecially if you decide to creat bonsai from nursery stock or native plants, the plant has to be very very healthy before it can be cultivated as bonsai. It must be strong and mature and no issues as far as health goes. If you develope a good horticulture back ground you will produce good bonsai.

Always here to help if i can, sometimes im the one needing help! lol.
Jake

WOW! Some heavy names you drop there.
Jake, You are from the direct lineage of Ben Okie and John Naka. You must be doing some heavy stuff man. Wink I hope to see some of the results of those teachings, Can you post some trees? I wonder how it feels to be carrying such big time names in ones badge...Me, I am just like a mushroom, I just popped up out of nowhere colonized a vacant lot that resembles a garden and tried to learn bonsai on my own. Sounds envious? Yes I am! Razz

regards,
jun Smile


Parabellum,
Do you have a name?
Simple tip. You are on the right track, Just keep those trees alive first, learn how those trees will behave. and don't think of the final deign for your trees. Even with broom style you still need to wire a tree, So must try to learn how to wire too in the future.
You got a very basic beginner book, try to get your hand also with more advanced books for inspirations, the one with lots of photos of nice trees.

regards,
jun Smile

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No Mistakes

Post  jake4bonsai on Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:29 am

Yes, some of the biggest names in bonsai but make no mistake i am a beginner also so please dont exspect thier quality of bonsai from me. Ive only been in bonsai since early this past february but im studing and reading and watching videos and learning from my teacher very heavily and absorbing everything i possibly can. Like i said before knowing how plants grow and what they need to be healthy is the most important aspect of bonsai! Alot of people see bonsai and they think its neat and they say "im gonna do that" and they start digging up plants at wrong times, in wrong ways and just start cutting and wiring on anything they see or they buy mass produced bonsai from the interent or somewhere like walmart and lowes and they die in less than 6 months, sometimes sooner and they say i dont understand what happened. They dont understand that places that sell those little plants like that dont care if they die. They want them to die so you keep buying them! there put in soils and use materials benifical to profit and not to the plant. You absolutely have to know what different species like and dont like and how to keep them alive otherwise youll be wasting time and money for a long time. All too often i see places selling juniper bonsai as indoor plants, They are NOT! Junipers are stricly outdoor plants and will be ok indoors for a short period but absolutly must be outside for fall and winter. I wish places would stop selling this way or tag them with the correct care instructions. I want to post pictures but for some reason this site wont allow me from my computer. It says new members cannot post e-mails or outside links for 7 days and im not trying to. I dont know whats going on there. I live in southern ohio where Ryan neil says the climate is perfect for growing bonsai. I know one guy thats a student of ryan and another friend of mine is going to apprentice this spring over there so ill learn alot there also. I talk to ryan a couple times a week and he invited me to come to his home but i own and run my own business so i cant go right now but im trying to make arrangments and change things in my life so that hopfully in the near future i can study with him some also. My advice is to learn material from as many sources as possible but everyone does things differently so figuring out what works for your climates takes a while and is also very important. Where i live gets cold but not too cold and gets hot but not overly hot and i think thats the reason bonsai does so well here. The only restrictions are tropicals having to go indoors for winter if a person sets up the right enviornment i think tropicals do better inside than outside here believe it or not. If anyone here ever has any questions for me i like helping people with bonsai and talking about bonsai just as much as i like doing it and ill answer questions as best i can and ill tell anyone anything they want to know and hopefully the favor will be returned. Jake

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to Jay

Post  jake4bonsai on Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:35 am

And too Jay, In the hottest part of summer i use something that alot of people thinks is a mistake or no good for bonsai but it works great for me and i quess its all in how you set up and run your system but thats a watering system on a timer. It kicks on twice a day in the 85 to 100 degree weather at 7:30 in the evening and again about midday. I use sprayers that cover a 10 inch area and two if the pot is bigger than that. It work fantastic! I can water and fertilize and everything and not even be home. Jake

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  drgonzo on Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:32 am

The Bonsai nurseries up my way both have spray heads on timers, i think its a compromise where form MUST follow function if you have a lot of plants to care for. BTW I saw a few of your videos last night, I got a kick out of your "literati" mimosa aspirations. I'm growing one out now, from seed, and have been doing so for 3 seasons now, 5 feet tall and magic marker thick it will be a few more years before its workable but if you keep them in a good sized pot they thicken fast. if they are put in the ground they often fall prey to a wilt that invariably is fatal and is the main source for the death of Albizia in North america at the age of about 20-30 years, hopefully in bonsai culture we can hope to eliminate this fungus and keep them going a while longer. I also think I recognize your handle from Ebay.
-Jay

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  parabellum_9x19 on Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:20 am

jun wrote:

Parabellum,
Do you have a name?
Simple tip. You are on the right track, Just keep those trees alive first, learn how those trees will behave. and don't think of the final deign for your trees. Even with broom style you still need to wire a tree, So must try to learn how to wire too in the future.
You got a very basic beginner book, try to get your hand also with more advanced books for inspirations, the one with lots of photos of nice trees.

regards,
jun Smile

Sure, my first name is Chris.

As for horticulture, I've got a decent amount of basic knowledge, probably more than the average joe. My family was way into outdoor gardening and landscaping, so I've been caring for plants all my life, but I'm always trying to learn more.

Also, Jake thanks for taking the time to share all that info, I'm trying to soak up as much as I can.

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

Post  Rob Kempinski on Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:32 pm

jake4bonsai wrote:And too Jay, In the hottest part of summer i use something that alot of people thinks is a mistake or no good for bonsai but it works great for me and i quess its all in how you set up and run your system but thats a watering system on a timer. It kicks on twice a day in the 85 to 100 degree weather at 7:30 in the evening and again about midday. I use sprayers that cover a 10 inch area and two if the pot is bigger than that. It work fantastic! I can water and fertilize and everything and not even be home. Jake

I have been using an automatic sprinkler system for my bonsai 18 years. It's not a mistake but a necessity.

Mine is two fault tolerant: uses two independent systems with two separate computer controllers, one on a pump and one on city water, backed up by a human.

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Re: Hello, new bonsai owner, just wanted to introduce myself and get input (pics)

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