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Bonsai and Grafting

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Post  bilbo Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:33 pm

So, as I've gone through my path of discovery on bonsai, I've learned quite a bit, and no doubt there are volumes more to gather.

One of the things I've learned is grafting seems to be a powerful tool for the producers of material.
Now, I know from much past horticultural experience about grafting and the technical reasons for it.
But until I got into bonsai, I had no idea just how much it has become a tool used by producers to create inexpensive product quickly.

In the pre-bonsai world, it is everywhere and many vendors don't even bother to tell the consumer up front if their product originated as grafts.

As I mentioned, much of the product I see grafted, but within this category, there seems to be quality, and hacking.
I know, from having read on the topic, there are some varieties whose roots are not as sturdy as may be desired in in these cases, perhaps it can make sense to graft a scion to a base in order to increase its bonsai capability.
Blue Atlas Cedar comes to mind (Cedrus atlantica 'glauca').
From what I understand, the root systems on these are not as desirable and therefore much of the commercially available product has actually originated as grafts to Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani).
However, within that category (as just one example) there are, or seem to be, products whose creators took care to perform a graft which results in an eventual tree worth of bonsai, and products whose creators couldn't bother to give a crap.
So, who do I define the difference?
I have two specific examples of Blue Atlas Cedar.
One where the creator performed the graft LOW, at the dirt line, size matched scion to the base with care, and performed the graft with skill.
The other missed even a low level bar on all three accounts.
the graft is 4 inches up the trunk, the size is not matched, and the splice now looks like something Mary Shelley would have written about.

I have more examples from other varieties, I just use the Blue Atlas as an example.

So, setting the premise, now I get to several bonsai related questions about grafting.

Does the graft have a significant impact on the "quality" or "respectability" of the finished bonsai in your observations and/or in your practice?

It seems like there are, or could be at least 4 considerable areas of concern as grafting relates to bonsai:
1. Is grafting for a specific variety even necessary at all (or is it just a mass production tool);
2. How low/high is the graft (impacts nebari);
3. Size matching the scion to the base (impacts nebari);
4. Performing the graft with care and skill (impacts nebari)
Do I have this right or am I being overly picky/anal?

Does anybody know of a guide somewhere as to which trees are "acceptable"/expected to be grafted?
I know the Blue Atlas is commonly accepted and have seen some absolutely stunning finished specimens.
Of course, the quality of the graft seems like it could be an issue still.
However, I just received 4 pines (Pinus parviflora 'glauca' and Pinus flexilis 'glauca') that are also grafts and HORRIBLE looking to boot.
Should I investigate performing ground layering on these to eliminate the grafts entirely or are these "acceptable" varieties for grafting candidates?

Sorry to be so verbose but I just believe in providing insights/background which might be useful for those who might consider replying.

Oh yeah, some of you may have also noticed, I have a thing for the blue ('glauca').
what can I say, I personally think they look great.
Now if I can just find some that don't look like they were hacked together in Frankenstein's laboratory.


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Bonsai and Grafting Empty STUNNING examples of grafted Blue Atlas Cedar

Post  bilbo Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:37 pm


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Post  Richard S Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:21 pm

Well I can understand the attraction of Blue Atlas Cedar, they look great although I don't have any myself. There's only one Cedrus on my benches and that's Deodara but I'd certainly add a Atlantica Glauca if I could find the right specimen (for one thing the foliage is much more compact)!

On the wider issue of grafting though, I think the answer is simple.

If you can see that the tree is grafted then I think it's value as bonsai is diminished. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use grafted trees just that you should be discerning in choice of material and seek out those that are most suitable.

And if you can't find any perhaps consider creating your own? Could you graft Blue Atlas foliage onto an already established Lebanon trunk for example? I don't know how easy this would be but as you say, Cedars are frequently grafted so it might be relatively easy. Mind you , my only experience of grafting is with thread and approach grafting on deciduous trees so I'm not claiming to have any great knowledge here.

Interesting question though.


Richard S
Richard S

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Post  augustine Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:13 pm

There are grafts for the nursery trade and grafts for bonsai, two very different things. Grafts for bonsai have to be made very low almost right on top of the roots.

Check out the articles section on where you'll find info about grafts for bonsai. It's a waste of money buying grafted material, sight unseen, to train as bonsai unless you can find a supplier who is grafting specifically for bonsai.

Good luck,


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