All Things Gardening forum: I want to start a Bonsai

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Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Oct 8, 2012 1:26 PM CST
Any pointers? I will be trimming back a Japanese Maple and a leggy Japanese schefflera and I want to start a Bonsai. This is my first time. I have some small-plum size lava rock I'd like to use.
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Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Oct 11, 2012 8:55 PM CST
So do I, Cheryl, and I've started a couple. Failed miserably though.
Killed a maple and a rosemary, one right after the other.

I even had a book, step by step info. And I still killed them.
I do think there are how-to's on YouTube now. I just don't have the heart to kill anything else. Sad
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Name: Critter (Jill)
MD (Zone 6b)
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critterologist
Oct 19, 2012 9:18 AM CST
From my limited understanding, I don't think you want to go straight to the lava rock or "bonsai mix." You're going to be trimming the roots as well as the top... in particular, you're going to be severely shortening the main root or taproot. You need to give that root time & encouragement & TLC so it grows new strong lateral roots to support the bonsai. So, after pruning, pot up in "regular" good potting mix, in a "normal" depth container. Shift gradually to the coarse bonsai mix, and don't move the plant abruptly to a shallow container. After pruning, it's probably also good to increase humidity around the top of the plant -- not letting it sit in soggy soil, but putting it on a tray with gravel & water, or even tenting it with a plastic bag if needed to keep the leaves "crisp" (as with cuttings, don't let the plastic touch the leaves, and keep it in indirect light).

As Sharon said, there are a lot of how-to's online... keep in mind that you don't want to give the plant too many shocks at once, so you're not going to go from "leggy plant in the ground" to "perfect potted bonsai" in a week, or even in a month. Good bonsais take years to develop.
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Oct 19, 2012 4:18 PM CST
I have not personally made any bonsai, but have observed some Japanese bonsai growers in San Francisco. They use akadama and kanuma in their bonsai mix, using a particular bonsai dish, wide but shallow. I would follow the recommendations to read and watch extensively about the art of doing bonsai. They are truly remarkable and also equally challenging Big Grin Have fun!
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
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gg5
Nov 19, 2012 11:39 PM CST
use a tree/plant that's small enough and you won't have to trim roots so extensively at the beginning...trees that are very amenable to beginning Bonsai are willows and plants are forsythia. Keeping them in the correct pot is soo important :)
Good luck share photos
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Name: Critter (Jill)
MD (Zone 6b)
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critterologist
Nov 21, 2012 7:27 PM CST
I've only tried so far with plants that are really tough (for me, anyway), like ficus & bottle tree seedlings & adenium. I do have a baby J Maple in a gallon pot outside. I've pruned the tap root back slightly, and I'll continue root-pruning it so it fits into its gallon container. When it starts developing stronger side roots, I'll prune the tap root back further and put it into a wider, shallower pot. I think if I try to do it by degrees, it will have a chance to adjust its root system accordingly.
I'm learning to dance in the rain. Thank you, Sally & Chris.
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
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gg5
Nov 22, 2012 12:10 AM CST
Jill that sounds exactly right!! Another thing to remember is bonsai's are never finished...they always will need root trimming so putting them into pots that are easy to take them out of to work on is essential!
Happy Thanksgiving all
Greg
Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling
Name: Critter (Jill)
MD (Zone 6b)
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critterologist
Nov 22, 2012 9:14 PM CST
I'm not trying for the expert approach with my attempts... I'm amazed at the depth of knowledge and artistry that bonsai can entail. I think of what I'm trying with a few plants as utilizing a technique, which is much less intimidating for me!

I've read through the book Sharon shared with me and tried to glean some general principles from it, like the need to prune back vertical tap roots in order to get more lateral roots, as well as the idea that changes don't need to be so drastic.... for instance, after severely pruning a tree into its initial bonsai form, it's not necessary to also severely prune the roots and put it into a 2 inch deep container right away.. give it time to recover between steps. Bonsai seems to be as much about practicing patience as about growing a specimen plant.
I'm learning to dance in the rain. Thank you, Sally & Chris.
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Nov 22, 2012 9:47 PM CST
Growing bonsai takes patience? Ut oh! Hilarious! Thanks for the tips. I think I will try to bonsai my Japanese schefflera this spring. Do you uproot it to trim the tap root and then replant? How often do you do that?
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love Truly, Laugh
uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you Smile.
Name: Joe
Tampa, Florida (Zone 9b)
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Artisans
May 18, 2013 10:09 AM CST
SGT - Don't fret... I can help you. Please visit
https://www.artisansbonsai.com/

For soil info go here - https://www.artisansbonsai.com/products.htm
(3 parts turface/3 parts 1/4" inch lavarock (red) / 3 parts1/4" pine bark fafard)



I would respond in full here but since the original posting date is so long ago I don't want to waste anyone's time. If you would like to see my suggestions here please respond and I will post that info later.

Thumb of 2013-05-18/Artisans/22a06b
[Last edited by Artisans - May 18, 2013 10:17 AM (+)]
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Name: Critter (Jill)
MD (Zone 6b)
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critterologist
May 18, 2013 9:11 PM CST
Oh how cool, I've just repotted my maple bonsai-candidate, and I put it in pretty much that mix. I used Turface, pine bark fines, and "chick grit" that's just a little smaller than that lava rock (it's the "gritty mix" recipe from Tapla over on DG, although I didn't take the extra step of screening the tiny bits out of the pine bark).

I bought a new (green leaf) J Maple baby at a plant sale last weekend... deliberately chose the one with the twisty trunk. Green Grin!
I'm learning to dance in the rain. Thank you, Sally & Chris.
Name: Cinda
Indiana Zone 5b
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gardengus
May 21, 2013 2:28 PM CST
Just came from the show at the Chicago botanical gardens , and wow ..they can do all kinds of things in bonsai.

this was just cool over a rock.

and this is a dwarf Korean lilac.
who knew ?
Thumb of 2013-05-21/gardengus/781abf
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all else is just existing.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
May 21, 2013 2:54 PM CST
I love the looks of Bonsai and once (when I was young) Smiling I tried my hand at it. I don't remember what plant I wired and pruned to shape (probably Ficus benjamina) and I don't even remember what ever happened to the plant, LOL but I probably just lost interest and unwired it. I used to have to un-pot and root prune even the large Ficus trees and it was a pain in the neck ... I've never had much patience and the older I get the shorter my patience and attention span is. *Blush*

I sure do love looking at Bonsai photo's though and it would be great to have a Bonsai Forum here at ATP if there were enough folks interested and involved to keep it active. I imagine there might be a few knowledgeable Bonsai growers here (like new member Artisans/Joe) that would be around to offer help for anyone who wanted to give it a try!


Cinda: Wow, great photo's, thanks for sharing! I really like the tree that has attached to and is growing on the rock, but that Dwarf Korean Lilac really catches my attention! My only my preference would be to have it displayed at a higher level. I really love seeing blooming Bonsai like that lilac or azalea's etc.
~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Cinda
Indiana Zone 5b
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gardengus
May 21, 2013 5:40 PM CST
If you like the flowering ones you will love this cherry in full bloom.

Keep believing ,hoping,and loving
all else is just existing.
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
May 21, 2013 5:41 PM CST
Thumbs up I sure do!
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
May 21, 2013 6:29 PM CST
Wow. Those are amazing!
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Name: Margaret
Near Kamloops, BC, Canada (Zone 3a)
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mcash70
May 21, 2013 10:58 PM CST
Beautiful, fav is the blooming cherry. Lovey dubby
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
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gg5
May 21, 2013 11:18 PM CST
I too love the rock one! At first I didn't expand the photo, so thought hmm, nice, but once I expanded photo and saw what it actually is I was saying "WOW!" amazing and the roots are so thick! I'm sure that plant is years old!! I have a bonsai book that has many color photos of older chinese and japanese family trees, many above 250 years old!! Again I say amazing! Thumbs up I don't have that kind of patience, and I don't have anyone to pass them onto Sad
I think I'm going to try a forsythia, since I have some rooted cuttings, also have rooted cuttings of hydrangea, don't know if that would work, but I feel like I've seen bonsai hydrangea before?? I tip my hat to you.
Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
Region: United States of America Morning Glories Region: Florida Houseplants Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
May 22, 2013 7:10 AM CST
Greg: You can always make it known that you want them donated to a botanical gardens (which is what I've done regarding all of my plants!)

I think you should give Bonsai a try with both the Forsythia and Hydrangea ... and please keep us posted as to how they are doing. I think Forsythia would be awesome as Bonsai and I bet Hydrangea would work too. Hopefully someone with experience will pop in here with some good advice.


~ Eat, Sleep .... Play in the dirt ~
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
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gg5
May 22, 2013 10:57 AM CST
Thanks Lin! I have the space for bonsai Sticking tongue out meaning I don't have much space! nodding Whistling
Plants bring me peace and calm, more of what we all need Smiling

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