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Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011




Hello, everyone! This is a thread for discussion, care, and maintenance of bonsai. I will also be posting guides on bonsai care from time to time as well.

Guides

Getting Started: An Introduction to Bonsai and Basic Bonsai Care
Getting Started: Bonsai Tools and You
Getting Started: Bonsai Styles
Collecting and Growing Bonsai from Cuttings


F.A.Q.


So what is bonsai?

Bonsai is the art of growing a tree in a pot.


I’ve always wanted to try doing bonsai, but I don’t know where to start…

Not a problem! I myself knew nothing about plants prior to starting bonsai, and I know how disheartening that can be. But it isn’t too hard, actually. All it requires is an interest in it and the will to keep your plants alive when you’re just starting out.


What Hardiness Zone do you live in?

I live in what’s classified as Zone 9b, in California. Hence why a lot of plants I suggest and own myself are more oriented towards being heat and frost tolerant.

Mr. Soop fucked around with this message at 07:17 on Sep 1, 2012

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Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Getting Started: An Introduction to Bonsai and Basic Bonsai Care



What is Bonsai?

“A Bonsai is a tree or shrub grown in a container. Though seldom exceeding 70 cm in height, it makes us believe when we look at it here is a tree just as it grows in nature. The word ‘bonsai’ is formed from two words, ‘bon’ meaning tray or dish, and ‘sai’ meaning tree or plant, so it’s literal translation ‘tree planted in a dish’. A bonsai is, then, a tree – a miniaturized tree – grown in a dish and resembling in all respects its large counterpart in nature.” – Paul Lesniewics, Bonsai: The Complete Guide to Art and Technique

Or as my sensei says, “It’s basically a tree in a pot”.


So when did people start doing this Bonsai stuff?

Originally an art form practiced by the Chinese as early as the 6th Century, the Japanese adopted the practice for themselves via Chinese-Japanese relations. After World War II, bonsai made its way to the U.S. and Europe, and the population of bonsai enthusiasts has been growing ever since. Often praised for their beauty, the intricacies of their creation, and the patience to grow them, bonsai have been depicted in movies and media, with appearances in films like The Karate Kid, Blade Runner, and even Die Hard.


Sounds pretty cool! So…can I go out and get one right now?

Slow down there! Most people purchase bonsai with knowing less than the history lesson above and end up with what’s call a 3D Plant in a short amount of time; Dehydrated, Diseased, and Dying. Before you go and buy anything though, do as Bill Nye would and consider the following.

  • Where you live. Some plants that are not grown indoors cannot live in certain areas. When you go to buy a plant, check to see what Hardiness Zone it grows in.

    You can look up your Zone if you live within the United States by clicking here.
    http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

    For additional information concerning zones and for looking at your Zone if you live outside of the United States, click here.
    http://www.backyardgardener.com/zone/

    Wherever it is that you buy bonsai material from, free to ask an associate for assistance, as they’re usually pretty knowledgeable. If you are a beginner, it is best to start out with plants that grow in your Zone, or might be native to your area.

  • Where the plant will grow best.

    This is a little bit besides the point of knowing your Zone. What’s also important is knowing if your plant can be grown only outdoors or indoors. Many a bonsai have fallen victim to the lack of this knowledge. Despite how bonsai are portrayed in TV and pictures, they are primarily outdoor plants. Most need a good amount of sunlight and fresh air, and being inside all day for extended periods will kill them. However, there are some exceptions to this. As mentioned, there are indeed a few bonsai that can be grown indoors. Scroll down for a list of good bonsai to start out with.

  • Your level of dedication to your bonsai.

    This is important, because lack of attention can kill them even if you do have them in the perfect place outside. Once potted up, bonsai typically need to be watered at least 2 to 3 times a week during the spring and fall, and everyday during the summer depending on how warm and windy it is. If you live in an area where it can get cold enough to snow, you may have to find a way of protecting them during the winter months if they are not cold-tolerant. While bonsai can seem simple at first, they can actually be a pretty large endeavor if you aren’t properly prepared to take care of them. Care instructions are relative to where you live. Once again, knowing your Hardiness Zone is very important!


All right then. So where is the best place to purchase a bonsai?


From my personal experience, the best place to find material is at local plant nurseries. Nurseries typically have a wide variety of plants to choose from, and the staff are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to answering most questions. However, some plants that are considered suitable for bonsai can be purchased at your local OSH, Home Depot, or Lowes. What is probably best though is if you can find a local bonsai nursery. Buying plants online is always an option, although I haven’t done it myself to give an opinion one way or the other. BY ALL MEANS DO NOT BUY THE PRE-MADE BONSAI AT WAL-MART OR TARGET. These are usually just plants with rocks glued on top of them to give the appearance of soil, and are likely to die within a short time of purchase. The only exception to this rule would be any pre-done products done by Brussel’s Bonsai, which you are more likely to see at Home Depot or Lowe’s anyway.


So I’ve found a place to buy from. What should I look for in potential bonsai material? What do you think I should start out with?

Good question! Ideally, you should look for 1 gallon plants, with a somewhat straight trunk and under 70 cm (27 inches; under 2 feet/0.7 meters) While curvy trunks can be fine for beginners, avoid anything with an extremely angled trunk shape (an L or a J shape that’s sideways is something to be avoided) as they will usually never make for good bonsai. While you can get 5 gallon plants, that’s really pushing it if you’re just starting out. And when it comes to what species of plant you should get, while it does depend on your zone, here are a few general suggestions.


Outdoor Bonsai


  • Juniper – Common. In particular, Procumbens Nana is going to be your ideal choice.This is pretty hardy in warmer climates. It’s also pretty cheap at most places. It’s also a good choice for beginners, has a shape that naturally lends itself to bonsai, and it is fairly forgiving. Should be kept in full sun.


  • Trident Maple – Uncommon, but also forgiving. Looses its leaves in the winter and looks great doing it. Should be kept in full sun to half-shade/half-sun.


  • Olive – Uncommon, but also forgiving. Little Ollie a.k.a. Dwarf Olive (Olea Europa ‘Montra’) is an ideal choice. If raised with some TLC, it may even produce olives on its branches! Should be kept in full sun.


  • Pyracantha – Common and cheap. Hardy and easy to work with, however it does have small thorns. A good choice because of availability.


  • Cotoneaster – Common and cheap. Same qualities as Pyracantha, however this one does lack thorns, which makes it slightly better to work with.


  • Chinese Elm – Somewhat common, but can be a little pricy. However, they are quite hardy, forgiving, and rewarding to work with.

Indoor Bonsai


  • Ficus – Common and cheap. Also very hardy. As it’s a pretty common office plant, it can deal with low-light conditions, although it’ll need TLC if you want it too look really good. I recommend Ficus Retusa (Tigerbark Ficus) as it grows pretty fast, or Ficus Benjamina (Benjamin’s Tree/Weeping Fig) as the natural growth lends itself to bonsai. They are also both very forgiving.


  • Umbrella Plant – Not as cool looking as a Ficus in my opinion, but they require a little less care overall.


  • Dwarf/Baby Jade – A succulent. While not a traditional bonsai plant, the growth pattern lends itself to bonsai styles.

Anything else I might want to consider buying while I’m at my store of choice? Like maybe some equipment or fertilizer?

You may want to pick up a watering can or hose attachment that will deliver a light shower of water onto your plant(s). Even using a basic hose on low power isn’t really recommended. Beware of strong hose/nozzle power, as you don’t want the stream of water to blast the soil out of the plant container. If/when you start using special soil (Akadama), getting a shower head for your hose is pretty much a must-have due to that issue. A watering can will do the trick if you have a low amount of plants though.

As for fertilizer, I would suggest getting an All-Purpose fertilizer as you will be hard-pressed to hurt your plants with it. Slow release fertilizers are fine, just avoid any of the stake style ones, as they can damage the tender roots of your plant. Just follow the instructions on the box and you should be fine.


Thanks for the advice! Got myself one after all. Any growing tips?

Don’t repot it or mess with the root structure in any way. Your main goal right now is to keep your new plant friend alive. Remember that bonsai requires patience, and going to town on it with pruning it and transplanting it into a nice pot immediately could stress your plant to death!

The outdoor ones I suggested should ideally be kept in full sun, but if you live somewhere were it gets fairly hot (over 100 F/37 C) you may want to move the Trident Maple to half-shade.

For indoor ones, try not to place them in the direct blast of A/C or a heating unit, as they’ll dehydrate quickly. Water around once or twice a week for these guys, as even if not in the direct path of moving air they’ll still need water if you want to keep them healthy.

As stated before, when it comes to fertilizers, the All-Purpose ones will get you by just fine, although just as a rule of thumb try to avoid the stake ones if you are getting a slow-release fertilizer, as they may damage the roots of your plant. Just follow the instructions on the box of whatever you bought, and your plants will be pretty happy with you.

Pruning of all of these suggested plants can be done by hand, by pinching the leaves off. Try and use your fingernails as little scissors. If you don’t want to do it by hand, you can use actual scissors. Don’t worry if the Ficus or other plants bleed milk from the cuts, as that’s perfectly normal. However, the Ficus do bleed latex, so if you have an allergy I suggest the use basic scissors to do it for you. Spraying water with a spray bottle on the wound will also stop the plant from bleeding more. And while basic scissors can get the job done for these plants, for more advanced cuts or just an overall better and more durable tool, you can invest around $20 and under for a decent pair of gardening scissors.

The best resource for information overall would be to contact your local bonsai society. Try looking around for them online. Even if you have a small town, it may have a club you can join, or a nearby area may have one if you’re willing to travel. Bonsai societies are usually populated by older folk who enjoy sharing a lot of their information with other people, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also find a lot of good deals through them if you want to buy things like pots or special soil. (Raffles with cool prizes are also commonplace!)

Congratulations! You now have your very first bonsai! Give it enough time, and if you have enough interest, you can go into more advanced stuff like buying and using bonsai pots, getting special Akadama soil for them, wiring branches, and doing major cuts to shape them.

Mr. Soop fucked around with this message at 03:38 on May 29, 2012

snorch
Jul 27, 2009


I've got a fresh little Ficus Microcarpa that looks like it would be a great bonsai candidate. It's been getting a lot of new growth lately, but I'm unsure what to prune away. How am I supposed to go about this? What am I trying to achieve by pruning?

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Hmm... Well, to answer your last question first, pruning on bonsai serves a few different purposes. The first is to influence growth with what's called "directional pruning". For example, you might prune a few leaves off one side of a plant, thus tricking your plant into thinking that it shouldn't grow in that direction and encourage more growth on the unpruned side. This in itself is the primary reason for pruning, as it is the most influential action that will determine the growth of your plant.

Another reason is to limit the size of the leaves you have on your plant. By pruning off the larger leaves, it will encourage the tree to not only produce more new growth, but also make it so your new growth will end up smaller leaves overall.

Ficus in particular are very responsive to both of these reasons. As a rule of thumb, when you prune a ficus of any kind, do the pruning primarily by pinching off leaves. This is much easier on the ficus and you'll get better results with this method. For bigger cuts (branches mainly) use scissors/gardening scissors.

Ideally if your just starting to train your plant, try pinching off the uppermost leaves of the plant. More leaf buds will sprout out lower down the trunk. After they begin to grow into full-fledged branches, selectively cut them in order to begin shaping your ficus into a true bonsai shape.

If you would be willing to post a picture of your ficus, that would be great too. I could give you a much better idea of what you can do with it if I could see it.

Also, my lovely assistant helped me get pictures of examples of ficus that I have. (A black background serves to accentuate the bonsai features clearly for those wondering, so that's the reason for the cheesy shirt.) These have both been done using pinch-pruning techniques and fairly minimal scissor work.


Ficus benjamina



Ficus retusa

Wandering Knitter
Feb 5, 2006


For those interested but horrible with plants I highly recommend getting a Dwarf/Baby Jade and styling it to look like a bonsai tree. My house barely gets any sunlight at all, yet my little Jade has been growing up fine for about ten years running now.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Right on. 10 years of growth makes for a pretty nice plant, especially with a succulent. Any particular style you chose to do it in?

Anyway, as a succulent a Dwarf/Baby Jade is a very good plant to have. Although technically not a true bonsai ("professional" bonsai are classified as 'woody plants' only), if you aren't looking to impress some 150-year-old hardcore Japanese bonsai master, they're a pretty good choice overall and very, very low maintenance. And the only real dangers to them are overwatering, and frost/snow, which can turn them to mush overnight if you have them outdoors for whatever reason.

Not an Anthem
Apr 27, 2003

I'm a fucking pain machine and if you even touch my fucking car I WILL FUCKING DESTROY YOU.


I see its possible to start bonsais from seedlings or cuttings- can you just go off and forage up your own bonsai candidates without paying big bucks for em? That way you can select from your own local habitat of things that can already survive your climate. I'd love to make a little white oak bonsai, but I have no idea on how to get started.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


You can indeed do that for a number of plants. Ficus cuttings can be gathered and planted for free new plants; and although they'll take off pretty easily once potted up; just don't expect for it to grow big/fat anytime soon.

In particular, Oaks are a bit tough when it comes to cuttings. Simply taking a cutting off of a grown oak tree will leave you with dead sticks in about two weeks, regardless of how well they're tended to. However, suitable branches for bonsai can be harvested with a more advanced technique known as 'air layering', in which case you wrap a plastic bag full of damp peat moss around a tree limb you want. Doing this over time causes the branch to be fooled into thinking it's in the ground, and it'll start sprouting roots. You then cut the limb off below where the roots have sprouted and viola, you have yourself a cutting that has the ability to survive. This however requires a good amount of dedication. Having roots is key for any cutting though. For example, Junipers will pretty much always root from cuttings, but it may take a year for them to fully do so.

Another option is of course to grow from seed. You can harvest most seeds from popular bonsai trees (Gingkos, Oaks, Maples) in the fall. You can plant them before spring starts and get quite a few baby plants from them. The only downside is that you will be starting completely from scratch, and something like a Ginkgo grows incredibly slow to the point where it may not be worth it to start from seed. On the other end of things, starting from seed is good with most Maples however, and Oaks are good to go with this too. (If planted in the ground, the Cork Oak can grow 6 to 8 feet in a year by age 3!)

These are the primary pluses and minuses to growing from seeds or cuttings. They're a much cheaper alternative overall, if you're willing to put in the time and effort.

My girlfriend primarily does Oaks, so here are a few examples of cuttings and seedlings.


Quercus suber (Cork Oak) done via air layering.



Quercus wislizeni (Interior Live Oak/Sierra Oak) done from seed; 3 years old. (Wire was put on Fall of 2011)



Quercus lobata (Valley Oak) done from seed; 2 years old and just bought at a convention this past weekend.



Worth noting is the Interior Live and Valley Oaks are native to my region, and my girlfriend has had no problems with them to date. Natives are a good way to go, if you can get a hold of them.

Not an Anthem
Apr 27, 2003

I'm a fucking pain machine and if you even touch my fucking car I WILL FUCKING DESTROY YOU.


Soop... priceless advice! I want more green around my place but I don't like a lot of plants and I love trees, do a bit of woodworking so I like local wood.

I have a harebrained scheme too.. when I was in fifth grade or so for arbor day we planted little tiny 4" or so tall tree in our yard that we got from school. We've since moved but that tree is pretty big now and I kind of want to see if its possible to do one of those air layerings from it.

Can you describe the process more? I doubt I can do it because I'd feel pretty odd asking the new homeowners if I can stick a bag over part of their tree. The advice is awesome though. Do you keep yours outdoors 24/7?

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


I GS'd air layering and found this handy little guide that's about the same as the ones in my bonsai books.

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/ornamentals/airlayer/airlayer.html

I also forgot that it was sphagnum moss and not peat moss that's used in the air layering process, as my girlfriend reminded me...

Anyway, not quite sure as to what you're asking in terms of keeping something outdoors 24/7. If you mean the Oak trees, yes. They should be kept outdoors at all times. White Oak are a pretty sound tree too, and going with growing from seed is probably going to be your best bet. Heck, some acorns may have sprouted by now or may be sprouting soon, and if you see one growing out of the ground you can try digging it up. Just beware of damaging what's called the taproot (biggest root(s) that come out of a seed; think of it as primary life support for the seed). Also note that the taproot may be a few inches straight down from the initial sprout. Digging it up should be fine, just don't break,(severely) bend, or clip the taproot under any circumstances. Then it's just a matter of sticking it in a deep enough pot for the taproot, watering the plant, and watching it grow.

Not an Anthem
Apr 27, 2003

I'm a fucking pain machine and if you even touch my fucking car I WILL FUCKING DESTROY YOU.


Awesome, thanks.

Sandwich Fight
Oct 10, 2004

Explosion

I bought this little bonsai three years ago:

This is it a little bit later:



I bought a little red maple bonsai kit when I was in Disney Epcot in the Japan area and this is it after about 3 weeks:

To start off it had a plastic bag over it that I guess was to create a terrarium environment and keep it moist, but I took that off about a week ago, and it seems to have really taken off since.

There is one little leaf that is curled up and black and looks like it is dying:


And finally here is the new little red maple kit next to that bonsai I bought three years ago:


The instructions that came with the red maple kit it said after eight weeks to gently pull up on the plants and I can transplant them to their own pots.
I've been misting the soil daily, should I keep doing this?

Also, the old bonsai I had I accidentally sorta let it dry out and it lost all its leaves, but it's really come back since then!

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


That ficus is fantastic! It looks like a Tiger Bark (Ficus Retusa), and you've been doing pretty well with it, I'd say. They're very hardy and I've also run the mistake of letting mine dry out during fall last year, only to have it recover as if nothing happened.

As for the Red Maple, you're doing everything right. Seedlings love a terrarium environment, and now that they're growing I would say to maybe repot them and move them outside to a slightly shaded area if you don't have it outside already.

Repotting them will allow the roots to grow and help them get established. You can use a basic flowerpot to do this, just make sure it's around the 4 to 6 inch range in terms of pot size, as you'll allow the roots room to grow without running the risk of overwatering and getting root rot. Make sure that you have a very porous soil that allows for easy drainage; adding some extra Perlite (only about 2 bucks for a bag of it) to whatever soil mix you repot with will do the trick. Normal potting soil is going to be best for now, as it has all the nutrients a growing bonsai needs.

As a general rule, Maples like a moderate amount of both sunlight and water, and with that said, misting them heavily will probably be okay for the time being. Saturation for these guys is key though as they begin to be come full-fledged bonsai.For the time being though, I'd say to just gently pour a cup of water into the pot every couple of days after you've repotted it and it should be fine.

At a recent bonsai convention, I bought something I'd never heard of before; an Acer morrisonense (Taiwan Maple).


It has fairly large leaves that don't grow in proportion to the small stem they're coming out of, and I'm told they're a bit more heat resistant because of their slightly fleshy leaves. He's a pic for a comparison to a standard Japenese Maple, with a soda can for size reference.


In other news, I'm very sorry that I've taken so long to respond. Been busy with lots of things lately and I had thought this thread might have been dead because I haven't updated with anything. However, I'll try and have an update soon on tools or soil or something. In the meantime, my girlfriend recently attended a bonsai seminar with the Bonsai Master Ted Matson (I couldn't make it because of work that day ), and I've been prepping for my first bonsai show. Just a small event at the local Japanese gardens in a park nearby. Here's what my girlfriend and I will be showing off.

Juniper procumbens (Juniper; 'Nana' cultivar)


Olea europaea (Olive)


Ginkgo biloba (I was told this may be a rare cultivar from Japan, but I don't have any real way to verify this at the moment.)


Quercus lobata (Valley Oak)


Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm)


Calluna vulgaris (Common Heather; 'Martha Hermann' cultivar)


Kind of a picture heavy response/update... Oh well. Hope I was able to answer your question, Sandwich.

Sandwich Fight
Oct 10, 2004

Explosion

Thanks for the tips. I went ahead and separated the maple into their own containers and they're still doing fine. The thing is, I didn't put them into a pot because I felt like all the pots I was looking at seemed way too big, so I settled for some little cups I bought and just drilled holes in the bottom and put some rocks in to drain.
I'm still misting the soil, but I'm putting a lot of water into it to make sure everything is getting enough.


This is the only picture I have on my phone right now of the new set up.

I've moved them over to a window that gets more sunlight, but I don't want to put them outside because I have dogs that would probably go sit on them and kill them. Although I have taken them outside some when the dogs are inside for a while just to get fresh air and all that.

Bees on Wheat
Jul 18, 2007

I've never been happy



QUAIL DIVISION


Buglord

Any advice for starting a redwood bonsai? I saw one over the weekend that I believe was a Sequoia sempervirens, the California/coastal redwood, and it reminded me that I've been wanting to do something similar. Mostly because I'm a biology nut, but I do appreciate the bonsai aesthetic.



Finding trees to take cuttings from won't be hard since their natural range is pretty close by, and they get planted a lot around here, but I don't know how well that would work. I know you can get some foliage to grow from redwood burls, but I'd rather not do something that could damage the tree. Buying one isn't out of the question, but I've only seen them in a few coastal gift shops, and they were a bit out of the way. Plus, gift shops won't have Metasequoia glyptostroboides, which is what I really want. It's a rare, critically endangered species of deciduous redwood native to China, and there's one specimen on campus at a community college I used to attend. I was thinking that if it wouldn't damage the tree, I could probably get permission from the biology department to take a cutting or two, since that was my major and I'm on pretty good terms with the instructors there.

I just want a pretty little tree that I can put in a pot, but I'm paranoid about hurting the parent tree. There's three species of redwood/sequoia in the world, and they're all endangered or threatened.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


@SandwichFight: That should definitely do for now with the cups. Being a deciduous tree, they’ll lose their leaves in the Fall and go dormant. Depending on their size by then, you can get a better idea of what kind of pots they can be replanted in. Also, maybe see about investing in a cheap table from Target or something. As they get older, they're really going to need to be outdoors. Just as a precaution for now though, look to see if they begin to get yellow leaves/brown spots; that will be a sign of overwatering as opposed to withering, which is from underwatering. Seems as though you’re doing well from the picture. Good move with drilling the holes in the cups too.

@Mizufusion: Ah yes, Redwoods. Where to start? Well, first off unfortunately most large coniferous trees (Redwoods, Sequoias, Pines, Firs, and Spruces) can’t really be started from cuttings. Or rather, it IS possible, but a little tough to do. So, I would say that looking for a smaller one at your local nursery would be your best bet. There are several cultivars, and from personal experience/advice from other bonsai people, try to get the ‘Aptose Blue’ cultivar. It’s hardier than the other ones like ‘Santa Cruz’ and has the added benefit of looking just as nice and responding well to pruning. What you would do after buying a small sapling is top it (cut off the top of the tree) by only a small amount. I would say about 1/6th of the tree is good cut, and try to do it in the mid to late months of winter if possible. There’s actually a forest planting with 3 bonsai Redwoods at my local bonsai nursery, and it’s one of the nicer pieces I’ve seen. Topping saplings is also how the guy got his Redwoods down to size.

As for the Dawn Redwood, that’s also kind of a weird one. My sensei actually has one. Really beautiful. Has nice, green needles budding out right now and they’ll turn red and fall off in the winter. I asked him about it one time last year, as to how it was with pruning and generally growing it as a bonsai. He told me that although it looks good, they’re a bit picky and don’t really seem to like being in a pot; they don’t lend themselves to bonsai as well other plants and really, really want to be big trees. But as he also says, you shouldn’t let a tree scare you, and that if you’re willing to make accommodations for a bonsai tree, anything is possible. One of my local parks has a number of large, adult trees in it and I’m assuming he got a hold of cones there. Or maybe he purchased it online. I can’t really say for sure, sadly.

Luckily though, there’s a nursery that I’ve done business with before (drove up to the mountains and actually went there to purchase them) who sell all sorts of neat trees that seem to be a little bit more rare. This in particular might be a good idea to start off with.

http://www.giant-sequoia.com/sites/giantsequoia/cart/coast-and-dawn-redwoods/item-g1-all-3-redwood-species-2010-crop-sampler.html

I myself bought and Aptose Blue Redwood and Giant Sequoia from them last year, and both plants have been doing fine. I also felt a bit bad about getting an endangered plant, but they do indeed have permits to go and collect Giant Sequoias from the wild, so you don’t have to worry about feeling as though you’re pillaging from the ecosystem.

Mr. Soop fucked around with this message at 04:41 on May 4, 2012

Bees on Wheat
Jul 18, 2007

I've never been happy



QUAIL DIVISION


Buglord

Thanks, that's good to know! I might pick up that redwood sampler next time I get paid. Even if it doesn't work well for bonsai, I'd still like to try to keep a potted dawn redwood. I really love the way new leaves look and feel, and I think it would be worth the effort to keep one around.

Edit: Looks like the San Francisco botanical garden is having a sale this week, and should have some dawn redwoods. They didn't specify what size or price point, but I want to see the gardens anyway so I guess we'll find out!

Bees on Wheat fucked around with this message at 07:21 on May 4, 2012

coyo7e
Aug 23, 2007

by zen death robot

Mizufusion posted:

Thanks, that's good to know! I might pick up that redwood sampler next time I get paid. Even if it doesn't work well for bonsai, I'd still like to try to keep a potted dawn redwood. I really love the way new leaves look and feel, and I think it would be worth the effort to keep one around.

Edit: Looks like the San Francisco botanical garden is having a sale this week, and should have some dawn redwoods. They didn't specify what size or price point, but I want to see the gardens anyway so I guess we'll find out!
With redwoods, while it's not really a bonsai, but you can slice a burl off of a tree, place it into a tray of water and let it stay nice and damp, and it will sprout and grow. My family has had one for like 20 years, it's a cool little plant, and as long as it gets plenty of water it does quite well and requires basically no maintenance.



It may not technically a cutting, but it sort of is.

http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic598848.files/Week%207.%20Redwood%20Burls%20Immortality%20Underground.pdf

quote:

As spectacular as these old-growth forests are, with their trunks disappearing into the fog that enshrouds the forest much of the year, they do not present
a complete picture of the species. For that, one must visit redwood stands that were logged fifty to one hundred and fifty years ago. It is here that one finds the multi-trunked specimens that have sprouted from around the stumps of the original trees. In some redwood forests, the second generation of trunks have also been cut, leading to a third generation of sprout growth. Among conifers, the redwood is unique in its remarkable power of basal regeneration. To my mind it is the redwood’s ability to resprout-its great vitality-that makes the tree worthy of admiration and study.

Humboldt born and raised.

coyo7e fucked around with this message at 17:27 on May 15, 2012

its all nice on rice
Nov 12, 2006

Sweet, Salty Goodness.



Buglord

coyo7e posted:

With redwoods, while it's not really a bonsai, but you can slice a burl off of a tree, place it into a tray of water and let it stay nice and damp, and it will sprout and grow. My family has had one for like 20 years, it's a cool little plant, and as long as it gets plenty of water it does quite well and requires basically no maintenance.



It may not technically a cutting, but it sort of is.

http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic598848.files/Week%207.%20Redwood%20Burls%20Immortality%20Underground.pdf


Humboldt born and raised.

Whoa whoa whoa. You're telling me I can cut a hunk off a redwood, place it in a water dish and *boom* virtually care-free greenery for the home?

coyo7e
Aug 23, 2007

by zen death robot

Pope Mobile posted:

Whoa whoa whoa. You're telling me I can cut a hunk off a redwood, place it in a water dish and *boom* virtually care-free greenery for the home?
Yes, I know that CA redwood burls (which form around ground level, and are sort of a tuber where the tree stores a backup of itself in case of catastrophic damage,) can do this, and maybe you could do it with the other redwood cousins as well.

FYI, that pic is a pic from GIS not like my family's burl, theirs is a little mini forest, I don't think there are any thick sprouts but I imagine one could get one off of it somehow or other. The one my folks have is in a like 24" or 30" plant pot tray - the kind you leave under a 5 gallon or larger plant pot, to catch runoff.

Bees on Wheat
Jul 18, 2007

I've never been happy



QUAIL DIVISION


Buglord

coyo7e posted:

With redwoods, while it's not really a bonsai, but you can slice a burl off of a tree, place it into a tray of water and let it stay nice and damp, and it will sprout and grow. My family has had one for like 20 years, it's a cool little plant, and as long as it gets plenty of water it does quite well and requires basically no maintenance.

That actually is something I considered, but I don't want to hack off part of someone's tree. The particular type of redwood I want is not something that is easily found around here.

I've also found that they actually do require a fair bit of maintenance. My mom had one several years ago, that we bought from a gift shop in Monterey. It was easy to get it started and see some leaves sprout, but almost impossible to keep alive. I think it died after a mere two weeks, and my mom has a pretty amazing green thumb.

coyo7e
Aug 23, 2007

by zen death robot

Add water, keep wet, keep out of direct sunlight.

nobody-
Jun 4, 2000
Forum Veteran

Anyone have any advice on keeping Ginkgos? There's a female tree near my house that drops seeds every fall, and I've germinated several these past few years, but the plants only seem to live for a year or two indoors. They'll typically drop their leaves really late, like February, and may grow new leaves in really late spring or early summer, but this cycle usually only continues for a year before the tree drops its leaves the next winter and appears to die. Is this a species that I'll just have to grow outdoors and bring inside over the winter, or are my plants just getting rootbound or not getting enough light or something? Do they absolutely have to have the deciduous drop-leaves-every-fall cycle that outdoor trees do, or is there a way to interrupt this and have them keep their leaves year round and still be healthy?

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


@coyo7e: That's a really nice redwood technique, actually. While a small cutting of a single branch isn't really enough to start a whole tree from, a burl might be. Given that it can be kept alive with just water for years at a time means that it can also has a good chance of being a bonsai by putting it into a soil container. Heck, even in water it has the makings of a good accent plant. Not that I've ever done any of that myself. But if I did, I would say that using a lot of rooting hormone on the cut would be wise when planting it. Probably the best thing though is that living in Humboldt (natural range of the Redwood for those who didn't know) is the best thing for making a tree via a burl. The climate won't shock it because it's already in its natural habitat, and that's one of the biggest obstacles for keeping a cutting of any kind.

@nobody-: Ginkgo trees are an absolutely outside all year round, 100% deciduous drop-leaves-every-fall tree. Cut off from the outside, even in the nicest windowsill in the house, they'll simply dry up even if you water them every day (A/C and heating units dry them up like nobody's business), become sick and die from lack of sunlight (even if they're on a super sunny windowsill, it's still diffused light; they will also dry up that much faster with A/C and/or a heater with the sun on them), and without the natural air circulation of the outdoors, they won't be able to transpire as well which will also lead to sickness.

However, if it's cold you worry about when it comes to the reason for bringing them indoors, don't worry too much. Ginkgo trees tolerate both hot and cold climates well, although snow can be a problem if your climate does that. In that case, bringing them into a sheltered area before the first snow falls and/or when after last their leaves drop will keep them from being killed by the ravages of winter. As for where they would be indoors, I would recommend placing them a garage or outdoor shed if you have access to either of these places, the reason for this being they'll be protected from cold winds and snow without the shock of going from the icy cold outdoors to a warm, heated house. Even in dormancy they can still be sensitive to temperature changes.

Starting them from seeds is pretty cool, BTW. I have a bag of them but didn't get around to starting them this year. And while they're slow to grow, they get nice fat trunks on them easily. Anyway, hope you have better luck the next time around knowing this bit of information. And if I didn't answer what you wanted, feel free to say so.

Going to be posting a guide on the basic bonsai tools soon, along with maybe something on transferring (although not repotting) a bonsai. So stay tuned!

coyo7e
Aug 23, 2007

by zen death robot

Mr. Soop posted:

@coyo7e: That's a really nice redwood technique, actually. While a small cutting of a single branch isn't really enough to start a whole tree from, a burl might be. Given that it can be kept alive with just water for years at a time means that it can also has a good chance of being a bonsai by putting it into a soil container. Heck, even in water it has the makings of a good accent plant. Not that I've ever done any of that myself. But if I did, I would say that using a lot of rooting hormone on the cut would be wise when planting it. Probably the best thing though is that living in Humboldt (natural range of the Redwood for those who didn't know) is the best thing for making a tree via a burl. The climate won't shock it because it's already in its natural habitat, and that's one of the biggest obstacles for keeping a cutting of any kind.
Yeah that's a good idea, I never thought about trying to force a start from a burl, but burls are really very common in the PNW, and anybody living in half to most of N.CA, OR, or WA could probably easily keep them going except during a freeze. I'm not positive but I suspect my dad has never brought his burl inside during a freeze, he just leaves it on the back patio (under a clear corrugated roof) year-round. I pretty much can't remember how far back he's had that sucker sprouting off little baby redwoods.

Kip
May 7, 2007


Really weird how many goons are interested in getting giant redwood bonsais going--I ordered some seed about two years ago to start a few myself. Out of 20 seeds I had two germinate and only one survived the winter, but it's going strong.

Anyone have any experience/advice with the transplant into a bonsai pot? I'm nervous to cut the roots of my giant redwood considering they seem to be so fragile in their sapling stage.

Clanpot Shake
Aug 10, 2006
shake shake!



Oh man, a bonsai thread! I'd like to try my hand at growing one. Your map thing says I'm in zone 7b. I like the look of the trident maple, which this site says will work for me. I live on a third floor apartment though, and my only available potting would be inside or on the inside windowsill of an open window, or on the fire escape (partial shade). I don't get a whole lot of direct sunlight, maybe 2-3 hours per day (a bit more on the fire escape). Would this plant work for me?

Sandwich Fight
Oct 10, 2004

Explosion

So I finally took some pics of my red maple bonsai set up. They're all really taking off since I separated them and put them in individual cups.
I drilled holes in the bottom and put some rocks in the bottom so water can drain.
I've been leaving them outside in the morning where they are in the shade, but when I leave for work I pull them back inside.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


@Kip: Redwoods are pretty resilient trees. As a rule of thumb, transplant during the cooler, winter months before spring begins. Also, if you're simply putting it into a bigger pot you don't need to cut any roots off. If it's going into an actual bonsai pot where the roots won't fit, go ahead and chop some of them off. The most important thing though is to not trim the taproot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taproot) by more than 1/3rd if your tree still has one going. However, you can trim off some of the smaller, more fibrous roots if you also trim off a proportionate amount of branches from the tree right before or after you transplant it. Also, don't blast the roots with water or anything to try and loosen up the root ball, otherwise you'll end up with a lot of damaged roots. Investing in a bonsai root rake ($10 - $20 for one) might be a good idea. Don't overdo it too much on the root trimming though or your tree won't be able to recover. A good way to think of root trimming is that you're effectively intentionally weakening it; a strong, healthy tree will be okay with this but one that is already weak to begin with will encounter problems and potentially die. Sounds scary I know, but if you think of it this way it makes some root and general pruning decisions a lot easier once you get to know your trees.

@Clanpot Shake: Good news and bad news. Bad news first. A Trident Maple probably isn't going to work out for you, as Maples in general require about 4 to 6 hours of sun minimum each day. You could have one, but it wouldn't be too happy and wouldn't grow very well. If you're dead set on having an actual Maple though, a Japenese Maple might be worth looking into as it has a higher shade tolerance and might do okay on your fire escape. Now for the good news. While a Trident Maple wouldn't work, there are other plants associated with bonsai that might. Indoor bonsai like a Ficus or a Fibrous Begonia would benefit from more from such a small amount of sunlight better than a typical outdoor bonsai would. In particular, a Fibrous Begonia might be right up your alley. It has trident shaped leaves and grows pretty well without too much maintenance. My teacher recently entered one in the California Shohin Seminar (held only every 2 years, it's a bit of a big deal here in Cali for bonsai enthusiasts) and had a lot of people impressed with it. Many mistook it for a Trident Maple actually. I have one as well and I'm pretty happy with it. Anyway, here is where he got his. Cuttings also root easily for Begonias, so you can potentially grow more if you wanted.

http://www.logees.com/Begonia-Partita/productinfo/B3222-2/

@Sandwich Fight: Looking good! Glad to hear and see that they're doing so well since you put them outside for a little bit now. I don't have any experience with Red Maples in particular, but from what I can see with the pictures they're doing just fine. (Nice wiener dog patrolling in the background by the way. My girlfriend has an elderly one that she adopted a few years back from the pound. Poor guy came as and still is morbidly obese though, despite all we've done to get him to loose weight... But that's a whole other topic.)

Apologies that I haven't posted up the tools guide yet. I've been real busy with work lately and when I get home I'm usually too wiped out to feel like writing. So, I'm sorry about that. I do my best to answer everybody's questions though of course!

Clanpot Shake
Aug 10, 2006
shake shake!



Mr. Soop posted:

@Clanpot Shake: Good news and bad news. Bad news first. A Trident Maple probably isn't going to work out for you, as Maples in general require about 4 to 6 hours of sun minimum each day. You could have one, but it wouldn't be too happy and wouldn't grow very well. If you're dead set on having an actual Maple though, a Japenese Maple might be worth looking into as it has a higher shade tolerance and might do okay on your fire escape. Now for the good news. While a Trident Maple wouldn't work, there are other plants associated with bonsai that might. Indoor bonsai like a Ficus or a Fibrous Begonia would benefit from more from such a small amount of sunlight better than a typical outdoor bonsai would. In particular, a Fibrous Begonia might be right up your alley. It has trident shaped leaves and grows pretty well without too much maintenance. My teacher recently entered one in the California Shohin Seminar (held only every 2 years, it's a bit of a big deal here in Cali for bonsai enthusiasts) and had a lot of people impressed with it. Many mistook it for a Trident Maple actually. I have one as well and I'm pretty happy with it. Anyway, here is where he got his. Cuttings also root easily for Begonias, so you can potentially grow more if you wanted.

http://www.logees.com/Begonia-Partita/productinfo/B3222-2/
This site says minimum temperature 60F, hardiness zone 10 or higher for outdoor. I'm in 7, and it can get down below zero here, and maybe down to 60 indoors (old building). Are you double sure that one will work? Also, it's not clear what that site is selling for $10 (that particular plant, one like it, with/without pot?) Does this species change with the seasons as the maple does?

What about something of another type? Like a juniper? Would that work for me?

Also just a suggestion but maybe include pictures of each species in the OP?

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Clanpot Shake posted:

This site says minimum temperature 60F, hardiness zone 10 or higher for outdoor. I'm in 7, and it can get down below zero here, and maybe down to 60 indoors (old building). Are you double sure that one will work? Also, it's not clear what that site is selling for $10 (that particular plant, one like it, with/without pot?) Does this species change with the seasons as the maple does?

What about something of another type? Like a juniper? Would that work for me?

Also just a suggestion but maybe include pictures of each species in the OP?

The Begonia would be fine for indoors during the winter and would be okay outdoors or indoors with the 2-3 hours of sunlight during the warmer months when there's no chance of frost. They key thing is just to keep it hydrated in the summer (water it at least every other day if it's outside, once a week if indoors). I'm not sure if the plant comes with a pot either, but I'd wager a guess that it probably does. If not, you can keep it growing in the pot it came in and just train it as a bonsai until you get an actual bonsai pot. It'll also be one that looks like the one in the picture, not the actual one in the photo.

A juniper is actually a sun lover, and wouldn't do too well with what you have. One of those guys that needs minimum 5 to 6 hours of sun a day.

And no! Don't make me do work... (Actually that's a pretty good idea. I'll update that when I have the chance as I'm off to work in like, 2 minutes.)

GabrielAisling
Dec 21, 2011

The finest of all dances.


Walked around with my grandmother today and found a few seedlings in one of her flowerbeds. They're too small to tell yet, but I'm hoping they're from the maple sapling she planted in the corner of the yard when I was a little kid. I've had a long love-hate relationship with that tree, and it'd be nice to force it to submit to my will and be shorter than me. But knowing my luck they're probably just more sweet-gums.

We took cutting of the original tree, but I don't have a whole lot of hope for them to take.

How well do bonsai travel? I move between 7a and 7b during the year (I go to school four hours south of home) and would prefer to be able to bring my tree(s) with me rather than risk a roommate or neighbor killing them. Any special precautions I should take?

The Door Frame
Dec 5, 2011

I don't know man everytime I go to the gym here there are like two huge dudes with raging high and tights snorting Nitro-tech off of each other's rock hard abs.

Any resilient flowering bonsai? I've tried doing willow trees, wisteria and a couple fruit trees, but my black thumb has killed them all. Definitely going to get a juniper one going because it seems like the hardiest tree I can get, but I'd like to get something fancier looking too

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


@GabrielAisling: If it's a maple sapling, cuttings probably aren't the way to go, sadly. However, you can still get yourself something from it to grow a tree from. Maybe not now, but soon the maple may begin to put out seeds. Wait until the mid to late fall, when the seeds begin to drop off the tree to collect them. Grab as many as you want. Won't matter then whether or not they're on the ground or still attached to the tree; the tree itself has full intention to drop them all. Put them in a plastic bag and pop them in your fridge (NOT freezer) and wait until the last few weeks of winter. Take them out then, put them into water that's been heated in a microwave (warmer water, but not boiling) for about 3 to 5 minutes. That will help to break open the seed coat and signal the seeds to start growing. Then plant them in a seedling tray by either scattering them all over the top of the soil and slightly burying them, or by making a small hole for each one and planting them individually with just a little bit of soil to cover them. (Try both to see what works best.)

As for bonsai traveling, it depends on a number of factors. Number one is the weather. A mild temperature (5 to 7 degrees or so) change won't really bother the plants, but something like a sudden 10 to 15 degree change might. Also think about what their sun exposure might be, as even if it's only a slight temp change they might get fried if they're not used to being in the sun all day. Another factor is the plant itself. Things like junipers or olives are hardy and tend to not generally give a drat, but something like an oak or maple might get a little bit wonky from a sudden change. If you're moving them in the summer, try and compensate for the sun exposure and temp change somehow by moving them under a patio for half shade for the first few days to first week or so. If moving them in the winter, research how much cold a plant can take. Even if they are deciduous and therefor in hibernation for the winter, their roots can still frost or freeze over if the winter is colder for them than when they're in their usual zone.

@The Door Frame: I have to admit my lack of knowledge with this question. I myself have not done any flowering bonsai. At the very most I have a Satsuke Azalea (super traditional flowering bonsai plant from Japan) that I'm struggling to keep alive. My girlfriend however does have both a normal Flowering Quince and a Contorted Flowering Quince, and they've done pretty well with half-sun half-shade for the past 6 months or so. Wisteria are also possible and fairly hardy, but seem to be unpredictable with their flowering. They may not have any flowers for a few years at a time, other times they'll flower like the apocalypse is right around the corner. The key thing with any flowering bonsai though is that as opposed to growing the foliage for show, you're trying to achieve the best shape to show off the flowers for whenever they bloom.

Junipers are really nice though. It's what I started out with, and having no knowledge of plants before I got it, I managed to both keep it alive and grow it how I've wanted. The good thing about them (aside from being hard to kill) is that they can be shaped into just about any style. Japanese Maples though have a really refined look to them, so that's always worth looking into as well, even if they aren't as easy to take care of as something like a juniper or olive.

GabrielAisling
Dec 21, 2011

The finest of all dances.


Thanks. I'll definitely keep an eye out for seeds on the maple if those saplings turn out to be sweetgums. I'm a bit worried about the potting soil I put them in, though. All we have around here is sticky red clay and even broken up really well it doesn't work for potting plants. My dad's used it to (accidentally) kill at least three aloe vera plants. Not that it's made a dent in our aloe population.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Getting Started: Bonsai Tools and You

So, you’re thinking of investing in some tools. Fantastic! This means that you’re probably getting serious about bonsai. There are a few things you’ll need to consider when you purchase them, however. For example, any idea of how much you’re willing to fork over for them? What tools that you’re going to need? What if you’re on a budget and want to buy only certain ones for the time being? What you might need them for in the first place? Well, let’s take a look.

Shopping for Bonsai Tools 101

The first thing most people think of when they hear the word ‘bonsai’ and ‘tools’ in the same sentence is something like this…



Ah, yes. Just look at all those results. Scissors of so many shapes and sizes, big pruning devices, and generally lots of shiny sharp things and complicated devices. Surely tool sets full of so much stuff must contain quite a few good quality tools, right?

…Right?

This, my friends, is exactly the kind of thing you’re going to want to avoid.

Tool sets like these usually range in the $50 to $200 range, and are a complete waste of metal and more importantly, your money. Typically manufactured in China, these tools are of poor quality and have a superfluous amount of tools. Honestly, unless you’re working with some very specially sized and/or styles of bonsai, you’ll never really need more than 1 of each kind of instrument.

Oh. Well in that case, what should I be looking for then?

If you’re buying them online, for the love of Naka make sure you’re buying Japanese made ones. Do some research into the brand and website you’re buying from if you’re not 100% sure about what you may be purchasing. Google search can show reviews from online bonsai forums concerning tool reviews as well.

Why purchase Japanese made ones? They’re a bit pricy…

Japanese manufactured tools are usually made by hand, with special attention paid to the overall quality of the tool. Even the cheaper Japanese tools have especially sharp blades if they’re a cutting tool and will last you around a decade or more if properly used and maintained. Chinese ones on the other hand, are cheaper because they’re mass manufactured with little attention paid to quality and functionality. They lack the finesse and are really many a grade below Japanese made tools.

I will warn those interested that bonsai can be an expensive hobby once you begin to buy tools. However, you have to look at such costs as investments in the long run. If you have good tools the quality of your work really will increase, and you won’t have the frustration of damage to your trees due to cheap tools to worry about.

So what should you buy? Well, I think it’s best to start out with what you will need first in the long run.

Essential Purchases

  • Bonsai Scissors/Bonsai Pruning Shears



    Bonsai scissors a.k.a. bonsai pruning shears are essential to the art of bonsai. You will use these more than any other tool, and you should purchase them first if you’re serious about bonsai. These will see a lot of use, as you’ll be using them to do basic trimming in order to shape your tree. Best of all, they’re one of the cheaper tools, usually ranging in price from $20 to $50 for a good pair. I myself started with Garden Cut brand scissors (ones with the red handle in the picture above) and only paid $20 for them. My teacher uses them as well, and has kept the same pair (although they’re now somewhat dull, but can be sharpened) for about 10 years. Japanese bonsai scissors are admittedly better and more traditional, but these are in no way a bad alternative, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t want to/can’t afford to sink a whole lot of money into tools.

  • Concave Cutters





    The bread and butter of more fine cuts, the concave cutters are essential to more advanced techniques and cuts that will shape your tree. Made for making cuts that leave a concave dent, these are used for branch removal. When you remove a branch, especially at its base on the tree, a normal cut would leave a small knob which would swell as the tree ages, leaving an ugly scar in the end and, more dangerously, leaving a wound that could become easily infected. A concave cutter avoids this altogether by leaving a concave incision that the tree will easily be able to heal over. And while it may sometimes leave a scar, it will look much more natural and may even lend itself to the tree. One of the more expensive tools, it will probably cost in the neighborhood of $60 to $140. The same rules for buying the bonsai scissors (Japanese made, trusted brand) apply here as well.

  • Showerhead Hose Attachment



    This may seem a little strange at first, but this is absolutely a must if you have bonsai. The usual bonsai soil mixture is 1/3rd crushed up lava rock, 1/3rd Akadama soil (crushed up red clay hardpan), and 1/3rd organic material. (Potting soil, amend). Having small, granular soil means that a strong blast of something (in this case water) will send it spewing out of your bonsai pot and in every which way. In order to avoid loss of eyesight and expensive soil from flying particles, a shower head allows for diffusion of a hose’s continuous stream of water into a much gentler method if dispersal. In simpler terms, a shower head makes a strong stream of water that would normally blast your soil out of the pot into a bunch of small jets of water that will leave your soil intact. Pretty common and cheap, an attachment like this goes for about $10 (in my case it came with the hose I bought at Wal-Mart for $20) but you can get others for around $5 or $6 if you shop around at OSH, Ace, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, ect. A watering can will also do the trick, although if you have a lot of bonsai it’ll probably become a tiresome activity when you have to water them every day during the warm spring and summer months.

  • Bonsai Screen and Bonsai Wire



    This is needed for potting a bonsai up and wiring branches. The screen is placed at the bottom of a pot, over the drainage hole, and then wired into place. This will keep the soil mixture from draining out, as well as keeping pesky root eating insects from getting in. Your average wire size is going to be about 2mm and should ideally be copper (expensive, more difficult to work with, but more traditional and better for shaping a tree) or copper-coated aluminum. The reason for the copper/copper-coating is so that when you apply it to the tree, the minerals from the metal won’t sink into the bark and poison the limb/tree to death. And while Japanese bonsai masters don’t like to admit any sort of breaking away from tradition, their open secret is that copper-coated aluminum works most of the time for any wiring jobs you’ll be doing. Eventually you’ll need to remove the wire with a bonsai wire cutter, so be prepared to invest money in that after you have wired your bonsai. The price varies, but I find myself paying around $4 to $6 for a decent sized roll of wire. Larger rolls of wire cost more of course ($30 to $50) but you’ll get plenty of use out of having plenty of wire. Personally speaking, I don’t wire too much at the moment so I’m fine with just getting a small amount at a time.

    And while you can buy some professional bonsai screen for fairly cheap, there’s a much better alternative…



    This is needle-point screen I purchased at a Jo-Anne’s fabric store. This is a large sheet (13.5 inches x 22 inches) that you can simply cut into small sections with some non-bonsai scissors. Best of all, it was $1.75.



    I have an old pair of nurse scissors that I found lying around the house, and they do just fine for cutting the plastic screen. You can also see that it has roughly the same sized square holes, and other screens for sale at your local fabric store can certainly have smaller sized holes than either of the screens in the picture above.

  • Bonsai Wire Cutters



    Once you start wiring, these are going to be necessity. This is because they’re the only reliable tool you can use to get the wire off of your tree without any danger of mangling the branches/sections of your tree.



    As you can see, the sharpest section of the blade is towards the mouth of the tool. This allows you to cut the wire that will be taut against the bark of the tree without cutting the tree itself. One of the more expensive tools averaging a cost between $40 to $180, just keep in mind that you can buy this after you wire your bonsai, giving you a leeway of about 4 to 6 months before you should pick these up before the wire digs into the bark of your trees. As a rule of thumb for quality, if your wire cutters can cut through the wire like butter, that means you have a good pair. You should never have to struggle with any wire cutting when you use this tool right out of the box.

  • Bonsai Tweezers and Chopsticks



    The bonsai tweezers seem like an odd thing to have, and at first glance you’d be right to think that. However, they have a couple of good uses. First off is that this is a more Japanese way of pinch-pruning some plants like Junipers for instance. If you get really good with the tweezers you may not even go back to pinching-pruning with your fingers. Another reason is that these let you prune without getting your fingers poked and stabbed by more spikey plants like Junipers or small pines and spruces. They also allow you to get into places you wouldn’t want to put your fingers for the exact same reason. No need to stick your hand into a bunch of spines if you can avoid it, right? Also on the cheaper side, averaging between $7 to $15.

    The chopsticks are excellent for helping to tamp down the soil after you’ve repotted or transplanted a bonsai. You can also use them in the same manner as the tweezers, except instead of being able to prune a particularly nasty section of a tree, you can at least probe into it and lift some branches. Best of all, this is the cheapest tool you can get. Just save the pair you get the next time you eat some Chinese food and you’re good to go.

  • Bonsai Root Rake, Bonsai Root Hook, and Needle-Nose Pliers



    Bonsai root rakes and root hooks are used primarily when repotting or potting up a bonsai that is root bound in its pot. The root rake is used for combing out small, fibrous roots that a bonsai will develop over time. Very, very useful for repotting most bonsai trees. The root hook is used for snagging onto larger roots and gently pulling them apart all the way to ripping the root ball open if your tree is really root bound. This one is a little more situational, as most of the time your typical bonsai don’t have large thick roots. Both will cost around $10 to $25 each.

    The Needle-Nose Pliers are useful for wiring up your bonsai. While you can use the wire cutter in the base of the mouth for cutting pieces of wire down to size when applying them to your tree, don’t confuse this for being able to be an actual bonsai wire cutter. Using it will more than likely cut only a small portion of the wire at most and will more than likely cause damage to the tree no matter how careful you are. Instead, use this tool to twist the wire around the tree/branch, as it will grip the wire better than your hand probably will. These are really inexpensive, costing around $1 to $7 for a decent pair, but honestly if you look around the house you can probably find a pair anyway.

These are the tools that are essential to standard bonsai work. And while it may seem like quite a bit to pick up, you will most likely never end up regretting a purchase if you shop around for good tools.

Authentic You
Mar 4, 2007

Listen now this is your
captain calling:
Your captain is dead.


Hey guys, I've been wanting to get into bonsai for a while now. My boyfriend and I went to a local bonsai show the other day, so now I'm all fired up about it. I've read this thread and poked around online a bit, but I'm a complete and utter noob.

Last year I had a few maple seedlings pop up in my herb garden (two silvers and what seems to be a sugar)and the question of what to do with them got me thinking about bonsai. I love the aesthetic and since I putter around my dumb herbs and pepper plants constantly already, it would be a fantastic hobby for me.

I have some questions about them, though. They're not currently potted - will it traumatize them if I transplanted them not in winter? Also, the silvers are shooting up like weeds - they've doubled in size since spring to about 18in tall. Do absolutely need to start with tiny seedlings or can I work with year-old saplings? Has anyone here worked with linden trees? All the lindens in the area are starting to drop seeds, so I'm thinking about sprouting a couple of those too.

Oh, and my rosemary. I couple years ago I bought this crusty old rosemary plant on super sale from a garden boutique place. It sucks for regular culinary use and honestly looks like a failed bonsai. I'm thinking of making it bonsai (again?).

I'll take some pictures when I get home.

Mr. Soop
Feb 18, 2011


Authentic You posted:

Hey guys, I've been wanting to get into bonsai for a while now. My boyfriend and I went to a local bonsai show the other day, so now I'm all fired up about it. I've read this thread and poked around online a bit, but I'm a complete and utter noob.

Last year I had a few maple seedlings pop up in my herb garden (two silvers and what seems to be a sugar)and the question of what to do with them got me thinking about bonsai. I love the aesthetic and since I putter around my dumb herbs and pepper plants constantly already, it would be a fantastic hobby for me.

I have some questions about them, though. They're not currently potted - will it traumatize them if I transplanted them not in winter? Also, the silvers are shooting up like weeds - they've doubled in size since spring to about 18in tall. Do absolutely need to start with tiny seedlings or can I work with year-old saplings? Has anyone here worked with linden trees? All the lindens in the area are starting to drop seeds, so I'm thinking about sprouting a couple of those too.

Oh, and my rosemary. I couple years ago I bought this crusty old rosemary plant on super sale from a garden boutique place. It sucks for regular culinary use and honestly looks like a failed bonsai. I'm thinking of making it bonsai (again?).

I'll take some pictures when I get home.

Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with Silver and Sugar Maples. However, I do have some general advice and good news for you. Transplanting them now would probably shock them and kill them. I would say that as with most deciduous trees, wait until Autumn to transplant them into a container. Both seedlings and the year-old saplings will be fine to work with. The 18 inch ones will be a little tall, but you can always cut them down bit by bit as time goes on. Doing so will encourage them to backbud and put out shoots lower on the tree; I would advise doing this in the spring right before the tree comes out of dormancy in order to have it be ready to recover from such a large cut (maybe take it down from 18 to 12 - 10 inches) right away. Also do your best to keep all the roots intact when you dig them up as well. As for the Linden tree, I have no idea at all. Sorry.

The Rosemary is also an acceptable candidate for a bonsai so long as it has some semblance of aesthetic appeal. If you could upload a pic or two of it, that'd be great to see what's going on with it and where it can go.

Authentic You
Mar 4, 2007

Listen now this is your
captain calling:
Your captain is dead.


Mr. Soop posted:

Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with Silver and Sugar Maples. However, I do have some general advice and good news for you. Transplanting them now would probably shock them and kill them. I would say that as with most deciduous trees, wait until Autumn to transplant them into a container. Both seedlings and the year-old saplings will be fine to work with. The 18 inch ones will be a little tall, but you can always cut them down bit by bit as time goes on. Doing so will encourage them to backbud and put out shoots lower on the tree; I would advise doing this in the spring right before the tree comes out of dormancy in order to have it be ready to recover from such a large cut (maybe take it down from 18 to 12 - 10 inches) right away. Also do your best to keep all the roots intact when you dig them up as well. As for the Linden tree, I have no idea at all. Sorry.

The Rosemary is also an acceptable candidate for a bonsai so long as it has some semblance of aesthetic appeal. If you could upload a pic or two of it, that'd be great to see what's going on with it and where it can go.

Hey thanks!

I did finally remember to snap some pictures, buuut I forgot to copy them to my computer, and now I don't have my camera on me.

The rosemary has a nice twisty, woody base, but with a bunch of straight-up growth on it. It used to have some nice branches that hung over the rim of its pot, but these died over the winter when it was inside my too-dark house. Luckily, I'm moving to a house with assloads of natural light in a couple months, so my plants (like the rosemary) that need to spend winters indoors don't lose branches or grow weird long shoots. I'm worried that moving will mess with my plans to pot the maples, but it's just two blocks and I'm friendly with the new tenants, so I could probably just leave them until they start losing leaves.

Oh, the other day I came across a gorgeous sugar maple sapling. It's next to the sidewalk at a wooded part of the street, had been growing in the shade and under leaves, so it's stunted and has a wonderfully twisty and gnarly trunk. Hope I can remember to get it in the fall if it hasn't been killed by a weed whacker or something.

As for bonsai care for the not-usually-bonsai maples, I poked around online and this one bonsai master guy recommended that bonsai noobs start with trees native to their area so it's harder to kill them. Also, I found some bonsai forum post where someone posted pics of their silver maple bonsais, and they looked great. I'll just follow the advice out there for other bonsai maple species.

I just really like the idea of using native trees in bonsai. I hope to move back to California at some point, and it would be awesome to have a collection of native bonsai like manzanita, mountain mahogany, and California juniper.

Authentic You fucked around with this message at 19:14 on Jun 9, 2012

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snoo
Jul 5, 2007






here's my baby.

I can't remember what kind it is, though!!





my little gazebo?

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