Bay tree, a good bonsai choice?

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ElGringo

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Evening all

Has anyone tried a bay tree (Laurus sp.) for bonsai? I think those outside the UK might call them laurel trees.

They are usually used as specimen trees for patios, and of course, adding flavour to pasta dishes. I've never seen one as a bonsai, they backbud well but the biggest problem would probably lie in reducing the leaves.

Cheers
 

emk

Mame
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No advice here about bay trees/laurel in particular...

...but, perhaps this idea could be helpful if you're new to bonsai (like me). Even if a tree isn't perfectly suited to bonsai training, if a tree or shrub is easily available and grows heartily in your area, then use it for practice! I've been using honeysuckles and privets that grow like weeds in my area to try out techniques I'm unsure about or just trying out for the first time. They are great when trying to get a handle on things like trunk chops, grafting, layering, severe bending, etc. Sure, nothing may ever come of these little experiments in the long run, but at least you aren't massacring your expensive specimen trees.
 
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ElGringo

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Thanks emk, although I'm not new to bonsai! Actually, I recognise your avatar from BT. The tree in question belonged to my dad, it's pot broke (high wind and storms here at the mo, take a lok at pic) so he left it to me to deal with. I'll experiment with it, if nothing else, I can always pot it up again and return it to the patio..
 

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pjkatich

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Richard,

Laurus nobilis would not be my first choice for bonsai. I have be working with this species for a number of years and would not recommend them unless you are looking for a serious challenge.

My experience has been that Laurus nobilis does not accept bonsai culture willingly. The feeder roots they produce are coarse and fleshy. Likewise, the branch structure is coarse and better suited to larger size bonsai. Their natural growth tendancy is straight up like a bean pole which makes it hard to induce taper and movement in their trunks. Large cuts do not heal over very well and the wood will root very quickly if it is not sealed properly. In addition, they seem to be magnets for scale insects (at least in my area).

I hope this helps.

Good Luck,
Paul
 
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Attila Soos

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I have a slightly different experience here in So. California. I have a few growing in the ground for about 8 years now, started from seedlings. They seem to be one of the least demanding species, easily budding back from old wood and have no problem with heavy pruning (both root and branch pruning). I've also never seen any pests attacking them in my backyard, although I've read that they can attract scale insects. The branches do grow upwards, but I don't see that as a problem, they can be easily trained in any shape.

Overall, it is not a beginner-species, better suited for a bonsaist with at least intermediate knowledge, but it is much easier than, say, working with a pine, or many other conifers. Also, the leaves are relatively large, but my trees are not at the stage where leaf reduction becomes a priority, so I don't have enough info on how they react to leaf reduction techniques. That's an area to be seen, but I suspect that they are not well suited for shohin size, but rather larger bonsai.
 
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ElGringo

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Thanks for all your replies. Emk, I remember discussing a monkey puzzle tree a while back...ring any bells? :)

pjk, yeh I was thinking that. My dad trains them around poles and all sorts to get them all twisted, but for the purpose of specimen trees for the garden, which are at least a metre high. We've never had any problems with parasites or scale here; our climate is very damp and we get mild frosts from December to about now, which may help prevent those sort of problems.

Attila, I'll think I'll stick to my conifers! I'll pot this bay back up, and this time keep it in a sheltered place OUT of the wind!. Definately easy to grow, my dad has several all grown from cuttings.

Bays seem to be a 'cult' tree, people here buy them (pre-trained) from garden centres to stick next to the front door, they're often so popular they sometimes get stolen. Better they pinch this than one of my actual bonsai! Stay tuned for more wierd and wonderful stuff


Cheers
 
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subnet_rx

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Then you could possibly forget about the bonsai and just train it in a way that will make a lot of money in a sale.
 
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ElGringo

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Then you could possibly forget about the bonsai and just train it in a way that will make a lot of money in a sale.

I did think of this option. There are countless car boot sales and village fetes around these parts, I've already got various young plants on the go, ready for sale in a couple of years. I'll split this bay up (it has several trunks) and train them as you say.

Every time you go to these sort of events, most people are selling begonias and tomato plants (and old tea pots, toys, sweets etc), so something different may go a long way. I won't make a lot of money, but then it's better than sitting on your hands I guess, and the ladies go for us sensitive, plant-loving types (fingers crossed) ;)

Cheers
 

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