Buttonwoods....help

susieq14114

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I just inherited 2 old buttonwoods, collected from the wild 25 or 30 years ago...obviously, before that was outlawed here. I have played with bonsai for 35 years (key word is "played") but never owned butonwoods before. I know they are ultra tropical. The widow of my old bonsai teacher, had not been protecting them very well during the winters and even though we're in central Florida on the Gulf coast, it does freeze here now and then.

They were given to me because her son is moving her out to New Mexico and it gets even colder there. I know they will need repotted this summer. If they seem to be robust, I am cutting them back drastically because they have really been let go. But I know next to nothing about buttonwoods so now I need to educate myself. Any and all advice is welcome. I know that right now, educating myself on how to proceed this summer, is about all I can do.
Thanks
Susie
 
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irene_b

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I just inherited 2 old buttonwoods, collected from the wild 25 or 30 years ago...obviously, before that was outlawed here. I have played with bonsai for 35 years (key word is "played") but never owned butonwoods before. I know they are ultra tropical. The widow of my old bonsai teacher, had not been protecting them very well during the winters and even though we're in central Florida on the Gulf coast, it does freeze here now and then.

They were given to me because her son is moving her out to New Mexico and it gets even colder there. I know they will need repotted this summer. If they seem to be robust, I am cutting them back drastically because they have really been let go. But I know next to nothing about buttonwoods so now I need to educate myself. Any and all advice is welcome. I know that right now, educating myself on how to proceed this summer, is about all I can do.
Thanks
Susie
Ya may want to contact Jim Smith or others from the area.
 

susieq14114

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Thank you Irene,
I might look him up. I know there used to be a woman down south, who specialized in buttonwoods. Her name was Mary something. If I go through someone in the Tampa club, I can probably locate her. Thanks again.
Susan
 

BonsaiMon

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You're probably referring to Mary Madison. Nice woman.
Susie,
Mary Madison has moved from south Fl not sure of current contact info.
Contact your local society.. http://www.bonsai-bsf.com/clubs/
you will get in person local advice which can't be beat.

As mentioned in another thread humidity, heat, and light are major issues with buttonwoods.
You should be fine moving them in when temps approach the 40's. I keep one during the winter for a friend and it stays on a heat mat in 40F and does well.. the soil temp stay above 60F.
 

RyanFrye

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Hi Susan,

I'm in zone 9 (Deltona) probably the same as you. Here's my plan with buttonwoods in development that have no styling and lanky branches:

May/June: This is when I conduct heavy pruning of the lanky branches to induce back budding. Buttonwoods back bud profusely so don't worry about cutting a branch beyond the green leaves. You can also defoliate at this time without any ill effects. Sometimes I do both at the same time if the tree is healthy.

July/August: You want to repot a buttonwood when it is HOT outside. This goes against so many other trees I grow and feels awkward and almost dangerous, BUT it is what they love and need in order to keep growing without skipping a beat. One time I pruned about 85% of the roots off of one (taking it from a grow pot to a very small shohin pot) and noticed the leaves wilting. I freaked out and put it in water. It perked up within a few hours. I let it grow in standing water for a few weeks and everything was good to go. That should give you an idea of how tough these trees can be.

That's pretty much it for care. You can adapt the schedule to fit the needs of "finished" trees to.

Some notes: Don't use a heavy organic soil. This will induce heavy thick roots that will ONLY grow at the edge of the pot where they can easily be damaged by too much heat leaving you with very little if any feeder roots close to the trunk. To produce fine feeder roots they need to be grown in a very porous soil. I use 2/3 fired clay and 1/3 "Jungle Growth" potting soil (You can get that at Lowes. It's great because it is mostly pine bark with organics and doesn't have white perlite that is so distracting to the eye). Porous soil and fine feeder roots are a must if you plan on keeping it strong and healthy in a bonsai pot. Once you have a lot of feeder roots it makes repotting and trimming the roots a breeze:D

Also, airlayering buttonwood is very simple. Start the layer in May/June and you can separate in about 3 - 4 weeks. I've produced some killer shohin trees this way. Some stock have straight trunks at the base but the branches are nice and narled with great trunk lines. This part of the buttonwood can be very useful for shohin and is easy to produce.

I feed them with a normal 20-20-20 fertilizer at half strength every couple of weeks during the growing season. I might give them a shot of fish emulsion every once in a while too. (Al aka Smoke has turned me on to humic acid which I'll be using this coming season. You might want to do a search for his posts on that as well.)

That's pretty much it. If I remember anything else I'll let you know!
 
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RyanFrye

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Can you post some pics of your new trees?
 

susieq14114

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Thanks for the info everyone. Ryan, the Humic acid is interesting.... I always wonder about a plant's acidic preferences. I am also very familiar with Jungle Growth potting mix. There is a story there....

Years ago, Home Depot used to carry it. They have a location barely 3 miles from me and it was handy to go buy it as needed. The last time I went in to buy some, there was one broken bag on the pallet. I asked the nursery guy when the next shipment would be in and he told me they wouldn't be carrying it anymore so I better grab that one. When I asked him why, he said that Jungle Growth was out selling Scott's potting soil by a landslide and Scott's gave Home Depot an ultimatum...either quit carrying Jungle Growth or Scott's would pull it's products from Home Depot entirely....so they quit carrying their best selling product. I was blown away by this. I called Jungle Growth and they varified the story to me! But they told me that Lowe's still carried it. So now I drive many miles farther, to buy the Jungle Growth. I make it a point to never buy anything Scotts brand. But am just as put out with Home Depot...how idiotic to get rid of your best potting mix and bow to that kind of blackmail.... I am quite sure that Scotts would not have gone through with that thread..they'd be shooting themselves in the foot to pull out of one of the largest markets they had.

Jungle Growth is well worth the drive and I continue to use it. The son of the friend who gave the Buttonwoods to me, also gave me a garbage can full of the bonsai soil we used to mix and any components for the soil mix that were still there. I got a large garbage can full of turface too and quite a lot of the very tiny gravel we used...although that item is readily available here. But I was thrilled to get the turface. The soil we used to make, is very very porous and well draining.

Thank you again for all the help. I am glad to know I can reduce the size of those pots...wow they're heavy and they're mica pots too. I will post pics when I get the chance.
 

susieq14114

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Ok, I grabbed the camera and ran out to snap a few before the day gets totally crazy. We have family from out of town with more due in tomorrow and big plans starting this afternoon and running steady for the next few days....so these shots are not the best and I appologize. Well do better later.

This is the first Buttonwood...and I over estimated their pot size a little, the pot is 21x15 and they are 30 inches tall, still too heavy for me to move alone these days...when I was younger, maybe.

This tree has roots out the bottom of the pot. I put a large tray under each one and put water in them. You can see how unkempt and over grown these things are. They were once beautiful and I hope to have them back in shape again by the end of next year...or at least on their way to being back in shape. A large branch was allowed to grow out of the main trunk on this tree and it's trying to be the new apex. It will have to go, although it give more taper than the original apex and I might keep part of it, chop it and grow a new apex from there, then get rid of the old one....just thinking out loud here....
 

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susieq14114

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This is the other tree...a much nicer trunk and nebari....still very scraggly and over grown, needs lots of cutting back. Same size pot as the first tree, they are also very close in height...about 30 inches.
I like this trunk, this tree, much better than the first one.

Again, sorry for the quality of the pics...they were taken in a hurry.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all.
Susan
 

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wahoo172

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Mary Madison is living in the area of lake Placid, that is south of Sebring. She belongs to the ShoFu society in Sarasota. I agree with Bonsaimon about finding locals to talk to. If you are near the Tampa club, you would be wise to join it, they have many knowledgable and well respected members.

George
 

susieq14114

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Thank you Wahoo,
I never knew her last name...never met her. I had just heard of her. The Tampa club and our long defunct Pasco club, used to intermingle quite a bit. I was aquainted with many of them 30 years ago. I ran into one member at the convention in Coco Beach, in 04. We sort of caught up on each other at that time and haven't seen each other since then.

Cubbie, Thank you for the link to the article. I will also print it out for handy reference. I'm feeling a bit better about this already.
Thank you.
Susan:)
 

susieq14114

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Here is an update on the 2 old buttonwoods. We are having such a record breaking cold streak and the buttonwoods needed to be in out of the cold even when my other tropicals were outside and doing ok. The only place I have available to put my tropicals during extreme cold, is my little studio out back. My tropicals live on little flatbed garden wagons during the winter so that it's easy to just pull them inside if there is a freeze warning. So I normally have 2 wagons full of small things to bring in. The buttonwoods are on a 3rd wagon and not so small.....and they had to be inside even during the day here lately when it didn't get much above 40 in the afternoons.

Did I say my studio is LITTLE? For the last week or so, it's been so full of trees that I can't work out there. I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew with these buttonwoods so I contacted a very old friend who happens to own a bonsai nursery...with a heated greenhouse. He graciously agreed to keep the buttonwoods through the winter for me and I took them to him on Satruday. This summer, he will help me repot, trim up and get back in shape, the old buttonwoods. Then he will help me get them donated to a permenant bonsai display in my late teacher's name.

This is a perfect outcome for me because although it was tempting to try and keep one, we are planning to move to Tenn in a couple of years. I never really wanted a buttonwood but they have sentimental ties for me... Now I know they will be in the best hands possible.....

It's a good think I picked them up from Mary in the first place because if not, they would be dead after this freeze....but it's also a good thing I handed them off to the guy with the heated greenhouse on Saturday because Sunday am it was 37 in my studio and today it was 36 in there...
 

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