Dwarfs, Boon or Bust?

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#1
I have been working with some dwarfs of various species for about ten years or so, long enough to have some conclusions of my own.
Before I bias any views others may hold I'm curious about your experiences with dwarfs. I would say without hesitation, they're not what they appear to be as far as bonsai subjects.
 

just.wing.it

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#4
+6 points for small foliage.
-8 points for vigorous health.

-2.

No!

They just don't offer the vigorous workabilty you need to bonsai.

IMO.

Sorce
I'd say that my dwarf Norway spruces grow quite vigorously.
Treating them both differently and both are booming!
I think my only other dwarf is an ilex crenata "soft touch", and it too is growing as well as I could hope for...
 
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#6
It obviously depends on the species, but I have noticed that deciduous dwarfs are typically more viable bonsai subjects than conifers. Successful deciduous/broadleaf plants that are viable bonsai subjects include several varieties of Japanese maples, Chojubai quince, Kingsville boxwood. The only successful dwarf conifer I have worked with is Sekka Hinoki.
 

Adair M

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#7
It obviously depends on the species, but I have noticed that deciduous dwarfs are typically more viable bonsai subjects than conifers. Successful deciduous/broadleaf plants that are viable bonsai subjects include several varieties of Japanese maples, Chojubai quince, Kingsville boxwood. The only successful dwarf conifer I have worked with is Sekka Hinoki.
Kokonoe and Zuisho are dwarf varieties of JWP, and both make excellent bonsai.

But, as with pretty much all things with bonsai, "it depends". Lol!
 
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#8
From another thread about "dwarfs":

Dwarf isn't a very technical term, and it seems to be applied differently to different things; for example, one "dwarf" citrus tree might have the same size leaves and fruit as the non-dwarf, but not grow as tall at maturity (sometimes simply by grafting to less vigorous root stock). Another one might be called dwarf because it has small fruit, etc.
This renders the word basically meaningless unless you know more about the cultivar/variety it's being applied to.
And:

Anyone can call anything "dwarf" - because there is no standardized meaning. One common use is for grafted fruit trees with small mature size, but it could also have been applied to a variety of conifer from seed with short needles, or even in the common name of a distinct species (think dwarf schefflera or dwarf jade).

Imagine that instead of "dwarf", a plant had a name or description that included the word "cool" or "neat". What would you be able to say about the properties of that plant based solely on those (perhaps arbitrarily chosen for marketing reasons) words? Nothing. The same can be true of "dwarf."
 
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#11
Thanks for the replies guys. I had just finished trimming and thinning a dwarf Hemlock. I thought about how the tree as I worked, realizing how long I've had it and how much other trees have developed in the same time.
The tree has definitely grown vigorously, but all in the wrong places. Very little terminal extension on the apex and branches and tons of buds on the trunk. Took two days clearing them off so I could see the actual trunk only to realize at that point that I was polishing a turd.
My other dwf Hemlock resembles a Birds nest Spruce, with hardly a trunk and all the branches spreading laterally with barely an upward twig.
I have had better success with deciduous dwfs, but not all. I have found that with most you must not cut the top back or they will not grow upward again, only outward. I have a Hups dwf Japanese Maple I removed a side branch and only a few little buds replaced it and they have not grown out but a half inch. They just sit there, not extending, very unmaple- like.
I tried a Morris Midget boxwood. I love boxwood, but that little tree fought me all the way, even in ground it just sat there while my Kingsvilles flushed and flowered. I trimmed the roots at planting and it just never got over it, finally turned brown.
So what do I think? Well, I guess you have to look at each. There are degrees of dwarfyness. The more extreme the less likely to be usable for bonsai. The Hups Maple is an extremely dwarfy dwarf, Makawa yatsabusha not so much, but still a small tree, showing ten times the growth in the same time. I'm shying away. Standard trees with applied techniques produces satisfying results much quicker.
That's the whole point. I thought dwfs would be a great shortcut, hey, they're already small, right.
 
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#14
I will concede that some dwarf varieties are acceptable and some even preferable to the original. The Pacific Dogwood is quite difficult to potty train, but the dwarfs with the pretty pink flowers do well in a pot.
 

just.wing.it

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#16
"Dwarf Tossing" is the practice of throwing out weak trees you have overworked into the bin.
I've never had the heart to do that, until they're crispy.
I mean, weak is still alive!
I'd venture to say that many of the best yamadori trees out there were very weak in their natural, unforgiving habitat, and they are strong now, due to properly applied bonsai techniques.