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bonsai barry

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If killing bonsai were a crime, would you be on the FBI's 10 most wanted list?

Seriously, after a fall and winter in which I lost, what I consider, too many trees, I was wondering what is an acceptable amouont of loss?

Yes, we all know what John Naka said about the price of learning bonsai. And we know that yamadori would be expected to have a high percentage of loss. What is your experience?

I have decided if I lose too many trees three years in a row, perhaps I should take up surfing rather than bonsai.
 
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William Valavanis once said, and I paraphrase...."I have killed more bonsai than most will ever see"


Will
 

Tachigi

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And we know that yamadori would be expected to have a high percentage of loss. What is your experience?
I'm not sure why you think that Yamadori would have a high mortality rate Barry. I checked my log and of 128 Yamadori collected I have only lost 7. All attributable to myself in poor collection practice early on when I started collecting.

If your having a string of failures you must look at yourself and your horticultural practices. Figure out if there is a common thread between all the trees. Its a puzzle, and like a puzzle sometimes the pieces don't fit so you need to step back and evaluate the pile of pieces that lay before you. Remember if bonsai were easy everyone would have a Goshin sitting out on there patio. Besides surf'n is harder on the bod than bonsai :)
 

bonsai barry

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I'm not sure why you think that Yamadori would have a high mortality rate Barry. I checked my log and of 128 Yamadori collected I have only lost 7. All attributable to myself in poor collection practice early on when I started collecting.

If your having a string of failures you must look at yourself and your horticultural practices. Figure out if there is a common thread between all the trees. Its a puzzle, and like a puzzle sometimes the pieces don't fit so you need to step back and evaluate the pile of pieces that lay before you. Remember if bonsai were easy everyone would have a Goshin sitting out on there patio. Besides surf'n is harder on the bod than bonsai :)
Your percentage for survival was impressive. I believe someone in Europe collecting old conifers estimated his survival rate at about 30%.

Regarding my trees, it must be horitcultural issues. Many of the trees had not been seriously pruned, so it is growing issues. I suspect there is more than one problem. I had pine die from some blight. Over the winter I two nice maples die for no apparent reason. Their trunks were green at the beginning of the season, and slowly progressed to brown. The were kept outside in very moderate temps. They were watered enough to keep the soil moist and then allowed to almost dry out before watering again.

Its frustrating because I can't isolate the variables. I am working to keep everything more sanitary so at least I'm not spreading anything.
 
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I have found that the two major causes of death are over watering or under watering. Once you can safely rule these out, then it is time to look at other reasons.

On collected material (and other material for that matter) doing too much too soon can be the culprit, for example, too many people rush styling a collected tree, two to three years should pass after collection before any major styling is attempted.

Lastly, on the same note as above, lack of patience to allow a tree to recuperate after a styling or re-potting as well as trying to rush a tree into a bonsai pot also attributes to many deaths.



Will
 

bonsai barry

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I have found that the two major causes of death are over watering or under watering. Once you can safely rule these out, then it is time to look at other reasons.

On collected material (and other material for that matter) doing too much too soon can be the culprit, for example, too many people rush styling a collected tree, two to three years should pass after collection before any major styling is attempted.

Lastly, on the same note as above, lack of patience to allow a tree to recuperate after a styling or re-potting as well as trying to rush a tree into a bonsai pot also attributes to many deaths.

Will
I can say fairly confidently that it isn't styling too soon or lack of patience. This is my third year in bonsai and I only have four out of one hundred trees in small pots, the rest are in the ground or in pond baskets. If anything I'm too catious about rushing things.

It might be the watering things. During the summers I have the privilege to live and work in Yosemite National Park, so my trees are left in the care of loved ones and neighbors. I train those people that are responsible for watering, but I suspect that my trees were underwatered in the start of t he summer and overwatered in the later months. However, I do use fast draining soils, so I had ruled out the overwatering.
 

Tachigi

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Your percentage for survival was impressive. I believe someone in Europe collecting old conifers estimated his survival rate at about 30%.
That person maybe collecting in the Alps. A far cry from the boggy lowlands around the Chesapeake bay or the clay of the Appalachians. This would account for the disparity in mortality rates. Perhaps Jason could chime in with his statistics. It would be a closer comparison to the European fellow.
During the summers I have the privilege to live and work in Yosemite National Park, so my trees are left in the care of loved ones and neighbors. I train those people that are responsible for watering, but I suspect that my trees were underwatered in the start of t he summer
I would say this is the probable cause. Neighbors, friends and family all have the best intentions but there is no substitute for the owner of the tree, the attachment is simply not there otherwise. Perhaps a inexpensive drip system with the neighbors checking on them now and again might solve this problem while your away.
 
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"Perhaps Jason could chime in with his statistics. It would be a closer comparison to the European fellow."

I know that the members in my club have 9 out of 10 surviving (pines and spruce). I have similar results but it's way to early to tell yet, I'll probably kill a few shortly...

/A European fellow...
 
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If a person is losing 70% of the trees he collects, he should be barred from collecting. A well known master was once told in my presence that someone's collected trees were only living about ten years. He said, "Oh, that's good!" I find that outrageous and unacceptable.

We have all lost trees on our way. I am ashamed of the ones that were my own fault, and though it's over and done, all were lessons to help prevent the problem in the future. Our goal in bonsai, horticulturally speaking, should be to keep trees alive longer in the pot than they would live in the wild. Now that's accomplishing something.
 

cbobgo

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"Perhaps Jason could chime in with his statistics. It would be a closer comparison to the European fellow."

I'm sure Jason will see this eventually, but they have an over 90% survival rate. Primarily because Randy only collects trees with good roots.

- bob
 

Graydon

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To some of us collecting trees are unchartered waters. It can be a difficult thing to get correct when you are your own teacher. To my knowledge there are only a couple of books that deal with collecting trees for bonsai in the wild and although I do not have them I get the impression they are geared to a certain type tree or a certain location and style of collection.

I have attempted collecting many different species of trees. I don't really keep a running log of my success to failure ratios but if my memory serves me well it's in the 50% range. Here's some examples :

All of the cypress I have dug have lived.
None of the oaks I have dug have lived.
Half of the pines I have dug have lived.
Almost all of the other species I have dug have lived.

I'm more than likely one of the biggest pony tailed liberal tree huggers here on BN. That being said I don't skip a beat when something I collect dies from my poor handling or bad practices. That is because I take the opportunity to try to learn from what went wrong and what I did or did not do on the tree in question. If I gave up after failures in life I would be nowhere. Try and try again.

I respect Chris but do not agree with his statement on the 70% loss collector being barred. I think I could agree if you would have stated the 70% loss collector needs some help - I think we could all agree on that.

I would suggest a 70% loss collector follow my lead. I only dig worthless examples of new species or ones that I have killed. I try to get the procedures and aftercare down with sacrifice plants. Only after I understand the hows and whys do I go after the ones I have seen and tagged that have a future or potential.
 
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A rule to consider...when collecting a species for the first time, collect younger ones, keep them alive for a few years and then go after the older, better ones. It is much easier and less painful to lose a young piece when learning. I have a GPS filled with trees I plan on collecting, once I am confident they will live.

I could give the coordinates now of a couple remarkable Pines that are stunning and will be easy to collect. I'll guarantee you that if I did, someone with little or no experience will dig them up and they will eventually kill them. What a waste, I'd rather see them left alone.

I have collected younger trees from the same area and of the same species to learn on. Certainly older stock has different needs, but I want a base to build on because I would be just sick if I caused the deaths of these wonderful little stunted bog trees.

I have to agree with Chris, if you do not have a high success rate, you really have no business collecting.

What, do you think these trees are an unlimited resource?

Now that I have said that, let me tell you where to get experience collecting on older stock....Urban environments, old overgrown shrubs, trees, and hedges. The cities are full of them and many home owners would love to have them dug up for free. These are a renewable resource, use your imagination, get your experience on these and when your success rate is high, go after the wild ones.


Will
 

Graydon

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I have to agree with Chris, if you do not have a high success rate, you really have no business collecting.

What, do you think these trees are an unlimited resource?

Now that I have said that, let me tell you where to get experience collecting on older stock....Urban environments, old overgrown shrubs, trees, and hedges. The cities are full of them and many home owners would love to have them dug up for free. These are a renewable resource, use your imagination, get your experience on these and when your success rate is high, go after the wild ones.


Will
Yes Will - they are a renewable resource. Nothing is an unlimited resource, not even water. They are trees that are offspring from other trees - not extinct or nearly extinct animals. I certainly hope we are not discussing collecting endangered or nearly extinct trees. Are we discussing trees that are indigenous to one's area? I am. Florida is one of the most populated states and we have just begun to develop some areas. There is so much untouched wild area here it's mind numbing. I can drive for hours sometimes and not see a hint of civilization besides the power lines and stripes on the highway.

I would differ with you on the urban yamadori as well. A forest in it's natural state offers up more of a renewable resource than your typical city landscape. One reason is that some of the landscape plants are sterile cultivars or out of a normal reproductive range. When they do reproduce the offspring are generally pulled up, mowed over or sprayed with round-up to contain them. Besides, digging yard plants is not exactly yamadori. I look at that as simply digging up nursery material that someone else put in the ground to fatten it up for me, just years ago. The species are not the same as truly wild ones and the growing condition are not the same. Different soil and different care.

You say get your experience on urban trees and once you get your success rate up go after the wild ones. What wild ones? As an example very few plants that grow wild in Florida are used in the landscape (to me that is stupid but it is slowly changing with xerescape programs and native plant availability - but I digress). The only way I can try to use native material is to seek it out and dig it where it lives - period. For the record I dig my wild stuff mostly from property I own or have unlimited permission to wander and dig.

I know this statement is out of context (perhaps) but if one has limited success with typical bonsai should they be barred from bonsai as well? Just extrapolating on your opening comment on collecting. I respect you as well but I have to disagree on this one.

William Valavanis once said, and I paraphrase...."I have killed more bonsai than most will ever see"


Will
Did he qualify that statement relating to nursery grown material? Just curious.
 

Tachigi

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A rule to consider...when collecting a species for the first time, collect younger ones, keep them alive for a few years and then go after the older, better ones. It is much easier and less painful to lose a young piece when learning. I have a GPS filled with trees I plan on collecting, once I am confident they will live.
Will, I appreciate your sentiments. However, I can't 100% agree with them. Your advise while good, can only be targeted to younger enthusiasts. Some people who have found this obsession later in life don't have the time to wait years. So a good education prior to collecting will need to suffice. There are books, DVDs, and experienced people who can give good creditable advise and techniques. Lets face it unless your prying roots from a rocky crevasse, one can usually if patient dig a subject up. Even if it has a 6 foot root spread with 100% success rate. Once again, as long as the person has evaluated the tree and done their homework and decided that they can commit to the time need to remove the tree. I personally feel that a lot of people have failed after reading books that generalize, or formulate about how to collect. The best example that comes to mind is John Naka's book. In the section on collecting he basically gives a collecting formula so many times the width of the diameter of the tree and to dig down so many inches. This may work for urban yamadori, it certainly is not the rule of thumb for other "wild" material. One must use their god given common sense and say, if there are no substantial feeder roots a foot from the tree I need to keep pushing outward or induce roots or recover the roots a move on to a new subject.

If you choose to pursue younger trees, which (IMO) in itself is a waste. As younger trees rarely make good material, and choose to wait the X number of years to dig the older stuff. I would suggest that you go to those older trees and prepare them since you are burning valuable time. Pull back the soil around the base and expose the large roots that are close to the trunk and stimulate new root growth close into the tree by notching and packing the area with sphagnum, live preferably if you can get your hands on it. You will be doing yourself a favor by almost guaranteeing success and getting a head start on root reduction. I do this with Pinus Viginianus which in my area are found in sandy spots. There roots run 3 to 4 feet usually before any feeder roots are found. It has worked with great success.
If a person is losing 70% of the trees he collects, he should be barred from collecting. A well known master was once told in my presence that some one's collected trees were only living about ten years. He said, "Oh, that's good!" I find that outrageous and unacceptable.
Chris, What good would come from barring that person from collecting? If a person admits to a poor success rate then its obviously a cry for help. We need to find those people and help them and show them the errors of their ways. That person could be the next great artist, what a shame it would be to bar him from his canvass be it wood or cloth.

The statement from this well known master is silly. After 10 years the fact that a tree dies has nothing to do with collection practices or after care as it pertains to collection. It has everything to do with bad horticultural practices.
 
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