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Eckhoffw

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Another Minnesota tree you need to look for is Jack pine. Pinus banksiana. It is the most cold tolerant of any pine in North America. I have been following Vance Wood's calendar for schedule of work on Mugo pines, using it with Jack pine, and so far so good. If you can collect one, great. If you find them in a nursery, they are worth a try.

Mugo pines, are great for bonsai. They take time, but work well. They are not native, and not invasive, so you can guilt free use them for bonsai. The ultimate reference for handling mugo in the midwest is in the link below.

Another Minnesota tree you need to look for is Jack pine. Pinus banksiana. It is the most cold tolerant of any pine in North America. I have been following Vance Wood's calendar for schedule of work on Mugo pines, using it with Jack pine, and so far so good. If you can collect one, great. If you find them in a nursery, they are worth a try.

Mugo pines, are great for bonsai. They take time, but work well. They are not native, and not invasive, so you can guilt free use them for bonsai. The ultimate reference for handling mugo in the midwest is in the link below.


Wow! Thanks soo much for giving me all this great information and resources Leo!
I’m very excited to try out some of your recommendations.
Haha! More trees to get! I can see my wifes
Eyes rolling out of her head as I come home with more material!

-cheers 🙏
 
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I've only worked with Siberian elm about 5 years. I had heard similar, but I don't think the issue is ramification, the issue is getting shaded out. Keeping the tree in full sun will go a long way to keeping branches. Arranging branches so one does not shade another will help. I think most reports of them dropping branches come from people who keep them under shade cloth, or close to a building where one side of the tree does not get full sun. They really like full sun. In my blueberry fields, if an elm seedling sprouts in and or under the blueberries, partly shaded, it always turns out to be a slippery elm, U. rubra, if it sprouts in the open field, bare sand or wispy grass at most as shade, it is always Ulmus pumila, Siberian elm. They seem very specific about needing sun.
Interesting. Thanks for the response!
 

bonsaiDerek

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Another Minnesota tree you need to look for is Jack pine. Pinus banksiana. It is the most cold tolerant of any pine in North America. I have been following Vance Wood's calendar for schedule of work on Mugo pines, using it with Jack pine, and so far so good. If you can collect one, great. If you find them in a nursery, they are worth a try.

Mugo pines, are great for bonsai. They take time, but work well. They are not native, and not invasive, so you can guilt free use them for bonsai. The ultimate reference for handling mugo in the midwest is in the link below.

hi again
what do you use as your soil mix for jack pine?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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hi again
what do you use as your soil mix for jack pine?
I use pretty much 50% pumice, 10 % fir bark (seedling orchid bark) and the remainder is a mix of what's laying around. Red lava, crushed quartzite, hydrostone, coarse turface ( same particle size as the pumice), if I have it, some akadama, and always about 5% horticultural grade charcoal. Except for pumice, no one component is over 20% of the mix, most often around 10%.

My mix is because I have a lot of components on hand. It works for me. A simpler mix would be: pumice & fir bark, keeping the bark content at 20% or less. Jack pine tolerate drought, especially if you get a heavy few or moist fog at night.

In native habitat, July and August can be very dry, but every night temps drop significantly, enough that most nights foliage is dripping wet in the morning. They tolerate roots getting pretty dry. They will grow faster with regular watering, but if you take a weekend trip, they wouldn't mind getting dry a few days.
 

bonsaiDerek

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I use pretty much 50% pumice, 10 % fir bark (seedling orchid bark) and the remainder is a mix of what's laying around. Red lava, crushed quartzite, hydrostone, coarse turface ( same particle size as the pumice), if I have it, some akadama, and always about 5% horticultural grade charcoal. Except for pumice, no one component is over 20% of the mix, most often around 10%.

My mix is because I have a lot of components on hand. It works for me. A simpler mix would be: pumice & fir bark, keeping the bark content at 20% or less. Jack pine tolerate drought, especially if you get a heavy few or moist fog at night.

In native habitat, July and August can be very dry, but every night temps drop significantly, enough that most nights foliage is dripping wet in the morning. They tolerate roots getting pretty dry. They will grow faster with regular watering, but if you take a weekend trip, they wouldn't mind getting dry a few days.
I used a mix of 8822, perlite, cherry stone and a little turface.... sound ok?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I used a mix of 8822, perlite, cherry stone and a little turface.... sound ok?
Yes, those are all inert minerals. Be sure to dig your finger into the mix to gauge moisture for a while, the 8822 can hold a lot of water. It is easy to over water with 8822. But once you get the hang of it, no problems.

At least occasionally use an organic fertilizer, to give the microflora something to eat.
 

bonsaiDerek

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Yes, those are all inert minerals. Be sure to dig your finger into the mix to gauge moisture for a while, the 8822 can hold a lot of water. It is easy to over water with 8822. But once you get the hang of it, no problems.

At least occasionally use an organic fertilizer, to give the microflora something to eat.
I usually use a bamboo skewer to gauge moisture level... will that be ok with the 8822?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I usually use a bamboo skewer to gauge moisture level... will that be ok with the 8822?
I would use the finger to ''Calibrate" the bamboo skewer. Make sure you know what color of the bamboo skewer is "just barely moist", but yes, once you have the skewer calibrated to your finger, you are good to just use the skewer.

You can also use the "heft of the container", a wet pot will be heavy, a dry pot will be light weight. Again, calibrate your sense with the finger.

The finger is more accurate than any other method unless you have serious nerve damage.
 
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Amur Maple - Acer ginnala and Siberian elm - Ulmus pumila, both are classed as invasive species in most, if not all of the USA & Canada. The best thing to do is find them in the landscape, and collect them. Thus removing them from the ecosystem, and you don't have to fell guilty if you kill them. Acer ginnala (amur maple) is not the worst of invasives, some nurseries may still sell them. They have a nice autumn color, the most often cultivated form has red & yellow autumn color, the less domesticated forms have a nice clear yellow.

Amur maple tends to be pretty angular in its branch pattern, it doesn't make smooth arching curves, unless you put a lot of effort into creating smooth curves. Best to design to use the angular features of Amur maple. Amur tend to have short, then long internodes, the internode length can be irregular, another feature to be aware of, but easy enough to work around.

In zone 5, and even zone 4b, Amur is hardy enough to simply just set the pot on the ground, with no other added protection and it will pull through the winter without loosing a twig. Incredibly winter hardy. If you are in zone 4a or 3b you would need to perhaps shelter it from dry winter wind, and winter sun, but otherwise they are very hardy. Similar hardiness applies for Siberian elm.

Siberian elm is an excellent elm for bonsai - with one caveat. You MUST keep them in full sun, sunrise to sunset full sun. If they are partially shaded, they have the bad habit of dropping branches on the shady side of the tree. Leaves are naturally small, and reduce nicely as bonsai. Wonderful rough bark. Really a great elm for bonsai.

American elm, Ulmus americana, and rock elm, Ulmus thomasii are both native to Minnesota, are very hardy and make good bonsai. Both are more shade tolerant than Siberian elm. In cultivation, they will be small enough so that beetle that spreads the ''Dutch Elm Disease" will not find them. In a container, or bonsai pot, it is possible to treat and clear up Dutch elm disease. They can be used in the same way Chinese elms are used, but significantly more winter hardy. Autumn colors tend to be just a clear yellow.

Carpinus caroliniana - American hornbeam - is a native to Minnesota, it is somewhat like a beach in appearance, but much easier to grow, needs a certain amount of shade, not good for all day full sun. Lovely autumn colors with oranges predominating.

American larch, Larix laricina, and European larch, Larix decidua, are both good for Minnesota. The Japanese larch may be at its cold tolerance limit in Minnesota. Great for bonsai.

Spruce - there are a number of good spruces that make excellent bonsai, the native Picea glauca - white spruce, and the near native Black Hills spruce - Picea glauca densata, are great candidates for winter hardy Minnesota bonsai. The dwarf Alberta Spruce is a mutant variation of Picea glauca, and is just okay for bonsai - it has some quirks that one needs to learn how to handle, go for the wild type, or reforestation type of white spruce that is just labeled Picea glauca, and you will have a better bonsai with less effort.

Black spruce - if you can collect naturally stunted ones from the cranberry bogs and norther muskeg. these are fantastic for bonsai. They prefer an acidic soil and definitely need a cold winter to thrive.

American White Cedar - Thuja occidentalis - is fantastic as bonsai. Not really a beginner tree, but may as well start learning now. Super winter hardy, and very similar to a Hinoki. Native throughout all of Minnesota. Also known as Arborvitae. Nursery material is okay, but will lack character, collecting old stunted specimens that have been repeatedly chewed by deer will give you a tree with amazing character.

Hope these give you some ideas.

Scotts pine from the nurseries make good bonsai too.

Great tips for easily accessible material! Most people would be happy to let you dig up a siberian elm, jack pine or even a red cedar.
 

Eckhoffw

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Great tips for easily accessible material! Most people would be happy to let you dig up a siberian elm, jack pine or even a red cedar.
Huh.. good to know. I suppose they are plentiful in the area.
I will keep that in mind.
Thanks!
 
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Where in Mn are you?
Cokato. I went to my first MBS auction this spring and picked up some great material. Over the years, I have spent ridiculous hours in the woods looking for material, only to come home with nothing, or nothing to brag about. After all the time and gas money spent on that venture, it's a nice change going to the auction with a grip o money and buying somebody else's discards on the cheap. Collecting would be a lot more rewarding if there was more landscape here that naturally stunted trees. There are some very isolated conditions I am finding that can stunt trees, but not in quantities that make pickings easy, and what I can find in the wild is nowhere near what is available in the mountains west of here. The money spent traveling to said areas could easily be saved for the next auction, which is VERY soon! https://minnesotabonsaisociety.org/events-2/auctions/
 

Eckhoffw

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Thanks for the heads up on the auction!
I live in St. Paul (used to b in Stillwater) very close to those fair grounds. This is great to know. I’ll see you there!
Currently driving to Madison do a wedding and man.......I feel like some of the most promising wild stuff is on the side of the highway! Very pretty right now anyways 😀

Going to take a trip looking along the ditches!
 
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That was deep man.....I almost moistened up at the tear duct.
If I were you I would look into an Amur maple.
Trying to keep an out of your zone Japanese Maple alive during a zone 4 winter will be tough.
I know,I've been there.
Unless you have some space not outside but still gets down to around just below freezing and can stay there until the tree can safely go outside in the spring.
I agree. I've been growing trees in zone 4 for about 5 years now. I find the tropicals are easy, because you can bring them indoors over the winter, and they do pretty well. They don't have the vigor they would have in Florida, but they do alright here. Cold hardy trees do well in the garage over the winter. But those in-between, zone 5-8 trees, like japanese maples are really difficult for me to cultivate with any degree of success because wintering needs are too difficult (expensive) for me to meet. My new focus is on super hardy trees that grow native with superstar vigor in MN, like Quaking Aspen, Jack Pine, Siberian Elm, Red Cedar and Tamarack. I should be looking at Amur Maple too. Three of these trees are within that small handful that can handle zone 2 in the wild, so they should have a high degree of success in a pot. Minnesota has a wide variety of trees that can be collected and cultivated as bonsai. Some may be underutilized for their reputations outside the realm of bonsai, which seems silly to me. There is something to say about common Japanese trees though - the knowledge base for those trees is so vast that successful growing techniques are available to anyone with a library or internet access. There isn't a strong body of knowledge on Jack Pine or Quaking Aspen, and what knowledge IS out there isn't being transmitted to the bonsai world in quite the same way it is for Rocky Mountain Junipers or Ponderosa Pines. The United States has a lot of plant material to add to the bonsai world, and lucky for us on bonsainut, other folks are doing the work, testing Japanese techniques, and tweaking them to fit local flora. And of course sharing the knowledge!
 
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Flounder61

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Hey, novice here. Is it a bad time of year to dig up a Siberian elm (there's millions around here in MN)? I have two that are tiny (seedlings/saplings). So, bad time of year to pull out a bigger one? Any insight will be greatly appreciated!
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Hey, novice here. Is it a bad time of year to dig up a Siberian elm (there's millions around here in MN)? I have two that are tiny (seedlings/saplings). So, bad time of year to pull out a bigger one? Any insight will be greatly appreciated!
Winter begins the end of next week, I would not dig a Siberian elm at this time, but then again, they are an invasive weed species. Dig away.

There is a small minority of people that collect after leaf drop until the ground freezes. I am not one of them. I have heard that survival rates are not too bad. There are better times to collect, but it is not the absolute worst.

I don't know if they used winter protection from cold or not. I would assume minimal protection.

I would wait until the ground thaws in spring, dig then, before new leaves bud out.
 
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Hey, novice here. Is it a bad time of year to dig up a Siberian elm (there's millions around here in MN)? I have two that are tiny (seedlings/saplings). So, bad time of year to pull out a bigger one? Any insight will be greatly appreciated!
Yeah... The trees are trying to store phososynthates in the roots at this time of year. All their reserves will be there until spring thaw. Once spring hits, the roots start pushing energy to the branches so they can leaf out. Siberian Elms are an extremely vigorous tree, and would likely survive the operation if you so choose, but if you have the option to wait till spring, I would think the best time would be a few days or a week - even a couple weeks - after you see leaves emerging. Photosynthesis will be able to take over to help the roots recover quickly. If you collect this time of year, expect a bit more sluggish recovery come spring, and definitely protect the tree over the winter.

If you do collect this fall, as Leo said, waiting until after leaf drop would be the best plan. The tree isn't finished preparing for winter until the leaves have fallen.

I'm working with some Siberian Elms too, so I'm rooting for you. Good luck!
 
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Flounder61

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Yeah... The trees are trying to store phososynthates in the roots at this time of year. All their reserves will be there until spring thaw. Once spring hits, the roots start pushing energy to the branches so they can leaf out. Siberian Elms are an extremely vigorous tree, and would likely survive the operation if you so choose, but if you have the option to wait till spring, I would think the best time would be a few days or a week - even a couple weeks - after you see leaves emerging. Photosynthesis will be able to take over to help the roots recover quickly. If you collect this time of year, expect a bit more sluggish recovery come spring, and definitely protect the tree over the winter.

If you do collect this fall, as Leo said, waiting until after leaf drop would be the best plan. The tree isn't finished preparing for winter until the leaves have fallen.

I'm working with some Siberian Elms too, so I'm rooting for you. Good luck!
Thanks very much! I will keep you posted!
 

grouper52

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If I were you I would look into an Amur maple.
Trying to keep an out of your zone Japanese Maple alive during a zone 4 winter will be tough.
I know,I've been there.
Unless you have some space not outside but still gets down to around just below freezing and can stay there until the tree can safely go outside in the spring.
Thanks for injecting some practical advice - rather than wishful thinking - into the thread, Mike! Horticulture trumps everything else in this hobby/art/obsession, and your winters are the prime limiting factor to contend with in the choice of material!
 

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