Got me a little pine tree...

DavidBoren

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So my daughter's grade school put on a little fair-type thing at the end of the school year, and one of the stations was earth science themed. This particular station gave her a pine tree starter... the kind with a wet paper towel and plastic baggie over the roots, whole thing was probobly close to 18" tall (including the roots). It had a tag that said what species of pine tree it is supposed to be, but I didn't pay attention to it.

I just grabbed some random old copper pot which had a dead houseplant in it, and repuposed it for this pine tree. The pot wasn't even deep enough to bury the entire root stack, so it ended up with this column of roots/dirt sticking up about an inch above the surface. Once planted, it was about 13 inches tall (above ground)... the pot is maybe 6 inches tall, probably 5 across.

He has since grown several inches, and several new branches. I say "he" because my daughter decided her tree is male. I asked her if she wanted her tree to be a boy or girl. I also asked her if she wants a circle or square pot when we repot her tree. She said square, without knowing anything about male trees being commonly paired with square pots. I was later searching for pictures of pine bonsai to show her, and she stopped me to point at a cascade style pine.

Studying cascade bonsai, I came across someone growing an upside-down black pine... the tree came out of a hole in the bottom of the tray, and was wired to come around between the feet/grow up the side of the tray. This allows the tree to grow upwards like it wants to, but develops a 180° curve in the base of the trunk. After it grows this way for a while, it can be repotted upside-right/normally in a tray, and will curve over the side naturally. This approach, I feel, is better than fighting gravity trying to wire the tree down over the side.

Regardless, we will not be repotting this tree from its current pot until next spring. Here are some pictures I took tonight:
 

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DavidBoren

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I was thinking about cutting a notch in the short side of a rectangular tray, and laying the tree in the notch... its roots column could remain uncut, the depth of said root column would now run horizontally lengthwise across the tray. The tree essentially hanging out/off/over the side of the tray, would want to naturally curve ~90° to grow upwards.

Once this 90° upwards curve develops, the tree could be repotted in another rectangular tray... this time, upside-down. The tree takes the 90° turn down through a hole off to one side in the bottom of the tray, with its roots again extending horizontally lengthwise in the tray (just now flipped over compared to how they were before, although still completely buried in both positions). The tree would be wired to bend around the bottom edge of the tray (between the tray's feet) and grow up the side... growing upwards like it wants to.

After the tree develops enough to hold that complete 180° curve without wire, repot it upside-right in a deep bonsai pot designed for a cascading tree... the root column is still nice and deep, having been kept uncut growing horizontally before. The trunk and branches will all have to start growing upwards, which should make for some nice movement.

I think this should work...
 

nuttiest

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While the tree part MAYBE would like the turning better than wire, the roots will not. You would be constantly retraining roots.
But sun training is okay and in fact necessary for some species like certain cacti, lucky bamboo, etc.
 

DavidBoren

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I figured it would be the least invasive approach possible, as the tree is very young and needs all the development it can get... even if the roots constantly have to relearn which way is up and which way is down, they are still growing without being cut into or otherwise shaped. The tree, also, is allowed to continue to grow... even is if it flips a few times.

The roots are always fully covered, so how much do they really "care"? I am not trying to be a smart@$$, this is something I would like to know. Eventually, the plan is to return the roots to their original and natural position [vertical like they are currently]... so their [the roots'] handful of years spent horizontal training the bend into the trunk is temporary... any "confusion" the roots experience will be but a blink of an eye in the overall timeframe.
 

Potawatomi13

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FYI Your pine is Larch tree. Really is much, much easier to wire tree adding bends at same time so is not just U shaped;). Also needs to live outside 365 days a year for best health to prevail. And since a local why not attach self to Portland Bonsai society where masters and many hobbyists will be of better help then here?
 

DavidBoren

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My pine tree is a larch tree. That is good to know. Thank you.

I haven't joined the Bonsai Society of Portland, yet, as I do not actually have any real bonsai trees. I have some random trees growing in random pots, but I have nothing that qualifies as an actual bonsai. Plus, joining a local society would likely mean I am expected to appear at society meeting... with people. Lol.
 

Potawatomi13

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Most club members get great pleasure from help of new and uninformed of how toos of Bonsai☺️.
 

kale

Shohin
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You got two replies from experts, its a larch.. Surprisingly, larch is deciduous! So don’t freak out when it sheds its needles in the fall ;)
 

DavidBoren

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I have been reading up on larch. As a kid, in Montana, we called tamarack "piss-pine" because they turn yellow. Lol.
 

vancehanna

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Nice start!
Larch it is and if you are really serious about bonsai, you'll turn this little fella loose in the garden and let him grow. Root prune in a few years and possibly a little topping etc. (Read a bunch of books) Purchase a bunch of seedlings plant 'em as a 'farm' and....
In the meantime, visit your garden center for a juniper procumbens nana, (Japanese Garden Juniper) and find a book such as the 'Sunset Book' of Bonsai (cheap) and you're on your way. Get a few inexpensive bonsai styled pots and volia! you're doin bonsai!
 

DavidBoren

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I thought about throwing it in a big pot for a few years, but the little copper pot was already empty. Lol. And now, I kind of like the idea of keeping this thing in a small pot its whole life... the sooner it realizes this is how it's going to be, the sooner it will adapt to grow and look more like a bonsai tree.

Next spring he will get repotted into a relatively deep, square pot meant for cascading bonsai. I will anchor a nice thick wire at the same time I repot, but will probably wait a year before actually wrapping the wire around the trunk or doing any bending. One insult per yer...
 
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