Help Me Pick A Starter Tree! (with pics)

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#1
Hello everyone!

So, by the luck of the stars, I have found a gentleman who is selling several trees from his collection as he doesn't have the space for them this winter.

As a novice, I would like your input on which of these species would be good for me to learn from and grow with.

He has Ficus Retusa, Siberian Zelcova, Brush Cherry, Bougainvillea, Blue Star Juniper, Japanese Yew and Brazilian Rain Tree ranging from 6 - 16 y/o.

He recommended the Ficus, Cherry and Yew as good for a novice - and sent me pics :)

Aesthetically the Zelcova interests me most, I like the yew and ficus 3 of the ones he recommended, also I'm not too interested in a bougainvillea...
Jap. Yew .jpg Brush Cherry 3.jpg Ficus 1.jpg Ficus 3.jpg
 
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#2
most of those look like mallsai.... not the place I would personally send a novice....

I presume you live in or around denver (guessing from location obscureness [kind of an important aspect in the bonsai world]) ....

Are there any more mature specimens you have pictures of? maybe something in the 16yo range ...

While I happen to LOVE my Bougy... it would never survive there unless you have a greenhouse... so i wouldn't bother with them for that reason also
 

Bonsai Nut

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#3
This is an interesting subject, but perhaps not in the way you intended. Maybe we should go on a bonsai hunt? It could be a fun challenge - give us a budget and we will have a fun contest to find the BEST TREE anywhere on the planet for the money. Who knows? Maybe someone on this site might have tree that they would be willing to sell to get you started? You could show us the tree you are thinking of buying, and our challenge will be to "beat it" for the same amount of money :)

I say this because none of the four trees pictured are really a good start (just being honest). If you HAD to choose, I think people will generally recommend Juniper as the single best starter tree, followed by a Ficus (assuming you have the appropriate tropical setting) or perhaps a Chinese Elm. Best overall Juniper will be a "shimpaku" Juniper, but you will have a hard time finding those unless you go to a bonsai nursery.
 
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#4
This is an interesting subject, but perhaps not in the way you intended. Maybe we should go on a bonsai hunt? It could be a fun challenge - give us a budget and we will have a fun contest to find the BEST TREE anywhere on the planet for the money. Who knows? Maybe someone on this site might have tree that they would be willing to sell to get you started? You could show us the tree you are thinking of buying, and our challenge will be to "beat it" for the same amount of money :)

I say this because none of the four trees pictured are really a good start (just being honest). If you HAD to choose, I think people will generally recommend Juniper as the single best starter tree, followed by a Ficus (assuming you have the appropriate tropical setting) or perhaps a Chinese Elm. Best overall Juniper will be a "shimpaku" Juniper, but you will have a hard time finding those unless you go to a bonsai nursery.
Well, I was thinking of taking the Yew or the Ficus - he wants $15.
 
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#5
Eh, I am not even sure I'd bother. If I had to pick one I'd say the ficus, but you can do better I think. Also do you have a picture of the BRT?
 
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#6
This is an interesting subject, but perhaps not in the way you intended. Maybe we should go on a bonsai hunt? It could be a fun challenge - give us a budget and we will have a fun contest to find the BEST TREE anywhere on the planet for the money. Who knows? Maybe someone on this site might have tree that they would be willing to sell to get you started? You could show us the tree you are thinking of buying, and our challenge will be to "beat it" for the same amount of money


Wow, what a great offer! Would you open that up to a few more citizens? :D
 
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edprocoat

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#7
The last ficus, #4 looks like a great buy for $15! It has a decent trunk with movement, it looks large enough compared to the pot its in, I like it. The Ficus are an easy plant, they do well indoors without much trouble, its good too get them outside when its warm and sunny as they love the sun. Inside by a sunny window they will winter well. Junipers as well as the other varieties you named above are not very good indoor plants though.

ed
 
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#8
I'm with Bnut, none of these trees are really that good and all of them will need to be grown in a green house. All of them need to be grown out, they are all too young and underdeveloped and you are going to find yourself just watching them grow. That's not bad as long as you understand now that your choices for future development are going to be more like cut this tree down to this point and cut that tree down to this point, and wait for nature to do its thing and watch them develop. This is kind of the way bonsai works out. The real secret of bonsai is in the fact, with few exceptions, most world class bonsai are not grown up into the "to drool over" state they are cut down from larger stock.

The bottom line is you really need to be working with some larger material that can be reduced down into a good bonsai. I have several shohin sized Mugo Pines (less than 10" tall) that were originally one or two gallon nursery trees around 24" inches tall.
 

Randy

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#9
This is an interesting subject, but perhaps not in the way you intended. Maybe we should go on a bonsai hunt? It could be a fun challenge - give us a budget and we will have a fun contest to find the BEST TREE anywhere on the planet for the money. Who knows? Maybe someone on this site might have tree that they would be willing to sell to get you started? You could show us the tree you are thinking of buying, and our challenge will be to "beat it" for the same amount of money :)
Interesting concept. Perhaps using multiple ascending budgets would give different ideas of what you get for your cash. The $5, the $15, the $30 and then just jump up to hundreds. Starting at starter material, then each proposal would give a timeline and projected "show-able" time frame. Maybe you had a completely different idea though.
 

Smoke

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#10
That first tree does not look like yew. It looks more like podocarpus...unless that tree is really small.

Also called Buddah pine
 
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#11
Interesting concept. Perhaps using multiple ascending budgets would give different ideas of what you get for your cash. The $5, the $15, the $30 and then just jump up to hundreds. Starting at starter material, then each proposal would give a timeline and projected "show-able" time frame. Maybe you had a completely different idea though.
I think Bnuts idea is a good one..... one that we have tried to explain to people many times.... maybe they just need a more complex and detailed version of it... or maybe they won't pay attention until we use pictures.

lets say we start @ 150 and go to 1K which should give a pretty good idea of bonsai material (not finished trees) ... (skip the 5 15 and 30 stuff)

the idea being to help people recognize a true bargain when they see the _one_ tree in their umpteenth garden nursery that has actual potential... (then they can buy it for $30)... and also for people to realize that we aren't kidding when we say that some trees will never be bonsai ... (I will say that about the 4 here in this thread.... no offense to anyone just speakin my mind)......

again I think its an interesting idea... and one that could indeed educate many new people and make their experience much more pleasurable and successful....
 
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#12
I think Bnuts idea is a good one..... one that we have tried to explain to people many times.... maybe they just need a more complex and detailed version of it... or maybe they won't pay attention until we use pictures.

lets say we start @ 150 and go to 1K which should give a pretty good idea of bonsai material (not finished trees) ... (skip the 5 15 and 30 stuff)

the idea being to help people recognize a true bargain when they see the _one_ tree in their umpteenth garden nursery that has actual potential... (then they can buy it for $30)... and also for people to realize that we aren't kidding when we say that some trees will never be bonsai ... (I will say that about the 4 here in this thread.... no offense to anyone just speakin my mind)......

again I think its an interesting idea... and one that could indeed educate many new people and make their experience much more pleasurable and successful....
I plan on saving up $200 and in late winter going to nebgs and getting the most established tree that I can afford. All I have are starters and long term projects and I need a tree that can be showable in a shorter amount of time.
 
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#13
I plan on saving up $200 and in late winter going to nebgs and getting the most established tree that I can afford. All I have are starters and long term projects and I need a tree that can be showable in a shorter amount of time.
an excellent choice!!! you won't regret it ... one piece of advise tho... don't do this just to have a "showable" tree ..... it is important to practice the finer more sensitive details of the art etc and trees at later stages will help you do that... also it is very good for the self esteem to know that your other trees will grow to the stages as the one you are working on and that you will have advanced the skills needed to take them beyond that.....
 
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#14
an excellent choice!!! you won't regret it ... one piece of advise tho... don't do this just to have a "showable" tree ..... it is important to practice the finer more sensitive details of the art etc and trees at later stages will help you do that... also it is very good for the self esteem to know that your other trees will grow to the stages as the one you are working on and that you will have advanced the skills needed to take them beyond that.....
Great points. The self esteem part is valid I want something closer to finishe that I can look at and appreciate. I'm getting there still a beginner
 
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#15
As an example ... this was my _first_ tree (4 years ago)

I took this pic like 5 mins ago .... so no griping about the canopy it is currently in need of a haircut :p



I purchased this tree for $450 ... at the time I thought it was a fortune ... I now know I got a steal on it however this is the kind of material that can be purchased with a little investigative work and some time spent saving pennies....

I hope this helps some beginners realize that sometimes it's worth having one great tree to really help you jump in feet first :)

**edit : for the record this was purchased from a bonsai nursery and was on consignment .... it is an Acer Palmatum 'Kotohime'. Also that is a 1 LITER bottle
 
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Bonsai Nut

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#16
I went shopping today. I'll post pictures of what I found tomorrow :)







 
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#19
As an example ... this was my _first_ tree (4 years ago)

I took this pic like 5 mins ago .... so no griping about the canopy it is currently in need of a haircut :p



I purchased this tree for $450 ... at the time I thought it was a fortune ... I now know I got a steal on it however this is the kind of material that can be purchased with a little investigative work and some time spent saving pennies....

I hope this helps some beginners realize that sometimes it's worth having one great tree to really help you jump in feet first :)

**edit : for the record this was purchased from a bonsai nursery and was on consignment .... it is an Acer Palmatum 'Kotohime'. Also that is a 1 LITER bottle
Very nice and I can see why buying a nicer piece of material is worth it. Bnut that is a killer nursery please do tell where you went
 

Brian Van Fleet

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#20
Here are a few shots from Brussel's Bonsai Nursery. The best "deals" are finding rough material that can be styled and eventually placed into a bonsai pot. With this approach, you're buying time, and hopefully someone who knows what they're doing was spending time with the material.

450 JWP Imports.jpg
$450 imported Japanese White Pines (+/- 18" tall, 1.5" trunk). Probably overpriced, but also not common around here.

shimpaku 395.jpg
A $400 container-grown Shimpaku (about 28" tall, 2.25" trunk).

Shimp 2.jpg
A row of $200 container-grown Shimpaku (about 20" tall, 1.5" trunks).

Black Pines.jpg
Container-grown black pines; around my buddy are 3-gallon trees for $100, 5-gallon trees for $175, and in front of him are 7-gallon trees for $350

Also, here is an article about a shimpaku I got from Evergreen Gardenworks; believe it was $125.
 

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