Japanese Elm Seeds?

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Hi I am super new to Bonsai -

So before I did a lot of research I ordered some seeds online to grow. One of the sets I ordered is Japanese Elm Seeds. Are there such real things as Japanese Elm or just Chinese Elm? Anyways what the best way to germinate these seeds? Should I soak them in water if so how long?

Thanks-
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Welcome!

Yes, there are several "Japanese Elms". You'd need to read to know which one you have. Sometimes the U. Parviflora is referred to as a Japanese Nire Elm. There is also an U. davidiana, v. japonica, and also an U. pumila (Siberian elm), and Zelkova, the Japanese grey-barked elm, but usually they're referred to as Zelkova and not a Japanese Elm.

I'd also recommend that if you're new to bonsai, do not start with seeds...start with nearly anything else. Even with a Chinese (or Japanese) elm, you're looking at 10 years from seed before you have something CLOSE to a bonsai.
 
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So I looked more into it and it says they are Zelkova Serrate Japanese Elm Seeds. I really at least want to give it a shot and try growing some of these seeds I bought. I also bought a 4 year old Japanese Maple, I am really exited about getting into this hobby. I am trying to learn as much as I can and thats why I thought I would give it a shot to grow some from seeds.

So now that I know what type of Elm seeds they are, is there any good advice on how I should go about growing them and a good place to store the tree while it grows?

Thanks for all the help! I also plan on buying at least a ten year old tree soon. At least once I learn enough about how to take care of one. I'm not too sure on what type of tree I want but I really like the japanese maple's all of them!
 

milehigh_7

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You are in Oregon? Heck just throw everything out on the sidewalk and it will just magically grow.


*wonders if anyone can sense the envy...*


All kidding aside, you are very near some of the best material and bonsai folk anywhere. Hopefully some of our crew will pipe up and point you to them.
 
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Brian Van Fleet

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So now that I know what type of Elm seeds they are, is there any good advice on how I should go about growing them and a good place to store the tree while it grows
Read what you can find on stratification, and scarification requirements for Zelkova. You'll probably end up storing them damp in a refrigerator for 30-45 days, then planting them in perlite. Once they get going strong, in the fall, shift them to a spot in the ground where they can get good sunlight and are out of the way. Spread the roots out radially and let them go wild for a few years to get a trunk. Read more at Brent's website:

http://www.evergreengardenworks.com/trunks.htm

Best,
Brian
 

sfhellwig

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So many people say don't grow from seed but it depends on what type of material flow you are trying to maintain. If you expect to only buy pre-bonsai or already started trees then this hobby can be very expensive. But if you like to go to a grow yard, pick your tree then chop it and dig, well you have to have somewhere to go. While the OP may be in a good area for bonsai activity the rest of us aren't so much. That's why I am doing so many trees from seed the last two winters. I ended up with somewhere around 50 trees of maple variety and Chinese Elm. I happen to have access to farm land that I will be converting to a tiny nursery. I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it so that people (myself and if I can find anyone willing to drive to the middle of nowhere) will have a stump field to go and pick a nice field grown maple and take it home. No shipping. Those trees don't come from nowhere. If I was trying to turn profit I could buy select liners and have a better product but this is more of a "plant them and forget them" with minimal maintenance scenario.

All considerations aside: start the seeds and let them grow while you work with your other trees. Sounds like you're on the right track with what you have purchased and plan to purchase. Meanwhile in the back corner of the yard you let the Zelkova grow. In five years if you have a half dozen plants then you can choose two to chop/work on and sell the others as pre-bonsai. It's material that you didn't pay nursery prices for and as long as you don't neglect them to death or have a very small area to work, seedlings of the right variety help perpetuate the next "generation" of beautiful trees.

It's the only way I'm ever going to get any material to work with so I figure the sooner I start the seeds, the sooner I have trunks to consider. This also requires a nice larger score from the nursery every now and then to keep my attention, so I forget about the seedlings and let them grow. Watched pots don't boil.:p
 

rockm

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"If you expect to only buy pre-bonsai or already started trees then this hobby can be very expensive."

I'd take issue with this :D First off, You'll have to define "expensive." Is it more expensive to grow a tree out, include the expense of fertlizers, ground space and tools --as well as soil ingredients, etc., not to mention the time you put into them? What's your time worth?

Saying larger stock is more expensive is accurate on its face, but a woefully wrong way to look at things. Growing from seed is perhaps the ultimate expression of bonsai knowledge. It takes actual knowledge of how bonsai works and is performed to be able to develop worthwhile stock trees from seeds. I hate to fall back on Japanese practices, however, seed grown bonsai are mostly the province of masters, not beginners. The "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree" metaphor is particularly applicable here. The mistakes (inaction, wrong action, neglect, hypercare) you make now, will be refelcted back at you in a decade.

Go ahead and plant seeds. Nothing wrong with that. Just don't let that be your only way into bonsai. It is a frustrating path that isn't really going to teach you much. You won't be doing much actual bonsai, and you will probably find yourself looking at some pretty inferior material 10 years down the road, but hey, it's better than paying $100 for a stock tree grown by
 

sfhellwig

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Looks like your post might have been cut off there...

All valid points and thus why more than one perspective is always necessary. I guess my point was not to be discouraged from growing seeds as something else to do while learning/acquiring other material. From a financial point of view you have to make it work for you. Financially I don't belong in this hobby/art. I try to do everything myself/free. I have access to some land. For another person who would have to acquire everything and treat it like dollars in/dollars out it would never be feasible. We all get ours however we can.

I guess my point in growing so many seedlings is to have basically throw-away trees to make mistakes on. I know that none of my first several generations of trees will be any good. I'm not doing any root pruning or spreading on first transplant. :eek: I hate to admit I know I will be making ugly trees but I want to feel experienced enough that when I do have the money some day to buy a nice PRE piece that I don't immediately screw it up. This is just my approach and by no means the common one.

I guess the sooner I start screwing up with seedlings the sooner I will get better at growing them. Give me ten years and I'll let you know how it's going.:D
 

mcpesq817

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I think rockm is right on the money (pun intended). I initially had similar thoughts and figured that I could just buy seedlings and grow them out and save myself time. Well growing seedlings out takes a very long time, and depending on the size of your yard, could take up lots of valuable space. In my experience, your knowledge and understanding will grow tremendously faster with bigger stock as opposed to seedlings. Part of it is that you actually have something to work with - the other part is that you have enough of an investment that you don't want to screw it up :rolleyes:

I'd still go ahead and grow the seedlings, but get yourself a few nice stumps to work on. I'm not saying spend four figures on a tree, but you can get some nice stumps from vendors like Don at Gregory Beach Bonsai. This way you can practice and learn and enjoy the hobby while you watch your seedlings grow for a decade or more :rolleyes:

I've reconciled the expense by treating bonsai like any other hobby that costs money. In an afternoon, I could drop $100 on green fees, food, beer and replacing my dozen lost balls. For the price of a couple of afternoons of golf, I can a nice piece of bonsai stock which will give me years of many afternoons of fun. Well, at least that's how I justify new purchases to myself, and sometimes to my better half when a new box shows up on my doorstep :rolleyes:
 
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Attila Soos

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Hi Chriscannady

The question "Should I grow from seed?" always comes from the absolute beginner, who assumes that growing from seed is part of learning bonsai. This couldn't be further from the truth.
As Rockm said, growing from seed is the realm of the bonsai master, who knows everything about bonsai, AND wants to produce a large quantity of material.

Learning bonsai is like learning to design and build a house. If you want to design and build houses, you are not going to spend the first ten years, learning how to manufature bricks and building material. Again, learning how to be an architect is very different from learning how to manufacture building material. You have to know building material, but you don't have to know how to make them.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with growing from seed, if your goal is to practice and enjoy gardening. There are millions of people who love gardening and do just that. The only problem I have with that, is when people start calling their activity "growing bonsai". By the way, it is not your fault that you believe this nonsense. It's the fault of those who misinformed you. It is the result of the well-known scam, that is called "Bonsai Growing Kit", with a few seeds in it. It is a ridiculous scam, designed to sell a few seeds than normally would cost 3 dollars, for ten times more. It makes every decent bonsai grower mad, including myself. You need to know, that your seeds will never produce any bonsai, unless you already know how to create bonsai. And you will not learn that from growing seeds. Growing seeds will produce a nursery shrub, that you can buy for 6 dollars, without wasting 10 years of your life.

I started to grow from seed (and young seedlings) after I've spent 5 years, learning and studying bonsai. And I did that because I wanted to have a plant nursery, with hundreds of trees, to choose from. In that case, it makes sese to grow from seed. Even so, some of my trees have been growing in the ground for 15 years, and yet, they will need another 10 years to resemble what I call quality bonsai material. That makes it 25 years of growing.

But if you want to have a bonsai collection of less than 50 trees, it makes no sense. People who begin their bonsai studies with REAL bonsai material, will be light-years ahead of you, if you only spend time watering your seeds and waiting for them to mature into trees. I just wanted to make that clear to everybody, who make their first step into bonsai.
 
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milehigh_7

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"that the seeds require no pretreatment but germination percentage can be increased with a two month cold stratification"

So, basically, you have to wait to begin waiting...:D Sorry to be flip. I couldn't resist though.

FWIW, the "expensive" in larger stock is really "time." You're paying to skip over the more tedious part of growing from seed--the years of basically doing nothing but growing a trunk, which is more akin to farming than to bonsai.

Also FWIW, you can get a pretty decent starter tree for about twice what you might be paying for seeds on the Internet (or, God Forbid "Bonsai Seeds" which are the equivalent of Jack's Magic Beans) If you have access to a club and are a rank beginner who attends meetings, you wil find decent starter stock may be given to you or sold at ridiculously low prices
 
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Attila Soos

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Yep, joining a REAL (as opposed to virtual) bonsai community gives access to very cheap and decent material. And often you get them for free.
 

milehigh_7

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"that the seeds require no pretreatment but germination percentage can be increased with a two month cold stratification"

So, basically, you have to wait to begin waiting...:D Sorry to be flip. I couldn't resist though.
No worries Rock! He asked about the seeds so I figured an answer from the propagating bible would be the way to go.

As far as the buying stock issue, it is definitely trading money for time. My sticks, as my wife calls them, are coming along nicely but it has been a few years and the ones that lived are still not as good as what person could buy for not much more really.

As far as clubs and good stock go, you live in Oregon, it should be pretty easy pickins for you.
 

sfhellwig

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I am not disagreeing with either of these two as they are experienced practitioners and are respected on this board. But there needs to be a huge IF on the whole club thing. So to bring back that other perspective, for you guys that have access to clubs: that's great, I know learning in person is so much better and can eliminate years of repeating stupid mistakes. I hoped desperately to find people who also wanted to work on small trees and share knowledge. But some of us do not have access to these clubs. And starting a club is a whole different venture than joining and learning from an established group. I guess it comes back to the budget but 2.5-3 hours travel each way is not feasible for me. And the club that is 2 hours away, well the guy that's organizing that for the last year sure isn't giving anything away. Small cultivar elms for $40 was not my idea of "let's start a club and help each other make pretty trees." I have not been able to attend lately to see the caliber of the other rotating members but it is a young club, I should not speak out too strongly yet.

Sorry that came off as a rant, I guess you weren't telling them to go find a club. I just feel that needs to go along with local club references for all of us who don't really have that option. Maybe I am in the minority but some of us don't have experienced people or good material within a reasonable distance. Definitely not anyone trying to share. You say buying and shipping is acceptable. Maybe I'll be able to do that someday. You say you have to travel for your art. Maybe I'll be able to do that some day also. Till then I'll be out here in the country picking the nurseries for rare treats while my seedlings grow.

Now back to what they were saying.
 
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milehigh_7

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"But there needs to be a huge IF on the whole club thing."

Not a huge IF, maybe a small "if." I have access to almost a dozen clubs. I'm spoiled. I do, however, choose to belong to one that is an hour's drive (or more depending on I95 traffic) away because I found that it suits me best. I have also known some folks who drove three hours one way to be docents at the National Arboretum, or to work weekends at bonsai nurseries. Somtimes you have to endure some pain to get some gain.

I know that sounds smug, but it's not meant to be. I hesitate to qualify advice to get to a club. It is the best way to really learn something. Books are great, but nothing beats first hand. Getting involved "in person" with bonsai can take some effort.
 

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In addition to the club scene, those who are serious about bonsai, should do at least once per year, a so called "bonsai pilgrimage". This means, traveling to a major convention, or exhibit. I often drive 6 hours one way, to do such a thing. It is usually a 3-day weekend, when you meet the cream of the crop, the best in the world. The learning from these events can change your whole outlook on bonsai, and what you take home, will be with you forever.
 
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rockm

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Serendipity--I was reading my new Dan Robinson "Gnarly Branches" book and it seems one of his pet peeves, apparently, is beginner bonsaists starting with seed. He notes that seedling failure rates in the wild are something like 80 to 90 percent. In a pot, it's not any better, wiht added pressure of owners neglect and indifference.

He says that beginners should start with old material, like over 20 years old. If they can get it, such material offers more interest, potential for work and will sustain the newcomer's interest far far longer than a seedling.
 
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