New to bonsai, styling advice needed

innova

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Hello all,

I've read all I can and watched hours of video and just recently received a procumbens as a gift which was procured from a local respected bonsai nursery. I'm not sure of the age but this tree has received training. It's styled as a semi-cascade and I'm wondering if I should keep this way, or if there may be an alternative style suited for it. It's got lots of backbudding occurring on the trunk, should this be removed? I agree w/ the stylist's front and presentation, but wondering if I should trim this long branch which appears to be an extension of the trunk, or "go with it". Like most novices, I'm hesitant to dive in and just want to make informed decisions. That being said, what would you do with this shape?

I look forward to learning from this forum and hope to be able to learn enough to give back.



Warm Regards,

-innova
 

marcosolo

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STYLING ADVICE- Put In Bigger Pot, Turn Around, Do Not Look At For Four years......Water with eyes closed (it'll be less depressing, that way).....
 

Vance Wood

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Welcome to the world of bonsai and to the forum, I hope you do not regret either one but grow and prosper. The advise you received previously may or may not be accurate other than reflect most peoples opinion of the tree you were sold. The fact you purchased it from, as you say, a reputable bonsai nursery bothers most people. This probably means that you paid a top price for the tree possibly far more than you would have in a regular nursery.

There is nothing wrong with the tree, it is a decent species for bonsai, but I feel that they sold you on the idea that this little tree is only a snip and pinch away from being a show stoping bonsai. So; here we stand the first two responders to your thread have basically told you that your tree is not much more than a pack of bonsai tree seeds.

The fact that they told you the tree was styled in a semi-cascade style tends to make me think they don't know what they are talking about. This tree grows this way all by itself, you have to style the tree to get it to do anything else. I suppose you paid extra for the styling making it now a pre bonsai?

So what do we do? With all styling questions, which direction to go always starts with the trunk. That's why you were told to put the tree in a larger pot and ignore it for four years. This is to thicken up the trunk. Bonsai is an illusion where in we produce the image of an aged tree beaten by nature and time in miniature.

This illusion starts with the trunk. A young spindly trunk like this one will only make a believable bonsai if the bonsai is a lot smaller than I think you might be willing to take this material. These days most of us that grow bonsai will tell you that most good bonsai are the product of taking larger material and cutting it down in height and width so that the trunk and top of the tree reach ratios more akin to fully developed trees. We can and do look forward to helping you on your bonsai journey. Sometimes we are brutally honest but if you are like me I would rather cringe at the truth than choke on the paucity of half truths and dead end directions.
 
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JudyB

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Welcome to the forum, and the sport. You can learn how to keep a tree alive with this little juniper, it's a pretty decent starting variety for bonsai. They are relatively tough, but you'll need to learn how to water to keep it alive for any length of time.

Most new people to bonsai will do a few common things incorrectly. They try to keep the tree inside (this tree needs to be outside) and they water too much. I can't tell for sure, but it looks to be in ok soil, meaning a loose substrate of non-soil. If so, then at least it's a step up from the mall vendor type trees. If it's in dirt type soil, then you'll have to be extra careful. The easiest thing to do is stick a wooden skewer in the soil, jam it down into the soil and keep it there. Pull it out every day, and only water when it's almost dry.

The trick is to keep this tree alive, while you look around this site and others, to find out what real bonsai is all about, then you'll be a step ahead when you get a better piece of stock.
 

innova

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First of all, thanks to everyone for taking the time to write out such informative and well thought out posts, I appreciate your time. I can see by the responses this is a common issue and will do my best to stay out of the tree. I have a few follow up questions to you and are as follows;

STYLING ADVICE- Put In Bigger Pot, Turn Around, Do Not Look At For Four years......Water with eyes closed (it'll be less depressing, that way).....
How much bigger of a pot do you suggest, will a big bonsai pot suffice?

Four years!? I will do my best here, but is there anything that can/should be done at all in that time?

..Sometimes we are brutally honest but if you are like me I would rather cringe at the truth than choke on the paucity of half truths and dead end directions.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. Anything else is wasting people's time and money, and the older we get, the less of each there is to go around :)

The trick is to keep this tree alive, while you look around this site and others, to find out what real bonsai is all about, then you'll be a step ahead when you get a better piece of stock.

This is great, with regards to a better piece of stock, do those of you "in the know" prefer to start trees from stock? Do you ever invest in a trained piece? I'd love to try my hand with another species and am drawn to elm or maple. I have to admit I wouldn't know where to start in finding "stock" for these species.
 

lordy

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Many people spend a LOT of money on trees that are well on their way to being "finished". Hundreds and thousands of dollars for large well developed trees.

Try this link for many good articles on various subjects to do with bonsai.
http://www.bonsai4me.com/index.html

Also, if in NOVA you are not too far from some very knowledgeable people. Use this link to find the contact info for the NOVA club and arrange to go to a meeting soon. They can recommend the steps you can take to advance your own knowledge of bonsai.
http://www.potomacbonsai.com/potomacBonsai/pba_clubs.html

And welcome to the fray! You'll like it.
 

JudyB

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Elms and Maples are both good easy subjects. Esp. elms. You could get a cheapo chinese elm off of ebay, and learn it's growth habits, and how to shape and prune them. There are also online vendors to get stock from, I've had some good luck thankfully as there isn't anything in my area. If you have a bonsai nursery in your vicinity, it might be a good place to look, and they may be helpful.
I purchase mostly trunk done trees, so the long growing out period is done, and I can work on the branching and styling of the tree towards finishing it.

If you are a sociable type and have the time, bonsai clubs can be a good thing.
 

Poink88

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Depends on how much money you have for bonsai, quality pre-bonsai stock can be pricey. I want cheap (or free if possible) so I hunt via Craigslist and dig old hedge (bushes or shrubs) people want to get rid off. :)

I also buy from Lowe's or Home Depot. If you read Vance's advise well...you need to look at much bigger trees to get a nice trunk. I usually check their 5 to 40 gallon pot sizes and only look at the bottom 18" or so. Everything above will be chopped off.

Some nurseries also have a "reject" area...you can get lucky there too and usually they are heavily discounted.

Know what traits make good bonsai candidates. You may find a great trunk only to learn later that the tree doesn't want its roots being messed with or it has large leaves or it doesn't back bud, etc. etc.

Having several trees to work on make the wait easier. Having them in different stages or development is even better.

Good luck!
 

innova

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Elms and Maples are both good easy subjects. Esp. elms. You could get a cheapo chinese elm off of ebay, and learn it's growth habits, and how to shape and prune them. There are also online vendors to get stock from, I've had some good luck thankfully as there isn't anything in my area. If you have a bonsai nursery in your vicinity, it might be a good place to look, and they may be helpful.
I purchase mostly trunk done trees, so the long growing out period is done, and I can work on the branching and styling of the tree towards finishing it.

If you are a sociable type and have the time, bonsai clubs can be a good thing.

I've started to look around for an elm online, and I keep landing on Brussel, I see he's held in high regard around here so I may go with a 10yr tree there. If you have any recommendations for a vendor or size please feel free to reply here or PM.

Depends on how much money you have for bonsai, quality pre-bonsai stock can be pricey. I want cheap (or free if possible) so I hunt via Craigslist and dig old hedge (bushes or shrubs) people want to get rid off. :)

I also buy from Lowe's or Home Depot. If you read Vance's advise well...you need to look at much bigger trees to get a nice trunk. I usually check their 5 to 40 gallon pot sizes and only look at the bottom 18" or so. Everything above will be chopped off.

Some nurseries also have a "reject" area...you can get lucky there too and usually they are heavily discounted.

Know what traits make good bonsai candidates. You may find a great trunk only to learn later that the tree doesn't want its roots being messed with or it has large leaves or it doesn't back bud, etc. etc.

Having several trees to work on make the wait easier. Having them in different stages or development is even better.

Good luck!

I like the idea of multiple trees in different stages to keep the "tinkerer" satiated :) Sounds like a good opportunity to learn multiple species as well. One thing I'm unclear on here and would love to know is what would stick out to you as a good potential bonsai candidate. I wouldn't know what size to begin looking for. Could you point me to a photo possibly?

Thanks again to everyone, I know it gets old answering the same questions for every new member but I do appreciate you doing it :)
 

Poink88

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All depends on your desired final bonsai size. There is a ratio guideline...1:6 where diameter of trunk x 6 = total height of bonsai. It is just a guideline so it can be broken depending on various factors but a good place to start. With that in mind, you can start looking at trunks and calculate what final size tree it should be.
 

augustine

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innova,

The good news is that this is a good species for bonsai and these look very nice with a thicker trunk. Join a bonsai club.


Best,
 

lordy

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I still recommend NOVA club over Brussels. There are people in that club that grow material that you might be able to procure locally, and for less.
 

innova

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I think my first post/thread has served it's purpose. I believe through your responses I have a proper perspective to begin the hobby. I will probably move this tree to big pot to let it grow since it was a gift and holds sentimental value. However, I will also begin browsing the local nurseries for stock and get a few going to really dig in and get a few things going.

I think it is probably outside the scope of this thread but I'll ask anyway :) I've seen conflicting information on when to begin major pruning on nursery stock purchased now. Some I see bring them home and leave them, some I see taking right to things when they get home from the nursery.

Thanks again for everyone's time and input here.

Regards,
innova
 

Poink88

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Depends on which tree species, health condition, weather, date/season, etc. It was mentioned several times already...know your tree and its needs...they are all different.

That said, sometimes you do not have an option and have to do something out of norm...that could be acceptable OR fatal, you make the judgement call. FYI, most of us killed trees learning...and will continue to do so. ;)
 

Vance Wood

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Depends are not just adult diapers. Sometimes "depends" are the answers or choices you have with trees and bonsai.
 

Adair M

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innova,

You have a great attitude! Most people when told their new bonsai treasure is the equivalent of a painting of Elvis on black velvet are ticked off! LOL!!!

I'm going to give you completely different advice: I'd keep the existing tree pretty much the way it is. It's actually kinda cute! Not a great bonsai, but as a mallsai, I've seen worse.

Now, the reason I say keep it like it is, years from now, it will be fun to show people the tree that inspired you to greatness. My mentor, Boon Manakitivipart, still has his original bonsai that he received as a gift. And it still looks pretty much the same, 25 years later. (Yours looks better, actually!)

Meanwhile, look at what's for sale on Ebay. Mostly junk, but you can get an idea of the types of plants available. Join a club. Find a local bonsai retailer. Most give beginner classes. Read posts on this and other forums. Do a lot of reading.

Good luck! (A local retailer can really help you get started in the right direction.)
 

bradisarobot

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"you've just trashed my living room..."

I was gonna say the same thing, lol. What's wrong with velvet elvii? ;-P
 

fourteener

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I think my first post/thread has served it's purpose. I believe through your responses I have a proper perspective to begin the hobby. I will probably move this tree to big pot to let it grow since it was a gift and holds sentimental value. However, I will also begin browsing the local nurseries for stock and get a few going to really dig in and get a few things going.

I think it is probably outside the scope of this thread but I'll ask anyway :) I've seen conflicting information on when to begin major pruning on nursery stock purchased now. Some I see bring them home and leave them, some I see taking right to things when they get home from the nursery.

Thanks again for everyone's time and input here.

Regards,
innova

You've got a lot of good advice. I thought I'd show you some pics of the choices you have.

The first pic is a tree like yours. A dropout in a class I taught left me with an extra. I put it in one of my small pots. I water it sparingly give it sun all day. I like what it's doing. It has a small trunk, but it's a small tree so it works. If you put your tree in a small pot, style it up it could be a fine small tree.

Photo Jun 03, 2 11 10 PM.jpg

If you want it to be big, it has no hope unless you put it in the ground. The following trees were all $50 procumbens plants that were put into a landscape project. 5 years later the owner didn't like them and wanted them gone. We dug up 18 of them and after dividing them up, giving a few away I ended up with 5. This tree isn't much bigger than the first, but you can see the difference in the trunk.

Photo Jun 03, 2 11 26 PM.jpg

This tree has a shot at gaining some height. Figured I'd give it a shot. Certainly not a final design, but moving in the right direction.

Photo Jun 03, 2 14 56 PM.jpg

Finally the last tree has me lost and confused about what to do. I stuck it back in the ground and will leave it for a few years. We'll see.

Photo Jun 03, 2 17 02 PM.jpg

You don't have to put your tree in the ground if you can accept that it is now a small tree. If you want it big, to the ground it should go!! Enjoy the process
 

innova

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Threadjacking my own thread here I know, but while we're all here :) . I was at the local nursery and found a giant section of split-rock cypress on sale that had seen better days, but had lots of new growth. Is something like this desirable for a novice to take on or should I stick with something smaller?

(they were marked down to $50 and about 7' tall)



and for scale

 
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