Oak Bonsai Help

Jnicholes

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Hi everyone,

So, I’m thinking about buying a tree from a nursery I trust. I was thinking that if I got the tree, and got it established in a pot, and then begin the bonsai process, I could taper and turn it into a bonsai tree.

Before I say this, let me state my goal for Bonsai. My goal is to have a bonsai with a relatively thick trunk, and looks like a mature tree in the wild, but a miniature version. I figured if I bought a tree from a nursery that already had a thick trunk, I could get it established and then start training it to be tapered.

What you guys think? Is this something that can be done? Is it possible to take a big 7 foot nursery tree and turn it into a bonsai?

If so, how? Are there any pages on this forum that can give me step-by-step directions?

Jared
 

Zach Smith

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You can certainly use grow and chop to make taper in a non-tapering specimen. Always remember that commercial landscape nurseries want and select for nice, straight trunks (you know this already). Now, when you make that first chop you're going to have to grow the tree out with as much vigor as it can muster to thicken the point where the new leader transitions from the chop point. This will need to be a smooth transition when it's completed. Depending on how thick the trunk base is and how vigorous the plant grows and how much room you give it to grow, this can take several years (and I do mean several). You'll need to chop again at some point and repeat the process. My rule of thumb is I want the base of my new leader to be about 3/4ths the thickness of the trunk below it. This allows for more thickening as you grow and chop your leader. When it's done, it should end up smooth.

Good luck!
 

LeftHandLuke

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You can certainly use grow and chop to make taper in a non-tapering specimen. Always remember that commercial landscape nurseries want and select for nice, straight trunks (you know this already). Now, when you make that first chop you're going to have to grow the tree out with as much vigor as it can muster to thicken the point where the new leader transitions from the chop point. This will need to be a smooth transition when it's completed. Depending on how thick the trunk base is and how vigorous the plant grows and how much room you give it to grow, this can take several years (and I do mean several). You'll need to chop again at some point and repeat the process. My rule of thumb is I want the base of my new leader to be about 3/4ths the thickness of the trunk below it. This allows for more thickening as you grow and chop your leader. When it's done, it should end up smooth.
A ton of wisdom and experience in that.
 

Paradox

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Hi everyone,

So, I’m thinking about buying a tree from a nursery I trust. I was thinking that if I got the tree, and got it established in a pot, and then begin the bonsai process, I could taper and turn it into a bonsai tree.

Before I say this, let me state my goal for Bonsai. My goal is to have a bonsai with a relatively thick trunk, and looks like a mature tree in the wild, but a miniature version. I figured if I bought a tree from a nursery that already had a thick trunk, I could get it established and then start training it to be tapered.

What you guys think? Is this something that can be done? Is it possible to take a big 7 foot nursery tree and turn it into a bonsai?


Jared

Yes but you must understand and accept that it will still take years from such a tree to a refined bonsai.
 

Jnicholes

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Thank you all. I appreciate it. I am aware it will take SEVERAL years. However, I think it will be a good long term project.

Unfortunately, I cannot start now. I’m moving in a week. As soon as I get settled in, I may start.
 
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If youre moving, it might be smart to look for end of year deals around winter time if you plan on buying a tree. Nurseries may be looking to move product around that time and you could find a good deal. Best time to chop most deciduous, such as maples and oaks, tends to be mid to late winter, when the tree is dormant. So you may be able to do some research on species and such, set up your growing area, acquire tools, and plan winter storage.

Zach smith's plan is solid. Expect a 10-20yr process to get towards a refined tree.
 

Shibui

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Chopping down larger trees is a great way to get a head start on thick trunk bonsai but don't be fooled into thinking that the project will just take a couple of years. Actual time will depend on the species, your location and conditions, your experience and which techniques you use, how well the individual tree responds to the process and how well refined and what pruning scars you expect the final product to have.
Choice of individual trunk and roots will have a major impact on the bonsai you can develop from a tree and how long the conversion will take.

Some species respond well to trunk chops while others don't bud well on older wood and are not so good to do this with.

In my experience oak (at least English oak) is very slow. I only seem to get one growth spurt per year which limits how much one can achieve each year. They don't particularly like heavy root work so repotting can slow development even more for a couple of seasons. I have been working with a collected English elm trunk for more than 30 years and it is still not show ready.

There are much more responsive species for trunk chop and development.
 

olympics

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do oaks generally take trunk chopping (no leaves left) nicely? I'm curious as to how they backbud
 

Shibui

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English oak buds from bare wood when chopped but if any green is left above it may not bother. Not sure about other species.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Most oaks backbud medium well. They are not the most vigorous, they are not like some Hinoki which simply does not back bud.

Amount of back budding is dependent on health of the tree "chopped". A tree in good, vigorous health will respond well. A tree that had been dug, balled & burlapped, then not watered well enough at the nursery, then brought to your home all in the same 6 months, this tree will not respond well with back budding.

Oaks can, and do back bud on old wood. But they never back bud as profusely as an elm.
 

BrianBay9

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Most oaks backbud medium well. They are not the most vigorous, they are not like some Hinoki which simply does not back bud.

Amount of back budding is dependent on health of the tree "chopped". A tree in good, vigorous health will respond well. A tree that had been dug, balled & burlapped, then not watered well enough at the nursery, then brought to your home all in the same 6 months, this tree will not respond well with back budding.

Oaks can, and do back bud on old wood. But they never back bud as profusely as an elm.

Some exceptions. Coast live oak will back bud like crazy. Can be completely defoliated. Of course that doesn't really help the OP in Idaho. :rolleyes:
 

Jnicholes

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Ok, now I got a question. I am not specifically asking about Oaks this time. What species are more responsive to trunk chopping?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Of trees that would survive Idaho winters, elms in general are probably the most responsive to trunk chopping. There are many other really vigorous trees, but off the top of my head I would say elms.

Trunks chopping is a something that is not used all the time. Where it is used, usually its done between once and 3 times, usually 3 to 7 years apart. Then it is not done again. So focusing on response to trunk chopping is not a good way to choose a species for bonsai. All you need is a moderate response to trunk chopping to be able to use the technique. The trees other traits are what will determine whether it is good for bonsai. Leaf size, length of internodes, and features of interest (bark, flowers, fruit, etc.) should have a higher level of importance in choosing species for bonsai.

Vigorous trees usually respond well to trunk chops, invasive species often are excellent at responding to trunk chops.

Conifers as a whole do not respond to trunk chops, the exceptions being bald cypress, and dawn redwoods. There may be one or two additional conifers that do respond to trunk chops, but I forget, or am not familiar with others.
 

Tieball

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American Elm is an excellent choice. My experience is primarily with American Elm over the years.
 

sorce

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If you consider the amount of roots you generally have to remove to bring any nursery potted specimen to "bonsai worthy", you start seeing how much development time you "lose".

Starting from an acorn in an airpruning pot will get you to proper goals faster.

We need to stop seeing "trunk" as time saved in these instances.

If it took them 7 years to grow that in a regular nursery pot, it'll take you 3 in an airpruning basket, and you'll never have to remove roots, which leaves your operation susceptible to complete failure, let alone loss of development time.

Sorce
 

Jnicholes

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Thanks, guys. I will stick to the acorn in the pot. That way I can shape it and watch it grow throughout its life and my life. I think that would be better.
 

Tieball

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Thanks, guys. I will stick to the acorn in the pot. That way I can shape it and watch it grow throughout its life and my life. I think that would be better.
Live long and healthy.
 

Shibui

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Ok, now I got a question. I am not specifically asking about Oaks this time. What species are more responsive to trunk chopping?
I have had excellent response to trunk chops with the following species - note not chosen with regards to climate so check cold/ heat hardiness for your area.

Elms - most species
Ficus rubiginosa, Ficus carica, some other ficus sp.
Callistemon/ Melaleuca (most species but not all)
Lonicera nitida
Olive
Ginkgo
Leptospermum petersonii
Luma apiculata
Azalea
Wisteria (sometimes buds from the base of the trunk)

There are more that I can't think of at the moment.........
 

Tieball

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This might help with your early vision. I was not sure of your planting angle though.
D25ECC8B-6F5C-4A84-9ADE-9A735D05B856.jpeg0DEBF1B4-693A-4A21-941B-A1C3EC411A4D.jpeg
 

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