Ponderosa pine bonsai advice?

Dante

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I'm planning to obtain ponderosa pine seeds or seedlings. I grew them from seed once before, though I accidentally killed them later, so I do know I can get them to sprout.

I have never grown bonsai before, but that is what I would like to try.

Do you have any advice for growing ponderosa pine bonsais?
 

HankDio

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First of all welcome!

Next: what is your approximate location? Your conditions for growing ponderosa will vary depending on climate. Also note that ponderosa grown from seed will be substantially different and take much longer than those collected from decades to centuries-old, field grown trees

I highly recommend Ponderosa Pines as Bonsai by Larry Jackal. It’s fairly complete, though it does not touch on developing young pines as much as training and refining collected ones due to reasons mentioned above.

Good luck!
 

Dante

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Thanks, HankDio.

I live in Central Texas. I would like to grow it as an indoor bonsai.

How could a decades-old field grown tree be small enough to be a bonsai?
 

Fonz

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I would like to grow it as an indoor bonsai.
Trees should be outside. If you keep them inside they will die. They need the moisture, airflow, seasons, .... anything that nature gives them in their natural habitat.

Field grown trees that are decades old are worked on regularly. They're left to grow for a few years, then they get cut back, get their roots worked, left to grow again, cut back again, some more rootwork ... until they reach the desired trunk (and if possible primary branches) thickness. There's nothing like instant bonsai. Good trees take decades to get to the point they end up on shows.
 

HankDio

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Thanks, HankDio.

I live in Central Texas. I would like to grow it as an indoor bonsai.

How could a decades-old field grown tree be small enough to be a bonsai?
Ponderosa absolutely cannot be indoor trees, they require around 300 days worth of full sun in order to grow.

Ponderosa in nature can be large when conditions are ideal, but the ones collected as yamadori are typically growing in conditions which stunt, or dwarf, their growth. Think crack and crags, sheer cliffs, and domed, rocky mountaintops. A bonsai can really be any size in which it can fit in a container, and there are plenty of 2-4 foot ponderosa bonsai that are as old as 200 years old. You can find some good examples at http://www.goldenarrowbonsai.com/
 

rockm

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Thanks, HankDio.

I live in Central Texas. I would like to grow it as an indoor bonsai.

How could a decades-old field grown tree be small enough to be a bonsai?
"I would like to grow it as an indoor bonsai"

Not going to happen. Ponderosa will not survive inside, nor will any other temperate zone pine. Ponderosa bonsai are collected from the wild NOT grown from seed. Wild trees are reduced to become bonsai--wired, etc. Ponderosa pine bonsai are typically VERY LARGE not only because of their origins, but because of their long needles.
 

Colorado

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There are some trees that can be grown indoors. Ponderosa is not one of them. It needs to be outside, in the sunniest spot in the garden. It needs unfiltered sunlight directly on the needles. Lots of it.

Now, there is no reason that Ponderosa bonsai cannot be grown from seed. We have black pine from seed, scots pine from seed, and many other types of pines from all over the world grown into suitable bonsai material from seed.

I think Ponderosa is a great candidate to grow from seed due to its extreme vigor and strength. It is arguably the strongest pine we use for bonsai, rivaled only by the Japanese black pine. They grow quickly and vigorously. Seeds are very easy to germinate. I have a bunch of seedlings started but they’re only 1 year old.

But of course the quickest way to a ponderosa bonsai is to purchase a collected tree. Apples to oranges.

Good luck!
 

Wulfskaar

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If it must be indoors, then you should look into some tropical trees that do well indoors.

I'm currently growing all types of stuff from seeds, whether it's good for bonsai or not. I'll still get a great deal of satisfaction if I plant them to be full-sized, normal trees. Reverse yamadori!

If you still want to grow these from seeds, then there will be plenty of folks ready to offer good advice.
 

rockm

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I was talking to my bonsai nursery friends on a visit two weeks ago about ponderosa pine bonsai. They said 'you get what you get' with ponderosa mainly. THey meant, better start off with a decent collected tree, because that's pretty much what you're going to have for the next 50 years. In other words, trying to get any meaningful development on seedlings and saplings with no initial character or remarkable features is mostly a futile journey. The time it takes to produce the bark and overall character that is common on all collected Ponderosa is mostly out of reach for seedling material. Since a basic entry-level ponderosa pine for bonsai is around $50-$60, why bother unless you enjoy beating your head against the wall...
 

River's Edge

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I'm planning to obtain ponderosa pine seeds or seedlings
If the expected outcome is bonsai then this is a poor plan. If the expected outcome is learning, then you will learn something! It is a poor plan.
The value in ponderosa as bonsai lies in their character evident with advanced age! 50 years from germination. Better off to collect or acquire an older specimen.
Indoors not possible without research grade propagation facilities to mimic the outdoors.
If you have no expectation for the outcome than feel free to experiment.
 

Shogun610

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I’ll cue you into a little secret …. Look up Golden Arrow Bonsai. They have a B&B sale in the spring mostly ponderosa pine and spruce sometimes. The prices are good , and you get a freshly collected Ponderosa pine , you still need to treat it as a recently collected tree w pumice in. Grow box or container that is stable for roots to recover for a couple years. Nothing beats collecting on your own or getting material in person from a dedicated collector … but this the next best thing since he ships it to you.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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If the expected outcome is bonsai then this is a poor plan. If the expected outcome is learning, then you will learn something! It is a poor plan.
The value in ponderosa as bonsai lies in their character evident with advanced age! 50 years from germination. Better off to collect or acquire an older specimen.
Indoors not possible without research grade propagation facilities to mimic the outdoors.
If you have no expectation for the outcome than feel free to experiment.
Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever grown them from seed, destined for bonsai, for that long?

I mean, yamadori ponderosa, or even nursery ponderosa, or even ponderosa seeds, are hard to come by here in Europe.

I love poor plans. But I also love reality. I haven't seen anyone grow them from seed and images of seedlings in US nurseries seem to have pretty decent bark from age 5 and up. But respectfully.. If nobody's trying to grow them for bonsai, how would we know it doesn't work?
Are ponderosa so different from other pines? I know they're revered for their ancient deadwood and gnarly bark, but if the execution is done well, why would they make bad bonsai from nursery stock? Not as cool and cracky as a hillside yamadori of course! But would they be truly bad?
 

HankDio

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Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever grown them from seed, destined for bonsai, for that long?

I mean, yamadori ponderosa, or even nursery ponderosa, or even ponderosa seeds, are hard to come by here in Europe.

I love poor plans. But I also love reality. I haven't seen anyone grow them from seed and images of seedlings in US nurseries seem to have pretty decent bark from age 5 and up. But respectfully.. If nobody's trying to grow them for bonsai, how would we know it doesn't work?
Are ponderosa so different from other pines? I know they're revered for their ancient deadwood and gnarly bark, but if the execution is done well, why would they make bad bonsai from nursery stock? Not as cool and cracky as a hillside yamadori of course! But would they be truly bad?
Presumably the people growing them from seed are either still in the development phase or they may just be getting to the training phase if they started in the 90s or 00s at the very earliest AND the tree is quite small. As mentioned above Ponderosa are usually grown large because of their large needles. Nothing says you CAN'T grow from seed, just don't expect to be the person to turn that tree into a bonsai perhaps. I have five-needle pine seedlings which I would be lucky to see become bonsai in my lifetime.

In American Bonsai (See: Ryan Neil, Larry Jackal) they really only use collected material grown in challenging condition because the way these pines twist, turn, get exposed to harsh elements, create natural jin, and of course for their size in proportion to the tree itself. All of these features could, in theory, be mimicked with a LOT of training and experimentation over decades, but it won't appear the same as some classic Ponderosa.

I'm not sure if it's frowned upon to show other people's trees (Let me know and I'll delete if necessary) but here is a tree owned by Julian Adams that must be at least 150 years old. It's massive at about 4 feet long, but look at these needles. It has to be big if you want a well-proportioned tree, and to do that from seed means you won't even begin training until you have forgotten more than you ever learned.
 

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Shogun610

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Presumably the people growing them from seed are either still in the development phase or they may just be getting to the training phase if they started in the 90s or 00s at the very earliest. As mentioned above Ponderosa are usually grown large because of their large needles. Nothing says you CAN'T grow from seed, just don't expect to be the person to turn that tree into a bonsai perhaps. I have five-needle pine seedlings which I would be lucky to see become bonsai in my lifetime.

In American Bonsai (See: Ryan Neil, Larry Jackal) they really only use collected material grown in challenging condition because the way these pines twist, turn, get exposed to harsh elements, create natural jin, and of course for their size in proportion to the tree itself. All of these features could, in theory, be mimicked with a LOT of training and experimentation over decades, but it won't appear the same as some classic Ponderosa.

I'm not sure if it's frowned upon to show other people's trees (Let me know and I'll delete if necessary) but here is a tree owned by Julian Adams that must be at least 150 years old. It's massive at about 4 feet long, but look at these needles. It has to be big if you want a well-proportioned tree, and to do that from seed means you won't even begin training until you have forgotten more than you ever learned.
I’m telling Julian,,, you’re in big trouble mister
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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Presumably the people growing them from seed are either still in the development phase or they may just be getting to the training phase if they started in the 90s or 00s at the very earliest AND the tree is quite small. As mentioned above Ponderosa are usually grown large because of their large needles. Nothing says you CAN'T grow from seed, just don't expect to be the person to turn that tree into a bonsai perhaps. I have five-needle pine seedlings which I would be lucky to see become bonsai in my lifetime.

In American Bonsai (See: Ryan Neil, Larry Jackal) they really only use collected material grown in challenging condition because the way these pines twist, turn, get exposed to harsh elements, create natural jin, and of course for their size in proportion to the tree itself. All of these features could, in theory, be mimicked with a LOT of training and experimentation over decades, but it won't appear the same as some classic Ponderosa.

I'm not sure if it's frowned upon to show other people's trees (Let me know and I'll delete if necessary) but here is a tree owned by Julian Adams that must be at least 150 years old. It's massive at about 4 feet long, but look at these needles. It has to be big if you want a well-proportioned tree, and to do that from seed means you won't even begin training until you have forgotten more than you ever learned.
I've seen Telperion farms turn Scots pine and JBP seedlings into pretty decent bonsai in less than a decade.

In essence, everyone basically is saying that nobody is growing ponderosa, because the guys with experience, moneys, knowhow, the right contacts, skill and more money, go for the already ancient trees collected from the wild..
To me, that sounds like more of a luxury problem! Why build a porche if a neighbor is selling his lamborghini for 200 bucks? I can't counter that in an argument, whatsoever.

But from my perspective, from a country across the globe with absolutely 0 ponderosa pines, that does make me wonder: is it truly not worth it?
That's a rhetoric question.. I'm growing them. In a couple years I'll know for myself. And then some kid will come along and do it better than I ever did, and I'll be a jealous old fart. But I will be an owner of a 100% European seedgrown ponderosa. That is, at least to me, worth it.
 

HankDio

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I've seen Telperion farms turn Scots pine and JBP seedlings into pretty decent bonsai in less than a decade.

In essence, everyone basically is saying that nobody is growing ponderosa, because the guys with experience, moneys, knowhow, the right contacts, skill and more money, go for the already ancient trees collected from the wild..
To me, that sounds like more of a luxury problem! Why build a porche if a neighbor is selling his lamborghini for 200 bucks? I can't counter that in an argument, whatsoever.

But from my perspective, from a country across the globe with absolutely 0 ponderosa pines, that does make me wonder: is it truly not worth it?
That's a rhetoric question.. I'm growing them. In a couple years I'll know for myself. And then some kid will come along and do it better than I ever did, and I'll be a jealous old fart. But I will be an owner of a 100% European seedgrown ponderosa. That is, at least to me, worth it.
I'm a big believer in finding your own way, you won't hear me ever saying something can't be done nor would I ever discourage people from trying something new ESPECIALLY if it's in order to learn. I'm very young in the hobby, but I also recognize that you don't have to find your own way because people with more experience, skill, talent, and better eye for design have already done the hard work and have the results to show how it was accomplished.

Also, if you know a guy who would ship a $200 Lambo to the US hook me up.
 

rockm

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I've seen Telperion farms turn Scots pine and JBP seedlings into pretty decent bonsai in less than a decade.

In essence, everyone basically is saying that nobody is growing ponderosa, because the guys with experience, moneys, knowhow, the right contacts, skill and more money, go for the already ancient trees collected from the wild..
To me, that sounds like more of a luxury problem! Why build a porche if a neighbor is selling his lamborghini for 200 bucks? I can't counter that in an argument, whatsoever.

But from my perspective, from a country across the globe with absolutely 0 ponderosa pines, that does make me wonder: is it truly not worth it?
That's a rhetoric question.. I'm growing them. In a couple years I'll know for myself. And then some kid will come along and do it better than I ever did, and I'll be a jealous old fart. But I will be an owner of a 100% European seedgrown ponderosa. That is, at least to me, worth it.
Sorry, but this isn't a "rich guys' problem. It's common sense. For $50 you can get a 50-100 year old collected tree (and in Europe you can get mugo scots, etc for about the same). What are you going to invest in time and resources for seedlings? probably more than $50 AND you won't be able to work the tree for a decade...It you want to work with ponderosa (and I don't really get why since they're not as amendable to bonsai practices as mugo and scots pine--needle length, backbudding, etc.) you have to grow them. Here in North America, that's hardly the case. They're pretty common and readily available from numerous sources.
 

River's Edge

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I've seen Telperion farms turn Scots pine and JBP seedlings into pretty decent bonsai in less than a decade.

In essence, everyone basically is saying that nobody is growing ponderosa, because the guys with experience, moneys, knowhow, the right contacts, skill and more money, go for the already ancient trees collected from the wild..
To me, that sounds like more of a luxury problem! Why build a porche if a neighbor is selling his lamborghini for 200 bucks? I can't counter that in an argument, whatsoever.

But from my perspective, from a country across the globe with absolutely 0 ponderosa pines, that does make me wonder: is it truly not worth it?
That's a rhetoric question.. I'm growing them. In a couple years I'll know for myself. And then some kid will come along and do it better than I ever did, and I'll be a jealous old fart. But I will be an owner of a 100% European seedgrown ponderosa. That is, at least to me, worth it.
From my perspective having worked with ponderosa and a variety of other pines for Bonsai they are not worth the time!
But I support others learning their own lessons and having their own perceptions of success.
 

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