The <$25 Garden Center Challenge (or, “what I did with my Sunday afternoon”)

Eric H

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That is a lot of hard work for this time of year. Best luck.
Indeed, it is. But it’s a low cost way to learn, and yes, success is a poor teacher, I worked this tree hard. But, I FINALLY figured out how to make a jap cedar or false cypress into something that DOES NOT look like a bonsai version of Groot with a broom hat!!! Hahaha learn learn learn!!
 

Eric H

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Sorry, but I do not think this is the way to learn, by effectively taking all steps to kill a plant.
@leatherback, I fully admit I’m a newb, this is just my 3rd growing season. The plant was super healthy, you don’t reckon there’s any way she makes it? I wasn’t trying to be so terribly cavalier about it. I do actually want the little guy to live! :)
 

penumbra

Imperial Masterpiece
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Plant might make it depending on what you did to the roots. If you hacked the roots like you did the top, I doubt it will live. Also, your timing is not good. If it does put out new growth it is questionable as to whether it will winter. A cold frame would be ideal but it comes with its own set of variables and learning curve. It is only my opinion, but someone 3 years in should never have done this.
I do hope it lives and if it does, consider yourself lucky and be humble.
Last note, from the scars of the branches removed I think you were completely off track in your, shall we say 'pruning'. You removed all your inner growth and there is little likelihood of back budding.
Sorry to be so harsh, and I am by no means an expert, but I can't agree with any of the decisions you have made regarding this plant including the choice of the plant. :oops:
 

Cadillactaste

Neagari Gal
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I like to think of windows of opportunities. Ideal times to work a tree. Depending on species...When they respond well to our techniques. It is how I see us learn from our work. By seeing a tree respond well. working any tree outside those windows of opportunities...I see more as Russian Roulette...because we don't know if it was our timing or our heavy hand which caused decline.

But...I'm a bit OCD on window of opportunity. So there is that.
 

leatherback

The Treedeemer
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But...I'm a bit OCD on window of opportunity. So there is that.
Well.. There is a reason most people do things at specific times of the year, and why work like repotting and first styling are split over multiple years.

I fully admit I’m a newb, this is just my 3rd growing season.
To be honest, I am surprised. I thought this would have been one of your first attempts.
I would strongly recommend that before you work another tree, you read up on how to do this. Or ask questions BEFORE you work on the tree. It will increase your changes of success. And sorry, but I would say success is a great indicator of how to do things.
 

Cadillactaste

Neagari Gal
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Well.. There is a reason most people do things at specific times of the year, and why work like repotting and first styling are split over multiple years.
True enough...but to the point I can't get my mind wrapped around ones who should know better. But get what I call itchy. I've seen it on Facebook groups... people in the hobby longer than I...doing rookie mistakes. Because they were "bored".
 

Wilson

Masterpiece
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True enough...but to the point I can't get my mind wrapped around ones who should know better. But get what I call itchy. I've seen it on Facebook groups... people in the hobby longer than I...doing rookie mistakes. Because they were "bored".
They must not have enough trees!😆
 

Eric H

Sapling
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I appreciate all your comments! I have several books, and of course, the internet is full of pictures and videos. But, aside from the bonsai lady at one garden center here, who charges $50 an hour to visit your home, there is no one to learn from. No clubs, etc. no one in the master gardeners’ club here even does bonsai. So, yes. I butchered a low/no-risk $25 tree, and it’s ugly. It may die. It probably will. And I am one-tree-further in my knowledge of these little false cedar type trees. This was meant to be fun guys, just an under $25 lesson on a tree type I have had little luck with styling. In the past. Please pass on better methods for digging in and learning. I have an original 1967 printing of The Masters Book of Bonsai (by Directors of the Japan Bonsai Association) and The CompleteBook of Bonsai by Tomlinson. I watch Chan at Heron, and others, weekly. Any other resources you’d like to pass on, would be awesome!!!
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
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I'm still in the same boat as you - my first attempt was some kind of ERC Yamadori that I collected from the side of the road. Interestingly enough my first attempt at styling ended up really similar to the photo you posted; I think we both had the same lack of knowledge about styling and ended up with a sparse tree with tufts of foliage at the end of very long branches making the whole thing look a bit awkward and unnatural :p

Its funny because I can recite all the basic styling "rules" but when I start making decisions on which branches to cut, which to keep as sacrifices, which to cut back slightly, which to wire, etc. then I start getting ahead of myself and end up with a weird mess. Since then I've tried to learn to be patient and keep the tree alive as my primary task. And then prune lightly and really think about the form I want over the course of (insert number of months until pruning season here). Here is a pic of my first tree and you'll see the similarities :p Spoiler alert, it died.
20210605_185248.jpg
Now I'm taking my time with nursery stock and following other people's advice (copying successful people exactly)
20210717_184138.jpg
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
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And then sometimes there are multiple different pieces of advice being given and you end up buying a second tree to apply the different advice on :p 20210718_155040.jpg
 

Eric H

Sapling
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I'm still in the same boat as you - my first attempt was some kind of ERC Yamadori that I collected from the side of the road. Interestingly enough my first attempt at styling ended up really similar to the photo you posted; I think we both had the same lack of knowledge about styling and ended up with a sparse tree with tufts of foliage at the end of very long branches making the whole thing look a bit awkward and unnatural :p

Its funny because I can recite all the basic styling "rules" but when I start making decisions on which branches to cut, which to keep as sacrifices, which to cut back slightly, which to wire, etc. then I start getting ahead of myself and end up with a weird mess. Since then I've tried to learn to be patient and keep the tree alive as my primary task. And then prune lightly and really think about the form I want over the course of (insert number of months until pruning season here). Here is a pic of my first tree and you'll see the similarities :p Spoiler alert, it died.
View attachment 387537
Now I'm taking my time with nursery stock and following other people's advice (copying successful people exactly)
View attachment 387538
Yes! My second or this bonsai was an ERC, yamadori, from a power line ditch!
I then discovered what “Rust” is, and had to dispose of the tree :(
And YES! It’s tough making decisions and the tree turns out UGLY! Hahah.
I love bonsai, and will keep learning from the cats in this website - so much knowledge here!
 

Eric H

Sapling
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Well.. There is a reason most people do things at specific times of the year, and why work like repotting and first styling are split over multiple years.


To be honest, I am surprised. I thought this would have been one of your first attempts.
I would strongly recommend that before you work another tree, you read up on how to do this. Or ask questions BEFORE you work on the tree. It will increase your changes of success. And sorry, but I would say success is a great indicator of how to do things.
Checking out your blog!
 

shinmai

Chumono
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My two cents….it is indeed true that you can do something with a tree that goes against all the “rules” and it will survive in spite of you. It’s equally true that you can follow standard practice, do everything right to the best of your ability, and the damned thing dies on you, and you’ll never know why. The point of the conventional wisdom about windows, though, is that you increase the likelihood of success. All trees, regardless of species, live according to the astronomical calendar to some degree. It’s no accident that the appearance of new foliage, root growth, flowering, leaf drop, etc. all correspond to the solstices and equinoxes, adjusted for latitude. Broadly speaking, trees respond to changes in temperature, but to a much greater extent to the length of days.

More to the point in this case, though, is that it is easy to regard an inexpensive garden store purchase as essentially a disposable experiment, because it only cost a few bucks. I submit, though, that the tree’s life is not cheap from the perspective of the tree. While it’s not exactly like drowning puppies, the tree is still a living thing, and perhaps one should not be too cavalier about wasting that life. This is the problem I have with the ‘it’ll probably die, but big deal” attitude.

I am reminded, nonetheless of the old story of the 90-year old man who takes a 28-year old bride. At the wedding, his friend asks if, given the age difference, shouldn’t the groom be concerned about the risk of having sex on the wedding night. After all, he says, it could be dangerous, perhaps even fatal. The groom just shrugs and says, “If she dies, she dies.”
 

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