"What hurts the most"

grizzlywon

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Being a newbie, having been trying to do bonsai for a little over a year and a half (full-time it seems at times), for me, "what hurts the most" is not knowing why a tree died.

I happen to be a very analytical person, I love my lists and want to know how everything works inside and out. I love taking things apart and for me, trees in a lot of ways are a mystery. I understand some of the basics as I have been reading a slew of books, forums and articles, it just doesn't make sense sometimes.

Why one tree growing right next to another (of the same breed, in the same soil, receiving the same light, same fertilizer and on and on it goes) can just fade away and die. I watch it happening and there seems to be no helping them sometimes. It drives me crazy if a tree dies and I don't even get to learn something from the experience! A few times I have learned that the soil mix was not free draining enough, or that the drainage hole was clogged etc. Its just those times that make no sense that drive me crazy.

I will not be one of the guys who complains and offer no ideas. So here is what I plan to do, but could also use some help.

1. I am going to figure out a way to just get a lot more horticultual knowledge. Either take a class or just do a lot more reading. Any horticultural books you would recommend?

Questions?
1. What do you guys do when a tree starts to fade and you see the life draining out of it?
2. What do you do if a tree dies? A tree autopsy? What do you look for?

Thanks in advance...
 
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DaveV

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Hi Grizzly, I have been involved with bonsai for approx. 12 years and more seriously the past 4 years. I live in zone 5 and store my bonsai in an attached unheated garage. Most of my trees that died in the early years was due to poor soil (more organic than inorganic, didn't drain well) and I over watered. I still tend to keep my trees on the wet side but they are in 70 - 75% inorganic, 20-25% organic/pine bark. This is something new to a beginner since we are used to growing things in soil/dirt. The other things I would look for are aphids and/or fungus. Chinese elms are prone to anthracnose (sp). It takes time to learn and study up on. Ask a lot of questions and read up on pests and diseases. Now days if one of my trees dies, I usually have a good idea why. Some trees don't like their roots pruned too heavily, I found that elms and maple roots can be pruned more than others. I do all of my repoting in the spring and never in the fall, unless absolutely necessary. Read up on korean hornbeams (KH) before you get one. I have found they can be a bit more fussy than other deciduous trees. See some of the recent posts on KH. Don't buy expensive trees at the begining - learn how to keep them alive and healthy for a few years first. Before you acquire a new tree, read up on it first. Learn about pruning the tree. It's not good to buy a nice looking tree and not know how to prune it properly. In 2-3 years it will be overgrown and look like a bush. Then you may have to prune back hard and start over again. These are not absolute rules, but something to think about. Hope this helps. I am still learning too.

Dave V.
 
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treebeard55

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Right on, Griz. I know the feeling of failure when a tree dies in my care.

I've been in bonsai for almost 20 years, but with a 5-6 year hiatus that ended 2-3 years ago. (During the hiatus I was learning to be a husband, dad and stepdad.) I'm rebuilding my collection, and focusing on quality as distinguished from mere quantity. That's where I speak from right now.

When a tree begins to decline I first try to analyze the problem myself. Sometimes I can. When I can't, I turn to the Internet, and to fora like this one. I describe the problem, post a picture or two if I can, and ask for input. Quite often there's someone on the forum (or fora) who has encountered my problem before and can give useful advice.

I'd suggest taking a Master Gardener's course; contact your local Cooperative Extension office to see if such a class is offered in your area. That's not bonsai-specific, but the general horticultural knowledge can be quite useful.
 

Vance Wood

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Right on, Griz. I know the feeling of failure when a tree dies in my care.

I've been in bonsai for almost 20 years, but with a 5-6 year hiatus that ended 2-3 years ago. (During the hiatus I was learning to be a husband, dad and stepdad.) I'm rebuilding my collection, and focusing on quality as distinguished from mere quantity. That's where I speak from right now.

When a tree begins to decline I first try to analyze the problem myself. Sometimes I can. When I can't, I turn to the Internet, and to fora like this one. I describe the problem, post a picture or two if I can, and ask for input. Quite often there's someone on the forum (or fora) who has encountered my problem before and can give useful advice.

I'd suggest taking a Master Gardener's course; contact your local Cooperative Extension office to see if such a class is offered in your area. That's not bonsai-specific, but the general horticultural knowledge can be quite useful.
Sometimes they will die for no reason at all that you will ever be able to figure out. A master Gardener's course may be helpful, some knowledge is better than none, but it is not guarantee. Most Master Gardener's courses are run by people that are in reality amateurs with the gift of gab enough to convince someone with the authority to approve their ability to teach the course. I have known a few.
 
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Think back to everything you did, right back to the re-potting and root prune. Although two trees may be growing next to each other and receiving the same care, one may have had a few too many roots pruned, maybe one dried out a little more than the other at one time, could be many things. A tree sometimes takes a long time to finally give up the ghost, and it could be directly caused by something that was done a month, even a year ago.

Chances are you may never know, but thinking back and then checking the root mass after it is finally gone could give some clues.




Will
 

head_cutter

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Ya...what they said...and an old Japanese last ditch effort.

Stick that sukka back in the ground!

Don't feel bad buddy, with over 30 years and countless trees offered at the alter of the spring BBQ we all lose trees for unknown reasons...it just happens sometimes. Of course it made the BBQ cheaper because we didn't have to buy much charcoal ;))

Bob
 

rockm

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For the first five years I did bonsai, 98.9 percent of all failures went back to soil and watering. Disease rarely played a part in tree deaths for me then and they rarely do now. I've learned in the last 17 years--"It's all about the SOIL man." Oh, and not doing tropicals...:)
 

greerhw

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I like to blame the weather, for lack of a better excuse............

keep it green,
Harry
 

Attila Soos

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I am going to figure out a way to just get a lot more horticultual knowledge. Either take a class or just do a lot more reading. Any horticultural books you would recommend?
The best book I've seen so far, hands down:


http://www.shigoandtrees.com/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=3


As far as the Master Gardener course goes, it all depends on who is the teacher. Is he/she one with practical knowledge, or "book" knowledge. It makes a big difference.
 

Attila Soos

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1. What do you guys do when a tree starts to fade and you see the life draining out of it?
It happened to me this spring. The tree was fading away, losing branches one by one, and there was no new growth.

I placed the tree in a very humid environment (in my case, a greenhouse, but you can also make a plastc tent), I stopped watering, and I just sprayed the foliage daily.
The tree recovered in a month.

The biggest problem with a sick tree is watering. That's because the water intake of the sick tree is drastically reduced. So, if you keep watering the same way as you did with a healthy tree, root rot is almost inevitable, and this is the end of it.

By using a plastic tent, watering is reduced to a minimum, since the air is saturated with water. This way you can prevent total root rot.

The only problem with the tent is that you must make sure that it doesn't become an oven when the weather gets hot. If that's the case, it must be placed under shade cloth, and use a small fan along with a few small openings. This will have a cooling effect while still maintaining high humidity.
 
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ghues

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Attila,
Sounds like a solution but how about doing it now?

I repotted a conifer tree this spring and it flushed poorly, set bud at the end of June and now the lower branches are being to die.
I've reduced watering and moved it under the back deck which has an east aspect.
Cheers
 

Vance Wood

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Attila,
Sounds like a solution but how about doing it now?

I repotted a conifer tree this spring and it flushed poorly, set bud at the end of June and now the lower branches are being to die.
I've reduced watering and moved it under the back deck which has an east aspect.
Cheers
What kind of conifer? What kind of soil?
 

treebeard55

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... A master Gardener's course may be helpful, some knowledge is better than none, but it is not guarantee. Most Master Gardener's courses are run by people that are in reality amateurs with the gift of gab...
I don't know about most, Vance, but the course here in Kosciusko County gives some good basic horticultural knowledge. Again, better than nothing.

One thing I learned in the MG course has been mentioned by Will: sometimes a tree can take up to two years to die from a given cause. And Danny Use, at MABA2008 in Indy, said that a collected tree can take up to three years to die above-ground if the lifelines are all severed in collection.

Trees live on a different time scale than we do!
 

Wm Tom Davis

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Root heat...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Interestingly enough, I came across an internet article regarding something many people forget about, especially now as temps rise and we over water in hopes of "cooling" the trees down a bit.

Many of my trees are in black plastic pots. I use them to try and get more growth while my trees are relatively young (less that 10 yrs). I live in a semi arid part of California, where lately the temps are in the upper 90's. Some of my trees were getting dry tips in their leaves and needles, so I have been watering and misting the the early morning. I do keep and eye on how damp the soil is, but one thing that I've been noticing is that the soil is a bit warm.

So I did a search online and found this very informative article about root heat and that it can kill trees fairly quickly.

Here is the link:

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

I hope this helps someone in some way...

I'm thinking that I should also X post this link in the beginner forum as well.
 
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ghues

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What type of tree?

What kind of conifer? What kind of soil?
Hi Vance,
The tree is a mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and the soil is sifted "Seasoil" and perlite which (usually) works really well for us here.Here is a picture of it a month ago.
Cheers Graham
 

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Vance Wood

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I'm not certain what is meant by Sea soil could you explain what it is and where it comes from. As to the Mountain Hemlock----I do not have this tree but from what I understand from my readings on the subject they tend to be fussy and difficult to re-pot. I have found also with many conifers that the old text book default method of re-potting in spring is not such a good idea. Here again I am not certain that this Hemlock would fall into that category but it deserves looking into.
 

ghues

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SeaSoil

Thanks Vance,
Here is a link to Seasoil http://www.seasoil.com/ (wood chip waste mixed with farmed fish plant waste - mostly atlantic salmon) we can buy it bulk, some of us sift it while others don't bother.
I'm hoping that this little fellow will survive but only time will tell. If he makes it to late summer I may take him out and look to see how his roots are doing.
Cheers
G
 
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