What to do?


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I have a few questions as a complete beginner...

Early spring when the trees wake up and start to push out these long shoots/branches all over the place, should you control the length of them or should one leave them to grow out? Up to now I always shortened them to keep the form of the tree more or less to what I have in mind.

How common is root splitting to develop the roots/nebari and if, how should it be done properly?

At this moment in time, I still fail to see the bonsai in the tree. What is the best advice to develop this? Up to now, I looked at as many photos of bonsai as possible, but this quality seems to be very elusive?

I just want to add that in the last 2 days since I joined this forum, I really learned a lot and I want to thank you all for your passion. Its showing.


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NW Oregon

It depends on what you want to do with your tree as far as letting new growth grow long or prune it back. If you want to thicken a branch or grow a sacrafice branch then you would let it grow wild for the most part. If you want to build ramification then you would pinch or prune back not letting the growth run wild. So, I guess it all depends on what stage the tree is in and what your goals are. Does that make sense?

Root splitting is an advanced technique that should be done under the guidance of a very experienced person. I could be wrong with that statement since I have never done it myself. I am sure several here have split roots in the past. I would really do some research on this before trying it.

Seeing the bonsai in the tree....... This comes with time, experience and exposure to lots and lots of good trees. What helped me was when I started trimming trees in the field. There are over 15k trees in the ground. After a few days of that you get really fast at making decisions and starting to see the tree. Combine that with bieng around a large amount of world class collected materail and it really helps your eye and learning curve. But I am sorry, everyone is different and there isn't that magic pill yet..... Keep reading books, studying pictures and if you can join a club and get to know the more advanced people in the club that will be a big help. If they invite you to thier garden and eventually you can work with them then your learning curve will really start to take off.

Welcome to "The Nut", enjoy your stay and learn as much as you can. And seriously try to join a local club or participate in workshops, those 2 things are huge for learning.

Good luck,



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Kyle, Texas USA
How common is root splitting to develop the roots/nebari and if, how should it be done properly?

Mr./Ms. gve,

Welcome to the wonderful world of 'artistic potted trees'...Mr. Jason has given some very good thoughts on trimming and pruning...We do these things according to the growth we desire to achieve...More leaves [wild growth] means more growth and thickness to everything below the leaf...

Concerning the technique of splitting roots, this depends largely on the species involved, and the desired result...It is a process that I would not recommend one to do with their best material until you have some experience...Like trunk or branch splitting it is one of the techniques we use only on rare occasions, and usually only if other techniques are not an option...Some species like most ficus, bougainvillea, and elm, to name a few will result in nearly 100% success...Root shaving [removal of a portion of the bottom side of a root], is sometimes used to allow one to place roots in a more pleasing position, and I have found to be a more 'safe' procedure...On either process one should treat the area that is cut as a 'ground layer'...I usually use rooting hormone and completely surround the cut with moist sphagnum moss then cover the whole area with bonsai soil to help retain moisture...

Perhaps others with experience will also comment on their results...This is one of those techniques that is not contained in most of the books available...I don't recall ever reading about it in a book...


:) :) :)


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South Texas
If I may suggest.Don't look for the bonsai in the tree.....look for the tree in the bonsai.

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