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Thread: Starting Bonsai Help

  1. #1
    Hear the Call of Nepenthes carnivoure12's Avatar
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    Starting Bonsai Help

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been wanting to get into bonsai for a while, and I've done some research. Many websites offer a lot of information about care, shaping, pruning etc.

    But I've found that they tend to be vague about choosing a specimen, this is what is holding me back. I have no idea which tree to use, and when I choose one, what do I do next?

    So basically I'm asking for information about choosing a species for an outdoor Bonsai (I live in Canada), and one for an indoor bonsai, I've had a ficus in mind.

    What size should it be? Do I immediately plant it into a bonsai pot, or what do I do with it? After I plant it what should be the first steps?

    I would like to thank everyone in advanced.
    -Carnivoure12
    →Growlist

  2. #2
    instigator thez_yo's Avatar
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    I think you can make a bonsai out of pretty much any plant you want.. you're essentially just making the plant smaller than it actually would be naturally by pruning it to the shape that you want. Bonsai comes from Japan doesn't it? They have seasons there so maybe look up what outdoor bonsais the bonsai-masters used to make trees from over there as a starting point. And if maple turns out being on that list, I love maples and would love to see how it would turn out

    I made an indoor bonsai once and it was potted in one of those long, shallow bonsai pots; potting soil was really just unscented, non-clumping cat litter, there's a bonsai-wire thing you can buy to train any branches you need to adjust, and you need sharp clippers too to cut things that need to go. It was some small pine-y tree, not sure which one though. Considering the lack of moisture retention of the "soil", you're going to have to water pretty often like with orchids potted in plain old bark if not more, but otherwise I don't think they need special care.

  3. #3
    Aristoloingulamata Dexenthes's Avatar
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    If you're doing it outdoor in Canada, I don't think a ficus would enjoy it too much, but I could be wrong.

    If I were you I'd try a hardy deciduous tree or a conifer that grows semi-locally in your area. You can try it with let's say an oak tree, or a cedar of some kind.

    From what I know, like Thez said, you can do it with most any plant.

    Something I've really wanted to try is making a bonsai Nepenthes. Their growth habit is just such a way that I don't know if it's possible or not.
    LOOKING FOR: N. (argentii x bicalcarata) x {[(lingulata x edwardsiana) x (naga x hamata)] x [(klossii x undulatifolia) x (aristolochioides x rajah)]} Growlist: http://www.terraforums.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=124586

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    Copper's Avatar
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    If you are looking to do a tree that will produce a wonderful bonsai in short order look at getting an Orange Osage. These trees grow widely in the Midwest of America. There seeds come in a large ball that is about the size of a softball. The cattle, deer and elk eat them and then deposit the seeds in their droppings. The seeds will not germinate unless this has happened so do not except seeds from the Osage. The Osage copies the look of an ancient, bent up tree with in a year or two of growth. This is its natural course! Very little wire work is needed, except to set the tree of course.

    The best way to start any tree for bonsai is to set it in the ground, not a container. Most trees will need to be left in the soil for a good while, years even, to thicken the trunk. This is not so with the Orange Osage. From start to finish the Orange Osage is remarkably symetrical tree. I will see if I can get a couple for you. You can get them off of Ebay as well.

    Before planting the tree into the ground you need to cut the main tap root. After completing that you need to set the tree in a trench and spread the side roots out. Do not let the roots go down into the ground. This shallow root base is necessary to get the tree into a pot later. As the tree grows you need to check this roots and make sure that the do not get very long. Small roots will grow out of these side root and will feed the plant. The tree can not be allowed to get to dry because you have a very small root base feeding it. It is not as important while it is in the ground, but once it goes into a pot you will be watering it a few times a day.

    Do you need more now or is that enough info? Would you like a different tree? We need discuss soil layering, Bonsai styles, tray...oh so much. This is another wonderful hobby. I like to collect from the farms around. They get to thick with trees and I can select some good specimens. The problem with this is that the tap root may be to developed.

    ---------- Post added at 08:31 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:02 AM ----------

    Dex is right. Do not grow a fiscus outside. However I would not go with an oak. An oak is a difficult tree to work with. You must cause the tree to grow smaller leaves and this is a trick that takes a lot of experience. Look more to a Juniper. You have many choices a styles with the Juniper. They are a pleasure to work with. Pick your Juniper on the size of the needle leaves and the size you plan on growing the tree to. The outside Bonsai can be a larger specimen. The larger a Bonsai the easier it is to keep alive. Bonsai can be from a few inches tall (very difficult) to approximately four feet. Again, this tree would start in the ground. The ground method is the only way to get a nice thick trunk unless you buy a type that grows a thick trunk from the start.

    What tools do you have?
    I am just like a Super Hero, but without the power or motivation.................and the funky suit.

  5. #5
    Copper's Avatar
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    You can not make a bonsai out of any plant, but there are many that you can. You also need to find companion plants for them, but that is about the last thing to worry about. As far as soil mix, that kitty litter soil will not keep the bonsai (any decent bonsai) alive for very long. The art of Bonsai is more then keeping a miniature tree alive (which is difficult at best), but to do so while copying nature as closely as possible. Nature does not use and absorbent clay material as a topsoil base. You will not need to worry about the soil layering until the tree is ready for a tray and there is a way to go before that happens. Bonsai is an art of patience. If you can not work and wait for the prize do not get started in it. Wait ever you do, do not go out and grab a cheap bonsai to start with. I have bought them and with the intent of putting them in to proper care. They are very poor bonsai and the proper root base was never allowed to develop. Fiscus and jade are often used in the making of disposable Bonsai. It is a sad slaughter. Start slowly, plant choice is first. If you are just looking for a Bonsai to please you then look carefully. Look at the limbs of the tree. Is there a pleasing structure. Is the tree healthy? If you plan on radical bends and the do not come naturally to the tree then make sure that it is very flexible. If you want a contest tree then you first must decide on the style you wish to make and choose the tree from there. There are different trees for different Bonsai styles. You do not want a rigid tree for a cascade. I will write more about that later. This is just mainly to get a point across of the work that a real, healthy, beautiful Bonsai takes.

    Soil, argh. Soil needs to be done in a layering method, just as the earth does in real life. Dig a deep hole, a few miles, in the ground and what do you find? Layers. You need a bedrock substitute on the bottom, then you work from large to fine. There are sieves for this task.

    Bonsai, what does it mean? Miniature tree? No. It actually refers to the pot, but it is the art of growing a tree in a container. To make a bonsai you must use regular tree stock, not a miniature stock. That is growing a miniature tree and is another art form. Fiscus trees and other Wally world favorites are in this group. When you look at buying a tree you will see that some tree saplings have already been prepared for Bonsai. This means that the top has been cut off the tree. This has to be done so that you can make the small (not miniature) tree appear to be tall. A real tree tapers as it grows, but to taper, unless it naturally does early, you must make the tree thin toward the top. To copy this the top of the tree sapling is removed and replaced by one of the trees limbs. Limbs taper as they move away from the center of the tree so you cut of the top and bend a limb up to take its place.

    Again, enough for now. Are you up for this art form? Can you use it as a method of relaxation as it was intended? Will you take the time to do it right? I am again going to start growing bonsai as well. I had twelve and was sunning them. The neighborhood kids stole or destroyed them all. No more sunning them in the open. Oh, Yeah, you will have to make a special location for them and probably build Bonsai benches. Again, that is for much later. A Bonsai artist knows that he is creating a masterpiece for the future and he or she will never see the completed, as Bonsai are never completed, but they have a beauty that is unmatched. A beauty of the love and care that has gone into it and the beauty of the pleasure that it has given.
    I am just like a Super Hero, but without the power or motivation.................and the funky suit.

  6. #6
    Millipede's Avatar
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    use a tree that has small leaves. bonsai mimic large old trees so having a tiny tree with large leaves really doesnt produce this effect very well.
    my dad has a couple bonsai he started with chestnut trees. the leaves are HUGE on a 12 inch tall trunk. kinda stupid looking if you ask me. ive never told him this tho :P

    i personally like the way elm tree leaves look amd theyre cold hardy

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    Taliesin-DS's Avatar
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    Copper has allrdy said most there is to say but i'd like to add some more things.
    Dont try to follow all the bonsai rules bec websites say you must, do it the way you like.
    If you like large leaved bonsai's, make one with large leaves imho :P
    Its not about making a proper "japanese" bonsai imho, but about what you like.
    For indoor bonsai this is a great website with info on how to make something nice fast http://www.fukubonsai.com/
    It focuses mainly on schefflera's wich are nice if you like that kind of bonsai with tons of aerial roots.
    my growlist: http://terraforums.com/forums/showth...306#post976306
    My pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/taliesin-ds/

    <Exo> @Talie......You are the lord of all things blah....

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    mobile's Avatar
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