Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

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Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby FLgarden » Tue Dec 25, 2007 12:39 pm

Well, I'm pretty much 100% new to bonsai, and 6 months new to gardening in general. I did have a ficus bonsai at one point, but it was knocked over and died :shock:

I just got a new place and there's a bunch of trees/shrubs I want to take from my landscaping beds (only looking for 1 specimen tho) to bonsai, but had some questions about how this goes.

For instance, is there a ceiling on trunk thickness / overall height that I need to keep in mind before taking a small tree out and potting it?

I know the very, very rough basics of clipping and shaping, but this will be my first time trying to start a plant of my own and not a store bought bonsai. If I had a 4' tall tree, can I use that? Would I just cut it back a few feet, then transplant? Or transplant then cut? Ahhh I'm so confused, sorry for the ignorance and thanks for any replies or tips!! <<oh and merry/happy holidays!>>
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby taffyman » Wed Dec 26, 2007 10:36 pm

Hi FlG and welcome to the forum.
In my opinion, material dug from the garden, or discarded stuff from nurseries etc make some of the best trees for Bonsai - and the larger the better :lol: .
There is no real ceiling on the height of a Bonsai. I've seen some over 6 feet tall, and I've seen them an inch high. I have a fig in a pot that only measures 3 inches from side to side and less than 3/4 inch deep with a ficus that at the moment measures about 2 1/2 inches high. With regards to trunk thickness - no, there is no ceiling on the thickness of the trunk either. Have a look at these links and you'll see some pretty thick but fairly short trunks, and material I got from an ordinary garden nursery:
http://www.gardenexpress.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=8238 http://www.gardenexpress.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=4922

In the first link, those were taken from someones garden a couple of years ago. In the second link you'll see a Twin Trunk Benjamina - and how I was able to create it, and here are a couple of other links to the same tree after about 18 months from initial creation. That particular one has been entered in three shows now, and has achieved a 2nd place, two 1st places , Reserve Champion and Champion so I'm pleased with how this tree has developed.

http://www.gardenexpress.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=8028

That's the sort of thing you can create from garden and nursery stock.
It depends on what type of trees you are intending to dig up as to how you should treat them, but generally, If you reduce the height and are able to leave some foliage on the lower part then they should be fine. I wouldn't be putting it straight into a Bonsai pot though because usually when you dig trees out of a garden bed there are very few - if any feeder roots. The majority of the tree's feeder roots will be on the ends of the roots left in the ground when you cut them to remove the tree. As a general rule, the feeder roots are directly below the drip line of the tree. It would be better to transplant it into a large container until the tree develops some new feeder roots - I usually use styrene vegetable boxes from our local market, but you could also use one of those large tubs with rope handles from Bunnings (with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage), or if the roots you take with the tree are too long for one of those, Bunnings also sell large rectangular black plastic tubs up to 160 litre capacity (I have a variegated chinese elm in one of those - stands close to 7 feet tall at the moment). another option it to make a suitable box out of timber - but I wouldn't use treated pine unless you completely seal the timber first.
If you dig your tree out of the ground and sever a lot of roots then you do need to drastically reduce the foliage otherwise the tree will run out of energy and branches will start dying off - you could conceivably lose the entire tree. I personally would cut the trunk down enough to leave some foliage on it. When it develops new roots and puts out some new growth then you can decide the finished height of your tree and what branches you wish to keep and which ones you should remove.
I hope this gives you some idea of how to go about it - post again if I can be of any more help to you.
By the way, what type of trees are you considering - and what area do you live in? You can fill in your city/town or general area on your profile page.
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby FLgarden » Fri Dec 28, 2007 2:43 am

Thank you soo much for all your help!! Very informative!

As far as location, I'm in central FL, a few minutes from the gulf.

Species, hmmm, well there was this tree in my backyard that's got ~1" thick trunk, probably a height of 4', and splits into a "V" at ~1.5' off the ground. I was thinking of taking that one, cutting each of the 'v' tips a bit back, and working to spread them more into a "T" shape (espallier? <sp?>). Nothing special, mostly just to mess around / practice.

*But*, now I've bit off a bit more than I can chew, so if you or anyone else can help, please let me know asap!!

I got a little overly ambitious on this after reading your accounts of those steals you found at those nurseries, and stumbled onto my own steals, at least I think so <pretty sure!>. I just found two ficus specimens, in pots, one 6', one 10'!

The problem - I don't know the person, nor do I have a clue what I'm doing!! I don't even have any means of moving these guys! <well the 10' one anyways! Just drive a sedan, not a truck!> Do you think I could cut the 10', and maybe even the 6', down while in their pots? Any quick crash course ideas you can give me? I could always go rent a truck (~$20 for the move since the trees are very local to me), but if I can just cut them a little bit they could easily sit through my sunroof <I do this kind of frequently but with palm species>.

Any tips on whether those specimens are good, what to do with actual acquisition, etc would be huuugely appreciated! I hope I hear back from him/her today and they're still available!! I know ficus must be an okay specimen, as I actually owned a store-bought bonsai a lil while back in college and it was a ficus (Y)
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby Sam » Fri Dec 28, 2007 7:17 am

Hi FLGarden and welcome.

I take it you're in Florida, USA? You can update your profile so that this always shows (then we stop asking!)

Hope you have fun here.
“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian, wine and tarragon
make it French, sour cream makes it Russian, lemon and
cinnamon make it Greek, soya sauce makes it Chinese, Garlic
makes it good.” Alice May Brock, Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook.
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby FLgarden » Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:23 am

Updated :mrgreen:

Any tips on how to approach these? I'm starting to worry I won't even be able to get them, the person hasn't called me back yet :x . Hopefully they will, I have to presume a 6' and 10' ficus pickup for free, both in containers, is a pretty good find right?
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby lmrk » Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:22 pm

Oooww.........and overseas member!!!

Welcome FLgarden!!! :D
Does a watched bonsai ever grow?
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby taffyman » Sun Dec 30, 2007 8:21 pm

Hi Flg. Now you're talking my language - Figs! I love 'em. I have 18 different species of figs. No problem with the figs, cut them off at whatever height will fit into your car. Figs are just about bullet-proof, and they will re-shoot in a fairly short time. No need to leave any foliage on them at all. Not knowing your climate in Florida at this time of the year, if it gets near zero degrees, you may need to give them a bit of winter protection like a shade-house or glass-house, or even under an existing tree or on a veranda. When you cut them, see if you can cut just above a node on the trunk where hopefully a branch will sprout from, and cut at an angle back down the trunk. Don't cut it straight off horizontally - it's difficult to get a good shape back in the tree if that is done. Something like the picture below will be fine. Don't worry about the pic showing a branch on the right hand side (I used this as an example on another post), but a node (little bump) in that position would be good.
Image
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Re: Questions on tree selection for a bonsai specimen

Postby FLgarden » Sun Jan 06, 2008 1:53 am

Thanks for the tips!

They never called back, someone must've beaten me to them!

Looks like I'll be waiting on my aerial layering or some of my cuttings to start rooting to have some materials!!
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