Couple of projects #2

This sub-Forum is for posts on the basics of Bonsai, handy tips and other useful ideas to get you started on your own Bonsai. If you are new to Bonsai, read here before posting queries as you may find the answer. Ask questions on the main Bonsai forum and if the answer is of general interest it will end up here.

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Couple of projects #2

Postby Pam » Mon Mar 05, 2007 4:04 pm

Once again, my apologies to those who have been waiting for these posts to appear. :oops:

For the second project, the idea is to select a plant that you would like to bonsai. For those who have little or no experience creating a bonsai but would like to give it a go, this is a great opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and generous help of our more experienced members.

The way it is envisaged this would work is that you would post a pic of your plant, as is, before you do anything to it, probably giving a clear shot of the plant's trunk if possible. Our experienced members would then make suggestions regarding what you could do with the plant, and a bit of an outline on how to go about it. It is your tree, and what you inevitably end up doing with it is basically your decision.

When you are satisfied with what you have done, you would then post another pic if you needed, and you would be talked and guided through the steps of selecting a plant, right through to getting it ready for, and then potted, into a bonsai pot.

Having seen some of the work of some of our bonsai artists here, I can honestly say that I think this is an awesome opportunity, and one that I really wish was available to me in the days when I was first starting out in Bonsai. I'd definitely have ended up with some far less mediocre looking plants than I had at the time.

My suggestion would be for each individual to start their own post, so as to keep things more straightforward for those who are giving their time so generously. Feel free to ask lots of questions - that is how you learn, and hopefully avoid unnecessary mistakes.
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Postby taffyman » Mon Mar 05, 2007 11:12 pm

Hi people. I think what Pam has suggested here is a great idea and I'll be very happy to be involved in it. So, let's see where we go from here.
I'm quite happy to give advice and help on the 'Broadleaf' and Deciduous trees if Ash is happy to take the Junipers and Conifers.
First off, when you have your tree (more about that shortly), take a few photos of it. One from the front showing the whole tree and if you can get a clear photo, one of the major part of the trunk fairly close up. This will give us some idea of what you are working with - maybe even one from the back. The other reason for taking photos is for your own benefit so you can see how the tree develops as it goes along. You will be very surprised in a year or two the difference from the first photo to what it looks like then. I take photos of my trees quite regularly because I have a database with all my trees catalogued.
It might be an idea if when you post your first photos, you call your post by your name and project on the end - something like 'Taffy's project' or 'TheE's project'. That way we can keep track of who is in the game and it will keep them seperate from other posts.
Now, to tree selection. It will be better for first timers or novices if you select a tree that is easy to work with, rewards you with fairly quick results - and is as 'Bullet proof' as possible. I'll put a bit of a list at the end of this post to give you some idea. Most of the material I have home here is a bit more advanced than what you are liable to find in a nursery, so I will go out and find something in a nursery then I can work on it alongside you people. What you need to look for is something with the thickest trunk you can find (not necessarily the tallest), with the most branches. More branches means more choice of style and more choice of which to keep and which to cut off (don't forget, most cuttings are potentially future trees). The other thing to look for is the root structure just below the soil surface in the pot. Using a bit of stick or even your finger, GENTLY move the soil away to expose the uppermost roots. If most of the roots come out only on one side, see if you can find another tree. If they are fairly evenly spread radiating away (and all around) the trunk - like a star with the tree in the centre - that is the one you want. An even spread will give a more balanced tree in the long run. It is highlyunlikely you will find one with a perfect spread but find the best you can.
As Ash said in Project #1 you will need some basics, like wire and some basic tools so have a look at what he wrote about it. The side-cutters Ash is referring to I think are what I call Branch cutters - and that is an essential. They give a clean cut and leave a slight depression that will callous over evenly if you have removed a branch or twig. Japanese tools are expensive - but good, Chinese ones will do the job quite adequately but won't last as long as the Japanese ones. If you only intend to have one or two trees then I'd recommend you find the Chinese equivalents - they are about half the price and will do the job for many years. I have both, so I'm not biased either way. Also, if you need to remove some decent sized branches you will need some way of protecting the wound while it callouses over. We use a product called 'Cut Paste'. It looks and feels like the Plasticine we used to play with as kids, but it has plant hormones and other stuff in it to help the wound heal. Trouble is, it's expensive stuff! If you have a 'Warehouse' or a craft shop close to you, go and get yourself some plasticine - it will do the job quite adequately. A card of ten different colours in 'The Warehouse' is $2.00. The same amount of proper cut paste is $25.00 - your call people. I use both. In fact, I mixed all the coloured plasticine together until it was a uniform grey, and put it in an empty Japanese cut paste container and unless I take the time to smell it, I can't tell the difference - even the colour is the same, so half the time I don't know what I'm using.
Well, there you go guys, Go find your trees and let's have some fun :D
Here's a list of some suitable trees but it isn't complete, so see what you can find and what you will be happy with.
Ficus - Benjamina (preferrably one with small leaves) - Just about bullet proof
Serissa - with the thickest trunk you can find, unless you want a very small tree. Suckers a lot from the roots so needs a lot of tending to keep them under control but can make attractive trees
Ulmus Parvifolia - Chinese Elm - relatively slow growing (usually only from Bonsai Nurseries)
Zelkova Serata - Japanese Elm - relatively slow growing (usually only from Bonsai Nurseries)
Cotoneaster - good
Pyracantha - Fire thorn - Just about bullet proof
Crataegus - Hawthorn - Just about bullet proof
Murraya Panniculata - Jasmine Orange, Orange Jessamine, Mock Orange or whatever you want to call it - good. Min-a-Min is and excellent dwarf variety of of the original Murraya
Meterosiderus Excelsa - New Zealand Christmas Bush. Quick growing, throws aerial roots like a fig (Humid climates) very long lived - 400 years plus.
Have fun, life is way too short for anything else
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