Smart start to Bonsai

Share your success stories about defoliation, bare rooting and anything else relating to maintaining healthy bonsai.

Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 8:31 am

Hi all,

I'm new to the community and new to bonsai. Thanks all for your contributions, great thing you've all built here!!

I've taken an interest in Bonsai over the last year. Have done a lot of reading, watched countless videos on youtube and signed up to Mirai Live after really enjoying the free videos like Spring fundamentals. I intend on going to the local club for their next meeting. Last week I went to the Vic Native Bonsai Show and have been really motivated to put all I've learnt so far into practice ever since.

I have a great little collection of tube/small stock that might develop into amazing trees years from now. I'm looking for advice on adding more advanced material to my collection. Like everything else in life - the range of strategies and advice is both overwhelmingly abundant and at times conflicting. Would love some feedback on the below, or anything else people would like to offer to help a beginner's Bonsai journey be as rewarding and enjoyable as possible. Thanks in advance.

Is it worth buying some cheap garden nursery stock that I can prune, wire and repot fearlessly? Or does low potential stock mean low potential to develop my skills?

I haven't visited many bonsai specific nurseries due to the lack in my local area. What is a reasonable price expectation for decent sized material? I'd like something ready for early development and also something more advanced that could transition to the refinement stage within a few years. More committed to good value than a particular species and I don't define value as lowest cost.

Which Bonsai nurseries are can't miss if I do a trip to Melbourne this week? Are Sensation, Collectors World and Bonsai Art all worth a visit?

Which species are people having most success with along the Great Ocean Road, Geelong and Melbourne?

I love native trees, but led to believe they can be difficult for beginners. Intend on a Melaleuca Linariifolia to start, anything better or more reliable to consider?

That's turned into a fair novel for my first post. Thanks again in advance, feel free to colour outside the lines if you have have any advice to offer that doesn't relate to the above.
Cheers

Pat
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby TimJ7 » April 23rd, 2018, 9:50 am

G'day Pat,
My opinion is that it's great to mix it up, as long as you have the budget! Like you, I style a lot of my trees from seedlings, cuttings and small plants, but that is mostly because I don't have heaps of funds. I get good material (including reasonable pots) from local bonsai shows because here in Canberra we get great suppliers that attend each time. And every now and again I spent more for a plant I can really see a design for.
As you are suggesting, I also look for material I don't care too much about to try things on. For this reason I have been digging up or growing from cuttings and seeds things like Pyrocantha, various maples, box and chinese elms from roadsides and friends gardens. This gives me stuff to play with and learn with.
I won't say I have awesome skills, I have some nice plants, but I really just love the process of bonsai. It isn't easy when you can't afford to buy half made or advanced material, but it isn't impossible.
Good luck!
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 10:47 am

Hey Tim,
Thanks for the tips. Hadn’t thought about pyracantha - will have to do some research. We have a bonsai exhibition coming in Melbourne in a few months I’m looking forward to attending for the same reasons as you. I love the process too, it’s also teaching me patience which is a nice counter to my work life. I’ve been squirrelling away funds for a while now hoping to add something to my collection with a bit more “now” factor - Pre bonsai with years head start on my current crop. I’m sure as the years go by the pride and joys of my collection will have started out as twigs. No harm developing skills and an eye for planning in the mean time though.
Cheers
Pat
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Sno » April 23rd, 2018, 10:55 am

One of the best ways to get stock is through airlayers . It's cheap ,you can find really interesting material , get quite advanced stock in a relatively short time frame and it's a good horticultural expierance .it is fairly non invasive ,most people you know wouldn't mind you propagating something from their gardens while they may not be so inclined to let you dig up their gardens .
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 11:15 am

Good onya Sno - love it. Will have to do some research!! Any particular species to keep an eye on (or off) in friends and family’s gardens?
Cheers
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby AllThingsGreen » April 23rd, 2018, 11:24 am

Sno, how long do air layerings take roughly?

I used sphagnum on our fig tree like 3 weeks ago, havent checked it since, just remembered it.
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Sno » April 23rd, 2018, 12:04 pm

Pat3222 wrote:Good onya Sno - love it. Will have to do some research!! Any particular species to keep an eye on (or off) in friends and family’s gardens?
Cheers

I would give most things ago ,you would be surprised what airlayers I've done apples ,maples , leptospermum , podocarpus just to name a few .
AllThingsGreen wrote:Sno, how long do air layerings take roughly?

I used sphagnum on our fig tree like 3 weeks ago, havent checked it since, just remembered it.

That depends . I've had a crab apple as thick as my wrist with enough roots within two months and I've waited three years for another that I started at the same time . I think the difference between the two was one branch was growing vertical and the one that took longer was growing horizontal . The horizontal one kept on drying out ( it was 3 metres up the tree and I was to lazy to get the step ladder out often enough to water it .)
Most I've done get enough roots in a growing season to take off . My climate is sub alpine so it's a shorter season tha most .
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 1:47 pm

Thanks again Sno. Will have to get stuck in!
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby GavinG » April 23rd, 2018, 3:05 pm

Certainly natives are no more difficult than exotics,but the rules are a bit different, and you need to know how each species responds - plenty of information on this website through the search function.

Leptomspermum, Callistemon and Melaleuca are all quite straightforward (don't cut Leptos back past the last green leaves) - choose small-leaf species that are tough and grow good trunks - L laevigatum and Mel. styphelioides and hypericifolia are maybe a good place to start. Get a few tube stock of each species to experiment with, grow them long, quickly, then cut back hard to get an interesting tapering trunk with lots of different angles. We tend to repot natives after the exotics, when it's warmer. Small-leafed Eucalypts are, in my opinion, the bees knees - repot them November-December, keep them well-watered afterwards. E. crenulata, parvula, stellulata, elata, bridgesiana, scoparia all well worth a try. Plenty to choose from. Casuarinas, particularly torulosa and littoralis, are also great.

Good luck.

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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 5:16 pm

Thanks Gavin! Stoked with the info - especially happy to hear you’re such a fan of eucalypts - my fave trees in the bush and I’d heard they were the hardest of all the natives so hadn’t given them much thought as yet. Will now!!
Cheers
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby shibui » April 23rd, 2018, 6:14 pm

I know Gavin thinks Eucs are great but I have found them a bit frustrating to develop into a real tree shape so I don't recommend them for beginning with. Ficus rubiginosa is a great native for bonsai. Virtually bomb proof and possibly the most adaptable bonsai species in the world as long as you can keep it in a frost free environment over winter. I'd also add banksias to the list of natives you have already been given.

As far as value for money in bonsai you will pay more for stock with greater potential. Don't confuse that with getting better potential because you pay more. There are plenty of rip off vendors that prey on unwary beginners offering poor quality 'bonsai' material at inflated prices.
Collecting wild grown trees is a good way to get advanced stock for next to nothing. We've already mentioned pyracantha but also look out for cotoneaster, olive, elms, plum, etc which grow as weeds along roadsides and in paddocks.
Garden plants can also be converted. Azaleas can be great and very easy to transplant and respond to cutting back. Gardens with larger maples will usually have lots of seedlings you can use. Junipers are a little harder to transplant but can be great trees if they survive. Buxus, Callistemon, Melaleuca, Banksia and a whole lot more species can be found in gardens. Look for friends and relatives who are renovating gardens or planning extensions.

The 3 nurseries you listed are all worth visiting. So is Baloc - I think he is in Ardeer? Bodhidarma is also not too far away from you and will look after you very well in my experience.
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Muddy » April 23rd, 2018, 6:23 pm

I'll give a +1 to bonsai shows & local clubs for pre-bonsai stock. Much cheaper than most nurseries I've been to, & plenty of helpful advice with the purchase too!
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 7:32 pm

Thanks Neil! Really appreciate your advice. I have two Port Jackson tubes that are a few years away, one is a bit straight but I’ve got it earmarked for some wire on the weekend. Will add Bodhidharma and Baloc to my list. I grew up in Shepp, next time I’m up North I’ll check in with you at Shibui. Thanks again!!

Cheers Muddy - Will be hitting the shows and my local club. Really looking forward to The National Convention in July too!
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby shibui » April 23rd, 2018, 7:45 pm

PJs will take all the fertiliser you can give them and respond quickly. No root pruning at this time of year this far south but they might enjoy being slip potted into a slightly larger pot for the winter. Next summer bare root, cut the roots severely and pot into a larger pot for maximum growth.
By all means wire trunks if you want to or think it will be useful but I prefer to develop these by growing and cutting.
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Re: Smart start to Bonsai

Postby Pat3222 » April 23rd, 2018, 8:40 pm

I’ll have to take a picture of the PJ tomorrow and get your thoughts.

Pyracantha got a few mentions here. This arvo I happened across a few PDF’s of old Bonsai Today magazines from 1991. Just opened the first one and there’s a Pyracantha Duvalii on the cover.

Cheers
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