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help needed

Posted by sluice z5b CO (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 2, 10 at 0:46

Hi, I'd like to learn more about bonsai. I don't know that much, except that it looks good!

Here is an engelmann spruce I found with the trunk growing horizontally, and then upward, out from the side of a mound of dirt.

I turned it 90 degrees, and planted it with the base of the trunk set vertically. It's been in this pot for about a year.

Any suggestions for how it could be grown as bonsai? Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: help needed

Great tree, Sluice!
It's wonderful to see you in this neck of the woods, as it were. ;)

Some excellent advice will be along shortly.

Josh


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RE: help needed

Thanks Josh, I'm excited to give bonsai a try!

Since the tree has a sideways growing trunk, one of my thoughts was to head in this general direction.

I'm interested in what others with experience might say. Eg. "something like that might work" or "not a chance!"


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RE: help needed

Hi,

Nice spruce. I like your idea for its style. I suggest you let it grow untrained for some time. Just remember that bonsai is a slow but rewarding process. If you plant your tree in a large container or in the ground and let it grow untouched for a couple of years it will make a perfect bonsai.

I had to face it the hard way. In the beginning I couldn't wait to prune and style my trees. That really hurt if not completely stopped my progression into bonsai. Some of my trees died from too much pruning. Plus, when you prune a tree back to small, the trunk will not thicken up. Since I had the need to "work" with my plants and bonsai trees, I needed to get myself more material. If all you have is one or two trees and all of them are in the beginning of training, it will take some time to have a "finished" bonsai. I'm just telling you this so its in the back of your mind. All it really needs is water, good soil, root space, some fertilizer and time. Oh, and every once in a while, love it and talk to it. I really do like your style preference. In time you will have enough branches to give it that nice style.

Good luck and have fun,
Gardener Guy


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RE: help needed

There are two major things you should consider. First: you have planted the tree upside down. The top of the tree was growing in the other direction you now have it faced. Second: You need to look to the inside of the tree and examine the primary and secondary branching to get some sort of idea where this tree can be taken. I agree with not pruning too much at this point, this tree is not much over seven years old and the trunk needs to thicken. Having said that does not necessarily mean you leave the tree alone to grow without guidance. But; before you can decide what direction you need to guide the tree you have to discover what the branching looks like.


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RE: help needed

Thanks Gardener Guy and Vance,

I appreciate the advice. I could either plant this in a larger container or in the ground. I suppose fall would be the best time?

I don't mind waiting to work on the tree, although if there are some things I can do now without doing too much damage I would like to get started this year!

When replanting, do I need to reposition the tree in the orientation it was originally found?

I took a closer look at the branches today. The pictures below show the main trunk (yellow). Also shown (ranked by branch diameter) are the first largest branch (red), the second largest branch (blue), and the third largest branch (pink).

This is about as far as I have the tree sketched out, but can add more details if that's useful.

Thanks again,
Nate


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 6, 10 at 12:07

I've been looking at your post for a couple of days off & on. It's really difficult for anyone to give specific directions w/o having the tree in hand, but there are some general comments that might be made. I'm not sure if they'll be lost on you, because you're a sort of newcomer, but I'll muse a little & you can see what you think.

Unless you change the planting angle by at least somewhere around 45*, you're likely looking at a windswept or semi-cascade style. I'd opt for the cascade. I have one windswept in my collection because everyone with a tree they don't know what to do with makes it into a windswept. You have soo many options at this point, particularly in view of the fact that you CAN change the planting angle, making options practically unlimited. The only styles that would be hard to squeeze out of the tree are full cascade or formal upright. Because you'll want to build taper into the tree, you should be looking at one of the first branches on the trunk as the main, or one of the main trunk lines if you choose a twin trunk, which would suit the tree well.

Like Vance mentioned, you don't want to remove too much foliage because you want the trunk to fatten, so you can look at things two ways. Return the plant to the ground & let it fatten up, or keep it in a training pot & start working on it a little.

If it was my tree, I would aim toward styling it in a semi-cascade with two trunks. One of the trunks (the secondary trunk) would come from the branch that originates on the inside of the arch just above the soil line, or the other branch just above it. I would wire those branches horizontal so they are not shaded & they get plenty of sun. The main trunk would eventually be jinned, but for now, I would allow it to grow as a sacrifice branch & jin it later. I think the main trunk line is in the branch marked in red, immediately above my post. It moves downward & then back up, or you can wire it that way. The secondary trunk would be below that one and closer to the viewer. You would decide if the tree moves to the right or left based on nebari and branch placement.

So - I would wire the branch at the soil line down, or if you lose that one in the wiring, wire the next one up. (Wire both & jin the one you don't use). Then I would make sure enough sun is getting to your choice of a main branch, which might require removing those branches that are shading it. Let the branches toward the end of the main trunk grow wild to fatten the trunk - you can jin it when you start the finer wiring & ramification.

It's really difficult to tell from pictures. I might see something entirely different with the tree in hand, but it's good to remember your options are many and that you need to be thinking about a trunk line that offers taper, which means you'll need to utilize secondary and tertiary branching for your trunk(s).

It's an interesting tree & it would be fun to watch it develop.

Al


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RE: help needed

Great advice!

For reference, Sluice is a long-time conifer enthusiast.
He's a hiker, photographer, and a conifer grafter, too. In short, he's a quick study.

Josh


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 6, 10 at 14:59

Ahhh - that's great, Josh (& Sluice). I see lots of people come to bonsai for short stays, but few are willing to pay the dues required to gain enough knowledge that they can consistently keep their trees alive and in good vitality. The revolving door tree policy quickly becomes too frustrating, so they move on. Someone who already HAS the skill set needed to keep trees happy in containers would indeed be a natural. I wish you well. Heck - I wish EVERYONE who enjoys bonsai well. ;o)

Al


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RE: help needed

Thanks Josh!
It's true that I've been interested in conifers for a long time, although to be honest I've only been growing them for about two years.
But it's been a busy two years to say the least! I've killed plenty of trees during that time, so hopefully I'm learning something. ;)

Al,
I appreciate your guidance for this tree. I will try the semi-cascade with two trunks. I did some initial wiring this morning, and this is the way I understand your plan.
Yellow - main trunk, will be jinned later.
Pink - will be secondary trunk
Red - main trunk line
Green - will be jinned
Question, the blue branch seems to be shading the red one, should I remove the blue to allow more light to reach the red?

Thanks,
Nate


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 7, 10 at 11:14

Send me your email addy & I'll send a sketch of what I envision when I look at your tree.

Al


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 7, 10 at 17:35

I know it's hard to tell w/o the tree in hand, but I think the tree could very easily be taken in this direction, if Nate takes a shine to it. It utilizes the currently small branch coming off the the outside of the curve where the main trunk starts to turn horizontal. The two main branches that occur where the trunk forks are both eventually jinned. The tree would also look fine with just 2 foliage pads. Comments? Criticisms? Suggestions? (of the concept, not the artwork. I KNOW that's bad!) ;o)

Photobucket


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RE: help needed

I think it looks sick! A compliment 'round these parts! ;)


Josh


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RE: help needed

Al,

I think it's fantastic! Overall, one thing I didn't expect is the idea of jinning the larger branches. I would have tried to use their foliage as the main feature. But I now see how it helps develop the taper. Also, I read on the internet that in the two trunk style, the foliage from the two trunks can form a single crown, and it looks like your sketch does that with the pads lined up like that.

Now that the tree is wired, I guess the next step is to let it grow for a while? Is there anything else I need to do? I could give an update next year on the trunk thickness.

Thanks again for your help!

Nate


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 8, 10 at 8:36

If you're happy with the sketch, you should wire the branch you'll be using off the top of the curve in the general direction it wants to go later, while it's still young & easy to wire. Make sure you wire your branches with movement in them - no graceful arcs - you want 3 dimensional movement.

Other than that, try to keep the orientation to the sun the same, which means you might need to twist a branch a little to orient branches to the same amount of sun. If you flip a branch over when you wire it, it often dies or sheds the foliage before replacing it. You want to make sure the important branches are soaked in sun, but leave all the small branches you can (that don't shade the main branches as sacrifice branches and for later jins. You don't necessarily need to remove interfering branches. IOW, if the two large branches that will later be jins are shading something, just remove the offending foliage and allow that branch to extend beyond the bounds of your composition. It will fatten the tree & you can still jin it at any time - prolly when the tree is ready to go in a pot (2-3 years).

It's not too early (spring) to remove some strips of bark in strategic places to create shari. You can gradually increase the size as the tree grows.

Last thing - after you wire that branch coming off the outside top of the arc down into it's rough position, wire the first little branch coming off of it in the opposite direction and slightly downward, as opposed to to the right and slightly upward like the larger branch. You may want later to add it as part of the composition by eliminating the middle foliage pad (or use it as a jin) or adding another so there are 5 foliage pads. Try to avoid 4 pads on compositions like yours and stick to 1,2,3,5, or 7. After 7, it doesn't matter how many pads their are because your eye is unable to discern if the number is odd or even. The same numbers apply when you're creating forest/clump/grove plantings as well.

Do keep us posted as to your progress, Nate.

Thanks, Josh!

Al


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RE: help needed

Al,

Thanks for the additional pointers. I'm looking forward to incorporating these plans into the tree.

For the shari, how much bark (e.g. area, depth) can be removed, and where on the tree?

Nate


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RE: help needed

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 9, 10 at 9:42

As you look at the picture above, you can start by removing a thin strip of bark up the center of the trunk starting just above the soil line and leading into the 2 branches you're going to jin. Eventually, most of the trunk you can see, all the way into the jins would be deadwood, arrived at by gradually widening the sharimiki in whatever pattern you feel looks best.

Hopefully, you'll find a club to join and one of the experienced members can give you better guidance than I can by looking at pictures. There's no substitute for having the tree in hand and being able to look at it from all angles & assess the possibilities.

Al


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RE: help needed

Al,

Sounds good, thanks again. I will see if I can get to a club meeting.

Nate


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