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Starting out wrong ends up badly!

So as the title of my blog suggests, I am only beginning my bonsai journey and therefore have a lot to learn. I had intended, as I do with most things, to learn as I go but after speaking to a few people on the internet and doing a little research, I am starting over with a different perspective.

If you look back at my previous posts, you will see that the tree’s I have and the way I was caring for them is riddled with mistakes. Luckily a few people pointed out my mistakes and misplaced enthusiasm and suggest I go back to the drawing board and get a little more information on the art.

I’ve always been a great proponent to the theory ‘Listen to people who are a lot smarter than you’ so I have taken their advice.

After a short time reading through a website suggested by one of the guys I was talking to, I soon realised there is a lot more to bonsai than I first realised. ┬áThe website I am talking about is http://www.bonsai4me.com. I have also been watching a video series on YouTube called ‘The Bonsai Art of Japan.’ Whilst this is way ahead of anything I will be able to produce, it really gave me an insight into what can be achieved with years of dedication and it showed that patience and the right understanding of every little detail of your tree, climate and techniques is essential to creating authentic bonsai. Once you realise the level that these guys are working at, you will quickly realise the skill and knowledge it takes to even keep one of these tree’s alive.

So I have gone back to the drawing board. As we are mid-season, I will leave the trees that I have already made mistakes on and look at them again next spring. They are all showing good signs of growth so hopefully I have not caused too much damage.

So what to do between now and Spring?!?

Well there is one simple answer to that question…………………. Reading!!

As I have no tree’s to work on over the summer and autumn months, I intend to gather a few new tree’s together to start working with in spring. I can do some initial pruning on these to keep the growth heading in the right direction but the vast majority of my time will be spent reading, watching video’s and talking to people. I will continue to post to the blog with new finds and with some of the stuff I have learnt along the way.

Hopefully by Spring of next year, I will be a little more educated in the beginner techniques and I can start my tree’s the right way. If anyone has any advice or useful websites or books they would like to share, please feel free to get in touch via the comments section below. All information will be gratefully received.

Getting my nursery Choisya into a training pot

It was a nice sunny day so I decided to get my Choisya Aztec Pearl into a training pot. So here is a walkthrough of the process I went through.
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This is the plant before I started. It already has some nice shape to become a short broom style tree but it will need a little bit of work to get it there.

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The first step was to do a little pruning. As its the first pruning and I’m intending to prune the roots down I didn’t want to go too mad, so I just thinned out some of the branches and shortened some of them. As there is not a lot of growth towards the main trunk, I couldn’t shorten them as much as I would like so it’s still a little tall for my liking.

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Next I removed the nursery pot and loosened the roots. I didn’t have to trim that many roots off as they were mostly fine roots so I could easily spread them out in the pot.

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Finally I prepared my bonsai mix and put some mesh in the bottom of the training pot. I secured the plant to the pot and filled it with bonsai mix.

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There’s still a bit of growing to do with this one and eventually I want to take a little bit of the height down but I need some more growth at the base of the branches before I can do that.

So that’s it finished for now, I will post an update as soon as there are any developments.

Jump onto the comments and let me know if there are any other styles you see or if you can recommend any other steps in the process.

My Trees – So far

I thought I’d better post a few photos of some of my trees so far, what stage they are at and where I want to get with them. None of my trees are finished but some of them are going to take a little more work than others.

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This is my twin trunk azalea. It’s still in it’s training pot but it’s general shape is there. As with most bonsai’s I would have liked the trunks to be a little bigger but as a short tree, I don’t think they look too bad. The plan is to grow out the foliage a little then prune it into pads so it will be a loose broom style.

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This is a clip and grow attempt at a slanted style tree. It is a cedrus deodara that was suffering a little in the nursery so I took it home, pruned it back a little and planted it into a training pot in a bonsai mix. The branch at the top right is intended to be a sacrifice branch so it will eventually be taken off. I didn’t want to take off too much foliage initially as the plant was not in great health. so I’ll let the foliage grow out a little and then remove it.

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This is a Portuguese Laurel. This tree has a LONG way to go but I think it will make an interesting little tree when it’s finished. I’ve cut it back to a rough size but I need to grow out the branch structure a bit before I can really shape it.

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This is a little buxus. Again it is in the very early stages but I have managed to get it planted into a small bonsai pot. I’ll let it grow out a little and then trim it into shape. Buxus grows slowly so it might take a while.

I have a few other trees planted into bonsai mix in nursery pots but they ain’t really that interesting at this stage

Quick Update – Three new trees??

One of the advantages to working in a garden centre is the opportunity to find new trees that I otherwise wouldn’t have found.

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I found these 3 Sorbus at the back of our pollytunnel. They were around 12ft tall however they had seen better days. I thought they would make a good candidate for bonsai as there is still life in the trunks.

So I’ve cut them back and fed them so I will leave them for a couple of years to push on a bit of new growth before repotting into a bonsai mix. I haven’t had a look at the rootball yet so I’m not sure what lurks below the surface but I will leave them for a year before I carry out any kind of root reduction.

I will keep you posted on any progress.

Genesis

So I suppose I should start with an introduction. I’m James, a garden centre manager from Northern Ireland. I have always had an interest in bonsai and the idea behind it however past attempts have generally led to small dead trees in pots. You see, patience is a virtue I do not have and therefore I found myself prodding and poking at the trees every other day leading to their eventual demise.

So I’ve decided to give it another go but this time I’m determined to do it right. There are two things that make me a little more likely to succeed this time:

1. I am a little more educated in the art. I understand more about the process and what it hopes to achieve and more importantly that it takes time.

2. Being a full time husband and father alongside working full time means I do not have the time to annoy the trees day and daily meaning I am less likely to run into the same problems I faced in my previous attempts.

Those time restrictions will also apply to this blog unfortunately. It will not be updated on a daily basis. The main aim for the blog is to catalogue the progress of my trees and also talk a little bit about what I am learning and the problems I am coming across on the way.

If you are a bonsai veteran then you may not find a lot in here that will inspire or interest you but you may have a chuckle at my amateurish mistakes. If you are also starting out in bonsai, then feel free to ask questions and if I know about it, I will help. If it is a little over my head, hopefully one of those veterans will take a break from laughing at me and help you out.

I have around 7 trees in the pre-bonsai stage and a couple of seedlings that are growing nicely in their nursery pots. My initial aim is to get everything into training pots and do some rough styling. I will post images and details of my trees shortly.

Good luck

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