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Starting from Nursery Stock

SELECTING TREES  TOP GROWTH  PRUNING  ROOT PRUNING  AFTER CARE

 

Years ago, most bonsai enthusiasts went to nurseries to look for forgotten and neglected trees

somewhere at the back of the nursery which were placed out of the sight of the public eye and very seldom watered.

Today it is rather difficult to get nursery stock which is appropriate for bonsai. Previously there were lots of old forgotten stock, but today sales are so competitive that what isn’t sold today is thrown out tomorrow. Another reason is, with the fast world we live in today the trend has changed to instant big trees, small trees just aren’t available anymore.
Whilst scouting around, you might come across ordinary nursery stock which is suitable for bonsai, or maybe there could be some plants in your garden you might want to utilise.
Bonsai friend has various plants in different sizes, still in black bags, available on the growers farm that can be used for starting your own bonsai. These trees are grown from seed for bonsai purposes and there will not be very much difficulty in replanting them, as they are root pruned yearly and can be planted in bonsai containers immediately.
For the exercise of this chapter , we will assume that a normal nursery plant has been bought which is to be transformed into a bonsai

 

SELECTING TREES

THIS IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF ALL
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR ???
WHICH TYPE OF TREE ???
WHAT SIZE OR SHAPE ???

I will try and explain. Firstly, have an idea of what your needs are. The size, shape and type of tree you have decided on, also having two or three alternatives in mind, before starting out to get a tree.
Right, you have decided, now looking for a tree that qualifies your choice. The tree should have a lot of side branches distributed in all directions. The trunk must have a nice taper just above the soil level. The tree should not have too many thick branches growing upwards as leaders because when removed it you will have big scars on the trunk which takes many years to heal. A third of the trees height should be used for the stem and two thirds to be shaped as the crown. Try to get a tree with small leaves and/or small fruit. Later you will learn to use big leaf trees and as progressing in the art of bonsai you will be able to reduce the size of the leaves, to be small and in proportion with the tree.

THE WHITE STINKWOOD, CHINESE ELM, BLACK MONKEY THORN, CHINESE MAPLE, WILD OLIVE,

CHINESE MAY, WILD FIG, COTONEASTER, KEI-APPLE AND THE PRIVET

are but a few of the easier trees to commence with. Once decided on a tree, take it home and study the tree.

Look at the direction of growth, the amount of side branches, the height and shape of the tree. Don’t be in a hurry, take your time.


TOP GROWTH PRUNING

IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED YOU DO THE TOP GROWTH PRUNING AND SHAPING NOW,

LEAVING THE ROOT PRUNING FOR NEXT SEASON.

When repotting and pruning the roots of a nursery tree for the first time, the tree will not produce a lot of top growth in the current season,

as the tree will use most of the growth to replace and produce new feeder roots. I

n the following season the tree will start to produce new top growth to balance the growth again.

THE TREE MUST FIRST GROW THE HANDS (FEEDER ROOTS) TO COLLECT FOOD

BEFORE IT OPENS KITCHENS (LEAVES) FOR PREPARATION OF THE FOOD.

Taking a piece of paper, make a line drawing of what you want to do with the tree.

Look at the branches and see what has to be removed to achieve the shape and size which you have drawn.

Always start to prune the longest branches back first to a relative size of your projection, not too short at first.

REMEMBER, you can always cut it back again, but you cannot replace what has been cut off.

If not sure about a branch, leave it on the tree, it can be pruned back tomorrow the way you want it to be.

Remember the size you start off with today is times three the size the tree will end up in ten years time.

WHAT YOU REMOVE TODAY IS GONE FOREVER
DO NOT TRY TO MAKE AN INSTANT BONSAI TODAY
PLAN FOR TOMORROW
PATIENCE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Take your time, you are going to love and shape the tree for many years to come, before you will be happy with the shape.

As you learn and prune more over the future years, you will end with a completely different shaped tree that was decided upon today.

Where you cut the growing tip off a branch, the last leaf left on the branch, must always point out, or sideways, away from the centre of the tree.

The last leaf left on the branch, determines the direction of development in future.


REFER TO LEAF NIPPING

The bottom third of the tree should be defoliated to form the stem. The top two thirds should form the top crown.

Starting from the top to the bottom cut back the longest growing branches.

Once you have resized the tree to the desired top crown size, start to remove the unwanted branches in order to achieve a balanced spread of growth.
  

Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple                    Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple                     Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple

                          

Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple                      Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple                      Top Growth Pruning Japanese Maple

  JAPANESE  MAPLE

 

Try to arrange the FIRST BOTTOM BRANCH pointing TO THE RIGHT SIDE BACKWARD.

The SECOND BRANCH to the LEFT SIDE FRONTWARD.

The THIRD BRANCH to the RIGHT SIDE FRONTWARD and the TOP BRANCH to the REAR.

Clean out the main branches, reducing the amount of growth on them to allow development in the direction you want them to grow, preventing the growth to cross into one another.

Remove all down growing and up growing shoots to encourage side growth. When there are two branches close to each other, prune the one to the left and the other to the right.

Another way of initial shaping will be to start the first bottom branch pointing to the left, the second to the right,

the third to the left again and the top branch to the right, using the first growing tip that develops upwards on the top branch, guide it sideways to the left, to form the final top branch.
  

Seven stages from seed to three years old.

 

REMEMBER WHERE THERE IS A LEAF TODAY THERE WILL BEA BRANCE NEXT TIME

THE LAST LEAF LEFT ON THE STOLK AFTER REMOVING THE GROWING TIP

WILL INDICATE THE DIRECTION OF GROWTH TOMORROW

Continue to do LEAF NIPPING WEEKLY for the rest of the season shaping the tree to the maximum potential before cutting the roots.

Feed the tree every two weeks with NITROSOL * NATURAL ORGANIC PLANT FOOD, to build up the food resources for the operation of root pruning.

 

ROOT PRUNING

 

IT IS RECOMMENDED TO DO ALL REPOTTING AND ROOT PRUNING
IN LATE WINTER WHEN THE BUDS ON THE TREES IN THE VELD START TO SWELL.

THE SPECIFIC SEASON OF THE YEAR YOU REPOT A BONSAI ,
WILL DETERMINE THE PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN.

Root pruning a nursery tree for the first time can be a harrowing experience. The myth, that only the taproot is removed and the tree will stay small afterwards does not exist.

Try not to remove more than a third of the thick roots at the first root pruning. Depending on the amount of fine feeder roots the tree has,

will tell us how many thick roots can be removed. The less feeder roots the tree has , the less thick roots can be removed. If the tree,

like most nursery trees, does not have a lot of healthy fine feeder roots, remove only the tips of the thick roots.

Repot the tree in bonsai soil, in a large flat seed tray and spread the roots evenly sideways.

Wait another year for the tree to develop more feeder roots before reducing the root ball to fit into a bonsai container.

Be patient with root pruning, if in too much of a hurry to create a instant bonsai it will die as quickly as you have made it,

rather buy yourself an established tree that looks nice and be patient with the nursery tree.

CHECK LIST

THE TREE
BONSAI CONTAINER
THE SIEVES FOR THE DRAINAGE HOLES
SEED TRAY ( INCASE NEEDED )
BONSAI SOIL
BONSAI GRAVEL
PRUNING SHEARS
KITCHEN FORK TO LOOSEN THE ROOTS
WATERING CAN
A BUCKET OF WATER
DIP ‘N GROW
A WATER SPRAY BOTTLE
A CHOPSTICK OR A PIECE OF WOOD, THE SIZE OF A PENCIL.

 

Let the tree dry out for twenty four hours.
Work in a shady spot , early morning or late afternoon.
Work quickly but do not be in a hurry.

Slightly wet the bonsai soil.
Fill the seed tray half way with bonsai soil.
Place the sieves over the drainage holes
of the bonsai pot and fill the bottom of the pot
with one centimetre of bonsai soil.
Fill the bucket and the spray bottle with water.

Take hold of the tree as previously described in repotting and cut the black bag open on two opposite sides.

Remove the soil gently until all roots are exposed. If necessary take a normal kitchen fork and remove the soil between the roots or use a hose pipe to wash off the roots.

Examine the roots closely, deciding which roots to keep and which roots to cut and decide whether it can go into a bonsai pot or should it be planted in the seed tray.

REMEMBER A TREE CAN ONLY BE WITHOUT WATER
FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HEAD UNDER WATER

Five minutes after removing the tree from the soil, it should be placed in water.

The roots and the top crown should be submerged in the water to prevent too much moisture loss.

All growth not fitting in the water should be sprayed with water. If the examination and / or root pruning takes longer ,

repeat the submersion and spraying every five minutes until the job has been completed.

At this stage, mix five mill dip ‘n grow with fifty millilitres of water in the spray bottle .

Once the roots have been pruned and it has been decided whether to use the seed tray or the bonsai pot,

take the tree out of the water and shake most of the water of

then spray the roots with the dip ‘n grow mix to encourage new root growth.

1.  Position the tree off centre in the pot, about a third to the one side.

2.   Spread roots evenly and fill the pot slowly with the bonsai soil.

3.   Working the soil between the roots with your fingers and the chopstick until the container has been filled completely.

4.   Do not compact the soil too much, as this can damage the fragile feeder roots.

5.   Slightly tap the soil on the top with your fingers to fill all the gaps that still might be between the roots.

6.   Allow half a centimetre of space between the soil and the brim of the container, fill the gap with bonsai gravel

    this is done to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly and to maintain the correct       moisture level in the soil.

7.   Submerge the bonsai pot completely into the water, hold it there until all air bubbles has stop escaping from the soil.

8.  Take the tree out of the water and allow it to drain off

 

Root Pruning Japanese Maple                    Root Pruning Japanese Maple                    Root Pruning Japanese Maple

 

Root Pruning Japanese Maple                    Root Pruning Japanese Maple                    Root Pruning Japanese Maple

JAPANESE  MAPLE

 

               Root Pruning Wild Fig                    Root Pruning Wild Fig                    Root Pruning Wild Fig                    

 

Root Pruning Wild Fig                    Root Pruning Wild Fig        

WILD  FIG  

 

Once your tree has settled after a few days, remove the top layer of gravel.

Plant some “ PEACE IN THE HOME “ ( flat ground cover ) on the one side of the container

and " CATS WHISKERS “ ( tall grass ) on the other side of the container.

Add an interesting rock close to the stem of the tree to complete the picture and replace the top layer of gravel in between the grass and rock.

BOTH THE GRASSES IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL NURSERY .
YOU HAVE JUST LEARNED TO MAKE A MINIATURE GARDEN, WITH A PURPOSE.

 

Root Pruning Wild Fig End Result

THE  END  RESULT

What you do not realise is that every thing you have added to the bonsai have a specific purpose.

With the special soil mix we use, the “cats whiskers“ and the “peace in the home “ is your indicator to tell you

if something goes wrong with the water or light factor, before the tree can get hurt .

IF ANY ONE OR BOTH OF THE GRASSES GET YELLOW,

BROWN OR DIE AND YOU CONTACT BONSAI FRIEND IMMEDIATELY,

WE CAN TELL YOU EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID WRONG AND SAVE THE TREE BEFORE IT IS TO LATE.

The gravel is added to prevent the topsoil to be washed of when watering your bonsai and to keep the soil moist, creating a micro moist atmosphere to protect the root system.

The rock is placed in the garden for you to water on with a small watering can to prevent you to spoil the miniature garden’s layout.
When the tall grass reach a height of approximately six to seven centimetres it will start to make seeds.

Take a pair of scissors and cut the grass back to about four centimetres, otherwise the grass will get longer than your tree is tall and will seed itself and take over your garden.

The “PEACE IN THE HOME“ is never allowed to cover more than a third of the total area of the container. If it does, take a table fork and remove the excessive growth.

 

 

AFTER CARE
 

 

Place the newly potted bonsai in a shady position where the tree will receive air circulation

with a lot of bright light but no direct sun or heat, protected from cold nights and draughts.

The next eight weeks. After care is very important and will determine the success rate you will have.

DO NOT WATER THE BONSAI TREE THE DAY AFTER REPOTTING.

The submersion done when planting the tree, will hold enough moisture in the soil till the second day after repotting.

From the second day onwards water the bonsai accordingly to the specific season as explained in e 1 watering your bonsai.

Please ensure you don’t over water. While the feeder roots were damaged during repotting they will take at least a week or four to recover.

In hot weather the foliage should be sprayed regularly to prevent too much moisture loss.

Mid summer and mid winter repotting will require a terrarium.

If a terrarium is used cut back on the watering and water only when the soil becomes wind dry.

The condensation inside the terrarium will maintain a high level of moisture for a long time.

FEEDING CAN COMMENCE THREE MONTHS AFTER RE-POTTING.