Author Topic: in too much of a hurry???  (Read 6008 times)

johng

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in too much of a hurry???
« on: July 15, 2009, 05:17 PM »
Over the last several years my life has settled and evolved to the point where I have more time for all aspects of bonsai.  I think maturity and patience have also played a role in my transformation.  Along the way I have had the opportunity to make many observations and to mull over much of what we do in this hobby.  As a result of this, one of the things that I have come to recognize is that I, and many others, may be do something that is not be in the best interest of  the development our trees. 

I contend that we are in much too much of a hurry to put trees in bonsai pots and soil.  If our goal is to create the best trees possible in the least amount of time, I think we would be much better served to develop trees in the ground and grow boxes for a much longer time that we do now.

Here is my purely anecdotal reasoning based on my own experiences, observations and climate...

1. material develops much faster in larger containers or in the ground
2. with most species all but the final ramification can be developed in far less time
3. in GENERAL, trees in bonsai containers and bonsai soil do not exhibit the same level of growth and vigor when compared to grow boxes and the ground.
4. in GENERAL, long term life in a bonsai pot tends to reduce vigor...this can also be a desirable thing but not if your trying to develop the material.
5. there is much more risk of environmental catastrophes with trees in bonsai containers...they are more susceptible to cold, heat, lack of water, etc...  these things may not kill a tree but will certainly hinder its development.
6. this in turns  can also make them more susceptible to disease and infestation.
7. I think this applies more to small and medium size trees that it does large and extra large.

I think we just get in hurry to see our trees in bonsai containers even when it will be 10-20 years before a given tree will develop into something worthwhile.  I am starting to look at cycling trees.  This starts with the patience to wait until a tree is really ready for a pot...when it is potted it done so with a development goal in mind...perhaps a show or display in the future...or even if it just for your own pleasure for a few years...then at some point, maybe 3 to 6 years down the road, the tree is placed back in larger container or the ground and allowed to regain its vigor. 

I realize this is not a new concept and there have been many before me to recommend something of this nature, but I think it is one that if followed would generally help us reach our goals of developing fine trees in a timely fashion.  Of course this goes against the stereotypical notion of immediate gratification for which Americans are famous:)

I would be interested in reading your thoughts on this notion.

John
 

bonsaihunk

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2009, 05:29 PM »
John,
great advice.
A long time ago someone said get two trees pot on in a bonsai pot while you put the other one in the ground. Work on both.
After x years the one in the ground will be a great bonsai while the one in the pot will be OK.
Mimics your ideas.
Jerry
 

Jerry Norbury

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2009, 05:39 PM »
John

I am in complete agreement.

I have experienced the same over the last few years since using a growing patch in my back yard. I've even run a couple of tests with cuttings from the same tree grown in the ground vs grown directly in a pot. The difference can be staggering. I've had common Elms grow 2m (6'6") in one season in the ground while the pot bound sibling grew maybe 30cm (1ft).

I have already started the re-cycling process, replanting trees in the ground after a few years in a pot. I find this particularly valuable with smaller (large mame/shohin) trees which have lost (for whatever reason) their vigor.

I am experiemnting this year with super-feeding following Walter Palls suggestions of 3x stated concentration more often than recommended (weekly). This is ALSO producing good results. According to Walter we have been starving our trees when we moved to inorganic soils...

The only problem with having trees, especially the little one, in the ground is it's really difficult to prune something or keep a good eye on its growth when its in the middle of a forest of other little trees in the ground! At least in a pot I can pick it up.

Jerry Norbury
 

bonsaihunk

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2009, 09:10 PM »
Jerry,
As far as underfeeding trees, I believe that with my experience with tropicals, and sub-tropicals and using mainly inorganic soils that we do vastly under-fertilize.
Jerry "Bonsaihunk"
 

Jay Wilson

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2009, 08:25 PM »
John, I am in full agreement with you on this....

It's one of the reasons I don't have but a couple of trees in bonsai pots. Most of my trees seem to need another year or two or five before they're ready for that final ramification.

I have found that letting them get root bound in a grow box for a year or two helps to get refinement of the branches well on the way.

You suggested that trees lose vigor in bonsai pots with bonsai soil and in other posts you've mentioned using good quality potting soil in your larger containers while growing out trees.....Could you expand on this a little?  What makes a good potting soil?

Thanks for all the informative posts and videos,

Jay
 

johng

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2009, 07:43 AM »
John, I am in full agreement with you on this....

It's one of the reasons I don't have but a couple of trees in bonsai pots. Most of my trees seem to need another year or two or five before they're ready for that final ramification.

I have found that letting them get root bound in a grow box for a year or two helps to get refinement of the branches well on the way.

You suggested that trees lose vigor in bonsai pots with bonsai soil and in other posts you've mentioned using good quality potting soil in your larger containers while growing out trees.....Could you expand on this a little?  What makes a good potting soil?

Thanks for all the informative posts and videos,

Jay

Hey Jay..thanks for your response. 

As to the potting soil I am not sure I am qualified to answer your question in terms of anything beyond my own experience.  I use Fafard 3B which is a mix of peat, perlite, and small amount of composted pine bark.  The reasons I like it is because my plants do well in it and it gives me the most flexibility in terms of watering.  It does a good job with moisture retention in my hot climate.  I have found that the roots seem to populate the entire pot as opposed to just the edges with other soils I have used.  This results in nice dense root balls...a desirable characteristic in the transition to a bonsai container:)

This particular brand does not have the wetting problem that I have experienced with other brands. Perhaps the biggest draw back is the light weight.  If trees do ever get really dry with this stuff they become very light and can be easily blown over.  I have actually put some stones in the bottom of a few pots to avoid this...junipers usually.   

I think I also used the term quality potting soil to differentiate it from some of the cheap garden soils that can also be purchased in a bag.

John
 

bretts

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2009, 08:28 AM »
This has been stated alot on the forums over the 4 years I have been interested in Bonsai. Yet I see masters of the art in media such as bonsai focus develop trees in bonsai pots.Even trunk chops on Beech.
Looking at Walter palls blog just now I see it again. Once styling starts they are often in bonsai pots or similar.
There must be a reason for this? I have brought this subject up once before but got no answer.
 

AlexV

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2009, 01:01 PM »
I think many people leave trees in pots because it puts the tree in your face, and makes you pay attention to it.  Many people I know who grow trees in the ground end up forgetting about them and miss opportunities to style them.  One grower accidently left wire on some pines for 4 years and lost half the trees taking it off after it had grown in.  Why?  Because he has hundreds of trees in the ground and just forgot.  Its harder to forget about a tree in a pot on your bench.  Especially if you have wire on it trying to get a dynamic trunk.

Until now I have had no room to put trees in the ground, but I am about to move to a place with a large yard and have been strategizing how I want to do it.  My plan is to take seedlings/cuttings and put them in a large grow pot for a two years to work on getting movement in the trunk and the roots spread and even.  Then I will put them in the ground to gain girth.  Once the trunk is the desired size, put them in large pots for branching work, then move to a bonsai pot for ramification.  We will see how it works.



Alex
 

Larry Gockley

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2009, 02:33 PM »
Bravo John !!!!

 After reading this post, two quotes come to mind. One in John Naka's  Bonsai Techniques I is ,  " Always remember that a pot should be selected for a trained tree. Do not select the pot first, then train the tree to match the pot".   Another  quote I really like is from Robert Steven,  --  " I am not too concerned with the final destination, but rather with the joyful process".  Yes we are in too much of a hurry.  Trying to alter that condition, in the past, I have actually removed trees from bonsai pots and put them back in training pots, when I realized they were not ready.  Larry
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2009, 02:40 PM »
All but a handful of my trees are in containers of some sort.  My mother lives about an hour away and was kind enough to allow me to plant some things in her flower bed.  Everything else is in some type of container on my benches.  My wife and I have plans to move in the next year or so, so putting things into the ground really isn't an option for me at this time.

With that being said, not all of them are bonsai pots.  I have quite a number pines in colanders that are developing quite nicely.  These are 2, 3, and 4 year old seedlings.  I have a HUGE trident that followed me home in a mixing tray.  Several junipers in terracotta pots (protected enough in winter so as not to crack).  And of course, all kinds of trees in bonsai pots varying from "too large" to "just right".

I don't disagree that some may do better in a different container or the ground, but I take that into account and adjust my plans accordingly.  At this point though I have not seen any ill effects from my trees as they're all in good soil, with good fertilizer, and good water and watering.

I think that's what it's all about, sometimes, is finding the compromise and making the best with what you have.  One day we'll move into a home we plan to be in for many years and I'll really (hopefully) be in a better position to do what's best for my trees.  Until then, I do the best I can with what I've got.
 

bonsaikc

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2009, 05:28 PM »
So much depends on what you are attempting to achieve. Boon develops everything in pots, but of course for large material he is using either collected trees or already developed trunks. To build a trunk, of course a large container or growing in the ground is ideal.

All of my trees are in pots right now. Some in pond baskets, some in training pots, some in bonsai pots. I hope to be planting out some young trees next spring.

Chris
 

bretts

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2009, 06:29 PM »
So a large beech base that needs a new trunk after being air layerd at it's lowest branch is good in a bonsai pot or should be in a large grow box or ground?
 

Jay Wilson

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2009, 07:11 PM »
Hey Bretts,
I don't think anyone is saying that you can't develop or grow out a tree in a bonsai pot.

 I don't think I've seen Walters trees in anything but bonsai pots (or the ground). I have noticed he sometimes uses a bit larger pot than the final one while he is working on the tree.
 
It may be that some masters develop trees in bonsai pots because that's the way they were taught and it works. And they have lots of pots laying around :)

It just seems to be faster to grow out trees in larger containers than the finished size pot. The larger container can be anything...even a bonsai pot.

For myself, I use grow boxes with screen bottoms because I'm developing the root ball as well as the tree at the same time
and screen bottoms tend to keep the roots from circling the pot and thus giving more fine feeder roots.

People using bonsai pots to develop trees may already have a pretty good root base and don't want to let it get out of hand, so the keep it confined in a smaller pot.....

The more I think about this, the more I realize there must be many ways and many reasons people do what they do.

Do what you feel comfortable with and enjoy.

Jay
« Last Edit: July 21, 2009, 07:14 PM by Jay Wilson »
 

bretts

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2009, 11:25 PM »
Yep Jay thanks for the thoughtful response. I agree there could be a number of reasons they do it and any one of yours may be included. I would like to know what those reasons are though so I can make a sound decision on which way to go.
I did a fairly minor trunk chop on an amur maple last year and thought bugger it I will use a larger size bonsai pot. Good enough for the marsters I thought. It got bugger all growth and towards the end of the growing season I slip potted into a quick box I made.
So I am very confused about what the go is here.
It is reasnobale to wonder if the qaulity from slower growth will be improved in the bonsai pot?
 

bonsaikc

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Re: in too much of a hurry???
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2009, 11:51 PM »
Bretts,
Growth will be generally slower and finer in a pot than in the ground. You can grow the trunk in the ground, but don't try to develop ramification there, your branches will be very coarse and hard to control. Better to let them grow out wild and cut back hard. In the pot, you won't get as much trunk growth but can work on refining the tree.

Chris