Author Topic: What kind of tree would you train from seed?  (Read 2873 times)

Leo in NE Illinois

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Re: What kind of tree would you train from seed?
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2012, 11:37 AM »
Okay, trying again. I do not consider this pomegranate to be 'good enough to exhibit', it has lots of issues, but I am using it to show three things. That you can get something nice from seed, given enough time. And why one really needs to plan and use escape branches to thicken trunks if you choose to grow in a pot rather than putting a tree in the ground.

The third thing it shows is the value of joining a bonsai club, seeing trees live and in person and taking a few workshops with visiting artists. For the first 30 years of this tree's life I thought I had learned all I needed to know from Books (you kids should ask your parents about the days before internet). In 2003, in a brief moment of mental clarity, I realized my tree looked awful, all at best a stick in a pot. So that's when I joined the Milwaukee Bonsai Society. Best thing I ever did for my trees. I started learning all over again.

It is my first bonsai. I started it from seed back in 1971. It has always been in a pot, never in the ground. I live in the suburbs between Chicago and Milwaukee. This is zone 5b, way too cold to grow this outdoors. Our outdoor growing season is about 5 months outdoors where the temps are high enough that a pomegranate would actively grow. During the winter, I ran it as a warm subtropical, under lights, with my orchids. These results were not real satisfactory. Indoor growth was always a bit weak and usually would have to be completely cut off once outside in Spring. Beginning in 2003, I started leaving it outside to about 27 F,  or -2 C. This knocked it into complete dormancy. Then I would put it in a root cellar, where the temperature stays below 40F or 4 C, but above freezing for the winter. This resulted in no weak winter growth, a nice flush of new growth in spring.

The biggest flaw is the trunk at 1 inch above the soil is barely 7/8 of an inch in diameter (2.3 cm dia). The tree is only 14 inches tall.  This is disappointingly thin for a tree that today is 41 years old. I made the mistake of not planning low escape branches while growing it in a pot. Now the lower trunk is too old to back bud there, and grafting in a branch to use as an escape branch for thickening would mar the very nice looking aged appearance of the bark. Though as I type, I am reconsidering this.

So this is an example of why the seasoned veteran bonsai practitioners here tell the newbies that they should put trees in the ground to thicken them up. It is not impossible to raise a bonsai from seed and using only pot culture. But to get something nice, it really is important to plan escape branches to get proper thickness on the trunks.

This did start as a twin trunk "flat top savanna style", but around 1995 I removed the 2 secondary trunks, and lowered the height of the tree from 20 inches to 14 inches. The scar is still visible as a shari. Now it is more or less a 'literati'. The shape of the 2012 photo is a bit square in profile, but that is because I let it grow out and bloom. The apex needs work, as does the first branch. The first branch was largely broken off by the neighbor's cat in 2010, and has not regrown enough to convincingly replace what was lost. It will take at least 10 years for me to fix everything I screwed up during the tree's first 30 years, but it is an old friend, still living through many moves from one house to another. Through tornadoes, vandalism, squirrels, cats and dogs. Dropped pots, and pots dropped on it. All manner of abuse and it has survived. Pomegranate is a great species for in pot culture.

First image is from 2012, the second is roughly the same view from 2008. The tree is over-potted on purpose. When I am happy with the tree's design I will move it to a pot about 1/2 the size of the one it is in. It is over potted in an attempt to get the tree growing vigorously again, and let a few branches escape to thicken and bulk up lower branches. If I can get it to fill out some, I might change the front, but right now this is the 'best' front. Its a work in progress.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 11:49 AM by Leo in NE Illinois »