TheBonsaiApprentice

My first foray into the art of Bonsai


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The Cleveland Bonsai Club

I attended the local bonsai club meeting on May 24. It was an elightening meeting with a great take away. The key note speaker was Ken from kensworldofbonsai.com located out of Akron ohio. He spoke about how to remove the gnarly knobs that grow on certain types of elms, without damaging the trunk of the tree. That was a very good thing to learn as I am growing an elm from seed, and it appears as it I have the variation that he was teaching on (based on the leaf shape). He also brought many other pre-bonsai specimens that were available for purchase. Which of course I did.

This is Ken holding the tree before the repotting and pruning.

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And this is the tree after I pruned it.

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He recommended this MAME style for the tree, and I am so glad that I took his advice. He assured me that within two weeks I would have buds shooting out all over the place. And two weeks to the day this is the result…

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The Lurkers

Please feel free to comment and give me tips or suggestions. Like I said I am completely new to this and I would much rather be told that something isn’t going to work now than be disappointed later when it fails. So stop lurking in the shadows and give me your two cents.


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The Golden Rain Trees

I’ve decided that I am not patient enough to wait years before being able to turn my seedlings into bonsai. So I again went to my good friend Mr. eBay. I searched around and couldn’t find anything that really caught my eye right off of the bat. So I went to the forums and began looking for unusual or not very common types of bonsai and I came across this picture:

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I instantly fell in love with the idea of growing one of these myself. So I again went back to eBay and found a guy who was selling 3 year old trees in dormancy at a good price with free shipping. So now I am the proud owner of two Golden Rain trees, or Koelreuteria paniculata.

I went back to my local nursery as soon as my plants arrived, bought myself two appropriately sized pots, 4 medium sized clay pots, and a general purpose potting soil. And went back to the apartment to get those plants in the dirt ASAP. I took the clay pots and my hammer out to the courtyard and had me some fun smashing them to smithereens for the tray underneath the pots (add water to the shards to help generate humidity for the plants). Planted the mini trees in the dirt, watered vigorously and then left them to work out where they wanted to bud… for two weeks… ugh… I guess I’m gonna have to get used to the this thing called patience. But then over night they both grew out a few buds, and then seemingly immediately after that they have small branches. Here’s hoping that they will make good bonsai once they have grown out some.

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The Sunflower(s)

I’ve asked my wife to bear with me through this journey and to allow me to take up the space in our apartment for my projects, so I thought that it would be prudent of me to do something for her with the skills that I am learning. So I am trying an experiment. My wife’s favorite flower is the sunflower, so I thought that I would try to grow a few miniature sunflowers for her to enjoy. So far I’m torn with the results. I planted them in the same potting mix that I got for the Chinese Elms that I posted about earlier, and they took off rather quickly. I expected that, even given how little I know of horticulture, I know that sunflowers grow very quickly. The pot that I put the seeds into sprouted a good number of plants which grew between 6-8 inches. And then they stopped, and haven’t done anything since. They were doing the gangster lean, so I supported them with shish-kabob sticks and loose twine so that they would remain upright. And then I decided to cull the herd yesterday to remove some of the weaker plants, hopefully allowing the stronger seedlings more space to grow. We’ll see how they progress.

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The Cat

My wife and I have a wonderful young cat (Rory) that likes to investigate everything, as cats so often do. So I had to think of a way to entertain her with plant life so that she wouldn’t turn my pots of plants into a litter box. So at a local nursery by the register they had the standard impulse buys. And along with the regular candy bars and gum packs, there was a small section of seeds for your cats. There was a catnip, and two types of “cat grass”. I didn’t want my cat to be constantly high, so I opted for one of the “cat grass”. Now I don’t know the difference between normal grass and “cat grass”, but so far she has left my plants alone, perfectly contempt with her plot of land by the window.

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The Chinese Elm

Early on I was searching around, and trying to decide what I wanted my first project to be. So I went searching on all of the forums for a “durable” tree, that a beginner such as myself could grow inside of my apartment (it gets chilly in Cleveland in the winter). I finally settled on the Chinese Elm or Ulmus Parvifolia. So I went about finding one for purchase. Then I got to thinking about my endeavor. I thought to myself, how will I get the full experience out of my new hobby? And I realized that my “first” bonsai would have to be grown from seed. I began researching what this would entail and another realization came to me, I may very well have bitten off more than I have the patience for. I was under the false pretense that since the little tree didn’t have far to grow, it would grow into a tree quickly. Bear with me, I’m new to all of this remember. I didn’t realize that to grow into a fully mature bonsai tree, it could take many many years. But I had made the decision that I wanted to have the full experience and I was sticking to it. So I did what any self respecting new person to a hobby does, I logged into my eBay account to find the best price (mistake one). I purchased a lot of ten seeds from a random company, and then eagerly awaited their arrival. Once they arrived I went to my local Wal-Mart, and got some “seed soil”, and a planter that would accommodate more seeds than I had (looking to the future in case I failed with this small batch). I went home with my haul, and went to my favorite teacher… YouTube. And then I got educated on the fact that I can just put the seeds in the ground and pray, there is a whole process that I had no inkling of that required me soaking the seeds for a good amount of time, and then refrigerating them for weeks to simulate the dormant winter cycle. Ugh.. more waiting. So with all of this done I arrived at the point of sowing my seeds (finally). So I planted them to the specifications that I could find from what I deemed to be the most reliable of the sources on the web. And I kept the soil moist, but not wet. And the following are images of the fruits of my labors. Unfortunately so far only one of the seeds has really taken off. The one seed behind it has peeked through a little bit, but isn’t growing at the same rate as the larger one. They were planted on Monday April 21st.
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