Ever since I got the idea that I might like to try bonsai, I've been reading like mad. I'm also starting to recognize that just about the first advice you give to any new initiate is the "bonsai soil lecture"
So, yep! -- I'm familiar with both links you've posted. I consider this winter my "research" period, and actually get my hands dirty (as it were) in early spring.
For this project, the way I was thinking it was to get a B&B tree, plant it on a solid (but draining!) surface after the holidays, then pot it up in the spring. (My question about slip-potting was for future care/if I should get a potted tree) HOWEVER, the ground's pretty much frozen around here -- 20Ã‚Âº this morning. Only possibility for planting a tree is to put it in one of my compost bins (trenched about 12" below soil level and filled with sticks) which happens to be empty since I started a new sheet mulch garden. For covering the root ball, I have a mound of "decent" topsoil from behind the compost bins that's been kept under covers and hasn't frozen yet as well as a sand pit full of sand, and I can mulch with leaves and straw. But... I dunno, it's been so cold that I'm getting less and less ambitious about braving the weather and hauling a B&B tree out there to plant!
I must say I'm a bit disappointed that no one else seems to have an opinion on this project -- unless the reality is that you
are the only one kind enough to even consider it as a remote
possibility, Gnome! Maybe I'm being naive about what to the experts are obvious
BTW I've come up with Eastern Hemlock as another possibility, although that one won't tolerate being dried out, it's very tolerant of shade. So far, neither of my picks are considered suitable for bonsai.
But really, as far as I can tell, the "suitability" has more to do with traditional/smaller bonsai forms and need for short internodes and "dwarfing" of the leaves, neither of which really applies here. I'm looking more for soil moisture/environmental tolerance, ability to take hard pruning, and resilience to (i.e. ability to recover from) shock.
I might not rush into this -- selection of trees are limited right now and at a premium. For the purpose of this project (i.e. long term) I don't HAVE to have a proper CHRISTMAS tree (i.e. traditional species nor ones that are sheared to "perfection" -- did you know it takes absolute minimum 6 yrs but more like 8 yrs to grow a marketable Christmas tree?) -- no doubt I'll need to do a lot of pinching, pruning, or shearing (bonsai peeps might wince here) to keep it down to size... and I need to do more research on that subject before I get to it.
In the end, if no one else has done it, I can only try, and no doubt I WILL make many newbie mistakes, so I would appreciate any input/advice.
p.s. kdodds, you were posting you're reality-check
while I was composing my long-winded post. Thanks! So let's say we're talking somewhere around a 5' tree, how deep and wide would you say the root ball would have to be? (Not quite giving up yet!) What you said about choosing a different plant species -- I'm also reaching that conclusion and have widened my search. As for the time span that this "dormant" tree can be kept indoors -- so far, the most believable live Christmas tree care instructions suggest 1 week spent indoors with 4~7 days before and after, acclimating in "sheltered location like unheated garage or porch" -- I would add a period of time completely outdoors but in a sheltered spot like the brick patio on SE side of my house, most often suggested is "up to" 2 wks, and one that's seems hardly likely, 3 wks (this one is a live tree rental co. and will not return deposit if the tree "has not been well-cared for") The longer term places are in zones like 8 or 9, so maybe that makes a difference too. Here in zone 6, it's been solid winter with temps plummeting as low as mid-teens during the night.
I got rid of my PCV tree for all the associated negative reasons long ago (I dumped it because I couldn't, in conscience, donate it, but somebody trash picked it anyway). Maybe I can manage to grow two... three is a bit of a stretch... and rotate them.