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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

kdodds wrote:I don't think the difference between a 5 and 6 foot tree is going to be all that much in terms of an appropriate pot, ... Conservatively, I'd say the five footer would need something on the order of a 30" cube, but that's being very generous.
Huh? Let's just set aside the viability of this project and my inexperience for a moment. What you describe sounds more like an ordinary containerized tree. Assuming full "bonsai" style root pruning, wouldn't a pot be more somewhere in the order of 8:5 ratio (tree ht:pot length) and 10:1 (tree ht:pot depth)? (I've been measuring various images of upright conifer bonsai... :wink:)
Hopefully, for a 5 ft tree, that would bring the pot size down to around 3ft L x 10" D oblong pot, OR somewhere around 24" diam x 10"D round pot when finished.

In fact, I'm leaning towards a B&B tree rather than a containerized. This way, initial root pruning would be already done, and my first year challenge would be to pot it up in proper planting medium (having first removed all existing soil :D) and keep the tree alive. Thereafter, I would imagine the depth of the root ball would need to be reduced at each late winter/early spring repotting until the desired shallowness is achieved. If it's an ultra hardy species (like hardy to zone 3) I wonder if it could be root pruned/tip sheared again around late August as well here in zone 6? I'm thinking hardiness to least zone 4 at any rate.

So far, I've found a 15 gal rubber feed pan (26" diam x 9.75"D) for $20 (those puppies are heavy though, and floppy/flexible which maybe a problem. On the other hand, a couple of old gratings from a kettle grill might provide a support structure inside and, supported on brickes, a draining surface for the pot (with holes in the bottom of the pan of course). 15 gal wash tub ($32) is a bit small at 21.5" diam x 10.25"D and 17 gal wash tub ($36) is just a bit smaller at 23.75" diam x 10.75"D.

Also I was watching a youtube video and I swear his bonsai is planted in a baby bathtub! I rushed out and measured the one I have in the garage 8) and it's about 20" long, which, by my calculations, is good for a 32" tall tree. (Yes, yes, HIS tree is 24" tall at most)

:lol: What can I say, this is the way I treat all new ideas :roll: :wink:

p.s. This is a really interesting read although the subject matter is deciduous trees -- this is giving me a new insight re: B&B vs. containerized
Here's the abstract -- download the pdf or google for it to read the rest of the paper:
by William Flemer III
Princeton Nurseries
P.O. Box 191
Princeton, NJ 08540
ABSTRACT. --The possibility of growing sizeable shade trees
(1%" and over in caliper) in containers is exciting to
both arborists and nurserymen.
Advantages include reduc-
tion in transplant shock, ease of retail storage, exten-
sion of the planting and shipping seasons, and less need
for nursery space.
However, problems include difficulty
in overwintering in northern climates, root girdling,
potbound trees, and the high cost of growing mix and
The suggested best method for cold-weather
zones is to re-establish large trees in containers.
Last edited by applestar on Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

Didn't I mention previously that, if you want a nice, full, traditional type of Christmas tree that you'll need the root system to support that much more lush (compared to traditional bonsai) growth. As above, so below. Root pruning, a la bonsai, without also pruning branches, twigs, leaves, often results in the demise of the tree. You'd really not want to mess much with the root ball on a "full" sized tree. Remember, although height may seem not that much different, you're talking about a much greater above ground biomass that needs a root system to support it.

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Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 10:17 pm
Location: San Diego

I say if this isn't gonna cost tooooo much....


Oh and pics, lots of pics. Document everything.

Greener Thumb
Posts: 1436
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 12:07 am
Location: Airmont, NY Zone 6/7

Oh, definitely. Don't mistake my cautions for discouragement, as they're meant more towards making you aware of the problems and pitfalls before they occur so that they become something for which you can plan a course of action rather than obstacles to take you by suprise. I don't think I'd start with a 5 or 6 foot tree here, though. The expense of buying a living tree at that size, and if it should fail, another, and another, should quickly become evident why starting smaller is better. I'd start with something in the 2 foot range, much more affordable, younger, and possibly easier to adapt to container living. If you can get several, even better.

Oh, almost forgot (again). Bonsai pots are more aesthetically sized than sized for purpose. Actually, tree height:pot length ratio would vary, depending on the style of the tree. For an upright, conical tree, the length of the pot would be much smaller, in comparison to the height of the tree, versus, say, a windswept, raft, or slanted style. The length of the pot, in most upright cases, should be slightly smaller than the overall width of the tree, give or take. There ARE functional reasons for this, but the aesthetics are more important. As for pot height, this is the first time I have read (in your post) of pot height being a ratio compared to tree height. Pot height is actually a ratio of trunk diameter, but also dependent upon style of bonsai. Again, an upright would have a smaller ratio than, say, a semi cascade.

You're not talking about sustaining a bonsai, in aesthetics or in function, so pot ratios/sizes that are traditional for bonsai do not apply here. What you ARE talking about is keeping a containerized tree, and so, traditional container sizes for that purpose DO apply.

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