maveriiick
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Nursery Stock to Bonsai? Japanese Maple & Ginkgo

I have a few pots of nursery stock I bought recently to make into bonsai in the near future, but wanted to get some info on the transformation process. I have a few japanese maples (a few 5 and one 10 gallon) and a ginkgo (5 gallon) that need to be converted. I have been researching this for some time as i would like to fully prepared to do some or most of it in the coming spring.

First, is it better to bare-root the nursery stock and replant into a small container after pruning only the major/large roots leaving the feeder roots alone? Or do I remove most of the soil, leaving some of the original soil in the root ball again with major roots pruned and feeder roots left alone?

What percentage of the roots do I prune and do I have to sequentially remove only small portions of the roots over successive seasons to get the root ball into a small pot size? (Versus a more dramatic and less patient approach of removing a significant amount of roots next spring and then right into a bonsai pot)?

Do the roots need to be prepped before and after pruning (i.e. antifungal, superthrive, etc?)?

I'd love to hear from others and their experiences and suggestions as I would like to perform this transition with the minimal amount of error if possible.

Thank you.

JTred
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You would only want to place them into small pots of you are happy with the trunk size. If not, you can leave them in the pots they are in, or you can put them in training pots, which a shallow, but very wide pots. The trunks will continue to increase in girth in small pots, just slower. Training pots are useful for developing a good flat root system without compromising fast growth. As for styling, [url=https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/rules.htm]this link[/url] is very helpful. The basic idea is try to keep everything in thirds, keep everything in asymmetrical triangles, and that "old looking" branches grow horizontal or even downward, and young branches grow up.

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maveriiick,

I don't like to leave two differing soils in the same pot. The difference in their ability to drain will mean that some of your soil is moister while some of the soil is drier. If you water according to the new material the old material may stay too wet. Conversely, if you water according to the old material the new may be too dry. It is always best to have a uniform mixture in your pots. BTW this holds true for a drainage layer as well, which has been discredited and the use of which has fallen out of favor.

I would reconsider attempting to go directly from a nursery soil/pot/situation into a bonsai pot. Instead a wooden box is often utilized as a grow box. A few years in this type of container will begin to get the root system into a state where it can go into a proper container later.

This gives you the opportunity to begin the process of root pruning while simultaneously starting to develop the top. Remember that growth slows substantially once trees are placed in small containers. Nursery stock can almost certainly benefit from some more time in development.

[url=https://img508.imageshack.us/i/growboxsv9.jpg/][img]https://img508.imageshack.us/img508/8238/growboxsv9.th.jpg[/img][/url]


Norm

maveriiick
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I read somewhere that the original soil should be preserved to some degree as the microflora in the soil would be beneficial for the growth of the tree after transplantation, hence my questioning. I would prefer bare-root movement, but just wanted to be sure it would be ok.

Also, when it comes to transplanting in soil, could I use straight Turface? I've heard these trees can be grown completely in inorganic soils. If that be the case what would the frequency of fertilization (and NPK ratio) for feeding? Or is there a good soil mixture of JMs?

As for the Ginkgo, and recommendations for root pruning percentage and soil mix?
Thanx

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djlen
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Mav -

I have always transplanted Maples by leaving as much of the root ball as is practical with the idea of keeping the feeder root system in tact. Keep in mind that this is for the initial re-pot. I take as much of the tap root(s) off the tree as possible while leaving the feeders, which IME are normally closer to the surface of the root ball anyway.
Balance is important in my view and I never hack at the top until I see what's in the dirt. :) I have spent entire winters sitting a potted tree on my lazy susan and turning it, studying it to see what I want to do with it in the fall. But I don't cut until I see what's under it.
I almost always use a pot that is too big for the tree's size for the above reason. Once I've acclimated the tree to growing in a low pot and decided how much I need to remove from the tree to balance the roots I leave it alone for a least one growing season to heal over and adjust.
I make all my root cuts with a clean, sharp instrument so as to minimize pinching them which can cause them to rot.
I personally would not use in-organic material exclusively under any circumstances. My philosophy around Turface or similar is that it is a great way to lighten the soil to afford better drainage, but I cannot imagine using it exclusively. Just my old fashioned idea on that topic.
Your idea about 'sequentially' and patiently removing roots and finding balance between top growth and root system over time would be my way of doing it. It's actually the only way I know.

Lastly, I would not do any of this at this time. I'd find a sheltered area for the trees for the winter and hack at them in the spring when they will be strong and ready to pop.

Just my two cents.
Regards,
Len

"As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines"
- Virgil
"I rarely agree with most of what I say........." -
- Len
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maveriiick,
I read somewhere that the original soil should be preserved to some degree as the microflora in the soil would be beneficial for the growth of the tree after transplantation, hence my questioning.
You can include some of the old mix with your new mix. I would blend it in though so that there are no 'zones' of differing materials. Don't use so much as to slow drainage significantly.

I agree with Len about timing and that a 100% inorganic medium is not the way to go for Maples. I have a different take on the bare root issue though.

If I were collecting a tree from the landscape, or elsewhere, I would take a more cautious approach, as suggested. A nursery tree is different though, it presumably already has an established root system to work with. You will likely find that the roots are already conforming to the shape of the pot and will require some effort to correct.

The future of the tree as a bonsai depends upon getting the roots/nebari into good condition. The longer they are left intertwined the more difficult they will be to manipulate later. You do not need to do all the pruning in one season but until you remove the nursery soil you will not know what you have to work with.

Of course this is not without risk and you have to weigh the possibility of failure against the benefits. Not an easy decision I know but you have all winter to mull it over. In the meantime, Peter Adams has an excellent book out entitled "Bonsai with Japanese Maples" It covers both Japanese Maples and Tridents. Perhaps your local library has a copy or can borrow it from one of their affiliates.

https://www.amazon.com/Bonsai-Japanese-Maples-Peter-Adams/dp/0881928097

Norm

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maveriiick,

Here's a picture of a Japanese Maple, one of a group of ten, I have been working on since the spring of 2005 when I acquired them as one year old seedlings. I have had 5 summers with them so far and they have been re-potted and root pruned 3 out of the five years.

[url=https://img692.imageshack.us/i/pb100018u.jpg/][img]https://img692.imageshack.us/img692/9255/pb100018u.th.jpg[/img][/url]


Notice the fact that the roots are fairly flat and their roughly radial arrangement. There is also another strong root that cannot be seen in this photo. These are two marks of a decent root-spread and future nebari. This is what can be done with a little planning and a little recklessness. :wink:

I say that because out of the original 10 I only have five left, and of them one is a little weak. So, 50% mortality over 5 years but the four vigorous ones I have left show more potential than had I not worked them so hard.

This is why I always suggest that those who want to grow from seed start many more seedlings than they really want. Over the years their plants can fail for numerous reasons especially if they are fairly new to this. Start with a lot and eliminate weak or inferior plants as you go.

Norm

maveriiick
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Gnome wrote:maveriiick,

Here's a picture of a Japanese Maple, one of a group of ten, I have been working on since the spring of 2005 when I acquired them as one year old seedlings. I have had 5 summers with them so far and they have been re-potted and root pruned 3 out of the five years.

[url=https://img692.imageshack.us/i/pb100018u.jpg/][img]https://img692.imageshack.us/img692/9255/pb100018u.th.jpg[/img][/url]


Notice the fact that the roots are fairly flat and their roughly radial arrangement. There is also another strong root that cannot be seen in this photo. These are two marks of a decent root-spread and future nebari. This is what can be done with a little planning and a little recklessness. :wink:

I say that because out of the original 10 I only have five left, and of them one is a little weak. So, 50% mortality over 5 years but the four vigorous ones I have left show more potential than had I not worked them so hard.

This is why I always suggest that those who want to grow from seed start many more seedlings than they really want. Over the years their plants can fail for numerous reasons especially if they are fairly new to this. Start with a lot and eliminate weak or inferior plants as you go.

Norm
Thanx Norm, Awesome. Now I am planning on air-layer a number of these maples in the spring (not sure what month, but likely when budding begins) as these maples all range in height from 2 feet to 4 and I can likely get a collection of maples if all goes well. The 4 foot japanese maple has a decent root base and will likely be a trunk chop at some point with gradual reduction of the root ball with time (read somewhere about repotting in a colander to allow for light and air root pruning so that the root ball shrinks with time).

Can I ask what your soil composition is? What NPK fertilizer (ratio) do you use and how frequent/when? I read that low Nitrogen is best to keep internodes short. And do you pinch all the aggressive growth buds in spring to keep the internodes short? So much to consider and learn!

Thanx

Rosaelyn
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Bonsai4me has a wonderful article specifically on working with Japanese maples:

https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/AcerPalmatumAdvancedGuide.htm

I have found this very helpful. :)
Rosaelyn @}>---'---,---

If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees. ~ Hal Borland

maveriiick
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Rosaelyn wrote:Bonsai4me has a wonderful article specifically on working with Japanese maples:

https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/AcerPalmatumAdvancedGuide.htm

I have found this very helpful. :)
Yes this is a great site. Read this over some time ago. Looking for more aside from this.

Anyone comment on the care of Ginkgo bonsai? Any caveats?

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maveriiick,
Can I ask what your soil composition is?
I don't have an exact recipe for bonsai soil. A lot depends upon what I have on hand in sufficient quantities. I will recycle my inorganic components so those trays are likely to contain any of the following; Turface, Haydite, Lava Rock and I see some Perlite as well. Pine bark is my organic component and for Maples I might use a 60/40 mix of inorganic to organic.
What NPK fertilizer (ratio) do you use and how frequent/when?
I was a little lax in my fertilization regimen this year but the plants did not seem to suffer, I'll try to do better next year. This year I switched from synthetics to an organic compost tea for these Maples, the NPK on this is undetermined but likely low. This was not intended to restrict growth but to lessen the leaf burn that occurs with some Japanese Maples. It seemed to help but our weather was rather odd this year so who knows.
I read that low Nitrogen is best to keep internodes short.
They used to suggest that growers of Japanese Black Pine restrict watering while the candles were extending in an effort to keep them smaller. I believe that this has now been largely abandoned in favor of controlling candle extension via pruning practices. I think that a parallel can be drawn from this. Rather than grow a weak tree would it not be preferable to grow a strong tree and shape it via pruning?
And do you pinch all the aggressive growth buds in spring to keep the internodes short?
I don't mean to imply that I have all this figured out, I am still learning too. After five years of trunk development I am just now beginning to worry about internode length and pinching. Next year I will begin pinching the strongest/earliest shoots early as per the article above.

Norm

maveriiick
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WINTER WATERING?

I was thinking...how are Japanese Maples (and Ginkgo for that matter) watered in the Winter, given they will remain in these large 5-10 gallon pots until spring? I'm familiar with bonsai pot watering moreso as the ground will dry quicker given the size of the container, but how does it work with these large pots which are deeper and larger? Chopsticks do not appear long enough and I can only assume that they hold water for a very long time, especially in cold weather. When watering how will I determine if watering is needed during the winter months? And how much do I give?

PS. Thanks for the specific info Norm, your a great help!



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