bonsaifrankie
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Totally new to Bonsai - please help ! :)

Hey everyone,
So, the thing is, I really want a bonsai tree, but I have NO IDEA where to start, what type of tree would be best for a beginner, or anything really about the art of bonsai :? I've found a whole beginners set sort of thing, with a tree, fertiliser stuff and an instruction / care booklet on www.bonsaiuk.co.uk but I'm still not really any wiser than I was before !

I wonder if anyone of the more experienced bonsai keepers could give me a few tips, on where to start, how to look after a tree, the basics really :?

Thanks, Frankie :) x

linlaoboo
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Great site. I like the 3 tree package they offer. Not being familar with your climate and region, I can only suggest you get an idea where you will keep the trees be it indoor or out doors. There are strictly outdoor bonsai trees like junipers that won't survive indoors in the long term and also tropical trees that has to be kept indoors through the winters that drop below 50F. I'd suggest tropical tree like ficus retusa that does well indoors all year round and takes minimal care.
ficus, maple, elm, juniper, pine

bonsaifrankie
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Thank you so much ! :D Again on that site, there is a 'Chinese Larch bonsai tree' which says it is an 'ideal beginners tree' and it's got very pretty leaves on it ( :D ), do you think this would be okay ? Or should I stick with a ficus tree ?
And as for the UK climate it is quite wet and cold in the Winter, and doesn't get much better in the Summer, although it is often very humid in the Summer months.

Thanks again ! :) x

cynthia_h
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You may also want to read the Bonsai Learning Forum & Library here, at https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=36 . Several important threads from the past have been brought together, including one called "What's a good bonsai to start with?" No kidding.

Take a good look at the threads in the "Library" so you won't feel as much in the dark. :)

Best wishes for bonsai success. Gambatte!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Gnome
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bonsaifrankie,

First you need to decide if you are going to grow inside or outside or perhaps even a split arrangement where your tree is outside during summer and inside for the winter. Traditionally bonsai has been an outdoor activity but many growers now seem to want to try their hand at indoor growing.

Larch is not a good candidate for indoor culture and Ficus can't stay outside during the winter in your area. Lighting becomes an issue for indoor growers and supplemental lighting is all but a necessity, so be advised that more money must be spent to grow indoors.

Your intentions will begin to narrow your choices.

Norm

derkap10
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Hi Frankie,

All of the advice given above is excellent. A little research goes a long, long, way. As I've started getting back into bonsai one of the things I've started doing is looking around and seeing what grows well naturally where I live. Crepe Myrtles, Bald Cypresses, Azaleas, Boxwoods. I noticed that all of these seem to thrive where I'm at. So I've acquired some of each (some in 'bonsai' form and some in 'pre-bonsai' form). I feel that this is a safe approach as I'm not trying to force trees to live where they don't want to. I've also got a Chinese Elm which is doing really well outside right now (will winter mulched over in the ground). I've got a pair of Ficuses that are outside right now but will be moved gradually indoors through the Fall. As Gnome said the best thing is to develop a plan for how you wnt to grow your trees (indoor or outdoor, and yes I meant the plural 'trees', you'll want more than one, believe me). You have to take a bit of a long view but the rewards are well worth the time.
Happy little trees!

bonsaifrankie
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Wow, thank you all so much. I have been snooping around everywhere for all different information, and I've just ordered a book 'Indoor Bonsai for Beginners' by W.Busch. I found some reviews for it and it seemed like a really good book, good idea ? And I will definitely check out that forum, thanks :)

I guess being from England it would have to be an indoor bonsai, although Oak Trees grow here loads, and on bonsaiuk I did see an 'English Oak Starter Bonsai' which may be an option ? I could put it outside on warmer days, but bring it inside on the freezing / cold days ? Decisions decisions ! :lol:

Thanks again guys :) Frankie x

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Frankie
I guess being from England it would have to be an indoor bonsai,
This is not an accurate assumption, there are numerous species that can be grown in the traditional (outside) method.

This site from a noted bonsai grower in the UK should be of interest.
https://www.bonsai4me.com/index.htm
I could put it outside on warmer days, but bring it inside on the freezing / cold days ? Decisions decisions !
This is not a wise strategy. Tropicals should be inside for the winter and temperate trees stay outside, and never the twain shall meet. No back and forth!

Winter protection for your outside trees is a little more involved than simply leaving them to their own devices but you do not need to concern yourself with that right now.

Norm

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Tachigi
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Frankie,

The easiest formula for success in bonsai is to look out your window and around your region. The trees/shrubs you see growing in nature in your region is by far the best and odds are good even for a beginner that you will succeed as they will handle your climate well.

Good trees in your region that come to mind are English Yew, English Oak, Hawthorn, Juniper, Hemlock (though hemlocks are for a bit more advanced practitioner)
Cheers, Tom

North Star Bonsai

bonsaifrankie
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Okay, so I've decided I'm going to get an indoor bonsai, it will make it a lot easier for me I think :)

I've been looking at bonsaiuk and I've also decided I'm going to get the whole starter pack with an Elm bonsai tree, trimming scissors, bonsai fertiliser and a care guide, although I have ordered a book, I think I said before ? :? I think that if this goes well, I will definitely look into getting another tree, so they will both keep me occupied ! :D :D

Thanks again for ALLL the tips guys, they have all really helped soo much ! :)

Thank youuu ! Frankie x :lol:

bonsaifrankie
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Okay, so I've just this minute changed my mind again :shock:

I still don't know what I'm going to do :?

There is a japanese maple growing just outside my house, a smaller one, in a big blue pot, that is my mums, and that thrives well where it is, would I be able to take a cutting off this and 'create' a bonsai ?

It's a gorgeous burgundy colour before it loses it's leaves, but just before they fall the leaves go a bright red colour, and I do really like it, so would this be possible ? :?

There is also a Cherry Blossom tree, would the same be able to be done with that ? :?

There is so much more to this bonsai business than meets the eye, but it's okay, I think I can handle it ! :D

Thanks again (again :wink: ) Frankie x

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Frankie.
Thanks again for ALLL the tips guys, they have all really helped soo much !
You're welcom, glad to help.
Okay, so I've decided I'm going to get an indoor bonsai, it will make it a lot easier for me I think Smile

I've been looking at bonsaiuk and I've also decided I'm going to get the whole starter pack with an Elm bonsai tree, trimming scissors, bonsai fertiliser and a care guide, although I have ordered a book, I think I said before
Despite what may be advertised, Chinese Elms are not the best choice for indoor culture, they're not the worst but they will do better outside as will nearly all species (taking climate into consideration of course) unless you really commit to the whole inside deal.

As far as the kit goes, if you can get more tree for the same amount of money by forgoing the kit that's what I would do. You already have a book coming so the guide probably won't be necessary. Specialized bonsai fertilizer is not necessary, nor are the scissors. You can get by with the generic versions of those two items. In other words, spend the money on the tree rather than the accessories.
There is a japanese maple growing just outside my house, a smaller one, in a big blue pot, that is my mums, and that thrives well where it is, would I be able to take a cutting off this and 'create' a bonsai ?
The short answer is yes, it is possible. Japanese Maples are not one of the easier species to root from cuttings. The only time I have ever had any luck is doing it under glass to keep the humidity up. Then there is the issue of starting with such immature material, such material will take years before you will have anything that resembles a bonsai. The same applies to seedlings, it can be done but it is a slow process.

So it seems you are still 'on the fence' concerning the whole indoor/outdoor issue. Why not do both? Keeping in mind the list of suitable species (from Bonsai 4 Me) take a trip to your local nursery. Look for older material that may not be selling quickly rather than younger material. Look for a decent trunk and some low branches. You can begin to learn this whole thing by styling your own tree rather than paying, what can be, the high prices for less than exceptional stock. Also, be aware of old landscape material that your neighbors may want to get rid of. A lot of old material can be found for free if you are simply looking for it.

For the inside try a Ficus or Schefflera. More ideas here:
https://www.bonsaihunk.us/cultural.html

Norm

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rainbowgardener
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Sorry, frankie, but you don't seem to be getting what all these experts are telling you...

When they suggest looking at trees that grow in your area, they are talking about for outdoor growing, leaving outdoors all winter. All deciduous trees need a period of cold dormancy.

Here is a good article about Japanese maple. If you are serious about one of those you should read the whole article, but especially:

Dormancy is a survival strategy that temperate climate species have evolved to stay alive over the winter. These species have a biological clock that tells them to slow activity and prepare soft tissues for an onslaught of freezing temperatures.

Species that have well developed dormancy needs cannot be tricked out of them. If you attempt to give a such as species, for instance Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, an eternal summer by bringing it in the house, it will grow continuously for as long as two years. After a maximum period of sustained growth, a temperate climate plant will automatically go dormant no matter what the season or condition. Deciduous plants will lose their leaves, evergreens will curtail all new growth. This is very stressful to the plant and usually fatal. It will be 100% fatal if the plant does not receive the necessary period of cold temperatures required to break the dormancy. https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/dormancy.htm

So if you want to grow bonsai that you keep indoors through the winter you need to be thinking about tropical species that are used to staying warm and growing year round. If you want to grow deciduous/ native species like oak, elm, maple, you need to plan to leave them outdoors in the winter (and preferably all the rest of the time).

from the same article above:

All trees are outdoor trees. The terms 'indoor bonsai' and 'outdoor bonsai' are meaningless except to describe where you keep your trees. There are no plants that cannot be grown 'indoors' if you can supply them with what they need. In most cases, keeping temperate climate woody plants indoors is very difficult.
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