90percent
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Home Schooling Mom Needs Bonsai 101 Help!

Hello Everyone,

I'm new here and embarking on a major bonsai undertaking. I home school my children and each year they pick a topic of interest that we weave throughout all their cross curriculum unit studies. They have enthusiastically chosen bonsai as this year’s topic which we will begin in earnest in September which gives me about a month to get up to speed.

I am looking for any and all help you can provide. In addition to starting our own bonsai tree(s), we will also be incorporating history, geography, art and marketing elements into their studies. For example, our summer project to kick things off was a screen saver that they created and will sell. They will use proceeds to purchase tools and materials to start the project, learn marketing skills in the process and will explore the history and origins of bonsai, incorporate their art requirement and other similar related lessons, as well as eventually building a website with my assistance.

As you can see, my needs range from where to purchase supplies at good prices, how to grow and maintain the trees as well as the historical and geographical background. From there we will build multiple interwoven projects into the coming year. The forum postings are also part of the lesson plan, but because they are all under 13 (ages 5, 9, and 11) I have to do the posting for them to comply with most standard forum policies.

I am open to any and all suggestions for resources, reference material and practical advice for beginners. This will be a very exciting project for us all and we are really looking forward to it!

Thank you in advance for your help,
Stephanie

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Stephanie,

I applaud you for undertaking such an ambitious project. You are asking for quite a large amount of information, information and skills that can require a lifetime to develop. The internet can provide you with so much valuable information that I did not have access to when I began my journey into bonsai. I, and I am sure others here, will attempt to help you and your children on this undertaking. This help will most likely consist primarily of links to other sites that provide the information that you are lookong for.

Firstly, you do not indicate your location, there is still time to acquire some plant material but fall will be upon us before you know it. There is of course tropical material that can be grown indoors over the winter but that will probably require some supplemental lighting.

I will begin to think about this project and get back to you. In the meantime visit this site,

www.evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm

Pay special attention to the articles section, there is much knowledge to be gained from this site. Brent is well respected in the bonsai community.

Norm

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Gnome
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Location: Western PA USDA Zone 6A

Stephanie,

A few more links to help you begin your research.


General information:


[url]https://www.fourseasonsbonsai.org/allthereis/soil.htm[/url]

[url]https://www.gsbf-bonsai.org/daiichibonsaikai/wiring.html[/url]

[url]https://www.bonsai-bci.com/species/indexgen.html[/url]



Galleries/Images of quality bonsai:

[url]https://www.andyrutledge.com/worlds2/index.html[/url]

[url]https://walter-pall.de/laubbbfortg.htm[/url]


Tools and supples:

[url]https://www.dallasbonsai.com/[/url]

[url]https://www.bonsaimonk.com/index.html[/url]

Bonsai as art

[url]https://www.andyrutledge.com/book/[/url]


I hope this helps you.

Norm

90percent
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More info about my location

Hi Norm,

Wow, that's for all the great links - very helpful!

We live just outside of Pittsburgh, PA -- at the moment it's 100 degrees in the shade and the humidity is on the ceiling! And while we are all screaming about how unbearable the heat is, within about three months we'll all be moaning about the cold and the snow! (Just can't please some people!)

I am suspectig that due to our wonderful seasons, my best bet is to take the indoor growing approach -- at least that is an environment I can control.

I am off to digest some of the material and links you provided, but just wanted to add the geo info to assist you and everyone here!

Also, any suggestions for links that would be geared toward Bonsai for children? Because of the age ranges, the older ones can read and do reports on a lot of the links already provided, but my 5 year old (who is quite excited about growing her own "little trees" LOL) would do well with a site that was geared toward a younger crowd. I don't know if anything even exists or not, but would be interested in exploring this further.


Thanks!
Stephanie

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Gnome
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Stephanie,

One aspect of you plan is a little troublesome to me, with fall approaching the opportunity to actually do hands on research will be limited. This is not meant to be a criticism, just an observation. With the end of the season approaching most bonsai tasks are already done for the year. By September most species will be preparing themselves for winter. Other than planting out in the garden to thicken up, very little work is usually performed at this time of year. Other aspects can be taught over the winter of course, (where are you?), but little practical work can be done on temperate species until spring.

Now might be a good time to point out a misconception on the part of many, that you can put a seedling in a pot and with a few years care develop a stunning bonsai. This is not the case, although propagation is an important part of bonsai, young plants require many years of simply being allowed to grow before they can begin the training process. A seedling project next spring will be exciting for the children but this is only one aspect of bonsai.

Other sources of bonsai include:

1. Collected material, either from the wild or from the urban landscapce. Don't sell this one short, there are literally millions of old, overgrown shrubs and trees throughout the country that have potential.

2. Nursery stock, Trees and shrubs in anything from 1 gallon containers on up can provide good material if chosen carefully.

3. Some nurseries, such as Brent's site mentioned above, specialize in species that are suitable for bonsai and put the effort into developing the proper characteristics from the seedling/cutting stage.

4. Trees can be purchased in any stage of development from young trees just beginning to be trained on up to hundred year old specimens. Purchasing at least one "finished bonsai" gives you something mature to work on while your younger stock grows on or recovers from collecting. By the way bonsai are never really finished, a popular quote is that "The only finished bonsai is a dead bonsai".

Forgive me for rambling but with a project of this scope you are probably going to receive information in a somewhat piece-meal fashion.


Norm

P.S.

I just saw your reply as I was busy typing this post. I know of no sites geared toward children but I will take a look around. By the way I am located in Beaver Co. there is another member here from our area as well, sorry I can't recall who at the moment. There is a bonsai club in pittsburgh.

[url]https://www.pittsburghbonsai.org/[/url]

Norm

JoeLewko
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stephanie,

i think norm really hit the nail on the head here, that by fall most of the work will be done. although, if you are looking to work with indoor bonsai, you should get a sub-tropical tree. I suggest some sort of ficus, as they are great beginner trees, as they do well with erratic watering, they handle being dry better than most trees, and they adapt well to low-light conditions. Also, they continue to grow throughout the winter (qlthough not as fast), so you and your kids can monitor their growth, and clip the tree as needed.

visit www.amazon.com for books, which can be very helpful. i know there is a thread on the forum, where zombiefreak has done book reviews. ill post the link if i can find it.

As for tools and supplies, www.bonsaiofbrookly.com has a large selection. they're a little more expensive, but the quality is better.

i havtn seen any websites geared towards children. Sorry...

As for history, most books ive come across offer only a brief history of bonsai, as little is known on the subject. i'd suggust reading as much as you can, and making a compliation of everthing you read to teach to your kids.

Also for geography, just remember that bonsai styles are based on things that occur in nature. Since the japanese contributed the most to bonsai, their geography is probably the most represented. Just a thought...

Joe

Zombiefreak
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This is very admirable and awesome what you are doing, as well as quite ambitious. If you have a borders books located near you, you can pick up "The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Bonsai" by:Ken Norman this book is in there bargain section and runs $6.00 or so. This book has alot of information and lots of pictures for visual reference. I would also search out books at your local library. I would seek to educate the kids into learning what nodes,and other parts of trees are called, that would fit a bill in biology. Also if your lucky you may have a conservatory near by that has Bonsai on exhibit, they may be able to help you organize a field trip with one of the care givers at the observatory. I would definetly use your local Bonsai club as a resource if they have a contact number call the club and explain to them what you are doing, as most clubs actually have classes, This may be expensive but they may also just let you get away with you paying the cost for you to go to the class and bring the kids along with you, just a thought. Bonsai journal I keep one myself and it may be very helpfull for the children to record any observed information of the bonsai you choose to work with. This will also be kept as a record of daily tasks and how they effect the tree. Also if for some reason a tree dies you will then have a timeline and the conditions leading up to that event. IMHO the best would be to do alot of research now and kick up the whole thing to full scale in spring, when most Bonsai will begin blooming with flowers. As well check out my post on books that I reviewed. I'm sure more thoughts will come to me at a later time but until then Later.

Welcome to the Forum !!!
Hope all of this helps

Zombie

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Another thing I thought about is Craig Coussins book newly reissued , Bonsai School may be a good book for you to invest in for yourself it may give you ideas for curriculum with your supervision that the kids can participate in.

90percent
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Some clarifications please

Ok, I'm doing pretty well on the historical and reference material, but trying to sort out how and what I am growing is starting to get a little confusing.

Here is how my mind would work... (scary, I know):

Make an initial plan for 3 projects: Seed(ling?), young plant, and mature/finished plant for styling. I'm not saying to do all three at once, but to incorporate all three in the master plan. If this sounds like a logical plan, then what could I begin now (or within the next month) and in what order would I layer in each of the three projects?

Gnome said: By September most species will be preparing themselves for winter.
What exactly does this mean?

Ficus and juniper seem to keep popping up as logical varieties, but I'm getting confused as to whether this will work indoors or out or possibly both? And whether these would be good to start now or if I should wait until spring.

So the teacher has become the student and I am trying to assimilate as much as possible and get a good plan of action going.

Thanks again!
Stephanie

JoeLewko
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Quote:
Gnome said: By September most species will be preparing themselves for winter.


What exactly does this mean?
this means that any temperate tree will be slowly easing itself into a period of dormancy. As the tempature slowly declines, the tree is slowing its growth.

As for your juniper/ficus question, ficus can be grown indoors, although it is probably ideal to keep it outside in the summer. Juniper should be kept outside all year round, unless you can put the time into taking care of it inside. (i am not familiar wiht these methoda, as i am able to grow mine outside all year). I suggust if you can keep junipers outside, don't put yourself through growing them inside.
And whether these would be good to start now or if I should wait until spring
are you talking about all three projects, or just one of the specific ones? (seedling, young plant or mature)

90percent
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Great opportunity

JoeLewko wrote:
are you talking about all three projects, or just one of the specific ones? (seedling, young plant or mature)
I was talking about the Ficus and/or juniper?

I also wanted to note that through a great bit of timing, it is possible that we may be able to attend a Bonsai Flea Market and Annual Picnic being held by the Pgh. Bonsai Society this weekend. I am not sure if it is for members only or where it is located, but I've emailed and am waiting for a response.

Not only would this give us an excellent opportunity for some hands on viewing, but it sounds like making some purchases would be in order as well. I'll keep eveyone posted!

Thanks,
Stephanie

JoeLewko
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I was talking about the Ficus and/or juniper?
oh i see..well you can purchase a mature tree really any time of the year, but a juniper isnt really doing much during the winter, as it is in dormancy. I also wouldn't reccommend repotting a juniper this late in the year, although you may be able to get away with it. As for a ficus, it can be started really any time of the year. In fact, i recently repotted a ficus a few days ago, and it seems to be doing ok. There's a thred on the forum, where i am posting its progress. If you plan to re-pot a ficus, just make sure you give it proper after care. Meaning, sometimes a ficus can get used to erratic watering, or a dry spell, but if it is repotted, the proper attention should be given to it. Also, since a ficus is a tropical tree, it will be growing year-round. (though not as much in fall and winter as spring and summer).

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