mossonthemoon
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Location: Scotland

I want to try for my first Bonsai

Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum, and I hope to start my first bonsai. I have a Ficus benjamina here, and I wonder whether it would be suitable. I got it very inexpensively and have had it for a few months. It seems to be nice and healthy. If it is not a good plant to make into a bonsai I won't be too disappointed. I can get another, and let this grow large. I hardly know anything yet, so I'm not sure exactly what stage is too late, etc. I have a book that I inherited with my house, and will definitely be reading it, but first I wanted to post a photo of my little tree to find out whether people think it would work. Thank you in advance!

[img]https://i.imgur.com/1VLRx.jpg[/img]

kdodds
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Ficus benjamina can, indeed, be used for bonsai. Yours looks like the cultivar "Starlight", a variegated variety with normal sized leaves. While the leaves will reduce in time, there are other, smaller leaved F. benjamina cultivars that are more well suited. What you have now, though, is a bunch of sticks in a pot. Your first step will be to separate them into separate pots. Keep the most promising ones for bonsai, and pot the resta s houseplants.

mossonthemoon
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Location: Scotland

Thank you, I will do that. I was thinking about doing some re-potting soon, but up to this point have been nervous since I have read so much about ficus disliking movement. Like I said this plant was very cheap. Do you think it would be more satisfying to get a different type with leaves of a better size? It doesn't necessarily have to be a ficus, though I have heard they are pretty easy care, so thought it would be good for me as a beginner.

kdodds
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Rather than settle on pots or anything like that, you should invest in a decent bonsai book. I like "The Living Art of Bonsai". There are so many mistakes beginners make because, well, they just don't know where to go or what to do. As I said, pot the ones that look the most promising and keep the rest as houseplants. Now, all you'll really be doing is placing them individually into pots. That's it. They need to grow some before you can do anything even remotely "bonsai-ish" with them. Pay attention to book sections on proportions. Trunk to height should be no more than 1:12, with 1:6 being a sort of "ideal". Measure your tree's trunk. Less than ½"? Then you're looking at, absolute max, a tall, skinny, 6" tree. Now, measure the largest leaves. About 2"? Okay, so let's say you can get them reduced by half. 1" leaves on a 6" tree? See the problem? It's just not going to be very convincing at all. SO, plant them in pots that will leave 2-3 inches in every direction clear for the roots to grow. Probably this will mean a 6" (gallon) nursery pot. When the roots fill teh container, pot up, and repeat until the desired trunk thickness is attained. Outside, this can take a few years. Inside? Most of a decade or longer. You might want to reconsider using those plants. Get a nice book, read here, THEN decide what species (or multiple species) you want to try. Buy at least a gallon sized "prebonsai". This can run $20 and upwards. Otherwise, you've a very long wait before you can actually do anything. Now, you might want to also consider picking up a Ficus retuse "mallsai" while you're waiting to teach yourself on.

mossonthemoon
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 6:21 pm
Location: Scotland

Thank you, that is very helpful. I will look at what the bonsai book I got is (like I said it came with the house, along with a many, many other books), and if it isn't that I will look out for it. From what you said, I may keep this as a full-sized (I wanted some large plants for the house and originally chose this for that reason), and look for something already started, but that will allow me to feel like I am training a bonsai. I will have a think about it. Thank you again!

mossonthemoon
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 6:21 pm
Location: Scotland

Having said that, I do like the idea of having a very long-term project as well, so the decade does not put me off. I think I would like a bit of both, though. Two bonsai are better than one, anyway.

kdodds
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NP. Also consider working outdoor trees. There are many, many native tree that are well suited to bonsai culture. AND, keeping temperate species outside is SOOOO much easier than keeping tropicals inside. And, they grow faster, even with dormancy and even with the tropicals' extended grow period (which isn't much, shortened days still lead to winter "dormancy", or slow growth). Also, without the benefit of a sunroom, greenhouse, or something similar, growth indoors will be negligible. I have a green house window, two actually, facing south, with eastern and some western exposure. Still, from about October through March, I get very slow growth. I know European Beech, Larch, and English Oak are all usable. Plus, nurseries have zone specific plants. But, by far, collecting your own wild tree, if you've the time to look for them, is going to be the most cost effective way to find material you can work with. Just don't dig up the neighbors' landscape shrubs while they're sleeping. ;)

mossonthemoon
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 6:21 pm
Location: Scotland

Now I like the idea of finding something myself a lot! Thanks for that. I have a few places I could look, I think. I live in Scotland, but to be honest, since I am not a native, I'm not sure of all of the trees I will find. I still look at some that are very common to find and puzzle over what they could be. This should be a fun research project.

tomc
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If I lived in Scotland and had my heart set on a yamadori tree hearty to my home and hearth; I'd be spending a year or three looking at heath,

It used to be grouped in the Erica family, but if my fast (wikipedia) read tells me it is now a Calluna.

The mediterainian heaths aughta be trainable, yours might be too.
Think like a tree
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mossonthemoon
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Posts: 24
Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 6:21 pm
Location: Scotland

Thank you for the suggestion of heath. It is not one that would have occurred to me, but I can imagine that it would be interesting to watch develop. The first tree that I had thought of was the Rowan, because there are many of them around me. I am probably going to have a lot of time on my hands soon, so maybe I will eventually be able to do several.

kdodds
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Rowan (Mountain Ash) generally don't make good bonsai material unless the bonsai is quite large (probably in the 3'/1m range). I believe Walter Pall has several. You might actually want to google Walter's name as he does a LOT of European Yamadori work.



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