walsh1kt
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First bonsai, need tree ID help and guidance.

After months of research and wanting to do so, I finally bought my first tree today. The staff at the local nursery were not as helpful as I had hoped though. I am pretty sure it is a ficus retusa (golden gate ficus). I was just wondering if anyone could help me make a positive ID on the tree type.

As this is my first bonsai experience I am not sure if the tree is in good shape right now or if it needs any pruning done at this time. There are new buds growing on some of the shoots. I hope the picture will help.

I live in the northeast and I want to make sure it is getting the correct amount of lighting as well. Thanks!!

[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus.jpg[/img]

ynot
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Re: First bonsai, need tree ID help and guidance.

walsh1kt wrote:After months of research and wanting to do so, I finally bought my first tree today.
Welcome walsh :D.

I am glad to hear of your research. 8)

If you have not run across them, here are a few sites you should become familiar with as they will be very very helpful to you:

This is a care sheet about your tree [I agree it is a F. Retusa] https://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ficus.html

On [url=https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics.html]this page[/url]you will find links to many many articles of interest and relevance & I would start with the beginners pages and the ones on 'Indoor bonsai' as well as the pages referring to watering and soil although much of what's available there will be of interest [and useful] to you.

[url=https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm]Another page of articles of interest to you.[/url]

[url=https://www.bonsaihunk.us/ficusforum/FicusTechniques.html]This guy[/url] literally wrote the book on Ficus.
The staff at the local nursery were not as helpful as I had hoped though. I am pretty sure it is a ficus retusa (golden gate ficus). I was just wondering if anyone could help me make a positive ID on the tree type.
[Lack of help..] It happens, Remember their job is to sell you something. Sadly, 'Planned obsolescence' works in their favor. Even with a live product.
As this is my first bonsai experience I am not sure if the tree is in good shape right now or if it needs any pruning done at this time. There are new buds growing on some of the shoots. I hope the picture will help.

I live in the northeast and I want to make sure it is getting the correct amount of lighting as well. Thanks!!
It looks healthy to me, As far as light goes, The more light the better for this guy [Ficus are native to Australia and Thailand- No worries] As soon as the temps are not going to be below 50f at night I would put this guy outside and let him enjoy the summer, If you don't mind shuffling him around put him out for the day [Again temps above 50f] and bring him back in at night.

Is that a top dressing that we see in the pictures or is that the soil the entire depth of the pot?
Do take a good look at your soil after you familiarize yourself with the properties of appropriate bonsai soil. See if it is good stuff. [Generally trees from retail stores tend to be potted in a peat rich soil that compacts easily, limits aeration and retains far to much moisture [when it's wet and is difficult to re-wet when it dries. A course well draining mix consisting of a large particle size is much better for bonsai.]

These two threads [and the links within] offer more info wrt bonsai soil:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3422
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3423

Do check out the links provided as they will provide you with a bunch of useful info. Do tell us a bit about your watering as well as where your keeping it please.

One last thing if you could: Is it possible that you take a picture from the oppositely viewed angle as I am not sure this is the 'front' of the tree. Actually I think it might very well be potted incorrectly as it appears to have an 'eye poker branch' from either angle.
{ A branch that comes directly at the viewer when viewed from the front, Though it's tough to tell from a single picture.}

A picture from each side would be best actually.

Just trying to help you make the most of your tree here 8).

Good luck

ynot

walsh1kt
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Thank you so much ynot!!! I will take some time tonight and start through the information you provided.

As far as taking him outside during the day. It won't be a problem adjusting to indoor/outdoor all the time during the summer I take it?

I checked the soil and it seems to be a nice course soil all the way through. I purchased the tree from a nursery that has a great reputation for bonsai around here, but like you mentioned, they are more interested in the sale.

Here are some pictures, the first post being the "front" and these in order turning in 1/4 clockwise increments. I also provided a top view. I do see what you mean about the 'eye poker branch' I believe.

Any other personal suggestions would be much appreciated! Can't thank you enough for the resources, insight and warm welcome.

[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_side.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_back.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_side_2.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_arial.jpg[/img]

walsh1kt
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Also as far as watering goes, I was thinking of using the submersion technique to start as I have heard it is recommended for beginners? Do you find that checking the soil with your finger is the best way to check for watering until a routine is found?

I will also be doing more research into when and how to fertilize.

ynot
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walsh1kt wrote:Thank you so much ynot!!! I will take some time tonight and start through the information you provided.
Any other personal suggestions would be much appreciated! Can't thank you enough for the resources, insight and warm welcome.
8) Your very welcome.
As far as taking him outside during the day. It won't be a problem adjusting to indoor/outdoor all the time during the summer I take it?
Oh you need not do this all summer at all, When the temps will be consistently above 50F [Day & night] just leave him outside [All the time] until the temps start to get too low in the fall.

I phrased it the way I did because you are in the North-West And I am in IL so I am unfamiliar with your current weather [temps].
I checked the soil and it seems to be a nice course soil all the way through.
This is very good:!:

I am still looking at the pictures, More later 8).

ynot

PS [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3343]Here[/url] is a thread you may find interesting :D, Bookmark it as it WILL take more than one visit to check it out.

Let me know what you think..

walsh1kt
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Actually I am in MI so pretty much the same climate as you! Look forward to hearing more. Now to the reading. :)

I'm also not sure of the age, which is not a huge factor but was curious as to whether or not that is something that can be determined by anything?

ynot
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walsh1kt wrote:Also as far as watering goes, I was thinking of using the submersion technique to start as I have heard it is recommended for beginners?
No, Submersion is not a method that is suggested as a regular watering practice by any experienced bonsai enthusiast.

[Especially not some of the pros, Watering 700 trees using this method sounds a bit time consuming...Know what I mean?]

It is only used in special & extreme circumstances IE: After a repot or if a tree is supremely rootbound to the point where water is having difficulty penetrating the rootball. [In that case a repot would be required]
Do you find that checking the soil with your finger is the best way to check for watering until a routine is found?
Checking by digging a bit w/ your finger is a good method yes [Not just the surface]....

HOWEVER, There is no such thing as a 'routine' when it comes to watering [as you will discover] You check them every day to determine if they need water or not.

These were both good questions and actually both are specifically addressed further at [url=https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basics_Watering.html]this page[/url] which I referred to earlier. {Just so you know I am not making this stuff up ;) 8)}
I will also be doing more research into when and how to fertilize.
Ok, One thing to note is that there is no difference between plain old fert and 'bonsai fert' except for the writing on the package and of course the price. Any balanced fert will do just fine.
Actually I am in MI so pretty much the same climate as you! Look forward to hearing more. Now to the reading. :)
:oops: :? Oops MI- I am obviously confused [But that's Ok, It's a comfortable feeling...lol.] My bad.
I'm also not sure of the age, which is not a huge factor but was curious as to whether or not that is something that can be determined by anything?
Nope, Age does not matter one bit. {Some say: It is not polite to ask the age of the lady.' ;) }

Actually age is an illusion in bonsai [Or it is usually supposed to be- We take a young tree and try to make it look ancient. - Smoke and mirrors ~ THATS what it is..LOL ]

You won't like it but there absolutely is a way to see exactly how old your tree is: Cut it down and count the rings.... I did mention you wouldn't like it.:P ;).

If people ask you about it you could always say what John Naka said when asked:
'How old is that tree?'

"Three hundred years"

'How do you know?'

"I grew it from seed myself"...

The strangest thing is SOME people say 'Wow, That is an OLD tree....:shock: :? :roll: :lol:...

ynot

walsh1kt
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Thanks for the advice on watering and fertilizer. I was wondering about whether or not there was much of a difference.

Very funny stuff about the age, I'll have to try that sometime! :lol:

ynot
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Re: First bonsai, need tree ID help and guidance.

Hey Walsh,

I scooped your photos into a row to check them out, So far I think that the front it has may be the best after all wrt the trunk. That's a very quick opinion mind you, I AM still looking.

I am having a bit of difficulty with the branch placement on this tree, It is fixable [As most things are in bonsai] but it would take a long time.

What I mean by that is that branches [traditionally] are on the outside of the curves of the trunk [It is one of the 'guidelines' or 'rules' of bonsai design and like most 'rules' you will find trees that break or bend it and still look good.]

It is a bit difficult to get around here though IMO.

I can work up a virtual if you wish...Though it may be a radical reworking from how it sits now...;) lol.

I am not saying that you would want to, But you could always reduce it's height severely and rebuild the top of it.

[Just curious, Does it have any nebari to speak of? - {Surface roots spreading at the base of the tree.} To check just temporarily brush away the surface soil around the base.]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_side.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_back.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_side_2.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b98/walsh1kt/ficus_arial.jpg[/img]

ynot

walsh1kt
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ynot, I'm not sure I completely understand what you mean by "branches are on the outside of the curves of the trunk." From what I've seen of other trees I believe I have an idea. What would you suggest I do to them, or should I reduce the height do you think?

A virtual would be great to see if you have the time to do so!!!

I did see a bit of nebari, but it seems to be a bit below the surface at this point. As for my other post about supplemental lighting, I have been keeping it in the same window with a fluorescent light above it as well.

walsh

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Walsh,

Despite the difference in species my
[url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3544]Chinese Elm[/url] had some of the same issues. Take a look at it, in particular the sketch at the end illustrates the idea of putting the branches on the outside of the curves.

Norm

ynot
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Hey Walsh,
What would you suggest I do to them, or should I reduce the height do you think?
Well, It's your call But do realize that any drastic restyling is going to make your tree look....Well, NOT like a tree for quite a while. [Potentially several years]
That is something for you to consider [I am not trying to talk you out of it- But it is the reality. You could dramatically improve your tree.]

[url=https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basics_StylingForms.html]A bit about bonsai styles/forms here[/url]. [url=https://www.bonsai-bci.com/b_styles.htm]A very simple powerpoint presentation on various styles.[/url]
A virtual would be great to see if you have the time to do so!!!
{DISCLAIMER: Just ideas here... Almost anything is possible if you want to put the time in, I am lucky that's not a factor in virts :P;):lol:}
Two quick and simple ones for you. Neither would be all that quick to accomplish actually [Sorry, I am not great at virts - But they ARE great fun to explore ideas with. :D.....:lol:]
I am not thrilled with the tall one actually...Yet I will still post it :mad::shrug: , I did move the left hand branch up as you can see.]
Excellent lighting would be required to get even close to foliage this tight.

[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img61.imageshack.us/img61/8495/walshficusvirt1xv5.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img19.imageshack.us/img19/8854/walshficusvirtshohin1foav2.jpg[/img][/url]

If you have suggestions or ideas on where you would like to take it, Or how radical you would get with restyling....Bring 'em on.
I did see a bit of nebari, but it seems to be a bit below the surface at this point.
A simple solution for that is to simply not plant it as deeply at the next repot [Or, If the nebari needs more development just leave them buried for a few years of development. Do note which angle they appear the best from and see what options that offers you as far as using that angle as the front of the tree.
As for my other post about supplemental lighting, I have been keeping it in the same window with a fluorescent light above it as well.
Ok, Cool.
walsh1kt wrote:ynot, I'm not sure I completely understand what you mean by "branches are on the outside of the curves of the trunk." From what I've seen of other trees I believe I have an idea.
Yeah, It is often considered a 'rule/guideline' and it is often broken successfully [Very dependent on the other attributes of the tree.]

[url=https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/rules.htm]Brent Walston explains a version [Subjective] of the 'rules' FAR better than I ever could. I especially appreciate his intro.[/url]

Using the taller virt as an example I have pointed out the inside and the outside of the curves. [This is what you were thinking yes?]
[url=https://imageshack.us][img]https://img484.imageshack.us/img484/8128/walshficusvirtcornershf0.jpg[/img][/url]

Now obviously there is a range as opposed to a specific point [Good thing too as it's not as though we point and say 'Grow there'...;):lol:]

Hope this helps :)

ynot

walsh1kt
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ynot
Well, It's your call But do realize that any drastic restyling is going to make your tree look....Well, NOT like a tree for quite a while. [Potentially several years]
That's ok. I want the end result to more aesthetically pleasing.

Excellent lighting would be required to get even close to foliage this tight.
Reducing the foliage is something that I'd really like to do eventually, so I'm going to have to ensure I find the right lighting strategy.

If you have suggestions or ideas on where you would like to take it, Or how radical you would get with restyling....Bring 'em on.
I like the generally direction your first virt was going as far as the trunk curve and amount of branches/foliage. I know this would be quite a dramatic and time intensive change, but in the end I think it's more of what I want. If you could point me in the right direction that would be great!

A simple solution for that is to simply not plant it as deeply at the next repot [Or, If the nebari needs more development just leave them buried for a few years of development. Do note which angle they appear the best from and see what options that offers you as far as using that angle as the front of the tree.
I think for now I'm going to leave it, and investigate more once I do repot next.

Using the taller virt as an example I have pointed out the inside and the outside of the curves. [This is what you were thinking yes?]
Yes exactly!

thanks,

walsh

walsh1kt
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I've also had quite a bit of new growth over the past week and no leaf drop, which leads me to believe it has been adapting well to the new environment coming from a greenhouse.

ynot
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Walsh,

As you know, To make the changes your considering will require some severe actions wrt this tree.

It is important to have a destination in mind before we can formulate a plan how to get there you know.
With that in mind, Lets hear a bit more about exactly where you want to go with this guy.

ynot

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