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DDMcKenna
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Florida Bonsai

Hello all. I hope everyone had a great and safe July 4th and I hope the continuing celebrations this weekend remain safe and happy.

I found a Nursery here in Florida, (Twin Oaks Nursery in Holly Hill), that sells a lot of Bonsai and I was able to learn quite a bit. He was very helpful and was willing to spend as much time as necessary answering all my questions. He had at least a half dozen Bonsais sitting there as proof that he knew how to take care of them. He keeps them outside but they are shielded by six-foot tall plants in a semi-circle around them. He said they get no morning sun but do get the full sun from around noon and on into the evening.

He explained how Junipers were excellent for Florida because they are hardy trees and don't mind the torture of Florida sun. He recommended not fertilizing any more than once a month at most because they would grow too fast otherwise. Other than that, he said I could groom it and suggested how best to trim it.

I guess the watering will be the most important thing to learn. I liked the idea of using the chopstick but that seems a tad expensive or excessive so I grabbed a handful of those wooden coffee stirrers from the local convenience store. Seems like they should do the same thing and not poke such a big hole in the soil. Plus the price was right.

The pot my Baby tree came in was a basic brown clay pot. The Nursery had these really cool looking pots that had fancy designs painted into them. The difference is that the original pot seemed more porous and the new one has the shiny baked ceramic finish to it. I'm sure that will have some kind of effect on how it holds or doesn't hold moisture. The new pot also had only one hole in the center of the bottom while the original had two. I found my baby to be wired down under the top layer of soil utilizing the two holes and I'm unable to do that with the new pot. So I just made sure to cover the hole with the screen material and bury my baby as deep as possible in the new pot.

I'm thinking I should wait a week or so before I start any trimming just to minimize the trauma my little tree experiences. But, on the other hand, in the past couple weeks, it seems the tree has been growing like crazy and has become thicker and fuller. Maybe a little trim might make it need less from the roots. What do you think?

PS: I just read through your post on "POTS" and I'm glad I did. I think what I did was more of a "just change the container" than an actual repotting. I was careful not to separate the soil from the roots anymore than necessary. I kept all the rocky soil around the roots intact as I moved it to the new pot. But I learned from your post how I can wire it down which I think is a really good idea.

This is the second day I have had it sitting out back and it has started POURING rain. I'm talking inches of rain in minutes. That's what it does here. So I have run out in the rain to rescue my baby and put her on the lanai. She might be there for the rest of the day.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

So how is your new juniper bonsai doing, now that you have had it a bit longer? Can you post a couple pics?
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

rainbowgardener wrote:So how is your new juniper bonsai doing, now that you have had it a bit longer? Can you post a couple pics?
Thank you for asking :) Actually, it seems to be doing very well. I'm kind of perplexed as to what to do right now because I feel like I may have traumatized it by changing it to another pot and then going into it again to wire it down. In both cases, I tried to keep as much of the soil packed around the roots as possible and do my best not to disturb it any more than necessary. I read how the "earthen" pots may be more appropriate for a Bonsai but I still like the brightly colored pot I got for it and here at the beach, it looks kind of beach-y plus my wife likes the new pot.

What concerns me now is that it seems to be growing too fast and I feel like I should prune it so it might require less resources from the roots. The guy at the nursery told me that a lot of places over-fertilize these things in order to create what he called a "halo" effect and that people are often concerned when months later, it doesn't seem to be doing as well.

I try to give it some sun everyday but I'm still afraid to leave it out when I go to work because one good torrential downpour and I may find it at the nearest storm drain. So, three days a week, it stays on the lanai and I put it out to get some evening sun for a couple hours when I get home. The other four days a week, I put it out in the morning and leave it out for six to eight hours unless we have an afternoon storm.

Other than that, it lives on the lanai and I'm trying to make sure it gets pretty dry before I water it and then I try to make sure I saturate it good. I'm using these wooden coffee stir-ers to try and learn how damp the soil is but I find that I keep second-guessing myself and have to stick my finger in the soil to judge how damp it really is. I have a "Windex-like" spray bottle that I use to spray it each morning but I don't know if that's a good idea. I'm thinking that I need to be careful about "abrupt" temperature changes so I don't spray it when it's real hot from sitting in the sun.

I need to decide how soon I should start pruning it. I haven't decided on the shape or style I want it to be yet so right now, it still looks very "bushy". There is a lot of new green growth or fresh green stems, some an inch long and one several inches long. I'm just afraid to hurt it by cutting it too soon but I really enjoy looking after it because it's fun to care for and I love the smell of evergreens.

First pic is my tree when I was out-of-town for almost a week and the second pic is just now...
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Tom?

How long would you wait until you started trimming this baby down to size. It seems like it is getting bigger every day and I'm afraid it will outgrow the pot if I let it go too long?

I just bought liquid Juniper Bonsai fertilizer and the slow release pellets. Thank you Amazon.com

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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

A little less stormy this weekend (4 days) :) so it can sit out on the edge of the little wall that separates the yard.
But I think I have to cut it this weekend, It's full and thick, but it's getting way too big. Is it possible they did over fertilize?
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Well, I posted that too soon. My order for the slow release fertilizer just showed up.
Exact same tiny green pellets I thought were decorations in the soil.
I think you can zoom in and see them.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

Pinch a few if your breaking into a sweat looking at your tree. I would not pinch much, cuttings (and yours is one I'll wager) still has too small feet. Let the top feed up the feet. And start peeking at others pinching for what you will want to try next spring. Dream up three plans, and pinch only once... :)

A fourty year old juniper is bigger than my belly...
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank you for the reply
Getting it delivered from 1-800-Flowers makes
it a little difficult to determine the age.

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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Well, it killed me just to make a couple tiny clips, and there is this one tiny limb that I am debating because it comes out of the main trunk so low. But as tiny as it is, its grown a full thick limb that is over six inches long. I don't think I accomplished a whole lot. Just some extraneous tips that were pointing down. It seems like all it wants to do is grow.
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I think I am sensing how heavy it is when it is freshly watered and how light it is when it is dry. Plus I'm still trying to decide if that last pic is the back of the tree or the front.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

Low branches: if you want a thicker trunk, then the longer and more ramified a low branch can become, the thicker the trunk will be.

So there is at least one argument for pruning (or leaving alone), as a sacrifice branch, your low branch.

Its a little less true for a cutting, but in general bonsai get groomed from the soil-line up.

Radiating roots often get carefuly covered with a thin layer of soil to encourage their growth .

There can be a trade off between the belly of a past sacrifice branch and its (the low branch) ability to thicken the trunk.

And you were wanting excuses for styling. :) Here might be one. Even if it sounds like I am saying both yes and no. if you keep on with bonsai, your going to try styling things, and be patient enough to let them evoke their growth.

A day will come when you are sure of your trees health at a glance. For now keep touching your baby.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank YOU, much appreciated!

I feel like "pruning" it is like chopping off pieces of your son or daughter. I don't like it. I guess it will take some time.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

I have promoted trees-plants that are needy to new bonsai growers. Um, needy in the woody-plant world might be a willow or an ivy. Both need at least weekly grooming.

A willow looks like one of the Fine or Marx brothers hair, all stood up on end. Weighting down eleventy-seven branches with a minor fracture and a fishing weight will fill up a schedule pretty quick.

Ivy needs you to pinch out the third leaf from new growth. And both will need a root prune X2 a year. Ivy will eventually gain a more or less vase shape like an elm.

As long as you keep up on watering your juniper, it can loaf on the back row of the bench.

As long as you don't utterly scalp your willow or ivy, they can grow out of intemperate pruning choices a lot faster...
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

My liquid fertilizer just showed up so now I have everything. But the funny thing is, I think I already had everything.
My little tree seems very happy and I don't think she needs any fertilizer for a little while.
I think they already fertilized the heck out of her and she just wants to stretch out in the sunshine.
Even though I feel like an over-protective father I think I just need to make sure she doesn't get too lonely or thirsty.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

I didn’t think of it but I should have taken an over-head shot picture straight down of my baby tree when I first got her. I can only go by what I can remember and I doubt that is a very accurate way of gauging her growth.

I’ve had her about a month now and it seems to me like she is growing really fast but if the store over-fertilized her for shipment, I am assuming that is to be expected. I see a lot of those little green pellets throughout the soil and I don't have any idea how long they last but all I am doing is trying my best to water her the correct amount and give her all the sunshine I can.

She seems to love the sunshine and it looks like she reaches out to soak it in. I’ve already killed one tree by trimming the branches back so I am scared to death to cut my baby’s branches too much. I think I can be patient and wait until next spring to see what she looks like but I have a feeling she is going to out-grow the little pot she is in. I'm going to start taking overhead shots so I can try to see how much bigger she gets as time goes on.

She started out with this kind of “wind-swept” look where all the foliage and branches seemed to point in one particular direction. That look was kind of cool but I found myself turning her around when I put her out in the sun each day so she could get an even tan. I don't know if that’s a good idea or not. She does seem to have a backside and a front-side so I don't know if I should always point her in the same direction.

My original idea of pruning her was to kind of shape her into a Christmas-tree shape or a cone shape but I nixed that idea shortly afterwards. Right now, she is just kind of spread out and because I turn her around a lot, she is just getting further and further spread out. I read that there might be a day when I have to trim the roots and that scares the hell out of me. The pot is so tiny and she is like a fragile little baby that I could hurt with one wrong move.

I just want her to be happy and if she wants to just stretch out in every direction then I'm okay with that. I just hope I can keep her in this size pot for a long time because unlike my kids, I don't want her to grow up. I like having her as my little baby so I have someone to look after and I don't want her to get too big. So how much and when to trim is going to be my biggest problem.
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I guess you can see from the last photo that it's difficult to actually see her change. The double-shot is two pics about a month apart so much of her growth is probably my imagination. But she really does look happy and healthy. The overhead shot is from this morning.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

Wow! Your bonsai looks great! I am really confused at this point as I have had two junipers so far, and I am here in Houston Texas, and both are dying. I have been told that our weather is "too hot and humid" for junipers and yet here you are, and told junipers are great for your climate, and Florida is much more humid than Houston! I am at a loss! Thanks for posting pics though, I am really jealous of your green juniper!

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Re: Florida Bonsai

I was pretty scared at first because I thought the same thing. But the nursery I found had half a dozen Bonsais sitting outside, somewhat shielded from all the direct sun, but three or four were Junipers and the owner told me the trees loved it there.

It's been about as hot and humid as it gets, really stormy last week which is normal in the afternoons, but better lately. The weather here can be brutal but it's quick, nothing lasts very long except the heat and humidity. But my baby seems to love sitting out in the sun at least fours hours a day. Would probably like more but I'm afraid to let her get too hot.

At this point I'm just praying I don't mess up and hurt her. She is a tree after all and I guess she just wants to be treated like one. I hope you find a way to make your Junipers feel better.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

The longer you read through new gardeners in bonsai forums, the more times you going to see watering problems.

One other thing a chop-stick test also does (besides metering water), is it airates soil. Which (not doing it) also goes back to reported watering problems.

Things you want to collect (by search) for next spring are: photos of how others pinch their junipers. How others comb out and cover up roots to develop them. How others build soil for bonsai. What dead wood should your tree have developed. Do you want trunk development with sacrifice branches to proceed?

In all of these cases please let me advise "just as good as", isn't. Soil from your garden is fine in the garden, its terrible for trees in shallow pots.

There is a tequila commercial where "any choice, will do", with terrible result. Its at least as glaring with bonsai styling.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank you, and actually, those are exactly some of the questions I had.

To be perfectly honest, I am petrified that I am walking a tightrope on this watering thing. It gets so darn hot down here and so far, I have limited her to four hours in the direct sunlight, mostly morning sun and up to noon. When I pick her up from the stool out by the garden, the pot itself feels really hot, but just like you would expect anything lying out in the sun down here. I take her into the lanai which is screened and offers some form of protection if only imaginary. I carefully go over each limb and leaf to make sure there are no bugs on her and I clean off the debris from all the blossoms in the back yard. I try to look closely at the trunks of each limb to see if it shows any signs of being stressed. I have a sense of relief when she is on the lanai because those storms happen mostly in the afternoon and can pop up in an instant and can be so devastating to something that size. So I am constantly worried about her when she is sitting out in the garden because I don't want any pests to touch her or let the storms wash her out of her little garden.

There is a distinct change in all the limbs where they start out looking darker and harder up to a point where you can see what is obviously fresh green and tender limbs but both thickly covered in the growth of those awesome tiny leaves. I think that delineates a time period between whatever it was like for her before and a new season of growth. The fresh green limbs look strong even though they look new and soft. The whole tree is very springy and feels good to touch.

I think I have been doing very closely to what you describe with the chopsticks when I push my pinky down into the soil to feel the water content. I can't imagine a chopstick making a very different impression into the soil as I am trying to feel my way down in and do my best not to break a root. I do it out about an inch from the edges but do it two or three times at one check in different spots around her. I'm still trying to learn what it feels like when she is totally dried out.

I started looking at pictures online but the problem is that there are thousands and thousands and for every really great looking bonsai, there is another completely different one that also looks great. So I end up thinking that letting her decide how she wants to look might be fun too.

Another concern is about winter time and the things I've read about how she needs to experience some "dormancy" which is something that is not always guaranteed down here. Some things just grow year-round so I'm hoping there is a way to make sure she is comfortable all year.

I think I got all the fertilizer she'll need for a while although I am hesitant to start too early or put too much on her. The liquid fertilizer says to mix one teaspoon with a gallon of water. That sounds extremely potent to me. She is so tiny that I'm thinking I need to use the smallest amount possible. One of my biggest concerns is how much, how often. The guy at the nursery told me he feeds his once a month at the most. He says they grow too fast if you feed them more often. I think you mentioned something about how "rinsing out the soil" when I'm watering means that I have to replace the nutrients which makes sense. So I just have to figure out how often to put some of those green pellets on or in her soil and how much of that liquid to use. I am still spraying her with the spray bottle in the morning. I feel like it is like letting her take a quick shower to start the day. I wondered about mixing a tiny amount of that liquid fertilizer in with the water I spray her with?

I am hopelessly torn on what to do about his trunk thing. I want her to have a strong and healthy trunk so whichever way would help her be as strong as possible is the way I would like to see her. I'm guessing that "dead wood" you described is the darker colored bark on the older parts of her trunk and limbs?

Ripping apart the tiny roots on a baby tree like this scares the hell out of me too. I watched a YouTube video and read some articles on how they "comb out" the roots but what I saw of her roots looked so tiny and fragile that it would be easy to break them off as you tugged on them to straighten them out. I'm sure she is a little tougher than I am giving her credit for and it sounds like her roots are going to come up out of the soil so I know that I am going to have to do something eventually. I guess that's all part of the process of learning and trying to make her roots match her top. Right now, she looks so awesome and I just want to do whatever I can to keep her this way..

I was hoping that I could buy that special cactus soil online. Amazon seems to have everything else. It's obvious this isn't your average everyday garden soil. I've never seen soil like this before and I guess it has to be just like the stuff she is in now. I saw a couple threads about how some people were creating this kind of soil mix. It doesn't sound all that difficult but I am willing to pay a little extra if I can find the "perfect" soil. So I'll probably try making some and searching for it online too just so I can compare the two and see if what I create looks anything like what you can buy.

I apologize for making this so long and sound so dramatic but I'm afraid this tiny Juniper is going to be smothered with affection.

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Re: Florida Bonsai

DDMcKenna wrote:Thank you, and actually, those are exactly some of the questions I had.

To be perfectly honest, I am petrified that I am walking a tightrope on this watering thing. It gets so darn hot down here and so far, I have limited her to four hours in the direct sunlight, mostly morning sun and up to noon. When I pick her up from the stool out by the garden, the pot itself feels really hot, but just like you would expect anything lying out in the sun down here. I take her into the lanai which is screened and offers some form of protection if only imaginary. I carefully go over each limb and leaf to make sure there are no bugs on her and I clean off the debris from all the blossoms in the back yard. I try to look closely at the trunks of each limb to see if it shows any signs of being stressed. I have a sense of relief when she is on the lanai because those storms happen mostly in the afternoon and can pop up in an instant and can be so devastating to something that size. So I am constantly worried about her when she is sitting out in the garden because I don't want any pests to touch her or let the storms wash her out of her little garden.
Some shade is probably in order if multiple waterings per day are not a possibility in your Florida heat.
DDMcKenna wrote:There is a distinct change in all the limbs where they start out looking darker and harder up to a point where you can see what is obviously fresh green and tender limbs but both thickly covered in the growth of those awesome tiny leaves. I think that delineates a time period between whatever it was like for her before and a new season of growth. The fresh green limbs look strong even though they look new and soft. The whole tree is very springy and feels good to touch.
There are indeed immature and mature needles on juniper.
DDMcKenna wrote:I think I have been doing very closely to what you describe with the chopsticks when I push my pinky down into the soil to feel the water content. I can't imagine a chopstick making a very different impression into the soil as I am trying to feel my way down in and do my best not to break a root. I do it out about an inch from the edges but do it two or three times at one check in different spots around her. I'm still trying to learn what it feels like when she is totally dried out.
:)
DDMcKenna wrote:I started looking at pictures online but the problem is that there are thousands and thousands and for every really great looking bonsai, there is another completely different one that also looks great. So I end up thinking that letting her decide how she wants to look might be fun too.
Doodling (about your tree) after photo review will finally lead to a concrete idea. You will prune your tree early in your spring feeling a whole lot better after knocking around some.
DDMcKenna wrote:Another concern is about winter time and the things I've read about how she needs to experience some "dormancy" which is something that is not always guaranteed down here. Some things just grow year-round so I'm hoping there is a way to make sure she is comfortable all year.
Cold is only part of the story, reduced light levels is the other limb that mother-earth is already forshortening a minute or so per day.
DDMcKenna wrote:I think I got all the fertilizer she'll need for a while although I am hesitant to start too early or put too much on her. The liquid fertilizer says to mix one teaspoon with a gallon of water. That sounds extremely potent to me. She is so tiny that I'm thinking I need to use the smallest amount possible. One of my biggest concerns is how much, how often. The guy at the nursery told me he feeds his once a month at the most. He says they grow too fast if you feed them more often. I think you mentioned something about how "rinsing out the soil" when I'm watering means that I have to replace the nutrients which makes sense. So I just have to figure out how often to put some of those green pellets on or in her soil and how much of that liquid to use. I am still spraying her with the spray bottle in the morning. I feel like it is like letting her take a quick shower to start the day. I wondered about mixing a tiny amount of that liquid fertilizer in with the water I spray her with?
OK a spray weekly will do. Regular plain watering should keep salts rinsed out.
DDMcKenna wrote:I am hopelessly torn on what to do about his trunk thing. I want her to have a strong and healthy trunk so whichever way would help her be as strong as possible is the way I would like to see her. I'm guessing that "dead wood" you described is the darker colored bark on the older parts of her trunk and limbs?
Keep shopping for photos, you are overlooking tree that have been intentionally bent, and had their living bark stripped back to a single vein. With sometimes a plethora of bald-white branches. Most of these trees are made not ancient. Note too, white (sometimes too white IMO) bark and trunk, that is lime-sulfur painted on.
DDMcKenna wrote:Ripping apart the tiny roots on a baby tree like this scares the hell out of me too. I watched a YouTube video and read some articles on how they "comb out" the roots but what I saw of her roots looked so tiny and fragile that it would be easy to break them off as you tugged on them to straighten them out. I'm sure she is a little tougher than I am giving her credit for and it sounds like her roots are going to come up out of the soil so I know that I am going to have to do something eventually.
Sooner or later your going to buy a bundle of disposable wooden chop-sticks at your local Piggly-Wiggly. You'll use that to comb out soil when its time to re-pot, I'm hinting that combing those surface roots and recovering them will help you develop a better set of feet for your tree.
DDMcKenna wrote:I was hoping that I could buy that special cactus soil online.
Try your local feed (horse chicken cow) store for soil components, and your local big-box store for cactus soil.
DDMcKenna wrote:I apologize for making this so long and sound so dramatic but I'm afraid this tiny Juniper is going to be smothered with affection.
Many people kill their first trees, before asking pertinent questions. As in ALL their first collected trees. Your willingness to try and run ahead of this, should lead to better outcomes.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank you so much, AWESOME help :)

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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Good evening everyone. My baby is a month old, (to me), now. Of course, I suspect it might be as old as many years but I have no way to know or find out. As it was a gift and was delivered by UPS from 1-800-Flowers, the chance of learning her true age is impossible. I feel a little sad about that but I don't know what I can do.

So far, I have given her lots of sun and fresh water on a timely basis. I think 1-800-Flowers must have gave her a super helping of fertilizer because she seems so happy and healthy but now, she hasn't been fertilized for a month. I know she has a lot of those little green pellets that turned out to be the very same slow-release fertilizer pellets I bought for her. They don't seem to get smaller so that leads me to assume they just get weaker and weaker as time goes on. Should I use tweezers and pick the old ones out?

This weekend, I will mix up a batch of that liquid fertilizer I got, probably a very weak solution, and put it in that spray bottle I use to mist her in the mornings. But, if I understood correctly, I should only do that once a week. I'll have to get a second bottle if I want to give her a little spritz in the mornings like I have been.

So my main question is how many of those green pellets and how often? The guy at the nursery made it sound like she would grow too fast if I did it more than once a month. But his Junipers look slightly more "weathered", if that makes sense. I think my baby is a lot more lush and bright green and I want her to stay that way.

I also have another concern that might be related to fertilization. I have these three little branches that are sticking out and are sticking out much further then they were a month ago, I think.
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These three limbs have their stems full of tiny leaves spaced much further apart than all the rest of her. It seems like all the rest of her is much older and these three little branches are very new. They are a lighter green and look like they are sprouting out away from the main part. It seems healthy and if anything, growing too fast, if that's possible. I don't want to cut anything I don't have to. I just want to make sure these extra long limbs won't be a problem.
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I don't know why I got two copies of that first pic. Tried to edit it twice, oh well
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Re: Florida Bonsai

My Baby is going to get her first dose of fertilizer this morning. The sun is incredibly bright and she has been sitting out there since early this morning. I watered her really good last night, careful to slowly pour about 64 ounces of water through her, trying to get all of her foliage wet.

Several times already, I have gone out this morning to shift her position and brushed through all her tiny leaves to dislodge any blossom pieces that have become caught in her little grasp. I want to make sure they are no pesky bugs on her. When I bring her in early this afternoon, or earlier if a thunderstorm pops up, I'll let her cool down an hour or two and then give her the first helping.

I've decided to mix up a quart of water with a quarter teaspoon of the concentrate liquid and I'll use that as my final watering this afternoon. At the same time, I'm considering picking out all those old green pellets that I can see near the surface and then I'm probably going to take about a teaspoon of them and put them around the base of her little trunk like the directions said to do but I don't want to use an entire tablespoon like the instructions indicate. I would rather feed her more often than subject her to massive doses all at the same time. I hope this make her feel good.

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DDMcKenna
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Location: Florida, USA, just north of Daytona Beach

Re: Florida Bonsai

We have had some unusually early stormy weather because the afternoon storms are popping up as early as noon instead of late afternoon like is more typical. So Juni's time outside in the sun has been a little more limited. But I try to get her back out in the sun after the storms to give her as much sun as I can. She seems to be loving it and my only concern is how you guys have stressed that Junipers don't tend to show their health problems until it is too late sometimes.

She got her first dose of fertilizer yesterday. I ended up using a lemon-juice bottle because it was 1 and a half quarts in size and I was able to make the mix using 1/4 teaspoon of the liquid fertilizer because it calls for One teaspoon per gallon. I figured that a quarter teaspoon and a quart and a half of water would make a slightly less than full strength mix. I used it to water her and also spray on all of her tiny leaves. Then I picked out almost a whole teaspoon of those old green pellets and replaced them with about half a teaspoon right around her little trunk. You will be able to see them in the pic below, I hope. I didn't bury the green pellets because I don't know if I should. It seems really difficult to know how much might be over-fertilizing or under-fertilizing on such a tiny tree.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

I believe Juni has a favorite place now. The table on the back patio seems to offer a little protection. The morning sun is filtered through two layers of screen as it passes through our screen enclosure for an hour or two before it blares straight down harshly. But Juni seems to look pretty good and feels pretty strong. Those tiny little leaves or needles are strong and prickly.

I think I have been letting her dry out pretty good. She got two full days 9+ hours of sun while I was at work. But this past week is a rare occasion when I can pretty much count on her not getting flooded out in an afternoon storm. It can drop 6+ inches of rain in an hour and be sunshine 10 minutes later. That's just the way Florida is and I can't take a chance leaving her out in that.

So she lives on the lanai most of the time and while effectively out in the back yard, she is shielded from all direct sun and rain. I put her out this morning and brought her in around 1:30 to cool off a bit. I don't like to water or do anything while she is really hot. I just let her sit and cool down then I look her over closely.

I've only had her a little over a month now so I guess I can't tell if she is going to be okay or not. But I keep taking pictures of her all the time so I can keep track of any changes I notice. I'm sure it's a lot of hopeful thinking but it seems like she has gotten a little bit bigger.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Well, in about a week, my baby Juni will be 3 months old, (to me).

I think it is a lot more difficult to see it in the pictures but to me, it sure seems like she is getting bigger and thicker. I have learned that the only reliable way to know when to water her is the way Tom taught me. I just use my pinky finger to dig in and try to reach the bottom in two or three spots around the pot. The watering is pretty irregular because the weather is always a little different. But I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Good Morning my friends,

It's been a while, and that was on purpose because I don't want to become annoying, and also I've had some fairly interesting changes to deal with.

What's most important is Juni! Yep, she's alive and healthy and it's been over six months now. Juni has a completely new environment. I built a little house for Juni. It's basically a sort of tall narrow table where she resides on the lower shelf. She is able to sit out in the full sun all the time now, right outside my sliding glass door so I can be with her as much as I can.

The table top serves to protect her from the Florida downpours plus she's under the eve of the house. But she gets the benefit of full morning sun and the sides of the table are solid so most of the noon sun and all the evening sun are blocked.

I'm going to include a couple pics if I can remember how and say that I have yet to touch her with any pruning instrument. I wanted her to be well established and I think she has found a comfy little place to stay.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Looking good! I like your approach - learn how to take care of your tree and keep it alive and healthy first, get to know it very well, before you start doing anything that can hurt it. First do no harm!

I know tom suggests before you start any pruning etc, draw the tree from several different views. Figure out what will be the front of it, what general style you want to aim for (upright, slanted, cascade, etc). You don't want to touch pruners to it until you know why you are doing whatever it is and have an image of what you want it to do.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank you, I'm honored to receive such positive remarks.

I'll be honest and quite frank, I was horrified that I did her such an injustice soon as I became her new dad by immediately putting her in that new pot and then reading how that was probably not a very good idea. I understand the concept of keeping her in what would be the most natural environment but I found the natural clay pot just a little too boring for my taste and was so excited when I was at the nursery and saw the selection of options.

I quickly learned that this new pot, having only a single drain hole, (which meant I had to invent a special way to tie her down), and the fact that it was "glazed", meant that my watering technique would have to be modified to suit the situation. The only thing I could think to do was take heed of the information I received here and learn how to "feel" with my finger, digging in the soil, just when to water her. I found that varied constantly with changes in humidity and temperature. Sometimes it was every other day, a couple times it was everyday when she got left out in the Florida sun all day because I was at work. I felt so bad because she "baked" all day. But I soon learned that it was important to make sure she dried out good before I got too generous with the water.

Now, since I still have the benefit of a few 80 degree days, (unlike most of the country), but have experienced a number of cooler nights, my watering has been more spaced out. It's still my biggest fear because I am still trying to make sure I get this whole watering thing right first. It still amazes me that you can grow an actual tree in a handful of dirt. That's almost scary. But I think it's fun and since this is my first attempt at keeping any thing alive, I want to try and do my best.

I was concerned about this whole required "dormancy period" that she requires and I'm still not certain how well Florida is going to cooperate with that. I can't bring her inside because, well, you know. I do have a shed that would keep her out of the light completely so she would end up experiencing the frequent swings in temps that are common in a Florida winter. Some cool days, (only a few), where it may get down to the 30's at night but then it may get into the 70's on some days. Always crazy here.

I still have so much to learn about what she needs and to be really honest, I still don't have any idea of how I want to prune her. I have this terrible way of looking at it. I try to imagine I was her. Would I want somebody chopping off my arms to make me look like something they want to see? I really feel like my best chance of keeping her alive, (for now), is not to do anything she doesn't like. She has grown a bit to where her little fingers are now rubbing up against the sides of the table I have her in. I know that eventually, she will have to be pruned. But I'm scared to death to hurt her.

Sorry I get so carried away. I never had anything like this before and I spend hours looking at her and trying to decide what to do. I hope the winter goes well for her and maybe next spring, I'll have a better idea what to do.

imafan26
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Re: Florida Bonsai

The juniper should still be good outside since it has very good cold tolerance and can take freezing temps just fine. I don't know how well a ceramic pot would do on the other hand. Jun will prefer to be outside as much as possible.

It looks like a happy plant.

I have had junipers before. I did a cascade with my juniper. The hardest thing to find was the 18 inch tall square pot.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Florida Bonsai

"Jun will prefer to be outside as much as possible" especially in FLA this means all the time. They do not like indoor environments.

McKenna - I think you are making this harder on yourself, by personalizing your tree so much. It's great that you value it so much and want to take good care of it. I think thousands of these little juniper bonsais are killed every year, because people buy them without bothering to find out anything about what they need. But it is not a human and does not have the same kind of senses as humans have.
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applestar
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Keep us updated! :D
I can't wait to see how you decide to style "Juni" 8)
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Juni's house is about to fall down!

It was purely by accident or good fortune that I discovered the perfect little "cottage" for Juni to live in. A simple cheap two-shelf stand with the upper shelf removed. So it was just a one-foot by one-foot table that stood about thirty inches high and Juni could live on the lower shelf, about ten inches from the ground. She is sitting right outside my glass sliding doors so I can keep a constant eye on her and play with her everyday when I get home from work.

But, her cheap little house was made of a vinyl covered particle board and I knew it wouldn't last outside. I figured I could get a few months at best but her house is already leaning to one side a bit as the particle board has soaked up so much rain that it is disintegrating.

But, all is GOOD! The design of the little table was perfect to allow her to get good morning sun while the table sides blocked the afternoon and evening sun. And the table top protected her from the Florida downpours. The table design was so perfect and I spent hours, days searching stores and online trying to find a plastic or some kind of replacement in a similar design. I finally gave up.

I went to Lowes and bought pressure treated lumber and I built Juni a new house! I built it out of one-by-sixes, paired to make it twelve inches deep and wide and she has a new tile roof. I just put my third and final coat of white paint on it and it's drying in my utility room. Tomorrow morning, I'll use clear silicone sealer to fill in all the joints and cracks so by tomorrow evening, I can move it out on the deck and Juni will move into her new house.

You'll have to wait until she's moved in to get pictures because it will be better when I have the sun on her. The last ordeal I have is the watering issue. I've found it so darn difficult to deal with the watering in this funky Florida weather. We've had a few cold nights but cold to us is when it drops to the forties overnight and the fifties in the daytime. I feel bad for the rest of the country that has been dealing with early deep-freezes. But I know these cooler nights makes it extra difficult to determine when Juni is thirsty because I try to stick my pinky all the way to the bottom of her pot to feel the dirt and how moist it is. The glazed pot seems to hold a lot of moisture and it "feels" wet even when it's not.

So I'm struggling with making sure I don't over-water her and I'm also thinking about giving up on trying to artificially create this period of dormancy. Like others have said, the weather just never cooperates. Instead, I'm hoping to treat her just like a healthy young baby tree that would be living out in the woods and just happened to always get the right amount of water and not have to deal with animals or debris that might hurt her. A normal tree would experience all the odd temperature swings and climate that a lot of trees in Florida do so I'm hoping that if I just make sure the pot doesn't freeze and crack, she'll do fine. I thought about draping a cloth over the table to make it a little darker but I don't know if that sounds "natural". Seems to me that real trees in the forest don't get that. So I'm still pondering that.

I'm thinking this coming spring, if she is still as healthy as she is now, it will be time to trim her into some cool shape. But I've also read that spring might be the time to repot her. I don't know if doing both would be to traumatic for a baby tree. I thought if this watering thing turns out to be too much of a pain, she might go back into her original clay pot. I still have that available and may consider it if the glazed pot makes watering a pain. But I don't know if I can repot her and trim her both.

I guess I should start a new thread when I take pictures of Juni's new house. This one is getting kind of long. I'll try to do that by next weekend if the weather cooperates. We've had some terrible rainy weeks here lately. I still have water in my back yard. But Juni doesn't seem to mind, she seems to love her little house even if it is falling down around her.

imafan26
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Re: Florida Bonsai

When you repot and root trim you would need to also reduce the canopy so as long as the plant is healthy before you repot it should take to pruning well.

I prefer to do my shaping gradually. I don't like branches getting too large since they leave a bigger scar and wiring should be done while the branches are still supple. I would think about the final shape you want and start taking out the branches you won't need. Don't do too much, you can always cut more off, but you can't put them back. "Nana" Junipers make good cascades and semi cascading bonsai.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

I like the "Cascading" idea and was thinking about that. I figured doing a little at a time would be less traumatic.

When you cut away a limb, do you put anything on the cut tip or leave it open and exposed?

I've seen larger trees trimmed and seen people use some kind of sealant on the stump left behind.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Sealing tree wounds is in general controversial. I think the modern trend is not to do it. Here's a thread where it was discussed, in regard to (non-bonsai) fruit trees:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... ds#p345913

Here's a nice discussion of it with regard to bonsai:

https://walter-pall-bonsai.blogspot.com/ ... trees.html

(It does read like it was typed on a cell phone with automatic correction. "Conifers in general will not rot easily because they have the best protestant already, which is raisin" it means best protection, which is resin. ) He has an interesting take, that sometimes he uses wound sealant because he WANTS the wound to rot and hollow out, and the sealant promotes that.

Bonsai experts around here, what do you do?
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imafan26
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Re: Florida Bonsai

If you pinch off the branches you don't need when they are small you won't have much of a scar. Otherwise, concave cutters are used to trim off nubs. There are several tools for bonsai. You may be able to find those at a bonsai club. Concave cutters, copper wire of various thickness, scissors, turntable, a set of screens, tweezers, root rakes ( I use an old fork with the tines bent into a slight curve), wire cutters are some of the tools in the bonsai tool bag. Some of them like the rake and the pruners you can find substitutes, but concave cutters come in different sizes for different sized trees are not so easy to find. You can find mini tools at the hardware or medical supply houses are a great place for large tweezers and scalpels from either medical or art stores.

I don't like to trim off main branches, it is hard to make a tree look natural after that, so I like to identify my main branches early. Sometimes things happen and you have to or want to change the shape, but I have killed more trees attempting a lightening strike than I want to admit to. And filing the stump takes a lot of time and patience.

There is no rush to start trimming since the plant is still very young. But, you should start to really look at the tree and decide what direction you want it to go. When a bonsai is trimmed, it isn't chopped willy nilly. The artist spends a lot of time looking at the tree and what effect each branch contributes and which do not. Also what direction the growth will take after the branches are removed. If you want to make the trunk more interesting it should be wired while the branches are still supple using an appropriate gauge of wire and carefully bending the branches. If you study bonsai there are patterns to the placement and angle of the branches. The trunk is actually one of the most interesting aspects of bonsai and a lot of attention is paid to showing off the branches and trunk. Wires should be removed before they cut into the trunk.
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DDMcKenna
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Re: Florida Bonsai

Thank you both for the great information and resources to additional information.

@imafan26, I really appreciate the approach you suggest. It gives me a lot of confidence that I don't have to make an absolute decision immediately. I do want to be gradual with any approach. And I like the idea of making the trunk a distinctive part of the overall sculpture.

@rainbowgardener, thank you, those are great links and I'll take plenty of time to read them all. But please, I know it's just a friggin' tree and a million of them succumb to weed-whackers. It's not like my kids or anything, but it is "alive" and I have a healthy respect for anything God gives life to. It's just my nature to put my heart and soul into anything I do. And, I think I mentioned it before, it's the first thing I ever tried to grow.

Anyway, the silicone is curing rapidly so it won't be long now. I have a couple appointments and after that, I plan on moving Juni into her new home. I'm really excited about that.

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