toeziegirl
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Boyfriend Gave Me A Bonsai...Now What?

My birthday was this past Saturday and my boyfriend gave me a bonsai. Right now it has no shape to it and just looks like a bush. And that's fine because I'd rather know what I'm doing before I try and do anything to it.

It is a Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa).

I have been trying to look up stuff online (how I got here) to make sure I can give my tree what it needs. It has wonderfully fragrant flowers right now and supposedly will get some plums later. Now, the little paper that came with the tree says to keep it indoors where it will get bright light and to let the top 1/2 inch of soil to dry before watering again. But that sounds contrary to everything I've read online so far.

I've also seen online that this bonsai is good for whatever a cascade is, so now I'm off to read about that.

I'd appreciate any tips or points in the direction where I might read about it. I admit that I don't have a green thumb. So right now my tree is living next to my orchid since they both seem to like humidity.

toeziegirl
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Ok another question... how do I decide which is the "front" side of the tree? Right now my bonsai is overall pretty bushy in all directions, so can I just pick one and start from there or what?

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Gnome
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toeziegirl,

Hello and welcome to the site.
Right now it has no shape to it and just looks like a bush. And that's fine because I'd rather know what I'm doing before I try and do anything to it.
I agree completely. The first hurdle you must overcome is basic care not styling. Besides often commercial bonsai are not really ready for much styling anyway. Can you post a few pictures?
Now, the little paper that came with the tree says to keep it indoors where it will get bright light and to let the top 1/2 inch of soil to dry before watering again. But that sounds contrary to everything I've read online so far.
Again, very astute. Those tags are notoriously inaccurate perhaps deliberately so. More people seem to be drawn to bonsai if they think it is an indoor hobby, generally this is not so. That is not to say it cannot be done (species specific here) but it is far easier to let mother nature take care of your trees, weather permitting of course.
I've also seen online that this bonsai is good for whatever a cascade is, so now I'm off to read about that.
Cascade is a style, this should help:
[url]https://www.bonsai4me.com/Basics/Basics_StylingForms.html[/url]
Make sure to follow the links especially the one to "bonsai basics" and read as much as you can stand.

Here is another:
[url]https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm[/url]

And look here for a little information about your tree, scroll down to #4. Also at the bottom of the page there are links to more on indoor culture.
[url]https://bonsaihunk.8m.com/IndoorBonsai.html[/url]

That should get you started. BTW, read the sticky threads at the top of the forum, you will notice some of the same links this is for good reason those three sites contain a lot of good information, I suggest you bookmark them and explore them as time permits.

Norm
Last edited by Gnome on Wed Apr 16, 2008 12:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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First off, welcome to the forum. :)

Wanted to ask if you have a photo that can be uploaded to photobucket. If you need help with doing that we have some instructions in the New to Helpful Gardener section.

Best,

webmaster

toeziegirl
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I'll get pictures up when I'm able to, hopefully in the next couple of days. In the meantime, the good news is that it doesn't have any of that decoration junk glued on or anything.

Also upon more reading, it does seem this type of tree is one of the ones better suited to being indoors. I'm not opposed to keeping it outside if that is what it would prefer, it is just that I live in Texas and it gets soooooo hot outside. I mean already it is breaking 90.

kdodds
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I'd keep it indoors except during more mild, less dry weather. Does your variety have thorns? Some do not, some do. Those that do not are easier to work with, obviously, but both are workable. A cascade style is not the best starting point for a first tree, I don't think. I'd think about upright (formal or informal) or slanting.

You're getting great advice so far. I'd like to add to the "basic care now, styling later" advice Norm's given. Many bonsai enthusiasts to be are dumbfounded as to what to do with their first tree, where to begin. Luckily, trees grow pretty slowly, and you've plenty of time (sometimes it can seem like too much time) to observe the tree, look as it from all angles, including from the top, learn, and observe where the potential is. Front is sometimes easy to discern, sometimes not. You don't want any scars or branches facing front, so that should narrow things down a bit for you. From above, the tree should form a basic triangular shape, and that may narrow things down a little more. Don't be hasty, take your time, observe the tree. But, also observe natural trees, see how they grow, imagine how you'd miniaturize that form in your tree.

toeziegirl
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Here are a few quick pictures, sorry the quality isn't great, I couldn't find the camera that likes to take pictures like this.


[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v388/StinkyBigToe/IMG_1613.jpg[/img]

so would the right side be the front side?

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v388/StinkyBigToe/IMG_1615.jpg[/img]
since i notice folks ask for the trunk or roots.

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v388/StinkyBigToe/IMG_1616.jpg[/img]
these flowers smell so good and one site I found says it could flower until September :)


Also is that the right sort of soil? Or should I just worry about taking care of it for now and then worry about repotting it in better soil later? So far it seems like a very happy tree so I just want to keep it that way.

kdodds
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You front is as good a place to start as any. ;) It looks like a nice healthy tree and the soil looks fine (hard to impossible to tell from a photo) but a little on the dry side at the moment the photograph was taken, no?

On the "front" and deciding on what to do... looking at it, I would say that for classical styling, a triple trunk would be the most obvious choice but that the angles and sameness of size in the trunks would be "off". That's classically speaking. From my personal point of view, it's your tree and you're the one taking enjoyment from it, so what YOU think looks best is most important. My only suggestion would be to clear all foliage and awkward branches from the bottom third of the tree(s) before doing anything else, and then working from there.

toeziegirl
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It's weird, the dirt does look dry in the picture but it's still moist. I think I check it every couple of hours because I'm paranoid it will dry up and the poor tree will get thirsty before I notice.

I find I already want to adopt more trees. I'm hoping to find someone who can teach me how to get a cutting or something so I can watch them develop from being quite little. I imagine in 10 years when it is still a happy tree it would be cool to look back at the life so far and stuff. And I am in the process of buying a house so they'll have a home where they won't be jostled about.

kdodds
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[url=https://www.meehansminiatures.com/]This site[/url] has quite a selection of very small "starter" plants, indoor and outdoor, that are very healthy and the most affordable I've found anywhere (under $4 each in 2" pots). They're not really "cuttings", but they are small enough at the sizes shipped that they're very workable for the most part. If you need links for starter pots in bulk, soil, or anything like that, just let me know.

toeziegirl
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Oh wow, that's awesome. I should probably move into the house before I really get started but I'll certainly be checking in with you sometime after that about those links. Thanks!

toeziegirl
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Ok, so I have just negotiated the price for a home I want to buy, so once I get moved in and things are settled, I will have room to add trees into my life. I was wondering if there was a source that would tell me which sorts of trees would be good for where I live (Austin, TX) so I make sure to not make it any more difficult by loving trees that just aren't meant to live here.

I've also heard a lot about starting trees from cuttings. How does one do that? The yard has a lovely Crepe/Crape Myrtle and several other nice trees around. Since those are doing well, I figured that may be a good place to start with which types of trees would like my yard.

Also, is there a good source (online) for where to buy bonsai pots and soil? I've been looking around town at various nurseries so I knew what I would have access to when I was able to spend more time caring for the trees and there really just isn't anything that is appropriate.

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Gnome
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toeziegirl,
I was wondering if there was a source that would tell me which sorts of trees would be good for where I live
Most plant catalogs state USDA zones for the plants they sell. If you don't know yours look [url=https://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/hzm-sm1.html]here.[/url]
I've also heard a lot about starting trees from cuttings. How does one do that?
That depends on the species in question. Some are very easy, some almost impossible. I answered a similar question [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7272]here.[/url]
Also, is there a good source (online) for where to buy bonsai pots and soil?
Bonsai pots are generally reserved for finished trees. I understand the urge to have a nice image to display but realize that potting into a finished pot is counterproductive to early development. Having said that, here is a source that offers pots, soil, books and tools and it's in your area.

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

Norm

kdodds
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Hollow Creek Bonsai and Bonsai Boy also have a nice selection of pots. Sorry, don't know the links off hand and I'm in kind of a rush at the moment. Google should work on the names of the companies though.

toeziegirl
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Gnome wrote:toeziegirl,
I was wondering if there was a source that would tell me which sorts of trees would be good for where I live
Most plant catalogs state USDA zones for the plants they sell. If you don't know yours look [url=https://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/hzm-sm1.html]here.[/url]
I've also heard a lot about starting trees from cuttings. How does one do that?
That depends on the species in question. Some are very easy, some almost impossible. I answered a similar question [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7272]here.[/url]
Also, is there a good source (online) for where to buy bonsai pots and soil?
Bonsai pots are generally reserved for finished trees. I understand the urge to have a nice image to display but realize that potting into a finished pot is counterproductive to early development. Having said that, here is a source that offers pots, soil, books and tools and it's in your area.

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

Norm
Oh when I said bonsai pots, I really just meant small pots. I can only find really large ones here.

Thanks for the links.

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