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Sick Chinese Elm Bonsai tree - help!!


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Orscoth
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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject: Sick Chinese Elm Bonsai tree - help!! Reply with quote

I have had my bonsai tree for two or three years now. It was bought for me as a gift from the bonsai shop in Powerscourt centre.

It has always been a bit dodgey, but never as bad as this. I keep it in the back garden on a bench, protected from major drafts by the garden shed. It's in a position that is bright, more sunny in the morning and safely shaded during the times when it gets too hot. In the frosty stages of winter, I bring it in to the conservatory, where it would be comfortable, as the sun isn't as strong then.

It has been brown and pretty much leafless for a few months now, maybe since February. I remember thinking at the start that the shock from the move from indoors to outdoors may have been an explanation for brown leaves. But it became worse since. I brought it in to the Powerscourt place about two months ago, and the woman checked to see was it still alive. It was, and she recommended a tonic for it. I decided to take it into the conservatory (because the weather wasn't great then, if you can remember) to try cheer it up with warmth, a bit of a trim, classical music and the tonic. Wink Alas, it didn't work. It also drank up the tonic too quickly. No improvements.

I went in to Powerscourt again about two weeks ago, and the girl just said to make sure it's watered enough. I thought rainwater was enough (since it was continuously raining!), but she said that I needed to immerse it in water to make sure it wasn't dried out. She figured that the speed by which the last tonic was drunk meant that the soil was dry. I bought another tonic and did as I was advised, and though the tonic is still being absorbed it's worrying me that there are no signs of improvement.

There are spiders on it, though not minute spiders. They are little enough, but not spider mites. You can see webs on the branches. When I watered the tree today, one spider ran from it. I don't know if it's infested with something, if it has a disease or if I'm not caring for it properly.

Any ideas or advice?



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Liparis
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think your Bonsai is doomed!
I hope you don't mind me downloading your picture to help?



The red arrows point to several areas of dieback, but there's a lot more. The arrow marked 'A' shows an awful example of someone turning an ordinary tree, which just happened to have a distorted stem, into what was supposed to fool most people into believing they have a bonsai. It looks to me like they took a tree with a distorted trunk, chopped it down to the distortion and passed it off as a Bonsai. This is where most of the dieback is coming from. The other arrows show extremely poor pruning, which is also dying back. If you bought the tree like that, I would be telling those people to quit selling cr*p and never venture near their nursery again. It's an appalling example of a Bonsai.
You probably haven't helped it by moving it from the conservatory back and forth to the garden. They should really stay outside, but protected from frost some way, or in a cold greenhouse where the night temp can be kept at 1c on the coldest nights.

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Sive
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I totally agree with Liparis, this "tree" looks like no bonsai I've ever seen. I'm appalled at the thought of any reputable nursery stocking such rubbish......and goodness knows how much was paid for it too...
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Orscoth
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies.

Oh my god!! My poor tree! I still love it, even if it's a fake. I love its shape and character. I know that the original shop in Powerscourt shopping centre where it was bought either closed or moved within the centre; there is still the bonsai shop there but I'm not certain that it's the same owner. I brought the tree in and the woman didn't notice this. If she was really an expert she would have spotted it. Maybe she's chancing her arm.

I had to look up dieback because I didn't know what it meant, and I'm still not 100%, but is it to do with stress? Do you think there's anything I can do to save the tree? I'm very attached to it. I remember when it used to have leaves... The leaves are Chinese Elm leaves though, from comparing it to images of the leaves online.
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Liparis
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dieback is caused by bad pruning. Pruning should be done quite close to a bud, if for example you were to prune an inch away from the bud, then although the bud will grow when it's time, that inch of stem will die as no sap is going to it, it's all diverted into the bud. The result is the stem dies back, but unfortunately bacteria etc sets in and the dieback continues down past the bud into healthy wood and if remedial action isn't taken quickly it can continue back until very little healthy wood is left.
I honestly don't think it can be saved. From arrow 'A' it's so severe that the main stems above that atrocious wound are already showing dieback symptoms. Everything above 'A' is useless, everything below it is next to useless, I'm afraid as time goes on, you will be left with a stump. Sorry, but I'm afraid it's not very hopeful at all.
Bill.

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Orscoth
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The insane thing about it is that I didn't prune it until late April this year, as I was afraid to before and I didn't think it needed pruning. It didn't grow very much from when I bought it first. I was surprised when I was told it didn't need to be repotted, because the Care Guide for Chinese Elms say they need to be repotted every Spring. This is grave indeed. I'm going to have to confront them over it; the fact that the women in the shop wasn't suspicious about the species shows that that is the shop where it was bought for me originally. That is unbelieveable! Her daughter does be there, and when I enquired about pruning, she said it's okay to use a normal scissors and to cut from the joint of the branch, where it grows from another branch. As I said, I hadn't pruned it before, and when I did it only needed very little. The damage must have occured from before it was bought. but it is only last year/early this year that the tree has looked this bad.
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Liparis
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That damage is far too severe to have been caused while in your care, but I can assure you that will be their trump card, that it did. But no one with any sense of decency could tyry and blame you for that initial cut. You can see where it's been trying to heal, but failed due to the severity.
Bill.

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Orscoth
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2009 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's so sad! My poor tree, dying a slow and painful death! That's cruelty to trees what they did. Do you think I should say something to the people in Powerscourt about it? I really don't want to throw the little fella away, but maybe it would be bad for the eco system if I kept a dead tree? There is a spider living on it who built a new web today and seems very territorial about the tree. Wink
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Liparis
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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all, yes, tell them, let them have it from both barrels between the eyes, no complaint, then they've got off with it and another poor unsuspecting customer will get treated the same. They're taking the wee-wee!
Secondly, it's an extremely long shot, but take the tree out of it's pot and plant in the garden and perhaps a shoot might come from some where. Cut off all dead wood back to the healthiest wood you can find. Plant it perhaps a cm deeper than it was in the Bonsai container.
If you want Bonsai and love them, here's my advice. Find someone who is knowledgable in it, join a society, even if it's an overseas one. My father grew Bonsai for years, but I never took up the interest.
Bonsai isn't merely a form of gardening, it's actually an art. without trying to sound patronising, the container looks like a standard mass-produced container. They should be hand-made to suit the individual character of the tree, or at the least selected from a huge selection of a specialist maker to suit your individual tree. That's why the containers are sometimes very expensive. Some bonsai grow on a dish no deeper than a dinner plate, perhaps sitting on a large stone with the root system festooning the rock/stone and going down into the soil from there.
You are entering an expensive hobby, but one that will give you years of pleasure, joining a society will get you access to proper Bonsai and methods of growing them. A cheaper way is to grow them from seed and you can practice on those while you learn.

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PolFeck
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Orscoth

Any questions on Bonsai, just ask. I have been a collector and grower for well over 10 years.

As the previous message says, Bonsai can be expensive for those with not enough experience. I would suggest that you start with a training tree.

These trees would be between 3 to 5 years old have already had their roots trimmed to encourage fiberous roots and start the dwarfing process. Depending on the tree style you want to achieve, you would select the correct type of tree to experiment with.

Growing from seed is definitely the lowest cost route and can be very enjoyable. Although yet again dependent on species you will need time.

Pol

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Stello
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't 'officially' know anything about bonsai trees, but I bought a (much smaller) Chinese Elm from the same place, back in 1999. I first tried to follow the instructions that came on a little leaflet, with the tree, but soon decided to just do my own thing and see how it'd go.

I kept the bonsai on a window sill, and when it got too sunny, I just watered it everyday, and when it wasn't that sunny, I'd only water it maybe once or twice a week, trying to keep the soil slightly moist, but not soaking. The pot was on a small saucer, and when I watered it, I'd just fill the saucer with water, and the tree would then drink it.

There were a few times when my "Mama Bonsai" dried up, losing nearly all its leaves (when I didn't water it often enough while it was sunny..), but it usually recovered, and grew new leaves, ending up looking just as good as before. But eventually, it got too dry, and didn't recover... However, I'd just trimmed it, a few days before, and happened to try something that I never thought would work.. I took some of the cuttings and just potted them, seeing if they'd grow at all - and they did!! Shocked

I've since grown a few new trees, all from cuttings. I'm not sure if any of my current ones are from the original Mama Bonsai anymore, but I used to have nearly ten little trees that were doing well. Last year, I had to be away for a few weeks, organising a funeral in Finland, and no one remembered to water my bonsai babies while I was away, so most of them died Crying or Very sad Three survived, though, and I'm now growing more, from their cuttings.

I'm probably not "doing it right", as bonsai growing goes, but I basically just keep trimming them back, so that the stem will grow stronger. I don't try to force them into any particular shape or anything, I just let them grow naturally, other than trimming for strength.

This probably comes too late for your Chinese Elm, though - at least for taking cuttings of it..

I've actually had that situation with the tiny spiders (or such), covering the bonsai with their tiny webs. I just washed the plant under running water, gently rubbing out all the webs, and soon after, it DID grow new leaves! If you still have the tree, you could give that a try, I guess. No harm in trying, eh!

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PolFeck
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stello

Your young trees will only become bonsai after you start the
minaturization process. To achieve this when your seedling is hardy
enough trim back the tap root (this is the longest root) by two thirds
this will help to encourage more fiberous roots. By trimming back the
as well (this is dependent on species). Every two to three years trim the
roots. You've started well. I do air cutting and grow from seed.

Pol

www.bonsai.ie
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Stello
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'll just let them grown naturally. Seems a bit cruel to cut their roots Sad
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PolFeck
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Stello

To be honest I have felt that way myself about some of my trees. I use growing beds for my trees. I let the trees grow on for about 3 to 5 years and if they have a potential bonsai structure well then they will be trained. If not I will plant them out. The trees that don't quite make them as bonsai in my garden are, the aciacia, Australian bottlebrush and even a 'Bird of Paradise' which flowered last year for the first time in seven years.

I understand your viewpoint, but how I see it is we trim back leaves on hedges, we debud roses to force or continue flowering.

Bonsai is about balance, sky and earth. Without this harmony well nothing would survive. With bonsai we are creating this minature landscape.

If you want if you send me a PM I can organize to send you some tree seeds so you can have a go. These are for indoor trees.

'Added' I would like to extend this offer to anyone who has been sold a bad tree claiming to be a bonsai'
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Stello
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the generous offer, I'll send you a PM with my address Very Happy

Btw, should they actually have some special bonsai soil? I remember that the shop sold such stuff, when I bought my late Mama Bonsai, but I've no income, so it suits my budget to just use the general stuff that I use for everything else.. Is that somehow bad for them? At least they seem to grow in it Laughing

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