Category Archives: Cheap

Redwood Remodel

While picking up trees for a client I saw a neglected semi-dying redwood tree on the end of a row. I asked about a discount on the tree for the condition it was in. They responded by letting me know that it was going to be thrown away and that I could take it for free.  IMG_4903

I couldn’t see much of the base as it was buried inside the container, but once I cut down the sides I was pleased with the interesting base it provided. IMG_4904IMG_4905Reverse taper, yes. Nonetheless this is something that can be a fun project from here on out for free. Here are a few more photos of it: IMG_4906IMG_4907IMG_4908IMG_4909

California Juniper Yamadori

Yamadori Post-Dig Care

To see the removal process I went through to get this baby out read my earlier blog post. I got the bagged California Juniper home and began unwrapping so fast that I forgot to take pictures of it happening…
I made sure to make the cuts clean to facilitate root growth once potted up. Make sure to do this on all of the large cuts you make to the roots. 

Here you can see all of the smaller roots coming out of the root ball.

I cut these clean off right at the edge of the soil. This is another place that roots will emerge. Typically these are ripped and not cleanly cut. Leaving them without a clean cut can be a major factor when the tree is trying to recover. 

After that I cut back the long thick roots to better be able to fit this into a container. I made sure to do so without moving the root ball and shaking any more soil loose.

Here is the prepared container. I drilled holes in the bottom, and used several 2×6’s that I’ve “saved” from various burn piles.

Then after I strung wire through and laid the bottom layers of soil, I set the tree in to get it secure.

The purpose for using the wood to decrease the size of the box is so that there aren’t any large gaps of solely pumice. Pumice and the native soil are vastly different, so you would end up with large pockets of dry pumice and the root ball of soil would still be wet. Having a smaller area helps to keep them similar in water and oxygen balance. 
As you can see here, I used the higher branches to secure the tree into the container. I did this because the soil and root ball weren’t held together well enough to use as a sole anchoring point.

After chopsticking the pumice in to fill the gaps I ended up with this. 
I then moved it to a better location in my garage on top of a heating mat to keep the root temperatures favorable for root growth.
To use the new handy update on the iPhone I took these as well:
Hopefully you’ll read the updated post on this tree when it begin pushing new growth. From all I can tell the dig was a success and should yield a healthy tree within the year.

Cleaning A Chinese Juniper

Cleaning your trees before wiring and styling is just as important as wiring itself. Here are a few photos of before and after of cleaning the interiors to give you an idea of what that looks like:

Before:                                          After:

Before:                                          After:

This is a spindly piece of foliage that gets removed before any branch selection is made.

This is what I started with:

This is what I finished with:IMG_2993

It isn’t exactly what I wanted, but I recognized myself just wanting to be done, so I left it and I’ll let it grow out a bit and repot it next season to split the trees. This isn’t the final design by any means. It is a pretty good start to a $1 purchase from Walmart 😀

Crape Myrtle Hardwood Cuttings

I had a few pretty serendipitous opportunities to get some thick Crepe Myrtle cuttings. I barely caught someone on my local Facebook pages that had trimmed several large multi-stemmed Crepe Myrtles and I was able to stop by and rummage through the pile before it got hauled off.

You can see below that after only a week or two several of the hardwood cuttings have sprouted leaves.

This is what I use to root my cuttings. This is a 2 ft. x 10 ft. x 1 ft. box filled with silica sand from Home Depot. I used two misting systems from Lowe’s meant for the patio. I also put a timer that goes off every hour for 3 minutes. Then topped it off with a thick clear plastic sheet. This is in full shade all day long.

Here are the cuttings a few days later. You can see that the leaves have sprouted and have grown several pairs of leaves. Only one has roots so far and I’ve moved it and put it in a terra cotta pot mixed with bonsai soil and sand and put it back in the box.

This is a fantastic way to create material to be able to work with as Crepe Myrtles grow really fast and can be multiplied with ease.

Seed Collection – Lamb's Ear

I went ahead and clipped a bunch of Lamb’s Ear heads off of my parents house before escrow closes. It isn’t the best time to collect seeds, but it is late enough in Summer.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

This is from two flower stalks. Seeds all over the place.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

Wear some gloves and run your hands back and forth on the the stalk and then hit the whole thing against the side of the bin or your hand and seeds will fly.

Lamb's Ear Seeds

Then sift the leftovers out from the mess you’ve created.

Sifting Seeds

Then label the seeds before you forget or misplace them. You’d be surprised how often that happens.

Lamb's Ear Seed Saving

Lamb’s Ear grows like a weed, literally. Sow seeds in the Spring for best results. I’ve put some in my compost and then have had seeds germinate in my beds where I’ve placed my compost in the middle of Summer. Next time I’ll compost better and that shouldn’t happen!

Cheap Bonsai Supplies

For those of you that have recently begun your bonsai journey you’ll notice that this hobby can become expensive quickly. I put out a post about cheap bonsai pot alternatives and here is another post about alternative things to use.

Cut Paste – $19.50 – $14

Duct Seal Bonsai Cut Paste

Now not all bonsai cut paste is that expensive, Duct Seal was $2.98 at Home Depot

This was recommended to me from Rob Pressler, the owner of Kimura’s Bonsai Nursery.

Now we could get into the argument of whether or not to use cut paste, but rather than that I’ll just suggest that if you want to use it and want to save a few dollars (For another tree, lets be real…) try this out.

Glass and Ceramic Drill Bits:

I bought these to be able to convert glass and ceramic bowls I find into viable bonsai pots. I can drill wire holes and large enough holes to keep drainage sufficient.

Pro Tip: Read how many RPMs it can handle, if not you will burn the drill tip and have a useless stick of metal (also water . Pressure = broken bowls. Let the bit do its thing, however slow it may feel.

Here are some of my latest pickups that were either free or from garage sales (Californians can do this all year, not like you in the Midwest and Northeast that have a garage sale “season”)

Cheap Bonsai Tree Material

Lowe’s and Home Depot can have discount racks depending on where you live. These are great choices since both have return policies incase something dies. Great for beginners working on trees for the first time.

What we call “Yardadori” or collected material from yard renovations or seemingly undesirable trees that people want removed is a great way to source material for bonsai.

The last resort would be cuttings from easy to root plants. I have found that Crape Myrtle, Portulacaria Afra, Chinese Elm, Cotoneaster, Olive, Ficus and Pomegranate can all handle pretty large cuttings that can become bonsai quickly.

Drain Screen

Rather than purchasing pre-made screens for your pots, you can buy “Gutter Guard” and cut it to whatever size you like. My favorite part about this is when I use a nursery pot as a temporary training pot I can cut the gutter guard into a circle to cover the entire bottom of the nursery pot. Same goes for my other DIY homemade pots.

These are just a few things that might give you a few more dollars to appease your spouse.

Portulacaria Afra Cuttings Update

I wanted to give an update on the Port that I bought and show the development of the leaves as it roots and recovers from repotting. To see what it used to be head here

I decided to start with this photo to show you that it is never time to panic when a port has shriveled leaves. This is how they are able to withstand a lack of water.

Cutting that can be watered. This was after a week of being in sun from sunrise to about noon, then in shade the rest of the day. Average temperatures were about 85 degrees F for the week. The old leaves will shrivel and not look normal until the cutting produces enough roots to be able to uptake enough water to support all of the leaves.

Another bowl of successful cuttings that are ready for water.

You see that the old leaves here aren’t as shriveled. This is due to the entire being shaded by the higher shelf. This is a way to increase success with your Port cuttings.

The feeling of panic is common as is the impulse to water the cuttings when the leaves shrivel up. Avoiding that and being patient will provide you with new growth, and then a solid cutting that roots.