Whenever I start a new bonsai planting I'm filled with hope for the future and with a vision of what the plant will look like in a few years.
I learned recently that one way to have what looks like a mature bonsai in less time than it looks is to start with a larget plant.
This is a Shumard Red Oak that I bought at WalMart in November 2006. This first picture was taken in May of 2007 after it grew new leaves. I had seen the tree (which is about 6 feet tall here) in the store and looked it up. Oaks are usually hard to bonsai because they grow slowly. I read up on this one and found that it was a fast grower and that it would shed its leaves in the fall (which most oaks here in southwest Texas don't do). And the fall foliage would be an attractive gold color.
This picture shows it still in its original pot after I had cut it down to about 6 inches. It grew back quickly. The leaves are large, but over time a bonsai's leaves will get smaller. It doesn't look like much except a very short tree, but I had hopes that with smaller leaves it would look more like a miniature tree.
The next photo shows it planted into a bonsai pot. This thing had a lot of roots in the 2 gallon pot it had come in. Oak roots are really hard to work with as they are very tough. One thing that attracted me to this particular tree was that there were roots growing above the soil in a square pattern. I imagine it had originally been in a much smaller square pot for much to long.
Here it is in its pot. If you click on the picture you'll get a larger view and will be able to see the above soil roots. After getting it into this pot I thought that I had probably put it into too small a pot. But I didn't have anything larger and figured I could transplant it later.
After I took this photo I trimmed it back some. It grew nicely over the summer. It lost its leaves in the fall, but I didn't think the leaves were an attractive gold color. It was more like they just turned brown. It sat on my backyard bonsai bench all winter looking like a stick in a pot. We had a pretty wet winter but we didn't have a freeze. This was the first winter I'd left the plants out all winter and I was really worried about a freeze.
Well, here is what it looks like now, pretty much still a stick in a pot. By late April in southeast Texas it is very much late in spring. I'm afraid it's dead. I'll keep watering it for a few more weeks but my hopes for this plant are pretty much dashed.
I've learned two lessons from this hobby. One is that you have to have patience. The second is to not get too attached to a plant when it is young. I didn't have much invested in this (I paid about $20 for it and had spent maybe 2-3 hours of time on it) so the loss isn't great.
I'm still sad that it didn't prosper.