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Collecting and Growing Plants from the Wild for Bonsai

written by: •edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 4/8/2010

For bonsai lovers collecting from wild gives lot of pleasure as the plant would have been naturally stunted depending upon the duration. To know more about, where to look for, how to collect, when to go in search and the method to be adopted, please read through.

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    As you pass through rocky areas and old buildings there are ample possibility to see plants mainly trees that grow in shallow area which reveal a hardy character. These types of seedling collection from wild will have the following advantage to a bonsai lover.

    • Can save time & effort
    • Have hardy seedling character
    • Will be good bonsai in few years

    Where to Look for Wild Seedling

    • On slopes, these seedlings have very interesting shapes and can be trained in different styles of bonsai.
    • On bare hill, the trees spotted from such places will have its roots extending to both side and the poor soil conditions present in this area make them naturally dwarfed.
    • On old building tops & walls, mainly in brick or stone constructions, the plants gets naturally dwarfed, have small tap roots and Interesting shapes.
    • You can also see on large old trees some times in the cavities of the large branches, seedlings of the same variety growing. This is more comely seen on a banyan tree.

    When and How to Collect

    • The good season to gather such sapling is spring
    • First remove all shrubs & grasses around it
    • Prune all unwanted branches from the plant, remember that you are going to pot in a shallow pot and the appearance must suit to the style you are going to do.
    • Draw a circle on ground of diameter to one third of height of the plant being collected
    • From this circle dig inward toward the tree
    • While digging cut thick roots with saw
    • Lift the seedling out of the ground with good soil around
    • Wrap the roots with wet cloth & tie up, so that the soil does not fall off pulling the thin roots
    • Cover the whole with polythene bag
    • Take home for potting, if you take long time to reach then be sure you have kept the plant in such a way that no direct sunlight falls on the plant

    Potting of Wild Seedling

    • Unwrap & remove all soil without detaching the roots, take more care not to lose the thin roots
    • Cut thick roots with sharp knife, cut such a way that the cut edge face down. Prune more branches / leaves if needed
    • Prepare the pot; if you are going to place it directly in a shallow pot then make sure you have the tie wire if required
    • Put coarse soil at the bottom for good drainage; remember to place the wire mesh to cover the drain hole
    • Place the plant in the center or off center as required. This will depend upon the shape of the collected plant and the pot being used
    • Put main soil and fill up the pot, remember to tap the top as you are filling the soil or use a chop stick to compact the soil.
    • Secure the plant with the tie wire if available / required
    • Water thoroughly with a fine spray, check for good drainage of excess water
    • Place the plant in shade for few days and the slowly expose to direct sunlight

    Equipment for Collecting Wild Seedlings

    To collect seedlings it may not be possible to decide all the required equipment. However based on experience the following are generally found to be adequate.

    • Small pick
    • Pruning shears
    • Hand saw
    • Water bottle
    • Few long ropes if different sizes
    • A pointed rod for enabling you to mark the circle
    • Small size shovel to remove the soil as you are digging toward the plant
    • Towels or other cloths
    • Polyethylene bags
    • A bag
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    About the Author

    Dr V T Sathyanathan is a boiler consultant with 35 years of experience in various areas of high pressure boiler trouble shooting. He holds a PhD in coal combustion in boilers. Interested in Bosai & Cacti, has about 70 bonsais and 30 Cacti to his collection. The oldest one is 55years of age and the youngest is 3 years. He takes classes for Graduate and Post-Graduate horticulture students on Bonsai & Cacti.

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