I came across this old blog post that didn’t make the transfer to this website and thought I’d expand on it. I think this is one of the most glossed over and hidden aspects of bonsai on the internet. Its pretty cool to have an instagram account with all of the trees you’ve styled wonderfully, and amazing specimens that you have, but they rarely litter their page with trees that have died from their learning experiences. There also seems to be a hesitancy to trust, or respect, someone that has failed in bonsai culture. All that said, here is a long list of things I’ve killed and how they were part of my learning experience.
I dug both of these Live Oaks up in the late Spring and I definitely didn’t do it right. Didn’t wait for rain in the previous month, the rootball fell apart when I dug it up, and I barely got any fine roots. Too bad, they had some good trunks on them.
These Olive cuttings that I took off my own tree didn’t go anywhere. I’m not sure if I kept too many leaves, took it at the wrong time (Spring), should’ve stripped the leaves, or kept it too wet, but nonetheless they didn’t root.
I dug up 4 large Pyracantha bushes in late Spring/early Summer and two made it and two didn’t. I also got a few small rooted shoots and I killed 2 of the 3.
This guy below me is dead as well.
This Cotoneaster as well as 3 more all died. These poor fellas.
Barberry is dead. I got a rooted cutting off of it that I still have, so the legacy lives on.
This one got almost no water over my vacation and rather than trying the scratch test and watering it, I threw it away in my rage. The one I didn’t throw away came back……so whoops.
Another dead Cotoneaster.
This Azalea that was heat tolerant came back twice, but apparently twice was the charm.
Besides my 3 failed air-layers (stupid dog…) on my Japanese Maple, I did this one that stayed on but ended up bridging the gap between the cuts and I took it off and ret severed the connection. Hopefully with a large pot and Akadama it will take.
Field dug crape myrtle from my yard. This didn’t make it because it was exposed to temperatures below 28°F without protection.
I had a large bare root order of trees that was around 350 total trees. Of that lot 20 / 100 Japanese Black Pine, 20 out of 100 Ginkgo, 25 (all) Colorado blue spruce, and 50 (all) bald cypress (that never sprouted in Spring) that all died. A combination of over watering, planting the pines too deep, and missing a few buckets while watering were the main reasons they didn’t make it.
This was the first California juniper that I collected, and everything went pretty great until I bare rooted it while trying to pot it back up after either my daughter or dog (can’t remember) knocked it over (also I didn’t tie it down well).
This redwood tree I rescued from a nursery before it hit the dumpster, only later to die from the cold.
The totals so far:
Cotoneasters – 5
Pyracantha – 4
Chinese Elm – 2
Azalea – 3
Barberry – 1
Olive – 3
Oak – 2
Juniper Yamadori – 2
Nana Junipers – 2
Redwood – 1
Crape Myrtle – 1
Ginkgo – 20
Japanese Black Pine – 20
Colorado Blue Spruce – 25
Bald Cypress – 50
Total Kill Count – 26 + 115 (bare root) = 141 trees over the past 3 years. Admittedly, I’d say 130 of those were in the first year and a half, but trees still die every now and then.
Try not to kill that many trees….lol. The dead trees are part of your journey to success as a bonsai enthusiast.