New to Bonsai- New tree questions

Hello All! I’m new to Bonsai but have been studying hard and had the pleasure of hearing Jonas speak a couple weeks ago at our San Diego club meeting. I picked up this dwarf river birch yesterday. I grew up looking at one of these outside my bedroom window for more than ten years as a kid and am excited to get it off to a good start.

Since it’s so hot I cut only a few branches that were crossing and likely to cause inverse tapers. I have a few branches coming out of trunk which I consider sacrificial to increase the trunk
thickness. It has a nice main trunk although it’s a bit straight. It’s currently in a 3.5 gal nursery pot. I’m curious about my next year schedule for the tree.

  1. Should I heavily trim it back in December to define primary and secondary branches?
  2. Should I replant it in a larger 20gal nursery pot with rich potting soul in February/March to replicate as close as I’m able to field planting?
  3. should I keep the three trunks to minimize scaring since I’ll already be cutting the sacrificial bottom trunk branches?
  4. Is it good practice since it’s hot and it’s in pot soil to leave a bit of a nub when cutting a branch at this time of year to accommodate die back and then clean it up in the fall?

Thanks for the help!

i had a collected river birch that didnt survive my care. it did not like being pruned or chopped during dormancy.

Hi Gabe! Do you have an idea of what you’re going for with the tree? Depending on whether you want it to grow for a few years or are ready to start styling it as bonsai, we’ll likely have different suggestions.

Thanks for the question. Let’s say I would like to show it at our club show in five years (perhaps not a realistic goal). So starting there, should I try to first get it in a training pot with bonsai soil or should I keep it in a larger nursery pot with bonsai soil?

As I do research, I’m not getting the big when on transitioning from nursery pots to bonsai training pots.

Since I’m more drawn to deciduous and tropicals, I’m trying to understand a broad framework of an annual calendar for them and to be able to see 5-10 years down road as show ready for some pieces I have.

Thanks Gabe, that helps. Five years might be pushing it for this tree, but I expect it’ll be off to a good start by then. I’d likely repot the tree this winter into a terra cotta pot or something similar to encourage more rapid growth than you’d get from a bonsai pot. If you’re aiming for a relatively short time frame for development, I’d focus on growing the fine roots next year instead of looking to increase the size of the trunk. Good roots will develop if you use good bonsai soil. The club can help with options that work well in your area.

The other main question to address is what form you want the tree to take, e.g. one trunk or multiple trunks. If you’re looking to make large cuts, now is a good time to make the cuts, otherwise you can wait until the end of winter. That’s another topic that the club would be in a good position to help with if you bring the tree to a workshop.