Is this crazy thuja worth collecting?

Hi all, I’m a bonsai beginner and want to have a crack at collecting.

I have what I believe is a thuja in my garden.

See the pics below. It doesn’t look massively healthy, and it’s a very odd shape with no growth on the first 2-3ft on each of the three trunks.

As this tree is in my garden, there is no rush to get it out of the ground.

So my questions are,

Should is strengthen/train it in the ground before extracting? Or get it into a large training pot and nurse it there?

What can I do to give the tree more vigor?

Is this suitable for bonsai in the first place? Could I stimulate lower growth some how?

What style would best suit this tree?

Thanks in advance for the advice


Hello and welcome! Lot’s of questions here and a lot of this just depends on several things. First off, if you want to collect it I’d suggest trying to get as much root mass as possible. I would wait until early spring which is proper re-potting season to to dig it. Place in a tigh box with sifted pumice and check out the Randy Knight Aftercare Mirai live stream-it’s full of great into on aftercare for collected trees. After you collect, you don’t want to work on the tree for 1-3 years, your goal is to get it nice and healthy before any styling. If you collect it, the great thing is you’ll get some valuable experience in collecting/aftercare.

Is the tree worth collecting? Well that depends on your goals. Often when you just start getting into Bonsai, it’s good to practice your horticultural skills, collecting, aftercare, wiring/styling and grafting. Will this tree be a show winner? Here’s the negatives- trunks are fairly straight, not much taper in the trunks, the foliage is pretty high, and not much interesting natural deadwood. However, you could think of this as a tree to learn from and practice with. To make anything worth while, this will involve creating jin/shari and grafting foliage closer down on the trunk, this would be a radical change.

If your not looking to invest that much time and effort into humble material, than you could always pass and look for better options or start something from seed/cutting/airlayer. When your just starting out, it’s important to get your hands dirty and learn. That way when you find that incredible Yamadori years from now, you’ll already have the experience to extract and care for it properly. Cheers!


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Thanks for the great insight.

I think you are right, I should have a crack just for the practice.

I have quite a few trees in my garden that I can collect or air layer so all good practice.

Is there anything I could be doing from now till spring to make the tree healthier? Or stimulate lower growth?

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Aside from grafting I’d just feed it as long as it’s basically healthy and you’re just trying to get it to the next level. I’ve heard of some people going ahead and root pruning early to make collection easier later, but I think that moves your collection timeline back another year.


I actually followed Ryan’s advice on this one and turned it into a raft.

Still in the ground for further development. Not tidied it up yet. Want to wait for the new roots to form.

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