Caveat: I am not an expert bonsai-ist nor I pretend to know much about the art. What I am sharing here is limited to my experience with my materials. I'm almost three years into the hobby and I still feel like a newbie. For more stuffs and conversations about bonsai, I suggest you join Bonsai Hobbyist of the Philippines on Facebook.
Bonsai materials that I bought from a hunter in Koronadal City, Mindanao. The package arrived two weeks ago. The materials are not that expensive, it's the shipping fee that doubles the cost.
Notice how carefully the materials are packaged. The seller has to make sure that the materials are kept fresh and moist during the its travel from Koronadal City, Mindanao to Taytay, Rizal,Luzon.
Unpacked.The first thing I did was to check if the materials were fresh. To do this, I nipped the bark and if it's still green, it's fresh and alive. Though some materials maybe moist, it does not necessarily mean the material is fresh. I have not experienced receiving any damaged or dead materials from the sellers I had dealt with. They were reliable.
I cleaned the materials. Brushed to remove lichens, fungi, insects etc. I couldn't find my fungicides but with my other materials I sprayed fungicides to prevent fungal development during the rooting period.
After cleaning up, I prepared the rooting hormone solution. Before, I did not use rooting hormones but after reading that it helps better the chances of stimulating the materials, I started using it.
Common rooting hormone brands: Hormex and Anaa. Available in garden shops and ACE hardware.
Soak the materials in rooting solution for a few hours. Others prefer soaking overnight but since I had work the next day, an hour or two would do fine.
Next step was preparing the medium: river sand. I used a strainer to separate different grades of river sand
The pebbles are put at the bottom layer in the trainer dish for good drain.
The smaller pebbles is put at middle layer and the fine grain of sand at the topmost layer .
Secure the material into the dish with wire to prevent movement and make sure that there's no vacuum or all the base of the material is completely covered by the medium. Here I put "bamboo antennas" around the materials to prevent the materials from touching the plastic cover that I would put on them, sprouts turn brown and die when they touch plastic.
Covered in plastic. This acts as a greenhouse to keep the humidity high and stimulate the materials. This speeds up the rooting or stimulating process.
Once the materials have grown leaves and branches that looks healthy enough, the plastic should be removed gradually to give the materials time to adjust with the changes in humidity. First, open the bottom of the plastic cover an inch or two every three to four days and check if the already developed leaves are not withering. once you noticed that the leaves are turning brown, return the plastic cover and wait longer until the materials become established.
There are those who prefer to not use plastic cover and instead keep the material in shaded area until it sprouted, a little slow but it works too and the materials are already adjusted to the environment when buds appear.
The plastic cover traps water inside so its not necessary to water the materials everyday for two weeks or so. Check the medium (soil) and check if its already drying up, then if it is, water carefully. Accidentally bumping or jerking the materials will break the developing roots and could kill them.
I had many materials die because cats, dogs and even rats tumble them.
I put them in a dog's cage to prevent animals from accidentally bumping the materials.
Two weeks after, there;'s already little leaves sprouting. Of course this does not mean that the material will live. A lot could go wrong, like root rot etc. but this is a good sign. Still a few more months before these materials can be put under full sunlight and many months more before they could be trained.
Some hobbyists compare this to gambling because there's a 50-50 chance that the materials will live or will die.
Well, the uncertainty makes it more interesting and challenging. Just seeing a material live and become established is already an achievement for me..
Patience is virtue.