Now that I’ve had the Hackberry for almost a year, and have confidence that it survived the winter. I’m ready to look closely at the tree to determine how I can bring this tree from a bush, into a bonsai. I need to first evaluate the roots to determine my options for orientating the tree. What better way to view the root structure than during a bare-root repotting session? Repotting should always be done during the Spring. The “Spring” differs from tree-to-tree, and differs from climate-to-climate. The tree will tell you when it’s ready to be repotted. You only have to observe the buds on the tree. As you see the buds swell, that’s that perfect time to perform the repot.
After removing the tree from its growing pot, the roots can be seen clearly. There are notably many flaws to the roots and even the trunk below the soil. There’s a “belly” on the trunk, and the roots are all facing one side. Although there’s some good movement in the trunk, the main branch is too high, with no other branches close to it. The tree has a lot of branches way up top. All in all, the only thing good going with this tree is the thick trunk…
A closer view of the roots…
Given the state of the roots, there’s only one way to pot the tree. Hopefully the airier medium will promote more roots to develop on the left side of the picture above.
So, what to do if the roots look yucky, and the branching isn’t good? Start all over with an air-layer! That way, I can take advantage of the thick trunk, while still utilizing all the branches, allowing many options for styling of the tree. The caveat is that I’ve never had any success with air-layering. All my attempts thus far has resulted in failure, and even killing the top off the tree. Without further adieu, let’s look at the site for air-layering.
This location has a lot of branches to work with, and since the trunk is pretty uniform throughout the whole tree, this location also enjoys a thick trunk.
I first start off pealing off the bark along with the cambium layer. This ensures that sugars generated from photosynthesis is unable to travel back down the trunk to the roots. As the sugars gather at the cut site, it will promote root growth.
The bark ring removed. There should be substantial distance in the gap, or else the cambium layers may decide to grow back and not form any roots.
After putting some root hormone on the cut (the top side), I wrapped a pot around it, and adding some bonsai soil. With some engineering, I’m able to affix the pot in place with some wires.
Since the air-layer adds substantial weight to the tree, I found the tree wobbling a bit in the breeze. This is party due to the limited roots to tie down the tree. The solution is to secure the trunk with some clear plastic wrap. The tree needs to be securely in the pot to allow the roots to develop. If the tree is constantly wobbling, then the new root tips would break off whenever the tree wobbles, and would not have a chance to establish. I’ll let this tree sit on wedges such that the soil does not run out from the air-layer pot during watering. The only thing remaining is to let it grow, and hope that roots start to develop.