Downsizing

There are a few small trees which I over-potted in hopes of them growing more vigorously. But a small tree in a big colander often left the medium too wet, and as a result, the tree suffers. Today, I repotted two trees into a smaller colander. My hope is that the reduced amount of soil would allow the medium to dry more quickly, and as a result, promote the tree to put out more roots.

I first started with the Japanese Maple. I originally potted the tree very low in the colander, forcing the roots to go radially rather than downwards. This plan worked well, as the tree has a very radial and flat nebari. I simply trimmed some roots off the rim, painstakingly rearranged the roots so that there are no overlaps, and then potted it into a smaller colander.

The second tree is the Boxwood. Boxwood are very slow growing trees, especially so when grown inside a pot. For the past two years, the tree remains largely the same size. Some nice roots have developed. Similar to the Japanese Maple above, I arranged the roots nicely, before potting it into its new (much smaller) colander.

Utilizing Small Colanders

I found a store which had small colanders in stock, so I ended up purchasing twelve of them in preparation for repotting this Spring. Now is the time to put these colanders into good use. I had some Japanese Quince cuttings growing in a pot along with a few Shimpaku Junipers cuttings for two years now. Since they’ve survived two winters, I’m pretty sure they have some roots and are viable. Transferring them to colanders will help them further develop finer roots to support more vigorous growth.

When I pulled the plants from the pot, there was a big mass of Japanese Quince roots. It is to be expected that deciduous trees tend to put out roots more readily than conifers. The challenge was to separate out the Shimpaku cuttings from the root mass without damaging the Shimpaku roots.  After an extended period of teasing and combing out roots, I was able to separate the six Quinces from the Shimpakus. I cut back the Quince roots heavily to promote more fine roots growth. I largely left the Shimpaku roots intact, with the exception of cutting short a few running roots, to try to balance the thickness of the roots (or else the running roots will significantly thicken in the expense of the other roots). All the Shimpakus fit comfortably into a single colander. Since Shimpakus roots tend to grow slowly, I’m not too concerned that they’ll be too intermingled.

I also had another Japanese Quince which seemed too over-potted into a big colander. Also, it was potted in the crappy potting medium I had last Spring which tend to breakdown quickly and saturate the pot. So I decided to repot it as well, it now looks more inline with the size of the colander.

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The two years old Japanese black pine (JBP) seedlings have also started moving as their candles extend. I figured I’ll pick a few to repot into the colanders to see how they respond in comparison to the other JBPs which remained in their nursery pots. The most vigorous JBP looks to be a year or two ahead of its cohort, so I started with it first.  Indeed, it had a very healthy root system, but the roots are somewhat tangled, it’s timely that I decided to repot them now, or else the roots would have gotten too thick to reshape.  With some wetting of the roots, and some persuading, I was able to rearrange the roots into a radial form around the trunk. Hopefully, in a few years time, they would develop into a nice radial nebari.  I saw some books that suggests tying the roots down to a rock would force the roots to grown sideways rather than down. So I decided to tie the roots to a ceramic dish, but I quickly found out that strings are really difficult to maneuver, especially around a round dish.  So, I decided to use wire instead.  Just one piece of wire is sufficient to hold the tree down against the dish.  I just need to ensure that I cut the wires as the trunk thickens.

All in all, I repotted three JBPs. As I go from the most vigorous to the least, I began to noticed that there are substantially less roots as well. The other remaining JBPs will have to wait till next year before they’re ready to be repotted into colanders. For the second JBP onwards, I didn’t even bother with the string, and just went directly with using the wire to secure the tree to the dish. After securing the tree into the dish, then it’s just a matter of tying down the combo into the pot the old fashion way, using the cork screw method to secure it all down. I purposely left the wire ends longer, such that they can help hold down the dangling roots. These JBPs will be resting under shade for a week, before they’re reintroduced to the sun.

Graduation Into A Real Pot

Last year I potted this Shimpaku into a colander hoping that it’ll develop more roots. Unfortunately, due to the bad potting medium, and its propensity to breakdown easily, the Shimpaku didn’t develop as much roots as I wished.

Nevertheless, it still provides sufficient fine roots for a healthy root ball. I got a pot from David Johnson last summer, especially for this tree. After potting it into the new pot, it seems like a great match. I think I’ll keep it growing in here for a while. Due to the small root mass, the tree is a bit shaky even after the cork-screw method of holding it down. Since the tree won’t be moved, I won’t stress over it. I’ll just let it grow its way into being more stable.

Shimpaku Repotted

Shimpaku Air-Layers

I’ve had this tree in the show last year, and the comment that I keep getting is that the trunk is too straight, but at this thickness, there’s no hope to bend the trunk. Also, the tree looks very fragile with its height versus girth ratio. To remedy the two concerns, I’ve decided to take the plunge and air-layer off the top of the tree. The top portion with its well defined pads would be a rather nice Shohin. In order to expose the area for air-layering, I also had to remove a back branch. Nothing goes to waste, the back branch is put into a colander which will hopefully grow some roots and become a cutting. Since the back branch was developed as pad, the tree will look like a very two dimensional tree, but I’ll worry about that after it has rooted.

The Shimpaku I bought off Kevin Yates a few shows ago, also had a few branches I would like to get rid off. Since these branches also have significant foliage, I’ve decided to air-layer them as well. Hopefully, by the end this growing season, they would have all struck roots, and I’ll have more Shimpakus.

I personally like Shimpakus, since I’m of the frigidity type which always like to better the trees. With Shimpaku I’m given that opportunity throughout the summer and fall, as I’m always pinching away growth to ensure the tree keep its shape.

Hawthorn Initial Styling

The Hawthorn looks very messy, with branches going ever which way. After staring at it for a week or so, I’ve decided to style it and get rid of the excess branches. Originally, I was thinking to air-layer the excess branches and create more trees, but after giving it some thought, I really don’t need the extra trees to divide my attention.

So, out come the pull saw and the reciprocating saw, and off with the branches!

I like this composition, as it hides most of the ugly cuts on the back, and provides a very interesting trunk movement. There are some buds forming on the left side, which will develop into a main branch in the future. For the time being, plenty of sun to help those buds develop and grow.

Apple Tree Initial Styling

The two apple trees I collected last year have survived the collection, and they were sitting in my front lawn (in the ground) ever since they were collected last year. I got some very big colanders to put the trees into. Since I want the trees to develop a massive root mass, growing them in colanders is the only way to go. If past experience serves me right, by the end of the growing season, the pot will be filled with new roots.

Potting up the trees into colanders also allows me to put the trees in my south facing backyard, such that they can get full sun, while keeping them safe from the ravaging rabbits.

I won’t be doing anything with the windswept apple, but I’ll be doing some initial styling with the triple trunk apple (on the right, in the picture above).

I decided to use this side as the front, as it provides better taper near the roots, and the deadwood also provides some interesting texture. The smaller trunk on the left is problematic though, since it’s a very straight trunk shooting to the left. I still want to keep this trunk, as it compliments the main trunk well. The trunk is of a certain girth, so bending it is out of the question. These apple trees are very resilient to abuse, so, I’ve decided to go ahead and bend this trunk anyways. Before actually bending it, there’s a few things I want to do to help the bend. First, I cut slits along the trunk to allow for bending. The slits go in the inner curve of the bend.

A wider slit allows for a tighter bend, a smaller slits are for more gradual bends. When a branch is bent, the cambium layer on the outer curve tend to stretch and potentially crack. To avoid/reduce damage to the cambium layer, I proceeded to wrap the trunk with raffia. After wrapping it raffia, I bent the secondary trunk towards the main trunk and then secure it along the main trunk. The hope is that this trunk will continue to develop and heal over. Hopefully next year, I’ll be able to release the constraints, and the trunk will be set in place.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the bend. I might keep this tree as a triple trunk. The main trunk might potentially be reduced in height in the future. It really depends on what back budding I get to work into a new leader.

Larch Repot and Pruning

Larches are usually one of the earliest trees to wake up from the long winter sleep. Therefore, they’re usually the first ones to repot and prune. Just when you begin to see the little green leaves beginning to pop out of the buds, is the prime time to repot and prune larches.

Last year’s larch forest didn’t do too well in the hot summer sun, three of the five trees fried in the sun, leaving me only two trees out of the forest. Of course, it’s not much of a forest with just two trees. So, I repotted the two trees into a smaller pot, and made a twin trunk composition instead. I think this little combination looks much more handsome than the forest. I’ll be keeping this tree under the bench for a few weeks for them to recover. I’ve noticed that larches need more time to recover from any root disturbance. I think the smaller tree needs the rest more than the larger tree, since the small tree didn’t put out much roots in the last growing season. I hope they both survive, it would really suck if I end up having a formal upright tree.

I also decided to work on my literati larch more this season. The literati looks too full, I wanted it to have a more weathered look.

The left side looks too heavy, and the top just looks weird… So, I started by taking off all the wires I left over winter, and then went on pruning, and wiring the tree.

I took off all the leaves from the top, this would kill off the top. I wanted to use the top as deadwood. I’ll just wait for the top to die off, then strip the bark. I also lighten up the left side, and wired the branches on the right into place. Hopefully I didn’t take out too many leaves. Given I didn’t disturb the roots at all, I have confidence that this tree will survive the ordeal. I just left this tree under full sun, and didn’t bother moving it into the shade. I think the full sun will help its remaining leaves develop.