Japanese Maple Gets Partial Defoliation

This Japanese Maple quickly leaved out after I pruned it early Spring, it’s now very full, and no light was going into the inner areas of the tree. Although I trimmed off the second node of growth the minute it came out, the internodes on the tree is still very inconsistent. Some were very long, yet others remained short.

Japanese Maple all Leaved Out

I decided to remove one of the two leaves at each node, to allow for more light to reach the inner areas of the tree, in turn, promoting new buds to form. It’s now much more airy than before, in a few weeks, I’ll be seeing more buds forming close to the trunk. Hopefully those new growths will have short internodes, and I can do away with some of the longer branches.

Japanese Maple After Partial Defoliation

Collected Deciduous Tree Into Bonsai Pot

This deciduous tree was collected a few years ago, and kept in a colander to promote root development — and develop it did. The colander was filled with roots.

There were a lot of fibrous roots, so I had a lot of roots to work with (cut out) in order to fit the tree into the new bonsai pot. After some extensive root pruning, I was able to fit the tree into the pot. In retrospect, I should’ve done it before it leaved out, but I was busy with other tasks, so this would have to do.

The tree was somewhat compromised due to the late repotting, and some aphids decided to move in. I had to kill them all off by picking them out with tweezers and squishing them. At the end, I think I got them all. I’m now constantly checking the tree to ensure they don’t come back.


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.


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.

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.

Trident Maple Cuttings

During the last TBS meeting, there was a pruning demonstration of Karen’s Trident Maple. Karen was kind enough to share with me her pruned off cuttings. That night, I took the cuttings home and quickly potted them in. I have kept the cuttings inside my orchid fish tank since then. The most important factor for survival of cuttings is the humidity, and my orchid environment provides plenty of humidity. In two weeks, all the cuttings have began to sprout leaves. Since they’re doing so well, they should be putting out roots soon. Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be able to pot them up into their own individual pots. Growing Trident Maple from cuttings is definitely much more rewarding than trying to grow them from seed…