Acquired My First Cedar

During this month’s TBS meeting, there was a silent auction for the trees owned by a member who wishes to get out of the hobby. All the other trees looked pretty wimpy to me, and I ended up bidding for a cedar. The cedar had some interesting shari, but the branch arrangements was very 2-dimensional. There were no front or back branches at all, all the branches were extending left and right. The tree’s starting bid was $45, and gradually got bid up to $75 by several new members… At the end, I got the tree, because I saw the bonsai in the tree.

Cedar From Auction

I didn’t care much about a formal upright tree. I also didn’t like how the shari was covering the live vain. So, I decided to pick another side as the front.

Cedar with Interesting Deadwood - New Front

This side showed more taper, and exposes the live vain for the eye to follow up the tree. I still wasn’t too interested in a trunk that goes straight up. I began digging around the base of the tree to look at the roots, and found that due to negligence, the base of the deadwood has rotted away.

Obviously I can’t have deadwood that just protrudes out of no where, so my only option was to hide the rotted base. I contemplated using a rock, but the evidence of human intervention would be too great. I ultimately decided to slant the tree to hide the rotting base. To do so, I had to take the tree out of the pot, and repot it into a colander.

I started with taking the tree out of the pot. I was surprised to find that the tree was very pot bound — another sign of negligence by the previous owner. After some persuading and prying, I finally got the tree out, and started to rake/comb out the roots. After working through the badly decomposed soil, I found myself with little to no roots at the base of the tree, but with long running roots all around the root ball. I never saw a tree with such long roots before, it’ll be quite a task trying to reduce the root ball back towards the base over the next few years. Since it’s already quite late in the season, I decided to not do anything more to the roots to reduce the amount of shock to the tree.

I simply curled up the roots, and planted the tree into the colander, properly securing with wire. I ensured I planted it in an angle such that it’ll hide the rotting deadwood at the base.

The movement already looks much more interesting with a spire that juts out to the left. I then proceeded to work with the branches I intend to keep. The branches were very straight, with no interesting movement, so I got my raffia ready, and started to do some extensive bending. The lower most branch was already very brittle, and any bending of it would result in a broken branch. Therefore, I decided to let it be for now, and then make it into a jin in a year or two.

The second branch can be persuading to come down along the trunk, and to counter-balance the movement to the left. The third branch can be reduced and provide some greenery to the left, but I got to ensure it doesn’t become too overpowering, because there is already substantial movement to the left. The forth branch will be my new leader, and I will be building an apex off the branches (eventually). Everything else above the forth branch will be turned into a jin once the tree is healthy enough.

Cedar with Main Branches Rearranged

In order to allow more light to reach the inner buds, and eventually promote inner growths, I proceeded to reduce the foliage by pinching/cutting. I also put on some lime sulfur to the deadwood to help with preserve the wood. I’ve done a lot to this tree, now it’s just to give it lots of light, and let it recover from the abuse. Hopefully all the branches will survive and I can start cutting back the unwanted growths next growing season. I’ve also read that it’s best to prune in August, so that the tree doesn’t lose the foliage you want to keep. I’ll observe the health of the tree before deciding whether I want to prune back this August, it might be a bit premature.

Cedar with Small Branches Rearranged

 

Potting Up Shimpaku Cutting

I created this cutting last year, and before the beginning of winter, I separated it from the parent plant, and planted it with sphagnum moss intact, into a pot. I didn’t know how much roots have developed, all I could see was some roots on the outside parameter. Since the Shimpaku has started to put out growth, I’ve decided to pot it up into a colander.

I first took it out of the terracotta pot, removed all the sphagnum moss and combed out the roots, such that they radiate from the trunk. Over time, this would ensure a good nebari.

After lining up all the roots radially from the trunk, I secured the tree in place with a wire, and then filled in with bonsai soil. This tree will be growing in this colander for a long time until it’ll need another repot.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.

More White Pine Seedlings

The white pine seeds I sowed last month have only sprouted four seedlings. I was hoping for a better sprouting rate than 20%. At least it’s better than the Korean Hornbeam seeds I sowed, which had a very sad 0%. The seedlings are now at a size that can be made into seedling cuttings.

Jap White Pine SeedlingsThe usual treatment applies to these seedlings as before. I first cut the trunk to 1.5cm long, dip it into a gel form rooting hormone, plant it into each individual pot, then finally secure the soil around each seedling cutting.

Jap White Pine Seedling CuttingsThese go right into the terrarium with bottom heating, and LED light. In a few months time, I should expect to see new growths from these seedlings.