Repot Black and Red Pines

It’s been two years that my seedling cuttings have been growing in their very small nursery pots. It’s time that I give them more room to grow, so I’ve decided to repot them all into colanders. I’ve had a lot of casualties this winter, a lot of black pines and even my white pine died.


Shimpaku Junipers Galore

I usually like to spend my early Spring repotting deciduous trees, and leave the conifers for late Spring. Now’s the time to work on my Shimpakus. I’ll first repot the air layers I put into pots during fall of last year. I love how Shimpaku are so easy to air layer, I got loads of roots for all three air layers. I’ve decided to experiment to see how well the trees will develop in the ground, versus in the colanders. In order to ensure the roots are still spreading while plotted in the ground, I tied the tree to a piece of flag stone, before putting it into the ground. The other two air layers, I just spread out the roots and potted them into the colanders.

The parent plant of one of these air layers is almost complete. Just one more air layer then it’ll be complete.

Hopefully by fall, I’ll have another air layer full of roots.

Eastern White Cedar Final Form

When I acquired the Cedar last year, I had big plans for it. Since the tree was neglected for some time, I had to slowly and patiently carry out the plan. Over the winter time, the leaves were looking brownish, I was afraid that I’ve lost the tree, but come spring time, the tree put on a healthy green, with new growths. This year, I’ll be working on reducing the foliage to extenuate the shari. I stripped bare the top of the tree, adding more drama to the diagonal spire that extends to the upper left. I also reduced the lowest branch, to bring the viewer’s eyes back into the trunk of the tree. In the future, I may further reduce the shari on the lower branch, because it’s somewhat distracting in my opinion, and steals some of the movement from the main spire. I left more green to the left branch to allow the branch to heal more readily, I’ll eventually be reducing this branch’s foliage more next year as the inner growths strengthens. I’ve also wired the shari to give it a more natural look. After the wood dries, I’ll be applying some lime sulfur to whiten the wood, which will add more contrast to the whole composition. This year, I won’t work on the roots. As seen last year, the roots are overrun and needs some major pruning, but inline with taking slow measured steps, I will work on half the roots next season, then gradually reduce the roots in a year or two out.

Spring Coming Slowly, But the Work Must Go On

This year Spring has been dragging its feet. May is just around the corner, yet the temperature is still hanging around 2 degrees Celsius. As long as it doesn’t drop to freezing, the trees are all going onto the bench. I’ve moved all my trees from my porch to the backyard bench.

Some of the buds on the trees are swelling up and ready to pop. So, it’s also the perfect time for repotting and pruning.

Over the weekend, the TBS was having a weekend workshop. I took advantage of it, and did some work on my trees. Namely, I worked on this cherry. This cherry tree really have nothing much going for it, so I decided to experiment with bending and air-layering. When I brought the tree in, many people were doubting that the branches can be bent, but with some raffia, heavy wire, and some muscle, the tree is bent into shape. I also air-layered the trunk to separate it into another tree. Originally I was just going to trunk chop it, but why forgo an excellent chance to experiment?

Cherry Tree Wired and Air-Layered

I also brought along this huge apple tree to work on. I was looking at the tree in the morning, and decided to select a new front. So, out came the saw and chopped it to shape. When I brought it in, a senior member commented that the old front was better. But I know my trees best. 🙂

Apple Pruned and Wired

After I was done pulling up the new leader, and wiring the companion tree, it was obvious that this is the better front for the tree. I guess from his perspective, he was looking for “instant bonsai”. But I know well that I would rather spend the time to develop a better front, than to settle for a faster sub-optimal result.

I also repotted a few trees, since they were sitting in some pretty crappy medium that decomposed to dust. From left to right, they are the apple tree, larch, and cotoneaster. I had to prune the roots of the apple dramatically, since it was growing in a large colander and had plenty of roots. The larch went back into it’s own pot with new soil. The cotoneaster had the base of the root ball reduced dramatically. It had a few large roots that I took a saw to and reduced its height. In due time, the reduced height of the root ball would make it easier for the tree to fit into a pot.

I also decided on the front for my Hawthorne, I had to cut off the back side of the trunk as it was distracting the view. The cut was made behind the leader. As I cut more of these heavy trees, I’m getting better at finding the best angle to cut such that the scar is not visible, and creates a taper.

Of course, nothing goes to waste, the part that was removed from the plant is also potted up with some rooting hormone. The hope is that it’ll also develop into a new Hawthorne. The huge cutting is now sitting in a colander under the bench.

Spring Pruning

The ground has warmed up enough for the trees to come out of the ground. The weather in the coming weeks are hovering above freezing, so it seems like a good idea to get them out of the ground and start working on some of them.

For the Japanese Maple, I left two sacrifice branches, and ensure all the nodes don’t have more than two branches coming out of them. This ensures that I won’t end up with reverse taper at those nodes.Japanese Maple After Pruning

These two larches also required some pruning, I left the top parts of these two trees intact until I see the buds swelling. I’ve killed more than my fair share of larches over the years, I don’t want this to be one of them.

Larch after Pruning

This literati larch have come a long way since I got it several years ago. I still remember the club president saying at the time that this is difficult to make into anything useful. Well, I’ve tried over the years, and I’m quite happy with the result. Last year I killed off the top, and this spring I stripped it to reveal the shari. I then further carve the deadwood, and also wired the branches in place. I can’t wait to see this tree leave out. I may contemplate repotting the tree to be slightly leaning to the right at around 7 to 10 degrees.

Then there’s the cotoneaster. I don’t really know what to make of this one. It certainly have a thick base, but not much going for it otherwise. I’ve pruned back a lot of the shoots that grew last year, let’s see what this tree brings this year.

Shimpaku Air-Layer Separation

The Shimpaku air-layers I’ve prepared early Spring are developing very well, with roots filling in the sphagnum moss, and even crawling out of the plastic wrap. Now that fall is here, the roots are not developed much. I wanted to separate the air-layers, and provide them an opportunity to get accustomed to their new pots before winter hits. From one of the trees, I’ve been able to get two air-layers from it. I was very pleased that these two growths have put out a lot foliage over the growing season.

Shimpaku with Air-LayersAs you can see below, the roots have filled the whole sphagnum moss ball.

Roots on Air-LayerAfter removing the two air-layers, I can concentrate on developing the tree, and not worry about the two air-layers getting in the way.

Shimpaku Air-Layers RemovedThe two air-layers have a lot of foliage on it, but they also have a lot of roots. I wouldn’t worry about them getting dried up. I ensured that I caused the least amount of disturbance to the roots as possible. I did not remove any of the sphagnum moss, and basically buried the air-layer into the pot (sphagnum moss intact), and surround it by a little bit of soil to secure it in the pot. Come next June, I’ll repot the these into colanders, removing the sphagnum moss, layout the roots, and use some real bonsai potting medium. When repotting, I’ll make sure to pot it into more granular soil, such that the roots don’t stay too wet.

The next air-layer I separated is from another Shimpaku I had. The upper portion makes a mame, while the lower part makes a good literati. With the separation, I’ll end up with two better trees, rather than one awkward tree.

There are substantially less roots in this air-layer, but I think there should still be sufficient roots for it to survive. I’ll find out come next Spring. For now, I’ll let the air-layers grow, while I work on the parent trees.

Fine Tuning the Shimpaku

I’ve been looking at the Shimpaku and it’s becoming ever more obvious that the upper half of the tree is very disjoint from the bottom half of the tree. In hopes to bring in some unity between the branches of the tree, I opted to lower some of the branches from the upper parts, such that the observer won’t be experiencing a break in their flow as their eyes move upwards from the base of the tree. For the thicker branch, I did the usual raffia wrapping before proceeding to bend it down. I also wired the back branches such that the pads are tighter. I’m now much happier with the tree and where it’s heading. It’s now a matter of letting the foliage fill in. The left picture is the “before”, and the right picture is the “after”.