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.


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.

Detaching Air-Layer

Since two weeks ago, I’ve realized there were roots visible from the bag of the Shimpaku air layer. At first, one of the roots were red, while the other root was white. The white root continues to elongate, while the red one has ceased to elongate. I waited a week for the white root to also turn red.

Roots in Shimpaku air layer

It is now ready to be separated from the parent plant.

Shimpaku air layer cutted off

I simply cut off the air layer from right below the peeled bark.

Shimpaku roots visible

The two roots are clearly visible here. I’m hoping there are more roots within the moss.

Shimpaku air layer secured in pot

I removed the plastic and secured the plant with moss intact. I threaded two wires from the bottom of the pot, and tied the plant securely in place. Tying it down ensures the roots have a chance to develop. I then filled in the space with bonsai soil, while using a chopstick to ensure no air pockets exist.

Shimpaku air layer all potted

The plant is now fully potted. It will remain in semi shade to help it adjust to the reduced root support. Come next spring, I’ll consider removing all moss, and repot it into full bonsai soil.

Summer End Update

Summer is coming to an end, and the trees are starting to grow again. Here’s an update on what I’ve done to the trees to prepare for some autumn growth.

First up, is the Shimpaku (or Blauii). Looking at the foliage of this tree, I’m now more convinced that it’s a Blauii. The foliage on this tree has a bluish tinge to it. Regardless of whether it’s Shimpaku or Blauii, it’s developing some good ramification. This summer, I’ve wired a few of the smaller branches, to make the shapes more defined. Rather than having big pads of single layer foliage, I’ve also layered each individual pad to make it look like a cloud of foliage. I’ll not be working on this tree for the coming season. I’ll just be pinching out new growths to ensure it retains its shape.

Juniper After Refinement

Next up is the tree I collected during my first year of bonsai. It was a small seedling when I collected it from the side of a jogging path. It’s now grown to be a small little dual trunk. This summer I styled it for the first time. Last year I defoliated this tree very late in the season, and it didn’t leave back. This year, I defoliated it earlier, and it leaved back nicely. Next spring I’ll be moving it into a nicer pot.

Maple After Initial Styling

Here’s the honeysuckle. When I repotted it this spring, all it had was one small root. I was surprised that it survived. Seeing that all the other trees responded well to pruning by putting out new growths, I figured I would prune this one too. But sadly it didn’t put out any more new growth. I won’t mess with it any more this year, I’ll give it some time to recover, and hopefully it’ll be healthier next year, so that I can work on it a bit more.

Honeysuckle After Pruning

This is the Hackberry I got from Derk’s backyard (for free) social last year. Earlier, I wanted to start an air layer with the top portion of the tree, but it never took, and ended up killing everything from the air layer upwards. I end up cutting off all the deadwood, then started working with what I have below. Perhaps due to the lost of the foliage, the tree responded by putting out a lot of new growths. The tree is looking a bit overgrown now, I’m wiring the new growths downwards, to make shaping them easier in the future.

Hackberry with Top Removed

The last one is the Japanese Quince. This year I’m trying to develop the ramification, and branching of the tree. I’m looking to develop this one as a clump style. Wiring down those small twiggy branches with such close proximity to other branches has proven to be challenging. I’m letting the centre branch grow out to thicken the middle tree. For some reason, the middle trunk is substantially weaker than the rest of the plant…

Japanese Quince Pruned and Styled

Pinching New Growth

Trees tend to want to grow taller and taller, wider and wider. In order to keep the growth in check and to ensure the foliage is close to the trunk and compact, one must continually pinch back new growth. When pinching the growth, one must also consider the varying vigor of the different parts of the tree. Namely, the top of the tree is always more vigorous than the bottom parts of the tree. Therefore, when pinching growth, one should start at the bottom of the tree and work upwards in a time staggered basis. The plan is to separate the work into three stages. I’ll first pinch the bottom 1/3 of the tree, wait a week, pinch the middle portion, wait a week, then pinch the top. The reason to stagger the work in stages is to balance the vigor of the tree, such that the bottom branches will have a chance to “catch up”.

I started the work with pinching out the first lower tier.

Shimpaku Pruned

Waited a week, then pinched the next tier.

Shimpaku Pruned - 2nd Take

Waited another week, then pinched the final tier.

Shimpaku Pruned - Final Take

By the time I finished pinching the top, the bottom branches are already sending out new growths in the newly exposed wood. With the pinching done, the definition of the tree is much more refined. The challenge is to keep the tree pruned such that it doesn’t get too unwieldy.

I also pinched my other Shimpaku during the same timeframe. Surprising, after pinching, I see a new front for the tree. So, I decided to turn it around, and re-positioned some of the branches.

Shimpaku PrunedShimpaku New Front