A Proper Spot For The Trees

As I accumulate trees over the past few years, they’ve been just growing off my stone patio. I’ve always had the false assumption that the kids would enjoy playing on the grass rather than on the stone patio. Turns out they like to play the on patio more than the grass. The logical next step would be to move the trees away from the stone patio, and take some room from the grass. Since my backyard is a bit slanted towards to the back of the backyard, I had to level the bench by either adjusting the number of cinder blocks, or digging into the ground. Eventually, I was able to create a bench that’s perfectly leveled. This two step bench is where I’ll be putting my trees on. My goal is to not acquire any new trees unless I’ve sold/give away/thrown out trees to make room for new trees.

Bonsai Bench

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.

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.


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.

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.