A lot can happen in 5 Years

Looking at this night shot, I was struck by the quantity of ramification developed over the last few years. Often when we look at trees, it’s easy to forget how far they’ve come over time. It can be valuable to look back to see how trees have improved…or digressed over the last few years. It helps reflect back on pruning techniques, mistakes, “should’ves”, and good calls.

First, an overlay of the same group of trees, 5 years earlier…2016.

Chinese Quince, lots of pruning and multiple rounds of wiring has resulted in a denser and quiet canopy.

Ume, not known for developing fine ramification, has also grown a nice, twiggy top

Hawthorn. This 5-year span is not as impressive because in 2016 it was still growing out after significant work in 2014, reducing several primary trunks. The recent shot is a bit messy but the work this year was to restore order: pruning for taper and getting branch clusters down to pairs, wiring out.

Shimpaku has gotten softer, more padding and more rounded. I have also changed the trunk to more upright, and the foliage movement more toward the left:

JBP, lengthened the second branch up on the left. This tree has gotten densely ramified, and the tasks over the last few years have been around maintaining good density.

Nursery stock Shimpaku, subject of a recent pots, shows how much can be achieved in a short time with Shimpaku junipers.

Taking it a step further, corkbark JBP, ‘Taihei’. It resents work, so I am taking it slow…fall pruning only, light wiring, and guy-wires. It has come along better in the last few years after recognizing how slow I need to go.

A couple trident maples. Notice how quickly the last step of making a bonsai, twiggy branches, can be achieved with these:

Japanese black pine with lots of flaws in the upper trunk. Slowly but surely the branch development is coming along. I still have confidence this sill be a great bonsai one day. I love the bark.

Itoigawa, denser and wider. I really need to get around to working on this one again.

More thread-grafting on an Arakawa Japanese Maple

The primary branches on this tree were made by thread-grafting, and the tree itself was made from an air-layer of nursery stock I bought in 2008. So this tree is pretty artificially developed. However, to keep growth dense and movement present with trees, sometimes this is the only way to go. So long as the result is convincing, the means don’t matter.

The trouble with this tree is that the left trunk has a long span with no branches on the right side. In time, the right trunk sill fill in the lower part of the space, but the left trunk does need a branch somewhere along this span:

Ideally it will be between two left branches, creating an alternating branch pattern…somewhere around the blue circle, on the outside of a bend:

I spent a couple years growing out a long branch to use for a thread graft. The right time to perform this work is just before buds swell in late winter.

First, I verified the shoot would make the bend into the spot I planned to thread graft. Check.

Drill the hole in the opposite direction the graft will be threaded. The exit side tends to be messy, while the starting point tends to be cleaner; and it is important to have intact cambium close to the graft.

Thread the shoot through the hole, careful to not knock off buds going through, and orienting the buds so they emerge close to the trunk. This will allow options and keep bifurcation close to the trunk, rather than starting a branch on a long internode.

Here, 3 buds (circled) and a 4th internode (squared) were threaded through. Notice how close the first bud is to the trunk?

Next, cut a small branch to use as a wedge to secure the graft tightly to the edge of the hole, and seal up both sides with cut paste.

End result:

Repotting Chinese Quince

While I love the oval Koyo and think it’s a great fit for showtime, it is a bit too small for daily use.

This year, it was reported into a wider, shallower vintage Heian Kouso pot.

Minor root work; simply combed out the very fuzzy roots (which grew up and into the fertilizer cakes used this year), and removed some large downward-facing roots from the bottom.

Fresh soil (akadama and lava 2:1) was worked in, and top-dressed with some small grain akadama.

Since it has started growing already (work done on Feb 10), it will need to be protected from the inevitable sub-freezing nights we will have over the next 3-5 weeks. It is also time to apply lime-sulfur to fight against aphid and cedar-Apple fungus which plagues this tree.