A little repotting

Repotting is done for several reasons: to work on and prune the roots, to change and refresh the soil, and to adjust the planting angle. Sometimes all three. Here are a few examples of each.

First up is a “normal” repotting of a Chinese quince, which is pot-bound. All soil is removed, roots are trimmed back, and heavy roots are removed from underneath the base. The tree is secured back into the same pot, and fresh soil is worked in:

This Ume only needs fresh soil, so very little root pruning is done. A couple dead roots are removed, and thoroughly rake away compacted soil from under the base of the trunk. Then the tree is secured back into the same pot, and fresh soil is worked in:

This itoigawa was restyled last year, and the planting angle was changed significantly. To change the planting angle, it will take several repotting efforts to get the roots on the new horizon.

New planting angle places the left half of the root pad above the soil line. Changes like this are done in steps.
The roots were pulled down as much as possible with wires, and next spring, another repotting should allow me to remove any that are still above the soil line, keeping those that have grown below it.
While the pot isn’t perfect, it does allow plenty of room for roots to grow below the new soil level.

Kurume Azalea after the show

I’ve been cooped up with the rest of the country, so this tree got the full spa treatment. Removing blooms is getting to be a big task, as the tree has grown to about 32″ wide. So let’s start off with a few money shots at peak bloom before we jump in.

And now the work begins.

Remove all flower parts, down to the husk of the flower:

A close up of spent blooms:

Cut here:

To end up like this:

Then, prune back fairly hard. As azaleas age, the branches constrict and the cambium becomes thin, so it’s important to prune hard to keep renewing the tree with young growth. I cut back branches to pairs of evenly-sized shoots, and replace heavy branches with finer branches.

Here is a close up example of pruning back a typical branch with multiple whorls, long internodes, and upward growth:

Cut here:

To end up with this:

Another example where outer growth is getting old and weaker:

See this area, how it hasn’t really started moving yet?

Prune back, leaving balanced new growth to replace the older growth on the ends:

The end result is a little rough to start with, but with a few weeks of growth, the tree will look renewed, and I can hope for strong new growth throughout the tree.

Before:

After:

Closer shots, before and after of some branches.

Upper left:

And lower right:

Underside the left trunk shows taper of branches, pruning back to pairs, and fairly even spacing to allow for balanced growth:

I have grown this azalea in a bonsai pot for 15 years now, and never given it a break from blooming. I think this year, I’ll remove the flower buds as they form and give it next year off.

At some point, I knew I’d have to address the rot at the split in the trunks on the back. It had become soft.

So, using a long drill bit, I bore a hole through to the bottom of the pot to help drain away water.

Then, clean away all the soft wood using a gouge.

Apply a preservative, I use water-based PC Petrifier.

After

And a video walk around:

https://youtu.be/53lR-NURqso

Next year, I’ll repot, and prune more conservatively. For now, the tree is returned to the bench, with a heavy dose of acidic organic fertilizer, and allowed to grow for the summer.