Winter Wiring of an Ume, Prunus mume

It has been around 5 years since I wired this tree out completely. The branches get long and leggy, and they don’t back us well. To top it off, the branches are crazy brittle and the already-precious buds are very easy to knock off. Imagine wiring a pretzel stick and trying to get it to bend not break, and also not knock off any of the salt crystals…which are about as well-attached to a pretzel stick as the buds are to the branch.

My goal was to simply move the branches into a more horizontal position, and to thin out a couple areas on the right side, where the tree had grown pretty strong. To accomplish this, I used oversized aluminum wire, wired every branch first, then began to place the branches, by moving the wires, not the wood. Several still snapped, but on balance, I was able to move the branches into a more horizontal plane without knocking off too many buds along the way. When spring hits, I’ll know the extent of the damage…

The additional challenge with Ume is that the viable buds are out toward the tips, so they can’t simply be cut back to length, because if a viable bud isn’t present, that branch will likely die. This means I need to work with as much of the tree as possible.



Branches moved into position:

The apex definitely needs work, but at least the branches are tamed.

Here are a couple more parting shots. Thanks for reading.

Pairing a pot for this Chinese Quince

First, I really appreciate the current pairing, a Shuho rectangle with cut corners.

But I thought it might be fun to try some new shoes. Chinese Quince is special, as it has 4-season interest: pink flowers in the spring, exfoliating bark in the summer, bright red and orange fall color, and large yellow fruits that persist into winter. This makes pot pairing a lot of fun. They can handle masculine and feminine pots, glazes to compliment or contrast flowers, bark, or fruit. The sky is nearly the limit. So…

What do you like?

Here a few to consider. Pot info and my evaluation are under each photo.

Oribe Koyo rectangle with bamboo accents.

Good color and size. To me the walls are a bit too vertical. Maybe I’m used to a lip. The green glaze will be attractive with the bark all year, and nice with the fall color. If it flowers, pink is a good contrasting color to green, and a complimentary color to the yellow fruit.

Another Oribe Koyo, oval with feet and a lip.

Slightly narrow, but visually, the depth makes up the volume, and a smaller pot makes the trunk look fatter. The shape is a bit more interesting. It has a lip. Glaze color is the same as above, but a bit clearer, with a touch of blue where it built up at the band and feet.

Green Chinese oval cheapo.

I like the color and the shape, but it is too big; the width is almost the same as the canopy, so the tree looks small. The color is pleasing and it’s not too shiny.

Blue Namako Shuho rectangle with cut corners, a lip and carved feet.

This is the current pot, and it’s a good fit, maybe a bit deep. It’s a bold pot, but it’s a bold tree. Good fit.

Blue glazed Yamafusa rectangle with cut corners.

Clearly too big for now. Maybe in 10 years. It’s very muted in this photo, a conservative safe pot. Incidentally it was my first “nice” pot, and the one I showed my maple in at the 3rd US National Bonsai Expo.

Yellow vintage Chinese rectangle with window panes and cloud feet.

Great patina, good shape and the color suggests the fruit color. This pot should be perfect, but to me the pot feels lighter than the tree, creating instability. The tree was in this pot for a year or so around 2015.

Black round Yamato.

Too big, but the red crackles go nicely with the bark. The right size, and it could work.

Tan unglazed rectangle, vintage by Keizan.

Good size, but a tad plain. Very reserved.

Cheapo bag-shaped Chinese.

The size and shape could work, but this is really a cheap, ugly pot. This style of pot glazed in light blue could be a winner.

Formal unglazed rectangle Tokoname by Sankyou or Sanpo…can’t remember which.

This works to my eye. Good size, good shape, solid color. Not sure I’m ready to commit to the look yet, but would be easy to use as the tree grows older. Now, it almost looks like a pairing you’d use when you’re ready to sell the tree and dump off a pot you don’t care about as part of the deal.

Unglazed rectangle with cut corners, 3rd Gen Yamaaki.

The soft shape does work, but the warm red clay color is more for a juniper to me. If I went unglazed, I think I’d stick with a brown clay color like the previous, not red.


So, 11 to choose from, with half being legitimate options for sure, and a few others to demonstrate what does not work and why. A decent exercise when you have time and pots to work with.

Scroll back through and pick one. Which one did you pick?

Ready for my pick?

First, unpotted and combed out:

I didn’t remove many roots, just combed them out and will replace the soil. Interestingly, the akadama soil which has remained in place for 4 years now is still quite in-tact. I read how people complain that it breaks down fast or turns to mush, but I simply have not had that experience.

And the winner is…

I love the pot, a production-grade Koyo with a sexy shape, a Chinese feel, and clear green glaze which beads up in blue at the bands and feet. The root mass stayed rather small, so while it is one of the smaller pots, the roots fit comfortably, and the base shows a bit wider too.

A couple shots with a ruler to show dimensions, the pot is about 11″ wide, and the tree height is 16″.

Leave a comment with your pick, would love to hear your thoughts.


I dug this tree at D&E Trees in December 2018:

I chose this one because it had a little flare at the base, some trunk wiggle all the way up, and branches which emerged from all sides of the tree.

Back in Bama…

With the roots exposed, I started to remove the furry ones high on the trunk to see what we were working with. Fortunately, it did have an area of good roots that was relatively radial, which established the new soil line.

Then, it was time to remove everything growing straight down under the base. Removing these will encourage lateral root growth, and a swelling of the base.

Then, removing the heavy roots that were long, and keeping the fine roots that were close in, the feeder roots could be contained in a pot. And, a tree is never stronger than when it is freshly dug, so this is the best time to do aggressive root work on a collected d-tree.

Finally, the tree was settled into an oversized pot, anchored securely, and filled with soil.

The soil used is lava, akadama, and kanuma, 2:2:1. Stewartia appreciates an acidic soil, and plenty of moisture. Kanuma is acidic, and lava rock is retentive. As with most field-grown trees, the roots are going to take some time to get arranged into an orderly, pleasing shape. This purchase was all about the breed and the trunk.

Watered in, and ready for the growing season, where it will be allowed to acclimate to pot culture for a while before too much work is done.

When the tree showed signs of life in late March, I was able to cut it back.

I am evaluating the trunk for a good place to reduce it further. I’d like this to be a tall, slender tree, finishing out around 30″ tall.

Early April:

By late May, the tree was growing so strongly I decided to reduce the trunk one more time, in hopes of letting it heal a bit during the growing season.

Looking back at the bare shots, there were two places to cut. The red line, using more of the trunk, and the yellow line, which eliminates the long, straight section between it and the red line.

From the growth rate of the tree, I decided to go with the yellow line, to give myself a little room to develop more taper in that area, and still finish out the tree on the tall side. Memorial Day weekend, 2019, before:


The cut was made toward the back, and sealed immediately:

Further trimming back to encourage more growth left the tree looking a bit rough for the moment:

The trunk was then scrubbed with a toothbrush. The base should eventually shed it’s bark and start to blend in with the previously-exposed trunk above.

Around the 4th of July, more pruning of heavy branches was done, to ensure the new leader I wanted to grow was the highest point on the tree. It looks a bit skeletal now, but when leafless, it will look better with some of the heavy branches drastically shortened and replaced with finer ones. since the tree has been growing so strongly, I wanted to take advantage of the rest of the growing season to get another course of branches growing. I am also contemplating moving the front just a touch to the right.

Finally, using the back of a knife, I scraped off some of the hard old dark bark to aid in the smoothing out the transition from the former soil level.

The roots aren’t perfect, but over the next few repottings, they should improve as well.

In mid-August, the leader is growing just as hoped.

No fall color this year, as an early deep freeze zapped most of the trees.


And now we can prune and wire. I decided to change the front to show the best trunk line, which still showed a good base. This will require removing some heavy branches, and work with finer branches. This is how good deciduous bonsai are developed.

Starting here in December:

And wired out:

Not bad for 13 months out of the ground!