Bending with rebar

Sometimes wrapping a branch or trunk with wire doesn’t have enough holding power, and using rebar as an anchor point for guy-wires is more effective.

This is my Kiyozuru Itoigawa, purchased from Chikugo-en in L.A…which, from all I have been able to find, is the origin of the cultivar in the US. I bought it to have the cultivar, but wasn’t enamored with the trunk. It has a nice twist at the base, but then straightens out. The yellow line is the area where things get pretty dull.

It has been container-grown and according to Gary Ishii, it was 25-30 years old when I bought it. Growing slowly in a pot means the trunk is stiff with dense wood. Therefore, wiring the straight portion isn’t really an option.

Here is the tree before the work.

A peek into the tree revealing the straight section:

This left branch is on the spot where I want to start moving the trunk to the right, putting that branch to the outside of the bend:

Wrapping the trunk with raffia helps protect it from snapping in one spot. It will still crack, but instead of blowing out at one spot, it will distribute small fractures along the outside, reducing risk of long-term damage. Start below the bend, and go all the way to the top.

Next, I drove the rebar through the root ball down to the bottom of the pot, and attached it to the trunk at two points, protecting the trunk with some rubber pieces and tubing.

Next, I attached a block to the trunk, just below the branch that will become an outside branch. In effect, this block becomes the fulcrum, and the rebar is now attached to the tree in 3 places, plus through the root system and to the bottom of the pot. It is secure and stable.

Next up, I attached a guy-wire at the height of the trunk I want to be pulled the farthest to the right.

Next, I used my left hand to squeeze the branch toward the rebar, and used pliers with my right hand to twist the wire, taking up the slack. I repeated this several times. Notice how much the trunk moved by how much slack is twisted out to the right of the rebar.

Finally, I used another wood block to push the apex back to the left.

So here is the final result:

While it’s a bit hard to see through all the foliage, the trunk does have movement now in that straight section. I’ll probably leave the rig on the tree for the next 2 years, and then begin making branch selection and styling the tree. I’ll also like tilt the tree more to the right a bit more to further accentuate the trunk movement.

Here is a side-by-side, which illustrates the results better.

Pruning and wiring Shimpaku, along with a repot

I’ve had this one for almost 10 years now. The last couple years have resulted in a committed design direction.

After first major work in December 2018:

It was repotted in 2019, with significant root work, and allowed to grow freely for a year.

And after detail wiring during the COVID lockdown in April 2020:

And of course, it was all dressed up with nowhere to go…so I let it go again for the rest of the year.

Unwired and lightly pruned, deadwood scrubbed, and a fresh coat of diluted lime sulfur applied:

In February 2021, it was time to continue the work. Removing heavy areas of foliage, to establish some balance is first; by removing weak growth, crotch growth, strong runners, and downward facing growth.

Leaving an alternating shoot pattern, like this:

Then wire is applied. I try to start with heavier wire to establish a path, passing wires just behind a branch, like this:

Allowing the second wire to go along the blue line:

Like this:

And repeating, working outward until all branches are wired.

Then they’re fanned out into pads:

Shots along the way:

Looking at the results so far, a few areas need to be addressed:

Specifically these areas:

I also tightened up several branches with some guy wires, and ended up here:

Next up, a new pot. Here are two that would work.

On the left is a soft-corners Yamaaki, a pot I really like and have struggled to use. On the right is an 8-sided antique Chinese replica by Keizan or Yozan…can’t remember. Anyway, it’s one I bought for this tree years ago, so let’s see if it fits, after 10 years of reducing the roots down through 3 different pots.

Yep. A few chopsticks were necessary to stabilize it in the pot.

New soil worked in, a coarse blend of lava, pumice, and akadama.

Watered in, and ready for the year. The pot is a bit wide…or substantial-looking for the sparse top. By mid summer, it should be nicely balanced, as the tree fills out and widens:

Nice night shot a few days later:

Changing Clothes, RMJ to Itoigawa 2020 update part 2

Last week, we looked at separating the Itoigawa roots from the graft, which forced the foliage to survive from the RMJ roots. It has been 6 months since separation and repotting, and the tree is doing ok. I have reduced the RMJ foliage on the right side, not touched the Itoigawa foliage, and have noticed a few problems.

The right Itoigawa graft is mostly healthy, except the apex, which began dying back:

And a couple long, stronger branches began to pale and weaken too:

What could be wrong? The tree is otherwise healthy, and as I thought about it, it occurred to me that the RMJ roots were unable to support the growth of the quantity of Itoigawa foliage. Maybe this is because of a natural slower pace of growth in RMJ roots, or the recent repotting diminished their capacity.

So, after cleaning up the dead portion, I started to thin out the Itoigawa foliage.

Before:

After:

A close up, showing how to prune runners and growth from the crotches of branches, and to leave alternating secondary branches with relatively balanced tufts of foliage:

Next up, the remaining RMJ foliage. Removing this should also reduce the demand on the roots. This is all that remains of the original foliage:

snip…

The left graft isn’t looking stellar, but so far it is still alive.

The original RMJ past the graft has died, and the Itoigawa foliage is pale, so it is possible I’ll lose the graft too. I can still work with the right side only, but I did want to leave options to use the left trunk in the design if I needed it. We’ll see how this plays out. For now, the graft appears to have callused well, but I am waiting until spring to separate it.

And now, the “changing of clothes” is complete.