Pot pairing and winter colors of Itoigawa

I’m always fascinated with the winter colors junipers take on. The RMJ turns blue, and the Itoigawa turns very bronze; even more than standard Shimpaku. The Kiyozuru changes the least.

Itoigawa winter bronze
Compare a winter shot to a summer shot.

Shimpaku changes a bit less:

This Kiyozuru is from Southern California, so it make take a few more years to settle in to this environment, but so far it hasn’t taken much winter color.

I have been on the search for the perfect pot for the itoigawa. While the Sara Rayner pot has been a very good fit, I am looking for something a bit more refined. In my mind, it’s an old red/brown bag-shaped oval. For some reason, the right one hasn’t appeared yet.

Meanwhile, I have a few choices to consider to buy more time to hunt.

Left to right:

1. Cheap Chinese bag-shaped oval. The shape is good, but it is a bit large, and the light clay doesn’t work.

2. Rectangle Tokoname. Good size and clay color. Better quality than the oval, but the shape is more for a masculine pine.

3. Indented corners rectangle, Yamaaki. Better quality, very close to the clay color I envision. It is slightly too large for the tree. If air was trying to strengthen the tree, it would be a good option to allow it to grow strong for a few years.

4. Deep rectangle: good depth, but too narrow and the clay color, again, is too light. This tree was paired with this pot 8-9 years ago and it worked when the tree was smaller and narrower. It has since outgrown this one.

With over a month to go until repotting season, the right pot may still show up, or maybe it gets to sit in the present pot another year. What do you think?


Kiyozuru Itoigawa first styling

In March, I added a bend to this Kiyozuru Itoigawa. Here is the post showing the work: https://nebaribonsai.wordpress.com/2021/03/27/bending-with-rebar/ . The intent was to add a little upper-trunk movement to compliment the great wiggle in the lower trunk.

So in early November I checked the tree and saw the lower wire digging into the trunk slightly. This indicated it was time to remove it to reduce damage to the lower trunk.

A shot back to March before and after the bend:

And fast-forward through 7.5 months of uninhibited growth:

The tree grew well, and I probably should have checked this a little sooner.

The tubing was a little deceiving in what it was hiding…
The lower brace
Upper brace, where the bend was made.
Lower trunk, front, after wires removed.
Lower trunk, back, showing where the wire had dug in a little. Next year, this should disappear.
A shot of the bend achieved.

And after the hardware was removed. I can see changing the planting angle to get something more dramatic out of the tree.

I took this tree to Bjorn’s in mid-November to start working on it. Since the cultivar is rare, I wanted to leave long runners in place to use for cuttings in the spring…an added degree of difficulty. we agreed on this front:

Drew some Shari locations, and did a little light carving to add the appearance of movement. This is the front:


Wiring out shoots from the bottom up. I left most runners for cuttings, but did thin out heavy areas and hanging weak growth that wouldn’t make good cutting material.
A quick shot after the apex was finished.
Done for this year.

I’ll share thoughts on the growth characteristics of the Kiyozuru after 2 growing seasons in an upcoming post. What I can share so far is that I have been unsuccessful in getting any cuttings to survive, where Itoigawa cuttings are nearly automatic. This may contribute to the rarity of the cultivar.

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.