2022 grafting and repotting of the ‘Chishio Improved’ Japanese Maple

As a creature of habit, I tend to stick with things that work. I really worked hard to score this light blue Yamaaki pot years ago, and think it’s a great fit for the tree…probably will continue to be for years to come. But I’ve been really bored with my collection lately and decided to shake things up quite a bit. So far, in normal repotting conditions, I’ve repotted trees into different containers a little over half the time this year.

This tree has been in only 3 different pots since about 2005

2006, Houtoku pot purchased at the monastery
2012, Yamafusa pot, also from the monastery
2018, Yamaaki bought from Yorozu-en a few years prior.

Bringing us to current.

In late winter, I added some thread grafts. The tree is losing vigor and needs to have new growth pushed back closer to the trunk. Either through hard pruning or some strategic grafting.

See the long shoots allowed to grow last year?
Drilled hole
Threaded through
Second graft
Second one sealed

Now, to the repotting. This one always takes a while because I’m working to improve the nebari a little at a time.


Confirming the Suishoen is the same size as the Yamaaki…

The underside needs to be cleaned of all these new and crossing roots so the base can rest on the bottom of the pot.
Small roots removed from the underside, leaving fine roots around the edge.
Settled into the pot, pruned to a good fit.
As luck as it, the backside of the nebari is better than the front!
Soil added, watered and topped with a layer of chopped sphagnum.

This should look nice when those bright red leaves emerge. Not a bad 4th pot.

A few weeks later and the characteristic bright red leaves are covering the tree.

Twisted Itoigawa restyle

This Itoigawa came from Chikugo-en, via Bjorn in 2014. I started styling it shortly after, and here are a few shots through the years.

2015, apex still tall and peaked.
2018, apex rounded out. Branches were awkwardly located, so while the tree looks great from the front, rotating it kills the image pretty quickly.
2019, foliage tightening up, and the design is compacted.
2020, after being allowed to grow all year, then unwiring in the winter.
2021, Bjorn changed the planting angle, widened the Shari, and rewired. The result is a more refined look all the way around the tree.
In the spring, it will be repotted, likely into this old Shibikatsu.

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.