Twisted Shohin Itoigawa

Truth be told, it’s probably close to an inch too tall to be Shohin, but I’m working on that. I bought it from Bjorn in March 2014, when we drew some Shari and created some Jins, and then repotted it:

I let it grow for the rest of 2014:

Then wired it out in early 2015:

The apex was a bit pointed and too tall. But, not a bad start. In May 2016, I showed it at our Alabama Bonsai Society’s Spring Show like this:

Kathy Shaner was the judge, and made the following comments about the tree in her critique of the trees in the show:

And a few weeks later, I had the opportunity to work with Kathy on this tree. She had me spend time separating some of the places where the trunk had been doubled back on itself, cleaning up the sharis and then we started on the apex. I had split trunks of Shimpaku junipers with her before, but since this tree was small, I wasn’t fully confident in how it would turn out.

But she is a master and I am a student, so this is where we ended up. I let it grow for a couple seasons after this, not exactly liking the result. The tree also grew stronger on the right than on the left. I’m not sure why, unless it has to do with sun exposure. I turned the tree 180 degrees to get the weak left side into more sun for a few months, but it didn’t really help.

Finally, in December 2018, I decided to prune and wire it again. Here is where it started:

To compact the design, I started by shortening long growth:

Then removed juvenile and weak growth from the crotches.

Then wiring branches into position:

And finally, tightening it up a bit more with some guy-wires:

Here is a shot after the work was finished:

And a series of the development:

Next steps are to let the apex fill in, and to continue working on the shari.

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The Cycle Continues: Japanese Maple 2018

A one-year update on this thread.

This maple is getting close to “show-ready” again. It went to the 2012 US National Bonsai Exhibition, and since that time, I have been working to improve the base, correct some structural flaws, and heal a couple pruning scars left by correcting said structural flaws. Here is a shot in late November just before leaf-fall.

And here it is leafless a few days later:

Several branches are thickening and need to be replaced with finer shoots. Where would you prune the branch below:

Below is the after shot. The goal is to prune back to a bifurcated pair of about the same size.

One area of very slow progress has been this thread graft which has languished for both of the last two growing seasons it has been knitting. This may be due to the fact that the scion split at the entrance hole and was attached by no more than a toothpick’s width. Fortunately it managed to live, but unfortunately it has been very slow.

In the photo below, notice how the scion was positioned with a bud very close to the exit hole? That was quite deliberate and may provide something to prune back to in the future.

It’s about 18″ long now, and firmly enough attached that I decided to wire some movement into it. Maybe by next year, it will be ready to separate. Part of the wiring was to angle the tip up toward the light and encourage it to gain strength.

After the first round of pruning, some wire was added to move a few wayward branches into position.

I stopped here and brushed it with Lime Sulfur to lighten and even out the tones:

Often when I get to this point, I find it helpful to take a photo of the tree and work on the areas that jump out as needing attention. What do you see in the shot below:

Here are the areas that jumped out to me:

And here is the shot after those areas were addressed:

A few steps closer to a showable tree.

Here is a 10-year old throwback shot to 2008:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. Thanks for reading along this year. More to come in 2019!

Hard pruning to encourage growth?

Azaleas get very twiggy, and become brittle after a few years. As they age and become brittle, the cambium constricts at the twiggy new growth, and eventually causes the tree to weaken. Peter Warren talks about keeping trees “young” by hard-pruning them every few years.

I had let my kurume azalea grow for the last 10 years or so with very little hard-pruning and it started to decline. Look at this progression.

April 2017:

October 2017, after a full growing season, unpruned from the photo above. Look at the anemic growth:

March 2018 before pruning:

And April 2018, after hard-pruning:

It might be difficult to see how hard I pruned it back because the profile is still roughly the same. However, I removed about 1/3 of the ramification, back to secondary branches and leaving a few tertiary branches. The best way to compare is by looking at how much thicker the trunk appears in the photo just above from the one above with a few blooms opening.

A lot was removed, and I was a bit nervous as to how it would respond. Now look at the October 2018 shot:

This tree was last repotted in 2016, and sat on the same bench, same feed, same everything, with the exception of the pruning.

Below is a side-by-side comparison. Spring, no pruning on the left, pruned on the right:

And the after the resulting growing season, not pruned left, pruned right:

I did the heavy pruning just after I removed the fading flowers in April. Likely, I’ll do it again next spring.

The pot? 19″ wide Koyo, signed, stamped, and with the Fuji-en stamp. Dark clay, aqua glaze, with bamboo patterns on the rim and feet.

And here is a fall-color shot…really nice show this year.