Another year (or two) in the life of an Arakawa JBP

First off…if you’re reading this, you’ve hung through a break seemingly longer than AMC takes between seasons of their original series. Thank you. This has been a busy year of change and bonsai has been on the periphery at best. I’ll make a post on that at some point too, as I effectively took the year off any non-urgent bonsai tasks and it has been interesting to see what that does to a collection. I have been busy growing a new business, eking out a few summer trips, getting our daughter settled into her first apartment at college in Tampa, playing tennis with our son, running, etc. On top of it all, our daughter got engaged this month too. We are excited for her and her fiancé.

So….Here is where this story left off in October, 2020:

In Spring 2021, I adjusted some branches with guy-wires to tighten up the design.

Areas to adjust
Upper left
Upper right
Center right
After guy wires were placed, February 2021
April 2021
May 2021
June 2021
July 2021…candle cutting time

This pine grows multiple buds from a single point, a strong one, and several weak ones. While candle-cutting, I am careful to also remove the weak shoots to ensure a second flush of new growth, rather than allowing the tree to sustain itself on the remaining weak shoots.

1 is the main new shoot, 2 is one of those weak new shoots.
A shot of the back of the tree showing Oxalis that must be removed…but also shows an interesting potential, and dynamic, new front…
Oxalis has a carrot-like root and issues runners. If all of the carrot-like root isn’t completely removed, this invasive plant will regrow and quickly take over a pot.
New candles removed from the upper part
All new candles removed
Pulling needles to balance the strength
After work is complete

And now the tree will be allowed to regrow a second flush of shoots. I will only allow it to develop 2 shoots per terminal and hopefully avoid having weak shoots also appear.

October 2021, new growth is well underway. More needle pulling, and a little shoot selection. When the new shoots are hardened off, they can be wired.

I am strongly considering removing the first right branch and pushing all the movement to the left.

Next up, in November, I unwired the tree in preparation for fall work.

I took the tree to Bjorn’s in November and discussed removing the first right branch and setting movement toward the left. So off to work we went.

First up, the branch removed:

No going back now!

Next up, we addressed the stovepipe-straight section of upper trunk. I drew a couple lines were I would saw a wedge into the trunk and allow us to bend the trunk to create a little movement toward the left:

Ok, that might have been a little deep. We’ll know in a few months if it was too deep, or just right!
Over the course of several rounds of pulling the apex down with a guy-wire, we were able to close the gap without snapping off the top or blowing out the side. The whole trunk was wrapped in a thick layer of cut putty, and we’ll hope for the best.
Red shows screws, yellow arrows show guy wire, and blue shows new trunk line.
After wiring
Fall work complete. The plan is to allow the first two left branches to extend significantly, and hope the top survives.

Fast-forward to mid-April, 2022 and the tree is growing. Not assured success just yet, but not a failure yet either. I decided to not repot and add stress. Next year, I can repot into the correct planting position.

Recently, Jeffrey Robson contacted me to share the Bonsai Society of Portland was posting a photo gallery of trees from Telperion Farms honoring Chris and Lisa Kirk’s contributions to the bonsai community. A photo of this tree will be included in this virtual show on May 14-15. The link for the show is here:

Fast forward another 5 months, and here is the tree in September 2022. No candle-cutting was done this summer, all wires are still on the tree. Later this fall, I’ll needle-pull to thin it out, remove tight wires and add new where they’re needed.

After blooming care of a Satsuki azalea, ‘Kinsai’

The show was spectacular this year. Here are a few shots in full bloom.

As the flowers begin to fade, it is time to remove them. Before they’re removed, it is important to identify shoots that produce the wider petal flowers. They can become dominant and take over the tree. The appeal of Kinsai is the thin petal flowers, so they need to be protected. Shoots with wide petals won’t revert back to thin petals, so now is the time to find them and remove them:

Fat flowers
After removing fat flowers, and before starting to remove the rest.
Obligatory halfway done shot
Last of the flowers removed.
The tree is fed heavily with fertilizer cakes, and drenched with fish emulsion.

This work was completed on May 21. It will be fed heavily, and left to rest for 10 days, and then pruned back.

So, on May 31, here is the tree, beginning to grow again:

And here it is, pruned back pretty hard. The goal is to keep the tree “young”, always replacing some aging branches with new shoots. To do this, it requires some aggressive pruning, which makes the tree look rough for a while:

But, azaleas grow fast, and by the end of July, it was nearly full again. Here is the result, and how the tree will spend the rest of the year:


Last night, in the midst of a heat wave, our neighborhood was hit with “all the things” as my daughter put it. 95 degrees, high winds, rain, dime-sized hail, sultry sunshine, all with a rainbow in the Southeast sky. We had numerous trees down, including two blocking the entrance to our neighborhood, and several others that knocked out power to parts of our area. We were spared, but still suffered a little tree damage. Koyo fans, avert your eyes.

The next morning, I brought it in to replace the pot. Bear in mind, here is our forecast.

I removed the pot, incidentally, the first Koyo pot I bought, first nice shohin pot, and the first pot I bought from Ryan Bell the first time I met the man back around 2011. not to mention, I really liked the pot.

Clearly no way of repairing the pot, I will keep the big pieces and try to think of something clever to make from it one day. For now, on to new pots. I tried this Bunzan pot, a Tofukuji tribute.

It was slightly too small, and I wanted to give it plenty of opportunity to survive in the heat wave, so into another Koyo it goes.

And the money shot…