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Got a phone call…

This is the third time I have received a call from someone related to a former club member who has left behind Bonsai supplies.

The first time, it was pots, stands, and a couple books if I recall. The pot collection did contain a couple Pine Garden Pottery pots; Max Braverman. Look him up if you don’t know him. He’s been gone for a while, but was one of the early American bonsai potters who actually “got it” as it related to the subtleties necessary for making bonsai pots which were usable with bonsai. Those two pots were the haul of the lot, and I kept one, and gifted one to Ryan Bell.

The second time was tragic. He was a friend and club member whom I’d known for years. He died too early. Our club rallied and helped his family sell off his nice collection of trees, pots, and books.

The third time was last week. I don’t tend to answer calls from unknown numbers. Especially from Auburn. But Sarah Kate left a nice voicemail telling me that her great grandmother, “Granny” Margie Brown had been an ABS club member from the ’80s into the early ’00s, and she had a box of pots to donate back to club members. I met her a couple days later and heard stories early club members, about how her Granny had been the club secretary, and was around when the club built the pavilion at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and that she even remained pen-pals with one of the Japanese artists who came to the club to do a demo.

You never know what you’re going to see when you open the box, but I assumed it would be production pots, and maybe there would be a surprise or two in the mix. Here is the reveal.




I took the bin outside and carefully unpacked everything to see what we had.

And a couple surprises…

Fortunately, the nest was abandoned.

The other surprise was this Dutch Clog. Someone will appreciate it, no doubt.

And the collection rinsed down, scrubbed up, and sorted out; plastic pots below:

It’s fun to see some of the surviving old stickers:

Maybe the most unusual is this gray, etched pot:


Fall cleanup on a Kyokko Yatsabusa corkbark JBP

This one just keeps ambling along year after year. Not changing a whole lot. Last fall, a large portion of the primary branch was broken off, and it’s going to take a few years to rebuild the primary branch. The tree is mostly wired, and I do not perform summer candle-pruning. Instead, I remove the too-strong shoots in the fall, and remove old needles, and downward-hanging needles. I don’t ask much from the tree, and it responds in kind…



Here is a shot from when I received it in fall 2008. 11 years ago:

Still Changing Clothes, RMJ to Itoigawa

Over four years ago, I started grafting Itoigawa cuttings into this collected RMJ. Since the first attempt failed, I have been very reluctant to cut the roots, even though I suspect the grafts have taken by now. I have girdled 75% of the scion, and by next March, I will take the plunge.

March 2015:

June 2019:

Meanwhile, since I don’t have a real clear idea of the final styling of the tree, I decided to practice applying another approach graft to provide the option of keeping the left trunk. Originally, my plan was to Jin it.

This spot will be easy to access, and shouldn’t be too visible from either side:

Quick groove with a rotary bit:

Scuff up the scion, and set it in the groove. This time, I was able to set it deeper than the first graft:

Wrap the graft with Parafilm:

From the front:

I reduced the RMJ foliage just a little to get the Itoigawa exposed to sunlight.

Here is a shot from the front:

The first graft has grown well since it was applied 4 years ago:

Since I still don’t quite know how it will finish, I decided to Jin some branches I know 8 won’t be using, and reduce some of the original foliage in hope of keeping the Itoigawa foliage strong.

My Buddy Dave stopped by shortly after this work was done in late June and suggested I add another approach graft point on the upper branch, as the attachment point was a bit sketchy. Good idea, the whip was long enough:

when grafting old junipers, finding the live vein is important. I scratched spot I wanted to graft first, and it didn’t appear to be alive:

So I began scraping off the flaky bark until the live vein was apparent. look at the photo above and notice the live vein is running along the left side of the branch. It will be plump, brighter red/purple in color, and the dead wood around it is usually sunken. Here is a shot that shows the living vein, notice the red/purple look, contrasting with the dead wood above. Also, note how the green cambium flowed with sap just seconds after carving the groove:

That’s the spot!


Next, I’m continuing to weaken the roots on the Itoigawa, by reducing the trunk, and I also decided to remove the pot to allow the roots to start withering.

Done for now.

A month later, the color of the Itoigawa is concerning. The bottom graft is clearly struggling.

Next spring, I’ll finish the separation, repot into a smaller pot, and hopefully begin styling some of the Itoigawa branches.