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.

Repotting a Japanese Maple

I didn’t get around to repotting this one last year, and it was the first time I skipped a year repotting it in probably 15 years, so I wasn’t looking forward to wrestling it free, and working the roots all the way back. However, it was pretty weak last year, and so the roots weren’t too crazy. Here are some shots of the process, which took about 90 minutes.

Unpotted:

Pot cleaned and new drainage mesh applied. 3rd generation Yamaaki. I love this pot with this tree, but the clay is developing small chips around the tie down holes, and one foot. The tree may also be ready for the next size up soon. This one is 19″ wide, and a 20″ would work. But the color is fantastic with the fiery red spring foliage.

First round of combing out the roots, and finding the tie down wire:

Once the wire is removed, it becomes a bit easier to comb out the root ball. I used a hose to remove most of the soil:

With most of the soil gone, the first round of trimming is around the circumference.

Comb everything outward from above.

Then repeat it on the bottom. Before:

After:

Notice how the roots are all radiating outward from the center now? Order from chaos!

Then I returned to working on the topside, combing everything outward, removing roots that were too thick, or growing up or growing down

Continuing around the nebari:

Back:

Finally, settled back into the pot. I chose to raise the planting height just a bit more this year to expose more of the base. It is widening nicely, but still has a few areas that need to fill in; most notably the one right in front. Those areas will not fill in when exposed to air, so it’s best to raise the tree a little at a time, and not before it’s ready.

Wired in:

Soil worked in:

Watered, and finally top-dressed with some fine sphagnum moss to keep the shallow roots from drying out:

Pruning and wiring Shimpaku, along with a repot

I’ve had this one for almost 10 years now. The last couple years have resulted in a committed design direction.

After first major work in December 2018:

It was repotted in 2019, with significant root work, and allowed to grow freely for a year.

And after detail wiring during the COVID lockdown in April 2020:

And of course, it was all dressed up with nowhere to go…so I let it go again for the rest of the year.

Unwired and lightly pruned, deadwood scrubbed, and a fresh coat of diluted lime sulfur applied:

In February 2021, it was time to continue the work. Removing heavy areas of foliage, to establish some balance is first; by removing weak growth, crotch growth, strong runners, and downward facing growth.

Leaving an alternating shoot pattern, like this:

Then wire is applied. I try to start with heavier wire to establish a path, passing wires just behind a branch, like this:

Allowing the second wire to go along the blue line:

Like this:

And repeating, working outward until all branches are wired.

Then they’re fanned out into pads:

Shots along the way:

Looking at the results so far, a few areas need to be addressed:

Specifically these areas:

I also tightened up several branches with some guy wires, and ended up here:

Next up, a new pot. Here are two that would work.

On the left is a soft-corners Yamaaki, a pot I really like and have struggled to use. On the right is an 8-sided antique Chinese replica by Keizan or Yozan…can’t remember. Anyway, it’s one I bought for this tree years ago, so let’s see if it fits, after 10 years of reducing the roots down through 3 different pots.

Yep. A few chopsticks were necessary to stabilize it in the pot.

New soil worked in, a coarse blend of lava, pumice, and akadama.

Watered in, and ready for the year. The pot is a bit wide…or substantial-looking for the sparse top. By mid summer, it should be nicely balanced, as the tree fills out and widens:

Nice night shot a few days later: