Repotting the Kiyozuru juniper

I purchased this at Chikugo-En-en back in July, and Gary Ishii told me it was repotted in December 2018. So I knew it probably wasn’t pot-bound, but the soil was heavy dirt and sand. This probably works well in LA’s dry climate, but here in Birmingham’s humid climate, I wanted to move it to something a bit coarser.

I am a little early in the year to repot, but will not be trimming any roots, nor completely bare-rooting it. I also plan to strike cuttings from this tree to propagate the cultivar, so I am leaving all the foliage intact. I wired a couple branches that were obscuring the trunk, but that’s about it.

Either front requires me to tilt the tree a bit…fortunately the same tilt works for both sides. I haven’t decided on a front yet, but am leaning more to one than the other. (Dad joke)…

Some pot options:

1. Very small Tokoname pot. This size could work as a show pot, but this tree isn’t ready for showing yet.

2. Deep rectangle vintage Japanese pot by Keizan. Great pot with a lot of age and patina. It makes the trunk look awfully small.

3. This Hokido is beautiful, and a bit shallow for growing out. Maybe some day.

4. 3rd Generation Yamaaki drum pot. Good clay and age, good depth. Not a special pot, but suitable for this phase in the tree’s development. Round pots are always good for an undecided front!

Soil combed out and wired in:

New soil worked in:

Front 1 above.

Front 2 below.

Do you have a preference?

Late winter haircut for the Hawthorn

Happy Leap Day! The density of this tree is steadily improving, but the middle right side is a little behind…still…5 full years after removing a few main branches in that area. I guess if I was really trying to fix it, I’d put the thing in a big wood box, but I don’t want to destroy the what ramification is present on the rest of the tree. So we plod along.

Here is the tree in winter, before any pruning.

I started by removing heavy branches in dense areas, reducing whorls to pairs, and shortening long runners to outward-facing buds. Here is an example, before:


A root at the front died a few years ago, and I carved it down a little to more closely approximate the original trunk chop.


A close-up of the original trunk chop. It is showing some age. I particularly like the back left portion.

I placed a thread graft 3 years ago, through the tallest trunk, to fill in that bald spot on the right side. It is growing but really not thickening. It will remain attached until I’m confident it has taken.

Before and after side by side shows some pruning results and a little light wiring on the right side.

This dark shot shows the branching nicely. The strength is evened out, and branches show better, more consistent taper throughout. Still a long way to to finish out the middle right area, but directionally correct.

And, shots almost exactly 5 years apart, late January 2015 and early February 2020:

From the old photo, it is clear I have let the tree grow a bit narrower and taller over the last few years, and I think I’d like to let the lower canopy broaden again.

I may also skip repotting this year, or find a slightly deeper pot to slip-pot it into and see if that will encourage some stronger growth.

Winter Wiring of an Ume, Prunus mume

It has been around 5 years since I wired this tree out completely. The branches get long and leggy, and they don’t back us well. To top it off, the branches are crazy brittle and the already-precious buds are very easy to knock off. Imagine wiring a pretzel stick and trying to get it to bend not break, and also not knock off any of the salt crystals…which are about as well-attached to a pretzel stick as the buds are to the branch.

My goal was to simply move the branches into a more horizontal position, and to thin out a couple areas on the right side, where the tree had grown pretty strong. To accomplish this, I used oversized aluminum wire, wired every branch first, then began to place the branches, by moving the wires, not the wood. Several still snapped, but on balance, I was able to move the branches into a more horizontal plane without knocking off too many buds along the way. When spring hits, I’ll know the extent of the damage…

The additional challenge with Ume is that the viable buds are out toward the tips, so they can’t simply be cut back to length, because if a viable bud isn’t present, that branch will likely die. This means I need to work with as much of the tree as possible.



Branches moved into position:

The apex definitely needs work, but at least the branches are tamed.

Here are a couple more parting shots. Thanks for reading.