Ben Oki Azalea (what’s left of it)

Last year I reworked this Kurume azalea into a design I could live with. It is ok, but so far it is still a ghost of what it once was.

As normal, I reduced clusters of flower buds down to a single, to give each flower its own space,

Before bud thinning
After bud thinning

And the result about a week later.

2022 grafting and repotting of the ‘Chishio Improved’ Japanese Maple

As a creature of habit, I tend to stick with things that work. I really worked hard to score this light blue Yamaaki pot years ago, and think it’s a great fit for the tree…probably will continue to be for years to come. But I’ve been really bored with my collection lately and decided to shake things up quite a bit. So far, in normal repotting conditions, I’ve repotted trees into different containers a little over half the time this year.

This tree has been in only 3 different pots since about 2005

2006, Houtoku pot purchased at the monastery
2012, Yamafusa pot, also from the monastery
2018, Yamaaki bought from Yorozu-en a few years prior.

Bringing us to current.

In late winter, I added some thread grafts. The tree is losing vigor and needs to have new growth pushed back closer to the trunk. Either through hard pruning or some strategic grafting.

See the long shoots allowed to grow last year?
Drilled hole
Threaded through
Second graft
Second one sealed

Now, to the repotting. This one always takes a while because I’m working to improve the nebari a little at a time.


Confirming the Suishoen is the same size as the Yamaaki…

The underside needs to be cleaned of all these new and crossing roots so the base can rest on the bottom of the pot.
Small roots removed from the underside, leaving fine roots around the edge.
Settled into the pot, pruned to a good fit.
As luck as it, the backside of the nebari is better than the front!
Soil added, watered and topped with a layer of chopped sphagnum.

This should look nice when those bright red leaves emerge. Not a bad 4th pot.

A few weeks later and the characteristic bright red leaves are covering the tree.

Finishing up 2022 Repotting

Saving some of the best for last. I prefer to use medium grain akadama, lava and pumice in roughly equal proportions for black pines and Shimpaku junipers…and actually less akadama just because I tend to over water, and it’s the most retentive of the three.

Last repotting of this Japanese Black Pine was 3 years ago. The akadama is breaking down on the surface, as it is supposed to do. However, it had become challenging to water last season.
Unpotted, it is clearly time, but the interior soil was still in good shape.
Combing out the roots
Settled into the same pot, a Yuuji from the Gyouzan kiln.

Pausing here for a moment…one challenge I constantly face with repotting is not getting the tree situated just perfectly in the pot. Take time, find a level spot and be really sure the tree is exactly where it should be, on every plane…or (if you’re like me) it will mock you from the bench all year long.

Plenty of room for new growth.
Soil worked in, carefully filling all voids.
Watered in, photographed later that evening.

Shimpaku juniper, also in a Gyouzan pot. 3 years since last repot..and seems to be on a 3-year cycle.

Soil has broken down here too, indicating it’s time for a repot.
Roots combed out, settled back in.
Back side.
New soil worked in.
Night shot, looking good!