Archive for the ‘Re-potting’ Category

Around five years ago at a visit to Ken Fujiwara’s nursery I was checking out the tree’s and came across a white pine that caught my eye. It had very good leaf and looked healthy. It had some inverse taper though and I wasn’t sure if it was grafted on to black pine or if it was natural white pine. After a chat with my Sempai he confirmed it was grafted and that was why it had inverse taper. The bulge did have Shari to it one side and this gave that area some interest and not only a bad point. I could see that the tree had some potential and I knew it was bendable so, I proceeded with asking a price. Being as it was grafted on black pine it made the material more affordable for me, otherwise it probably still would be expensive as a natural white pine and Oyakata said he would of bought the tree if it was natural white pine. Setsu Goyomatsu can still command high prices if the are very good tree’s otherwise they have a tendency to be cheaper. I decided that I wanted to try to make the tree even though I didn’t know how exactly but, I thought there is a good tree in there.

One day when I had some free time at night I started working on the tree. Unfortunately I lost the photo’s of the initial bend before but, this is the tree in October of 2015 near the end of one growing season after I bent the tree. The big bend was bent best part of forty five degrees.


As you can probably see the tree suffered a little on the top where it had the hard bend.


You can see more clearly  from these two pictures. The first is the top of the tree and it pushed weakly with short new needles compared to the second photo of the bottom bench which was not so severely bent. It was this point I was glad I didn’t work the whole tree because it possibly could of been too much for the top section and died. With any type of tree, bending hard and later wiring is the safest option but, knowing your species and how far you can push them is paramount. White pines are certainly more tricky even when they are strong compared to other species.

Here you can see the damage and Shari caused from the bend after I removed the tape.


The tape doesn’t stop the damage happening but, helps to limit and hold the bark, cambian, etc.

I then followed up with some maintenance to try to help balance and strengthen the top part.

I left the top half alone, leaving all needle and on the strong area I cut all old needles leaving only this years needles. This is to open up the strong area, let light in and potential new buds from the cut needles can still form. Leaving the weak area should help to strengthen this part and give it the best chance to catch up with the lower branch.

This how the tree looked after the sessions work.

I then decided to re-pot in March 2016, to strengthen the tree and get into a better mix also to adjust its angle ready for its styling.


This was a quick snap mod re-potting, is isn’t take an after pick at the time and forgot to take later as I think it was getting late.

The tree was then left to grow and the only work for that growing season consisted of some candle pinching on the strongest of shoots on the main branch.


This is the tree in its new pot with the chosen front. The top half has got stronger but, still not quite caught up to the main branch on the right. The ceramic choice is maybe my favorite style of pots, of course not suited for every tree but, I believe a good choice for this one. I love very deep powerful ovals such as this one and this has just enough femininity to use with a white pine in my humble opinion.

Even still I decided it was ok to style and wire the tree.

Here you can see the detail of the Shari ball which is to be the focus and main interest of the tree. With the combination of the bend and angle change the tree looses most of its inverse taper and crates an interesting swirl of movement for a main trunk.

The start of the work consisted of running a screw through the bent part of the trunk to ensure that it wouldn’t move after I removed all the guy wires. I then proceed to remove all all needles and some new needles on the strong branch because it was still very strong and to give space to wire. I was only going to remove old needles on the weaker part if I needed to as I wired. I also cut any branches and made Jin which weren’t needed.

The tree then ready, I went on to wire one branch at a time starting with the main branch and working up.


I went branch by branch till I got to the apex. My analysis of the top was that it wasn’t the easiest to make but, had several options. There are three branches and all could be used. I discounted the already natural apex as it was too long, was difficult to fit and I couldn’t use it to fill in the top because it would always look like the tip of the apex if I left it. So I cut it out and the Jin you see in the picture above is it. It’s not always the best move cutting out parts you can use as the apex especially if you want the tree to look full but, in this case it had to be done to create better structure.  I was then left with one viable option in my mind as the other possible option had to be used to make a pad on the left.

I then laid down the left & the right branch and taped the back branch. My plan was to curl the branch around to fill in and form the apex. I felt it was the fullest, strongest and would make the best top on an already leggy apex.


I then curled the branch, following the curve, up and forwards using my jack (for ease and control) and a guy wire connected to the jin & wire.


I then wired the apex and this was the result after a little fixing.

I wasn’t really happy though and felt like the second branch on the right was hiding the nice sweep of the main branch which I wanted to show. That led me to taking it out and cutting it off.

This was the finished tree after it’s first wiring but, it still has a long road ahead of it to eventually become a bonsai. I’ve tried my best to be patient with this tree’s progression but, still try to push to develop it quickly enough. It’s not always easy with white pine knowing how far you can take them without going over the edge. From my experience I feel harder styling should be left in the dormant time, when the tree is strong and this is when I have had my best results.

Moving forward about another two years the tree has only been maintained with old needle and wire removal. I had the tree back in the workshop ready for a re-wiring, older and wiser hoping to improve on what has already been done.

Here I had already cut off a secondary branch from the main branch and the old secondary branch. My reasoning is to compact the tree as it’s grown out a lot and to make a more chuhin size. Another thing is to open it up if the balance branch was kept it would of hidden too much of the trunk. I then continued to wire brining down branches and spreading the apex so in time it will fill out better.

This was my initial finished image for the moment but, reviewing the photo Some changes need to be made. The apex is a little narrow for the moment but there isn’t anything that can be done for now about that but, It will fill out in the future considering it was so leggy.

What I wasn’t happy about is that the main branch and how separate and in compact it was. It was highlighted more from a photo, than in person. So using a guy wire I pulled it up and in to try to correct it.

This was the final image for now . I’m looking forward to see it develop, fill out and mature. It’s amazing how much it has thickened and changed in this short time.

Here is a short video, to give a better idea of the trunk.

Thank you for reading and merry Christmas everyone!

It will come to no surprise to here that we have been very busy re-potting recently, as many people have been.
The other day we were finishing some of the last deciduous, of which included this (on the large side) Japanese Seigen maple.

image

image

image

The tree was originally was bought by Oyakata’s farther and he believes that it probably was started as a garden tree. It’s age is somewhere in the region of 100-150 years old.

It was a standard practice re-pot but, with a few extra things to address.

It’s a pain to move being big, heavy and long sweeping branches but, just about doable with two super deshi!

First job after moving it was for Oyakata to trim back the root grafts.

image

image

image

Next we cut round the outside to get it out of the pot.

image

The tree out of the pot

The tree out of the pot

image

image

The bottom substrate was raked away and all roots growing down were cut.

Don't worry, I did go and help hold after I took the picture.

Don’t worry, I did go and help hold after I took the picture.

The tree with the bottom done.

image

Next we started on the surface, removing substrate from the outside and trimming the roots back.

image

image

Me trying to avoid getting a face full of akadama, whilst Oyakata used the air compressor.

Me trying to avoid getting a face full of akadama, whilst Oyakata used the air compressor.

image

Cutting back thick roots

Cutting back thick roots

Oyakata used the next moment to address some of the root grafts which were done 4-5 years ago.

Here the graft had taken but the union still could be better so Oyakata cut in-between them hoping that the clauses will form both sides and join together better.

image

image

This is a graft that didn’t take so, bark was cut away on both the tree and the sapling an it was attached with a screw to the side of it.

image

image

image

After they were sealed with some wound sealant.

Pot ready.

image

image

Oyakata said there was no need to secure it in the pot so, we didn’t use any wires to tie it down. We aren’t going to be moving it for quite a while.

Next a drainage layer and some substrate was added to the pot.

image

image

Tree back in the pot and Oyakata making some fine adjustments, to get it in the right position.

image

image

Filling in with substrate and chopstick round, to fill any gaps round the roots.

image

Finally a darn good watering.

image

The tree done, at least for a couple of years.

image

After that me, Juan-San and Oyakata did the Ume which featured in the CBC post.

Just two, after shots of this one as I didn’t want to repeat myself but, it was nice to re-pot a tree with such heritage at Aichi-en.

image

image

Probably best to be weary if you ever see these two suspicious looking characters…

Thanks for reading.

It has been a while since I posted anything, for which I’m sorry but I have busy as always.

A while ago we were cleaning up the white pines on the nursery. This entailed removing old needles from 2 years ago on weaker/not so dense tree’s. These could be easily pulled gently with your hands, as they were turning yellow and going to fall in a while. The reason for doing this was to take them off before they turn brown, just to keep them looking nice.
On stronger/very dense tree’s we were cutting needles from two years ago and cutting the previous years needles. The reasoning behind this is to let some light in into the inner branches/thin them out. By cutting the previous years needles instead of pulling, it means that any cluster of needles with a bud in it that will potentially grow, will hold, the others will fall off, thus preserving any potential buds.

The two tree’s here, were just case of pulling the old needles from two years ago.

image

It is a simple process but, just to clarify here’s some examples of what I did.

image

image

A shoot untouched.

image

image

The same shoot after needle removal.

Some of the shoots had old needles and hadn’t grown. The shoots of these that the needles came off easily, I cut off as they were going to die anyway.

image

image

image

image

This was the tree after it’s clean up.

image

This is the second pine, with the same process.

image

Whilst I was working on it Oyakata took a look at and chopped off about three branches, which saved me some work and he explained how he wanted to change the angle of the tree making it an informal upright instead of cascade. The branches were too long as it was.

I made some jin’s were they were cut off.

image

image

image

image

The tree after.

image

A little while later Oyakata re-potted the tree and used the existing wiring to re-style the tree.

image

The tree was then exhibited at the recent Nagoya castle show and was sold their to collector Kito-San.

Thanks for reading.

In between preparing one of my tree’s for the up and coming shohin show I mixed up some smaller grade substrate for re-potting some of my shohin. The substrate I’ve made is based on a mix that my mentor formalized a few years ago or more.
I know in japan that pure akadama is use a lot and there are several people here that use it as well. Personally I don’t think that it’s the best substrate to use here in the UK because our weather is very different from Japan’s. We generally have a lot wetter winter and harder frosts. This leads to akadama breaking down quickly and in the space of 2-3 years it’s a complete mush. The trees soon starts to go down hill and is in dire need of a re-pot. If I were to keep all my trees under cover and keep them on the dry side I think pure akadama would be ok. I’m unfortunately not in that position.
The mix contains small grade akadama, sharp horticultural grit, coarse sand, peat, small washed grade pumice, round Cornish grit, heat-treated fine bark and kyodama (a man-made absorbent grit supplied by Kyoto bonsai here in the UK).

2013-03-17 18.47.18

2013-03-17 18.48.03

2013-03-17 18.48.54

I’m please with the mix and I think my tree’s should do well in it.