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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Juniper long term project part 1

Hello everyone welcome to the newest entry in my blog. Today we are going to start with the initial work of a long term project on a large juniper. Its a Chinese Juniper  but I'm not sure of the exact cultivar. Its probably about 35-40 years old and there is no telling when the last time it was transplanted.
I did a favor for a friend that owns a nursery that just rents plants for the movie business. We were walking past this tree when he asked how much he owed me,  and I said I'll take that and he agreed. So here is what I came home with.

It's kind of hard to tell how big it really is , so here it is again with me to give it some scale.
Like I said a large juniper,  58" wide and 49" tall!
I spent the next hour just looking at the tree from various angles, moving branches around and trying to envision the future of this tree.
Before I get too far into the design of the future bonsai I need to insure that the tree is healthy. 
 Without even taking it out of the pot I know its totally root bound so some major root work is in store. I also know that I'm going to have to remove a lot of foliage to balance out the amount of rootball I'll need to remove. 
I'll start by cutting away branches that I know I won't need in the future, also I want to open up the interior of the tree at the same time. Doing this will allow more air and light to the inside branches of the tree which will encourage new growth towards the interior of the tree. This in turn will allow me to shorten branches later on and still have good strong shoots to work with. Like many old trees a lot of the interior shoots have weakened due to lack of air and light. 

I started by taking off a branch that was very heavy about halfway up the tree. Doing this has really exposed the trunk line much better.

There is good movement through the whole line of the trunk. Seeing these curves in the trunk is making me think that we may go with a bunjin or literati style tree. This style of  tree generally has  fairly sparse foliage and the emphasis is placed on the movement in the trunk. There is also a lot of potential for carving of deadwood both for practical ( dealing with reverse taper) and design reasons. It also has a pretty good nebari or root base, especially for a juniper.

After removing about 60% of the foliage I decide thats enough pruning for now the next step is root work. 

As I thought the root ball was a mess. It was a solid mass of roots and hard  compacted clay soil. When I tried to comb it out with a chop stick it broke. It looks like most of the healthy roots are on the outside of the rootball.
Something told me trying to comb this out even with root hooks was not in the cards. So I decided to make things a little easier and pulled out the reciprocating saw and cut off half or more of the root ball. Even so it took some effort to get through it.

The light brown area in the center is old nursery soil from when the plant was young. This plant was out in the pouring rain for three days and this part right under the trunk is bone dry.

Using a steel root hook and about 6 chop sticks my assistant and I spent over 90 minutes combing out the root ball and removing as much of the old hard clay soil as we could. 
I was actually pleasantly surprised when we finished. I had a relatively flat root ball with a good amount of viable roots.  We also had a very good nebari that was exposed after removing soil of the upper layers of soil.
Next we potted it up in a large bonsai pot. This pot is much bigger than necessary but it'll help the tree regain its strength much quicker with more room to grow. It will allow vigorous root growth which in turn will support good growth above. 

Here is the probable front-I'm 95% sure I wont be keeping the secondary trunk but for now it can stay.

From the other side you can see the area where I removed several large branches that caused a little reverse taper. For now I'll leave it alone and let the tree find its own ways to re-route the sap around the cut areas. Eventually there will be die back on the trunk from these cuts which I will doing some sculpting on.

Here's another look at the nebari and the trunk movement.
I'm excited about where this tree will allow me to take it. I think in the not too distant future this will be a very good bonsai. But thats the future. For now the tree needs to be allowed to recover from all this work.
For the next 3-4 months I'll do nothing more than water and fertilize. In the beginning of the summer I may do a light pruning of the branch ends to direct the strength into more of the inner foliage. For now I need to be patient. If the tree is growing strongly this summer, we may do some carving, but probably that'll wait until next year. I'm in no rush, I intend to enjoy the process.

 Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you found todays post enjoyable and educational. Please feel free to comment.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Transplanting into a bonsai pot the first time.

In today's post we will discuss the first transplanting into a bonsai pot of a trident maple that was grown in the ground for 3 years to thicken up the trunk. This tree was dug last January and all heavy roots were cut off as well as about 7 feet of the trunk. The trunk was cut to about 6 inches after digging. There were no branches or buds left. All the present branches have grown since then from dormant buds that were awakened by the large cut. This year the new leader branch will be allowed to grow wild to gain size and help to create taper in the trunk. Then we'll cut it again and start the process over again to create not only taper but movement in the trunk as well.

Lets go over the tools I'll use today-

Starting from the left- chopstick, branch cutter, shears, potting trowel jin pliers, wire cutter, hemp brush and scoop and strainer for the soil mix. Not shown are a root hook, screens for the pot holes and tie wires.

Before we start on the tree we need to prepare our pot. First wash it well. Then we place plastic mesh over the holes in the pot so we don't lose soil. We secure these screens using U-shaped wire clips made from leftover bits of wire. We also place two wires for tying the tree into the pot. Here is the pot ready for the tree.

The next step will be to remove some excess branches and to reduce the deadwood in the wound from the large trunk cut. Doing this will help the scar tissue to close over the wound quickly and neatly. After 4-5 years there should be almost no sign of the scar. Using a small rotary tool with a carbide grinding bit allows me to carve through the deadwood quickly and cleanly.

After a few minutes we've removed enough wood for the cut to heal over without causing a bulge in the trunk later. The branches just under and on top of the cut will help speed up the healing process.

After the deadwood carving and branch removal we're ready to start the root work.
We gently take the tree out of the nursery pot without disturbing the root ball too much.

Next gently scrape away the soil on top of the rootball to expose the nebari  (where the roots and trunk meet the soil). We'll comb out any roots crossing over each other and arrange the roots so they radiate from all around the trunk. The roots on this tree are fairly fine since its only been one year since digging. Then we start combing out soil from the rest of the rootball, untangling roots as we go along.

Then trim off any heavy or overly long roots until you're left with a nice compact system of fine roots. Since we cut off about 50% of the foliage that was on the tree we're safe removing almost as much root.

Now we're ready to put the tree in it's pot. This is a larger pot than the tree needs, to help with the development of the branches and taper and movement in the new leader. Start by sifting your soil mix through a fine screen to remove any dust or fine soil particles that may clog the screens or fill in the air spaces between the soil particles.

Next we place a mound of soil in the pot right under where the the base of the trunk will be placed. Usually just slightly off center.

Then place the center of the tree on top of your mound with the roots spread out radially, and push it down onto the mound of soil. You really want to work it in there so it sets firmly on top of the mound.

Pour on a scoop of your soil mix and using the chopstick and your fingers work the soil into the roots, being sure to fill all pockets and voids. Use the chopstick to feel for and find those voids then push soil into them with your finger. Keep doing this and adding soil as needed to fill the pot.

After the tree is fairly well set in the pot and the roots covered with soil, use the tie wires to securely tie the tree into the pot. This is done to anchor the tree into the pot so that there is no movement that may damage the fine roots as they develop. It also helps keep the tree and pot together in case of an accident or heavy wind. After the roots start to fill the pot they will secure themselves, and the wires (if visible) can be removed.

If the wire needs to go over larger visible roots use something to prevent the wire from cutting into the root. We use small pieces of micro sprinkler hose.
Finish adding soil and working it in until all voids are filled - the tree should not move in the pot at this point. Use the potting trowel to tamp down the soil to below the rim of the pot to prevent water from just running off.

After all the soil is tamped down,  clean any excess soil of the roots and smooth out the surface of the

Water thoroughly until the water is running out of the drainage holes clean as fast as you're pouring it in.

Finished with the transplanting and sitting happy in it's new home

I hope you found this post educational and enjoyable. As always all comments or suggestions are welcome.
Stay tuned for a couple of exciting long term projects that we'll chronicle step by step. One will be an old juniper in a 15 gallon nursery can and the other will be an overgrown 10 foot tall redwood in a nursery can. Over the next year we'll follow their progress on the journey from plant in a pot to a bonsai or bonsais in the case of the redwood.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring at Kimura Bonsai

Sorry its been awhile since my last post. This is a crazy busy time here at the nursery. We are in the midst of our  transplanting season. I think I repotted 150 trees this week.  In one of my next posts I'll do a  detailed explanation of the transplanting process.
For today though I'm going to just share some images of spring here at the nursery. This is my favorite time, when everything starts to come back from their winter slumber and shows the promise of new life.
Hope you enjoy the images.

The first swellings of the wisteria-

The new black pine candles are starting to push-

The flowers of a choke cherry-

The first flush of new growth on a very old pomegranate-

The delicate pink flowers of a tamarisk -

The beginnings of  the new mexican privet flower-

Pink buds turning into white flowers on this crabapple-

First buds breaking on trident maples grown in the ground and chopped down low-
The bountiful flowering of a korean cherry-

Crepe myrtles bursting with new shoots-

A taiwan trident maple in flower-

The unfolding of new shoots on a trident maple-

A spirea in bloom-

Camellia buds ready to open-
Fruits on a ume that bloomed for new years-
A japanese maple in its new coat-

New buds swelling on a cork bark oak-

Well thats it for this post. I hope you all enjoyed these images. 
Later in the year I'll will be documenting several large ongoing projects that I think you will find enjoyable and educational. As always I look forward to any comments or suggestions.