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I am still slowly working through my collection and preparing for winter. This weekend this Chinese elm was cleaned up along with a couple of other trees.

Before the work.

The tree I worked on had recently undergone a re-style. Upon re-potting last year I also decided to change front slightly. This required a bit of pruning. As I began to prune I realised that the initial branch structure had been grown too quickly and lazily on my part. Many branches were too thick, had little taper and had messy structure. I decided that the change in front would also be a good time to re-structure the ramification so I pruned hard.

The same tree a year or two ago prior to re-styling.

Re-styling an established tree can be a hard step to take but ultimately having this tree go backwards for a couple of years will mean that in the future it will be a much better tree. Luckily chinese elms are strong growers and rebuilding the ramification should be a fairly quick process.

The work I did this time around was mainly removing leaves that had not yet fallen off and cleaning the trunk of moss and also cleaning up the soil surface.

The soil and trunk need a clean up.

Keeping your bonsai clean of moss and fallen leaves and other debris achieves a few things. First, it makes the tree look better which I always find makes me take better care of it. I also find that doing work that makes you look closely at your trees you become more familiar with them and it often reveals what future work will need to be done in coming seasons. The last thing a good clean often does is it reduces the hiding places for pest insects and places for their eggs.

A large caterpillar that was living under the moss growing on the trunk.

After a general clean I pruned the long growth and then sprayed with lime sulphur.

After the work.

All the tree needs now is a wiring and a re-pot sometime prior to spring. I am toying with the idea of lengthening the canopy on the left side and possibly growing a low branch from the left side of the hollow. I guess I will grow one and see how it goes next season, i can always cut it off if it doesnt work out.

I am pretty happy with the pot it is in at the moment. I was never really 100% on the last oval pot and feel this one suits it a lot better.

The pot is a production Reiho. Reiho is one of my favorite production potters from Tokoname. Although the photos don’t really capture it, the pot really changes moods depending on the sun. Sometimes in low light it looks almost black, and then in full sun it turns to an almost ultra marine blue. you can kind of see it by comparing the colour in the first pic with that of the soil surface photos.  Hopefully next season I will get some good colour on the tree so I can see the yellow leaves set off against the dark blue fo the pot.

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The tree below is another that was heavily infested with pests. It was infested with Whitefly which in turn had led to sooty mould. Again, in the last garden it was growing in it was almost impossible to control the fly as every time I would spray the tree it would be re-infested a couple of days later.

As a result of the infestation each leaf that was on the tree had a hundred or more eggs laid underneath it. Because of this I wanted to defoliate just before leaf drop so I was able to collect all the leaves and destroy them.

The Quince before defoliation. You can see how damaged the leaves are from the whitefly.

This is my only quince and since I have owned it I have fallen in love with the species. It grows strongly, approach grafts easily, and buds back well. It also shows great colour in autumn (should you not defoliate it too early such as I did this year) and also gives a display of flowers followed by fruit. The bark is also very attractive. When you add up all these positives you get a species that makes a great bonsai candidate.

After removing the infested leaves.

As you can see from the above image, the tree is still very much in the developement stages. I am in the process of approach grafting a number of branches onto the trunk and am also trying to develop a new first branch. The second branch is where most of the whips for the approach grafts are taken from, which explains the looped twigs. This last summer I was able to graft 4 new branches but 3 still need a little more growth before they can be cut from their parent branch. This coming season I hope to graft a couple more.

For those of you wondering what pot the quince is in, it is a pot by Yamafusa. Yamafusa although not really high-end, is one of my favorite tokoname potters. Their green glazes are very beautiful and suit a wode range of deciduous trees and although at the cheaper end of the price scale their pots are great quality.

After I defoliated this Quince I also sprayed with lime sulphur in the same way i did with my trident maple. Hopefully this will kill any remaining insects and leave it pest free come spring. Fingers crossed.

This year has seen some dramatic changes to my bonsai. The most major of these was moving house and gaining some backyard space. My trees previously were kept in amongst a lush garden. On one hand this was good in that my bonsai were quite sheltered and there was a good micro climate in which to grow amongst. The down side was that I could never really rid my trees of pests as once the garden was infected everything was. As a result my trees ended up with a number of pest problems. Now I have moved I hope to rid them of these problems, which brings me to the subject of this post, my Trident Maple.

Earlier this spring I defoliated the maple and posted the results HERE. I repeated this defoliation process twice more during the season and was rewarded with much increased ramification.

As it began to change into its Autumn colours I set about doing the final defoliation. Usually I would leave the leaves on a little longer in order to see the full range of colours they would turn but I wanted to remove them before they dropped so I could dispose of them along with any insect eggs that may have been laid on them.

The trident at the beginning of autumn just beginning to show signs of it changing colour.

Starting to turn

I removed all the leaves which revealed the structure of the branches and all the new ramification. All the leaves that were removed were put into the household garbage to ensure that any eggs on them would not end up anywhere near my bonsai.

Defoliated.

Once the tree was naked I was able to carefully look over the tree to assess the amount of pruning that would be required. I wanted to spray the tree with lime sulphur to kill any remaining pests so I did not prune at this stage. I don’t like the idea of lime sulphur getting into fresh cuts. I am not sure if it is actually a problem or not but I choose to avoid it where I can.

What I did prune off was some insect eggs. I found what I first thought were fungal blooms on dead twigs.

If you look closely you can see the small white tufts of damage.

A close up of a damaged twig

Upon further investigation I realised that the tufts lead to a hollow channel within the twig which was filled with eggs around 0.5mm in size. I did a quick search on the net and realised they were the eggs of Passion Hoppers which lay their eggs in channels they make within small twigs. The twigs die soon after the eggs are laid so cutting the twig off and destroying it is a good way to tackle them.

I then went over the tree with a pair of scissors and removed every twig I could find that exhibited signs of damage.

A pile of some of the damaged twigs.

After removing what I can only guess was hundreds of insect eggs I sprayed the tree with a diluted solution of lime sulphur to prepare the bonsai for winter.

It was a satisfying days work. I hope that the work will pay off next season with a dramatic reduction of insects in my collection. Fingers crossed.

This spring is much wetter that what we have become use to over the last 5-10 years of drought. This drought breaking rain that we are experiencing has come as a welcome beginning to this seasons growth for my bonsai. They are all growing like crazy. Judging from what i have seen in the month or so since spring has started i am guessing that we are in for an excellent bonsai year ahead.

One of the trees that has been growing strongly is the trident maple that is pictured below.  It has been growing so well that i have decided to defoliate is a little earlier that i normally might in the hope that i will be able to defoliate two or even three times to encourage far more fine ramification i would get in a normal growth year.

If you look towards the base of the tree you will notice a small seedling that is being grafted into the nebari to fill in a small gap in the root spread.

Trident, Before

The trident before defoliation.

I have been growing this tree for a number of years and it is really starting to become on of my favorites.

This year i rewarded it with this old ‘Reihou’ tokoname pot that i bought on my last trip to japan. I think the blue really suits the tree well. I will make a separate post about this and other pots in a subsequent post.

Trident, After

The trident after defoliation.

This is how the tree looks after defoliating it. I have left leaves on the shoots that were weak in order to give them a head start over the new growth. This ballancing of shoot strength should even-out the energy distribution over the trees canopy.

I also like to add a few more fertiliser cakes to the tree after defoliation to help the new buds form.

One of the other things i am trying to achieve with this defoliation is to pop a bud that is between the first and second branches on the back of the trunk. There is a bud there that has slowly been getting bigger and bigger but has not yet formed a shoot. Hopefully this work will be the catalyst that sees the bud grow a branch right where i want one.

Those who look closely will notice one of the shots seems to have been bent back in towards the trunk. This is a thread graft that i have put in place to fill a gap in the canopy. Hopefully by the end of this season the branch will have grafted onto the trunk and will have begun to ramify.

I look forward to seeing this tree progress over the course of the summer and hopefully it will reward me with some nice autumn colours.

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