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I have begun to re-pot some of my deciduous bonsai. I like to re-pot my pines closer to spring time so I do my deciduous species a little earlier in order to leave plenty of time for the conifers.

The tree in today’s post is an English Elm (Ulmus procera). I picked it up at a local bonsai show last year. I have always liked clump style bonsai and am always on the lookout for suitable stock (which is quite hard to find). When I saw this little clump I quickly grabbed it.

The Elm after a year in my care.

Since owning it, I have fed, pruned and wired a little. It proved to be a very strong grower so I defoliated 3 times during the growing season. After the 3rd time it did not bud out as strongly as I would have liked which means I will only do two defoliations this coming season.

As the tree had been in a rather large terracotta pot it had developed a large rootball, as a result a fair amount had to be pruned off in order to get it into a bonsai pot.

The underside of the rootball showing the cuts where some lager roots were removed.

This re-potting I concentrated on removing all downward growing roots. This lead to a large percentage of the rootball being removed. Although Elms are strong trees I thought that I would not prune the surface roots as much as I might otherwise due to the large amount I had already removed from the rootball.

The surface roots.

As you can see from the above image there are a number of large un-tapered roots. In the next re-potting I will be looking to reduce these roots to introduce some taper and delicacy to the rootbase. For the time being though, these roots will help the tree recover from the loss of the larger part of its previous rootmass.

If you read my post “Two pots” you will be familiar with the two pot options I had for this tree.

The two pots I had to choose from.

Although I like both choices I ended up chosing the left hand pot.  What i found interesting was how each pot gave the tree a different feeling. The left pot ( ) gave the tree a more spreading feeling while I felt that the right pot ( ) made the clump appear much taller. The beauty of liking both the pot/tree combinations is that I will happily alternate which pot I use in future re-pottings to give the clump a new feel each year.

The prepared pot (minus tie-in wires)

For its size the Yamafusa pot had a good number of drainage holes, each of which needed mesh screening to prevent the soil media falling out and to prevent some of the larger pests getting in.

The potted Elm.

The Elm was then tied in firmly and soil worked in around the rootball. I feel the pot is a good fit to the clump and the green of the pot should work very well with the yellow autumn colours I hope to get next year. This clump has a long way to go before it is a good bonsai but it is now firmly on its way. Hopefully heavy feeding combined with defoliation will add a fair amount of twiggyness and branching to the tree to further enhance its image.

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The following bonsai is one of the first trees I collected a number of years ago.

It is a radiata or Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). I quite like the species to work with but i am still trying to really get a grip on how to best grow and refine them. Perhaps i should make a future post on this subject.

Before it began its life as a bonsai it was located on the edge of a pine plantation where it had grown on a road batter. It had a very interesting curve in the trunk which was either from machinery running it over at some stage of its life or from it trying to seek the light through the long, tangled grass in which it was growing.

After collecting it took a couple of seasons for it to recover and become strong enough to be styled.

The tree before is life as a bonsai. It was needle plucked and readied for its first styling.

I styled is initially at a club night as part of a demonstration. At this time i wrapped the trunk in electrical tape as a substitute for raffia and put a second large bend in the trunk. The bend seemed quite severe to those watching at the time but the little pine bent easily. I then wired it fully and placed the foliage.

The first branch bent into position before the major bend was made.

A top view taken some time after the first styling. The dotted line shows the trunk line. The second bend is the one made during the first styling.

The tree recovered well and I lived with its style for some years while working on ramifying the branches. I didn’t mind the style but, I always thought there was something not quite right about it.

The bonsai was growing well after its first styling. It was un-wired and soon needed work.

The back side. I had often looked at it from this side and thought about a possible front.

The front after a re-wire. It was around this time that the shari seen in the next images started to develop.

Even after a re-wire the style still was not sitting well with me so, i decided to take it to a critique session by a visiting Japanese Professional, Hirotoshi saito. He suggested that we do re-style and stand the tree up roughly 90 degrees. So, a few days later the tree was styled. It was quite a dramatic change but definitely one for the better.

The results after the second re-style.

That was back in July. The tree was very healthy and had grown strongly,  as a result there were multiple places where wire was cutting in.

The pine after its spring growth.

A side view.

The back. From this view you can get an idea of the extent of the shari that naturally developed. Hopefully i can extend this over time to the front of the lower trunk.

It was time for some work. I plucked and cut needles to allow more light and air into the interior of the tree and also removed most of the wire. I was happy to see that most of the branches had set in position.

The tree after the work.

The tree is far from finished and i will need to re-wire it again this winter. Pines with movement such as this are common in collected pines in europe but you rarely see them in Australia.

Hopefully if everything goes to plan it will have a bright future in its new upright style.

The tree in this post was another i worked on while in Japan. It arrived at the nursery one day and was in need of a re-think and re-style.

The major change was to stand it up.

 

Juniper Before

Before the work.

 

I first wired the tree, keeping the small second trunk and then re-potted it into its new upright position.

 

Juniper After

After the work

 

As the tree had its angle changed so dramatically it needed time to re-establish a new rootball that could support it in its new position. In the mean time a bamboo prop was used to take the weight of the tree while the rootball became stable enough to support itself.

Unfortunately some of the lower shari had been buried in the previous potting angle and as a result had rotted. I feel that the base would have appeared much more impressive had it still had deadwood at its base.

It was a nice tree to work on, but at the time i guess it got lost amongst all the other high quality trees in the nursery.

This was by no means a top tree but looking back at it now I would kill to work on material such as this in Australia.

I guess I will have to sharpen the shovel and keep an eye open for urban junipers in friends gardens.

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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