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Right now Melbourne is deep within the throes of winter, in fact, judging by the temps we are right in the middle of it. It seems that my quince has other ideas. It has been steadily waking up and has just started producing new growth as if it is spring time.

New Growth.

As a result I have had to re-pot. This is the second re-potting I have given it since I have owned it and was pleasantly surprised by the root-mass I found after the hard treatment it received after its first re-potting.

Looking at the roots from beneath. You can see that the roots that were growing downwards have been removed leaving an almost solid wooden base..

The tree went back into the same pot is was in previously. One thing you may notice is that a lot of my trees are in green pots. There is a reason for this. Where I live most pots of this age were in green tones. Around that time there was a local grower that hated blue pots and as a result of his experience and influence this lead to very few blue pots being bought during this time. As a result all my pots (which have mostly been bought second hand from other local members) are mostly green.

The tree re-potted.

I have not yet seen flowers on this tree. Hopefully this year I will get a few. I am not sure if this tree is mature enough to flower or not, or for that matter how old a quince has to be before flowering. If anyone reading this has an idea please post in the comments.

New buds.

A lot of people have told me that the quince is an early riser and recently I was reading through some old Bonsai Today magazines where in one article they suggested re-potting in autumn due to the early growth and flowering. I think I will give that a go next year.

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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.

This last weekend I looked through some pots to find something suitable for an english elm clump that I will be re-potting in the coming months. I ended up choosing two pots. Both pots had a number of similarities and I thought that a post comparing them might be interesting.

The two pots were made by Yamafusa and Ina Genzou.

Yamafusa

Yamafusa Hanko (signature)

I really like Yamafusa pots, especially the green glazes. They have a great speckling and richness of colour that varies subtly across the pot.

Ina Genzou

Ina Genzou Hanko (Signature)

This is a Ina Genzou pot, I don’t know a lot about his work and is the only pot of his that I have. I like the pot but the finish in a few areas seems a little rough in contrast to other areas of the pot which are more visible and have a nicer finish.

Both pots were glazed green and both of round shapes, one is a circular shape and the other an oval.

The Yamafusa pot from above

The Genzou pot from beneath.

Comparing the glazes is interesting. I am always fascinated by the vast differences in similar glazes. Both pots are green, both have speckles in their glazes yet both are very different. If you look closely at both pots you can see the influence the different clay colours have in the zones where the glaze thins out.

The Yamafusa glaze

I find that Yamafusa’s green glazes really glow. When you look closely you can see that the colour changes depending on its thickness. At the top of the pot’s rim, hints of the clay beneath sneak through changing its tone.

Ina Genzou's glaze.

Ina Genzou’s glaze on the other hand is similar yet has some subtle differences. It seems to have a bit more milkiness to it. It has speckles yet they are smaller and the rim has beautiful drips. Somehow the colour seems slightly duller and more uniform. the colour of the clay where is can be seen through the glaze gives a very different colour change to that of the Yamafusa.

As you have seen from the previous photos these two pots at least on the surface seem very similar. What sets them apart for me is the smaller details. In fact detail is what really makes the difference for me when it comes to pots. In the next two photos I will look at one area of the pots. The drainage holes. Drainage holes are rarely seen when a bonsai is planted in a pot but when ever I purchase a pot I always try to look at the finish of these areas to determine quality. These details don’t necessarily mean it is a good pot or that it is a bad pot but I think that a pot that has well finished details will often set itself apart.

Yamafusa's Detail (drainage hole)

The Yamafusa pot’s drainage holes have been finished with a bevel both inside and out. This makes the holes look well finished and considered. It may seem a small touch but it is the details like this that really show that whom ever made the pot took the time to finish it to a high standard.

Ina Genzou detail (Drainage Hole)

The Genzou pot’s drainage holes are a little rougher. it appears as if they were punched or cut through the pot’s base and then not cleaned up or finished. I am sure they will drain and function just as well as the yamafusa pot but the visual appearance of them looks a less refined.

Does this make it a worse pot? Probably not. Both pots will work very well as bonsai containers. But should you have to choose between two similar pots a detail like this might be the deciding factor.

In the case  of the elm clump I think I will actually use the Genzou pot due to its added depth but that decision will have to wait for a few more weeks when I begin re-potting.

Both pots are from the cheaper end of the spectrum but both have some great qualities that could really add to the image of your bonsai.

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.

I spent the day today looking at some of the pots I have collected. Two of those pots are in the photo below. They were both made in Tokoname but by different potters. What jumped out at me today was the differences in the glazes.

They are both cream pots and from what I can tell, they would have both looked very similar in colour when they were brand new. Where the difference lies is that the Yamafusa pot has the beginnings of a really nice patina forming on it. Neither pot is particularly expensive but the patina that has started to form really starts to give the feeling of age to the Yamafusa pot.

Hattori (Left) and Yamafusa (right)

What is patina? As far as I can tell, patina is a build up of grime and oils that attach themselves to the surface of pots. Once on, it is a permanent reminder of its past. Patina tends to form at the base of the pot and slowly creep its way up to the rim.  If you look at the image above you can see how the patina is really starting to darken nicely along the bottom edge of the pot.

I asked about patina and pots when i was in Japan and it was explained to me that the pot you use for a tree should appear a similar age to the bonsai.  If you have a 100-year-old tree, then you should find a pot that also has the appearance of being 100 years old. An old tree with a brand new shiny pot just doesn’t look quite right.

If you look closely through old Japanese exhibition albums you will see that almost every pot in the show will have a rich patina. Sometimes this is so pronounced that pots that were once cream are dark grey and look truly ancient.

I think I will have to get these pots back out under the benches so they can continue ageing and perhaps one day they will be a nice shade of grey.

I have tried a few ways to artificially age pots but none have work very well to date. If anyone has any sneaky techniques to create patina please share them in the comments.

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