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Finding meaningful forms

Tips for Repotting-

Michael Hagedorn

Many of you are deep in the thicket of repotting, which I know can be one of those puzzling puzzles. This is just a short post on what I think are some of the big ones to not forget:

1. Don’t have your tree TOO dry before repotting. Although a bit easier for us, we would have a dehydrated tree just before cutting off many of its feeder roots—which ends up as a lose-lose bargain. Better to have it too wet than too dry.

2. As a general rule, don’t bare-root your trees. That’s for specialists doing special work and try your best to ignore the Japanese magazines showing someone boldly bare-rooting a 100 year old pine, or some silly blog like Crataegus Bonsai showing hosing of a deciduous tree. Bare-rooting probably kills more things than all others combined, so without the attending techniques, I would say don’t do it unless…

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Gede Merta – A Multi-Talented Bali Bonsai Master

Some of Gede Mertas beautiful work.

Bonsai Penjing & More

I first came across Gede Merta’s name in Peter Thali’s article, entitled Bonsai in Bali, in 2008’s “Bonsai Focus“, issue #133. The article featured several very talented Bali bonsai artists and their beautiful trees. Another article followed in the 2009 issue #122, with Master Gede showing how to create a ficus with massive trunk and good nebari by fusing together young plants and seedlings. I was curious how this fused ficus looks now, and I had the good opportunity seeing the result when my wife and I were vacationing in Bali last month.  With the helps of Adhy Satya and Budi Sulistyo of the Indonesian Bonsai Society, we got in touch with Master Gede and he generously welcomed us to his nursery.

10711094_579161995545762_8103292144362339298_n Master Gede Merta with his shohin Premna microphylla.

In Indonesia, the honorific way of addressing a person of seniority is to use the word “Pak”, which literally means “Father or Uncle”. Everyone in Bali bonsai circle addresses…

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How about some love for a ficus benjamina?

Nice benjamina advice

Adam's Art and Bonsai Blog

Today we shall look at the lowly ficus benjamina, a pariah of the bonsai world.
It seems that hardly anyone likes the so-called weeping fig except for rank beginners and…..wait a minute, am I reading this correctly?
I think I am….it seems that the really big time artists like Pedro Morales or Robert Stevens like them too.
What is it about these trees (and they are trees, I’ve seen them as big as freakin’ houses. So, to all you biased, ignorant, and elitist enthusiasts who dismiss benjaminas, and any ficus for that matter, to hell with you!) that inspire those enthusiasts who are just beginning their bonsai journey and those masters who should know better?
Well, that’s what I’m here to try to explain.
And, as always, I have a tree to work on at the same time.
I’ll begin by listing the drawbacks, which are many, to…

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Ted Matson Workshop

Some good general tips on bonsai development.

California Bonsai Art

Ted is a great guy. I have known Ted for around 25 years. Ted began studying bonsai in 1979 in San Francisco, where he learned the basics under John Boyce. He moved to Los Angeles in 1980, where he became involved in a number of clubs and began a serious pursuit of the art, taking classes from leading masters in Southern California, including Ben Suzuki, Shig and Roy Nagatoshi, Melba Tucker, Warren Hill and John Naka.

Ted was urged to get into teaching by Melba Tucker and he started offering classes at his home in Pasadena in 1988. Today, in addition to his own classes, he maintains a busy teaching schedule, traveling to nurseries, clubs and study groups throughout the state of California and across the U.S. for workshops and critiques.

Words of Wisdom from Ted Matson

-When you get new material, study it but delay working on it until…

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Deutcia progression

I grew this tree from a tiny cutting in the ground. Here it is in Jan 2013

April 2013

I cleaned the uro and sealed it.

Sept 2013 I dug it out:

I had to fill the pot with stones and put a plastic over that, since the pot was too big

Trimmed it a bit:

Trunk detail

January 2014

It has very long internodes so for now the plan is to create a section with short internodes before proceeding to fatten the branches

There is no point fattening a 1 mm long branch.

It has back budded very well

May 2014

View from the top.

After trimming it to 1 internode:

Long ctalks were left after the node in case of die back. The long branch is an escape branch.


front, still need to uncover the nebari

O4 10 2014

It was left to grow freely, and was defoliated yesterday. Today I trimmed it. Still some branches need to go but left them as insurance …It had a lots of die back of branches inside dew to no light reaching in.

Lesson learned: Grow 6-8 leaves and cut back.


So far I have used only clip and grow, but after the next trim I will wire it. I carved a number of trunk chopped areas.

To be continued.





Some nebari

How important it is to work early on nebari

Nebari Bonsai

A different view from Bill Valavanis‘ garden. The well-developed nebari on these trees is a result of doing the right work, right from the beginning…spread the roots radially, let them develop just under the soil surface, exposing them gradually after they’ve thickened sufficiently underground, then repotting on a sparing timeline. Enjoy!










Next week we’ll take a look at a white pine’s journey back to health over the last year.

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Technique explained – Sandblasting a Yamadori Yew Bonsai

sand blasting.

Bonsai & Yamadori from Tony Tickle

I sandblasted my first deadwood way back in 1992 and I guess I have blasted over 50 trees since then, I have perfected the technique of protecting the live veins, foliage and soil so that the aggressive nature of this technique does not upset the wellbeing of the tree.

As will any intervention on a bonsai the tree MUST be in great health. Never work on a tree that is recently collected yamadori or is not in the best health. This tree has grown well over the last three years and the deadwood was desperate to be worked. If I had waited another year the foliage would have restricted the access to in inner part of the tree, this is where the most interesting areas of deadwood are on view.

A few days before I removed an upright trunk and disguised by carving and stripping the cut, this can be…

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Trident development from a seedling

This is a tiny trident from SA…bought 2013…April. The method I describe here I would call : The lazy faster way…Truth be told I prefer the way Al develops his maples: Grow and cut back hard, in order to create a short sumo trunk. Tridents callus very well so large cuts are not a big problem for them if handled properly.

This is what I started with in April 2013…it was a tiny seedling barely 10 cm high.


It was planted in a small pot in a mix of loam, pine bark and sand over a plastic packet, after removing the tap root, in order to restrain the roots from growing down.

I pinched the top of the tree in order to get some side shoots and after they emerged I wired the tree.

Notice the curves on it. They are not tight enough. As this tree grows, the curves will straighten and will be barely noticeable. A good lesson to learn.

This is the same tree Feb 2014, less than a year later.

Notice the scars left by the wire, they will be gone very soon. In this picture the right fat trunk is a sacrifice branch. It is left to fatten the lower part of the trunk. The left smaller trunk is the future leader. Later it will be cut back hard and a new section started from it.

This is a faster way to develop a trunk, but fattening it and developing the next trunk section at the same time. The idea I got from this drawing which I found on Face book:

As you can see it is a similar method. The advantage of bending the branches is that in highly apical trees, the tallest branch will slow the growth of the lower ones. But if they are wired lower, you can have distributing of energy and selectively fatten some branches but leaving them higher.

In this case I dont see a problem…the main trunk which is supposed to fatten the first section of the trunk is not really suppressing the second section too much….and it is good that they are not the same thickness, for taper needs to be created.

Here is a post on baby bending:

Another angle of the same tree.

Decided to check the roots today…But it is in full leaf now so it will not be good to do a full repot…so decided to wash just on top and see how the nebari is progressing…Discovered I had planted it over a plastic, which acts like a tile…so no roots going down…I am so happy I did that…

I just did a minimal arranging of the roots radially….

Can you see how shallow the root system is….ones the roots thicken, I will just uncover the nebari on top a bit and cut one root short…and then do the same every 2-3 month untill all the roots are cut and start forking near the trunk…for a dinner plate nebari…he he he

I decided to plant it now in a very large pot in a mix on soil manure pine bark and sand…stones are put at the bottom over the holes to assist with drainage.

The next picture needs to be opened so all comments are seen

The wedge method will be used to heal the trunk chop faster….the blue part will be cut off.

This method can be used to develop almost any kind of tree.

This tree will be updated later in this same thread.






Dwarf Jade Bonsai Techniques

Very good advise and progression of portulacaria

Adam's Art and Bonsai Blog

Here’s a tree:
It needs trimming, wiring and repotting.
Portulacaria afra, Latin meaning “leaves like a portulaca” (which is known as purslane and moss rose) and “african” (it’s native to Africa).
The portulacaria afra is called “dwarf jade” by many but it’s not related to the regular jade plant (crassulla species) except for superficially, both plants being succulents.
But the “dwarf” jade actually grows taller than the regular jade, and will develop a woody center in bigger specimens.
I wrote a pretty well researched post last year (click here) that was also reprinted in the Potomac Bonsai Association’s Winter 2014 newsletter (That’s right brother, reprinted!) that has everything you ever wanted to know about portulacaria and probably some stuff you don’t.
Let’s look at todays tree again.
I need to remove some wire.
I need to remove a few branches.
The most work needs to be done on…

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Nice juniper progression:

You must see the whole progression.

Combretum instant ROR

I got this tree from the indigenous nursery in 2013. It was in a planter bag.

I barerooted it and planted it upside down. If you can imagine that the roots were on top of the soil in a hip and were covered with moss.

When I finally decides on a direction for it, I decided to try and make an instant ROR from it.


I took some window puttee and miged it with some gravel. Thought if it hardens it will be fine.

I had to be careful how I mold it so the roots are not strungled when they fatten, but have a chance to grow.

At first I made a rough shape. Puttee takes a long time to dry so I decided to add the final touches later.

December 2013

Jan 2014

The tree grew very well. It had grown long shoots with long internodes. Trimmed all branches to one internode and reduced all leaves by more than half. It is just too vigorous.

March 2014

June 2014 . Winter has started…leaves are yellowing.

Some of the soil was washed out during waterin so I added some muck made from Moss and clay to cover the exposed roots, Improvements on the stone will be made ones the roots are reduced and the tree is put in its final pot.

Conclusion so far:

Puttee is not best material for artificial stones…he he he!

Be careful and make sure roots are not passing through constricted spaces, but have at least one side exposed and allowed to grow.

If the stone is covering most of the surface of the pot be careful with watering so the roots under the stone get water.

Next time I shall make the stone from white cement with PVA added /mixed in for color.



Sacrifice branches, black pine Part 2

Some fantastic info on sacrifice branches on pines, and pine development in the ground.
Part 1:

And this is what Brent Wilson has  to say on the subject:


A Plan for Young Pine Material

Here is a recent post to BonsaiSite. Click HERE to go to the thread at the site and view the pictures of the pines in question.

WARNING! Dense material ahead. If you can read this and really understand it in one go, you are a much smarter person than I.
The two main objectives in growing JBP bonsai are 1) achieving a large tapered trunk, at least in the base section, and 2) getting enough back budding and branches to make a sufficient number of sacrifice and final branch candidates. Doing either of these is not all that difficult. Doing both at the same time is the challenge since the methods of achieving these objectives are at odds with each other. To achieve a large trunk you must let the tree, or parts of it grow undisturbed. To obtain backbudding and maintain branches, you must cut this growth back or even off.

How do you achieve both at the same time, or tell when to use one method or the other? Branching and bud breaking on the trunk must occur while the tree is young and vigorous, or it will never happen. A trunk can be enlarged at any time, so it can be delayed, but not forgotten. With the use of sacrifice branches you can actually achieve both objectives at the same time with only minor setbacks. But the planning and execution can be daunting until you have a good grasp of the techniques and an understanding of how pines grow. At least you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It took me twenty years to acquire this knowledge through experimentation guided by the little printed material on the subject that exists, even to this day. You will find TONS of information on plucking needles, balancing energy, and candling, but precious little on how to get a tree to the state that you even need to do these things.

So, it’s probably best for most of you to forget what you have already learned; it will only get you in trouble. Drag out that information twenty years from now when you have some decent material to work on. Instead, develop your vision of what you want your tree to look like and be able to articulate what makes these trees what they are. It’s good to MOVED by powerful trees, but it’s necessary to be able to analyze the elements of each to be able to create one. Then learn the techniques for producing these elements.

First and foremost is the base of the tree, as it is in most bonsai. This element anchors the tree both physically and visually. It needs to be tapered, thick, and broaden into the nebari (we aren’t considering bunjin here). It can be informally upright with a little movement, or it can have a low sharp turn and be very dynamic. JBP bonsai often have this low turn and it is the element that makes for a powerful moving tree. It can carry the first branch, but it usually does not. In the informal upright, there will be a small amount of movement at this location, but a lot of taper. Both of these forms are achieved the same way. This is the site of the lowest trunk chop. In tree A above it is clearly pointed out with the red lines. Chopping at this point gives you both the low turn and the thick base. Directing the new trunk line into the first branch gives you the taper.

How long do you let this leader grow before removing it? As with all sacrifice branches and leaders, you let them grow until they have done their job (sufficient thickening), or they begin to develop incompatible characteristics, such as reverse taper, or overly weakening of the rest of the ‘tree’. I usually let these grow ten years or more, but this is growing them slowly in containers. Faster growth could be achieved in five years for most trunks around two inches. How do you keep this wild leader from weakening the rest of the tree? You remove all the lower branches of the sacrifice leader to keep it from shading the ‘tree’. As long as the lower part of the tree gets light, it will usually stay active and give you a decent amount of growth. If becomes too weak, then you have to reduce or remove the sacrifice to save the ‘tree’, and start over with a sacrifice branch in the lowest trunk section.

Which brings us to the point with which I opened this post. If you don’t have branches below the sacrifice leader’s first node (the base section) before you let the leader grow, you will never get them (unless you have kissed the Blarney Stone). So, the most important factor in choosing material to grow out is to look for lots of low branches and buds in the lowest portion of the tree and DON’T remove any of them. Fortunately, both of these trees pictured have a plethora of low growth. Good choices. If your material does not have this growth, then you HAVE to get it before you can grow out the sacrifice leader. To get backbudding on JBP, you have to let it grow wildly and as strongly as possible and then whack it back within three years (before this growth drops its needles at the lowest point. Usually, chopping off the leader at the first node will give you backbudding at the node itself as well as BELOW it, where you really need it. If it doesn’t, then you can begin removing branches from the first node to try to force growth lower. If this doesn’t work, throw it away, it’s not worth the effort, start over with decent material. Now you can see the inherent conflict in this process. You can’t be growing out the trunk if you are whacking the tree to get it to back bud.

These are the basics of getting the first trunk section. In a minute, we will actually get to growing a few branches. But first, there is the process of refining and enhancing the first trunk section. This is done with sacrifice branches that came with the tree or were induced by the process above. If you don’t use sacrifice branches in the base section, you will not get the taper WITHIN this section which will turn a good tree into an exceptional tree. In general, you want the sacrifice branches as low as you can get them, and NOT at the same level. Branches high in the first section (just below the first node or branch) will often give you REVERSE taper. Branches at the same level will also give you reverse taper. One or two low branches at different levels will give you an enormous tapered base. If you are really lucky, you will have a branch right in the nebari. These are like gold because they will give you not only a buttress, but a dinner plate nebari. The trees above appear to have such branching, but it’s difficult to tell without the nebari exposed.

The rest of the tree: Early on in the process of developing the base section, you have to select a branch from the first whorl (or an induced branch in the internode) that will be the SECOND trunk section. Once this is done, all the other branches from the whorl are removed unless you want to keep another small one (and it must stay small and refined) for the first branch. The takeaway for beginners here is to realize that when you are buying raw nursery stock, 90% of the tree that you are looking at will not be in the final ‘tree’, and the final tree itself doesn’t even exist yet. That should make the selection of material easier. The character of the branch that will be the second trunk section will define the character of the final ‘tree’. If it comes off at a sharp angle, it will have great movement and will probably end up as a slant form (but avoid a perfect 90 degree angle, it is too regular or recognizable). If it is upright or wired upright, it can be used to create an informal upright. You have some degree of control over this, through both selection and wiring.

In tree A above, this proposed branch is straighter and longer than I would have wished and ITS first internode is probably too long. Both of these can be corrected by getting back budding in this first internode. So that is first thing to do. Currently, it is not strong enough to chop back and reliably get back budding, so it has to be left to grow for another year. It should be pointed south to get maximum light and the sacrifice leader should be pruned back on this side of the tree to direct more growth energy into this branch. Hopefully it will grow a strong terminal shoot from its last node that can be removed next year. This is a young branch so it shouldn’t be a problem to get it to perform. But don’t underestimate the importance of getting internodal growth in this area, your ‘tree’ depends on it. Just like the base section, you need sacrifice branching near the base of this branch to make a smooth taper transition and to create taper WITHIN this second trunk section.

Somewhere in this second section you will have to begin the process of selecting final branch candidates. From this point on, until the tree is finished, ALL the branches will either be sacrifice branches or final branch candidates. You will have to keep repeating that to yourself because you will HAVE to know which are which, that is, to make that choice for every branch on the ‘tree’. Why? Because they are trained in radically different fashions, and this is where you can ‘lose’ a tree in a single year by treating a branch improperly, and then it’s back to restyling. Sacrifice branches are left to run wild. They are not pruned, except close to the ‘tree’ so as not to shade any other part of the tree. Most people really have no idea of my concept of sacrifices. These can, and SHOULD be enormous. I have pictures of some of mine somewhere on the blog. They can be ten feet long and two inches in diameter. JBP have a natural tendency toward ‘stovepipe’ growth. If you don’t use internodal sacrifices, you will not be able to counteract this tendency. Any branch not a final branch candidate is a sacrifice branch, and remains a sacrifice until it is time to remove it (see above).

FINAL branch candidates are branches that are in possible positions for a credible final ‘tree’. These positions are another whole chapter and beyond the scope of this post. If you cannot identify these positions, then you are hopelessly lost and cannot proceed until you have studied and memorized John Naka’s Bonsai Techniques I. ‘Tree’ designs can and do change, so there is no point in putting all your marbles in one basket and betting on a single branch at a single position. Make all the useless position branches sacrifices and use all the others as final branch candidates. Even bar branches are ok because final branches are continually restrained and will not cause reverse taper. Which brings us to THEIR treatment. Unlike just about all other species for bonsai, pine branches have to exist and be trained throughout the trunk training process. For just about all deciduous species, you can completely finish a trunk before you start a single final branch. No so with pines. Final branches have to BE THERE when a trunk section is chosen or shortly thereafter, or you will never get a branch there, short of grafting. This means they have to be properly maintained throughout this whole long training process, sometimes twenty years or more.

How can you do this? By being smart enough to label a branch either a sacrifice or a final branch candidate, you can begin final training of a branch just as soon as it is identified. This process will refine and RESTRAIN these branches and keep them from getting too large and too thick. By the time the trunk is finished, all the final branches will be nearly finished as well. This gives you the opportunity to try out all the cool tricks that you have read about in the books, needle plucking and such. But I hope you walk away from this post with the realization that all the cool stuff you read about pines tells you absolutely nothing about how to grow one, and they are the very last things you do, not the first.



Nebari Bonsai

Back in March we looked at using sacrifice branches to develop a JBP in the ground. Today, let’s revisit the same JBP and look at how to develop the “final” branches while it’s in the ground. Remember, sacrifice and final branches have very different roles, and are treated very differently.
For a refresher, click here for the article:

Sacrifice branches are allowed to grow long, so long as they don’t:
-Shade out the final branches
-Weaken final branches
-Create bulges or reverse taper

Final branches are developed concurrently and are developed mostly like any branches on a JBP in a pot. Even final branches can be thickened by the use of sacrifice branches.

Here is the JBP in the ground, 4 months later; easier to tell sacrifice from final branches, isn’t it?

Since its candle-cutting time in my area, I use that technique to keep the final branches’ internodes…

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Chojubai Notes: Part 3—Why is my Chojubai weak?

Absolutely fantastic article on chojubai problems.

Michael Hagedorn

Few plants come without a puzzling issue or two. For ‘Chojubai’ Dwarf Flowering Quince, the most serious issues are in the roots. Chojubai are strong plants that will normally extend 6” (to 18″) per growth surge. If this is not seen, then be on the alert.

A weak tree will not make typical extensions in the spring and might have a yellowish color. Some weak Chojubai are simply in soil that is too fine, are overwatered or underwatered, or are in pots that are too shallow, and those are easy to correct.

Otherwise the root zone of a Chojubai is susceptible to several problems that can weaken your tree. The first is a nematode, the second is a bacteria, and the third is a root gall, and they’re all separate but interrelated parts of the disease known as crown gall. It’s not frequent, but if you have a Chojubai, be…

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Styling trees

Some things to keep in mind…collected from wise people around the net:

Brent Wilson….My Guru! Link:


FIND WHERE THE TREE STOPS BEING INTERESTING. This rule applies to advanced and promising material that hasn’t been completely styled. Usually a suitable candidate for this rule disturbs you in some way. You get the feeling that this should be a good tree, but there is just something wrong that keeps it from being really great. The trick is to start at the nebari (as usual) and go up the trunk inspecting each element. Where the tree stops being interesting is the problem. More often than not, it is a long straight portion of the trunk that is boring, but it can be anything that is ugly or out of character with the rest of the tree.


AVOID THE DREADED “C” CURVE. A powerful concept in bonsai design is FLOW. This is the idea that there is a visual energy flowing through the tree. It can be tickled and diverted, but it always comes back to the same direction (except when you want dynamic tension). But flow should not be stopped in its trip up from the nebari and out through the apex. Of course a tree can several bends in the trunk that slightly change the direction of the flow. This is what we call MOVEMENT, and even the term alludes to  flow. There are several things that can stop flow, but one of the most overlooked is a “C” curve in the trunkline. A bend in the trunk will stop being aesthetic when it starts to close, as in the ends of the “C”. Instead of the eye dancing around the curve and up the trunk, the visual energy will stop or shoot out of the trunkline rather than moving up to the apex if the bend is closed. This is a very subtle but powerful concept.


WORK WITH WHAT THE TREE SHOWS YOU. This is another rule that you think would be obvious, but many people don’t think in these terms. Instead of being partners with the tree, they try to bend it to their will. I don’t consider material to be pre bonsai until it shows me something. Once it does this, then I prune and work with the tree to enhance what it has to offer. In fact, I find many trees are completely built around one excellent feature. Usually it is the trunk, but can just be the bark, or a uro, jin, shari, or the nebari. Something about the tree that is truly excellent. On many trees with outstanding trunks, the branches and foliage are just window dressing. In fact, you want to design the tree so as to enhance the outstanding feature, not to detract from or hide it. This is related to trying to see the tree in the tree. The essence of thetree will often be one outstanding feature, and the rest of the design will be obvious once you see it from this point of view.

More to be added later



Failand- Bristol-UK accent show.

I went to the accent show courtesy of Paul Bowerbank and his wife Moira. It was something different and very original. I enjoyed it tremendously. It was well organised. At the entrance: I loved the vendor stall for bronzes: There were lots of plants and pots vendors too: This is a plectrantus that forms bulbous trunk:

Summer buds

A usual very good info …this is an article on JBP backbudding and budding.

Paul Bowerbanks bonsai en

After the accent exhibition in Bristol Paul took me to his house. He has been doing bonsai for 28 years. His collection is not large but he has some very matured and beautiful trees.

Lovely little garden

Moira, his wife collects bronze statues…and is the most wonderful girl.

There are some pests that like digging in his trees.

Something different

A pine in development

He glued artificial shari to it and it looks really good.

He also has a good collection of accents:





All Junipers

This junipers were bought in Japan at wholesale nurseries, as undeveloped rough stock in September 2013. I have done very little to them and prestyled only few due to impatience. I decided not to buy finished trees since I went to study pines and junipers only at Taisho en, and it will be fun to put into practice what I learned there.. Did not learn anything about any other trees, since the time was not much, to learn much and I thought if I learn how to care for and style pines junipers, I would be able to style anything. To me they are the most difficult trees, and from whom to learn how to style them better than from a Japanese master. Also I thought if I learn a bit from everything, I will come out of there with very little knowledge, about many thing, instead of concentrating on one type and learning about it well.

The first thing I did is to split them in 3 groups and put them under different conditions of shade in order to determine where they will do best in the hot African sun. A tip about growing junipers under shade in tropical countries was given to me by Khaimraj in IBC.

Within 8 month there was a pronounced difference between the trees. The ones that were in full sun were looking terrible…with unhealthy gray looking foliage, and no growth through the whole summer. I decided to put all of them under a light shade approximately 30%, just above the trees, so they still get morning and late afternoon sun but are under the shade at noon.

There was a pronounced difference. The trees started extending new growth and the foliage became lush green with few in shades of blue, since my trees are from different growers and I believe from different stock.

Notice this is in April and there is no new growth on the branch

Here new growth is starting to extend only on the top where the tree is more vigorous

Here are some of the smaller ones that were left under the light shade.

This juniper was left on full sun. Notice there is no growth, but at least the leaves have turned                                       green and look healthy ones put under the shade.



I know it is too soon to come to meaningful conclusions, but for me the trees look much happier under light shade for now. You must remember that to grow junipers in a tropical environment is not an easy task, and a solution must be found to keep your trees happy.

Another lesson learned was do not style junipers if they are not in perfect health. The trees I prestyled…just wiring of few primary branches, , are not doing well. There is no growth on them, and I have some branch die back. So that tells me how stressful the wiring is to a tree. Lesson learned and thank You Dorothy for advising me not to style the rest.

I have not posted my trees much not even here…he he he! I bought close to 250 trees in Japan, 99% rough stock, that I have posted anywhere up to date probably 10-20% But they give me lots of joy, and just sitting and looking at them, observing how they behave (very strangely some of them) gives me great joy.

Why did I say that some behave very strangely? It is their growth. They from winter in the northern hemisphere to spring in the southern hemisphere. Some new that it is spring and started behaving as a normal tree should behave in spring …flowering and budding, some never woke up during summer here, and only started extending new growth ones spring started in the northern hemisphere. That tells me that some trees have built in biological clock and length of day light hours and temperatures do not affect them as expected.

There is no point at the moment to open an individual topic for each tree ,, unless I decide to start styling them. For now they are left to grow and recover from the “cultural”shock…he he he!

So here are some pictures, though I need to take more pictures and pictures of all of them.

Here is one of the junipers I like best. This is unstyled material in Japan. Ones I style it you will know what the difference is.

This are all ground grown junipers for the bonsai trade.

The tops are just a bush composed of lots of branches, that need to be drastically reduced. Probably removing 80% eventually but not all at ones. Some branches will be grown as jin, wired and bend and later removed, like the one above.

Notice here the ovals of the shari are already started

They are all 25 and some will be styled as shohin and some will be grown                                                                  large and fattened some more.

This are some of the larger ones which I need to start shari on soon:

It is a typical twisted juniper, but from some angles                                                          the twist is not so pronounced.

This is a large slanting juniper that has reverse taper from some angles due to the twists, but it is fine from the intended front.

I need to start the shari here as well

Some more little ones:

This ones I prestyled a little:

I still need to twist the branches some more but that can be done later since they are still very young.

I am sure that there are some more but they are so bushy that I keep confusing them. I shall add the rest when I figure out which is which.

















Seedling development maple and others

Small seedling in Japan are wired while very small. This helps create movement in the trunk. Remember as the tree grows those exaggerated curves will straighten some what, but it is a good method for me to grow seedlings.

This are some pictures I found on Face book, not sure to whom they belong, but it is another way of tree development that I use and like a lot.

Meanwhile if you remove some bark under those branches that touch the ground, you will have them rooted for new trees and will help fatten your tree faster.

This particular example is for a medium size tree. You need to consider how large your tree will be before bending the seedling. Remember the first part of the trunk  is 1/3 of the total height of the tree.

For mame trees You grow and cut back developing each section of the trunk from a new leader, keeping the new portions of the trunk very short. That you do for sumo trunks also. I have an example here on the blog by All how that is done.

This is a lazy and somewhat faster method of developing seedlings for bonsai and it can be applied to many trees.

This is a seedling I bought in SA on 2013-06-25 at around 15 cm height.

I first pinched the top to get some budding low down, and ones I got some shoots I wired it. Notice that the wiring is 3 dimensional and not just in one plane.

The left branch will be used as sacrifice branch and cut off later.

This is how it looked Febr 2014

Notice the tree is just left to grow freely, without any cutting.

Chopping a tree when You want to heal the wound fast can be done with the wedge method…half way chopping/carving it and leaving the top portion to grow. It results in faster healing and additional growth to the lower section, while developing the second section of the trunk. This can be done almost any time during the growing season.

When I do the curving for healing and removal of the leader I shall post updates here in this thread and notify you, but I have done it recently on my ficus microcarpa if you want to have a look how it is done. There I shall enlarge the carving in spring and slope it somewhat to the sides. The healing always starts from the top.


What are the future plans:

Eventually when the tree has reaches the required thickness of the trunk and leader it will be chopped back. Remember that with the notch method, you are healing and growing the trunk at the same time. You can use it continually for all sections of the trunk. Notch the leader towards the end of the tree development and leave it as long as needed.

Best and fastest way to develop trees is in the ground but attention must be paid to the root development , thickness, position…in order to create a good nebari at the same time. For that you might need to work on the roots but that I will post on another thread my own method of nebari development…Lazy, easy, but very effective and it does not slow the tree growth as much as digging the tree and chopping all the roots. Plus that is much safer method.

This tree will have its roots worked on and planted in the ground in spring.





Marinara Cup Mame

Ficus salicaria development experiment. Developing trunks faster. Interesting!
Thanks to Kennedy Max for the link!



A nice article on Trachelospermum Chirimen Trachelospermum asiaticum var. Nana, or Dwarf Star Jasmine.
They are traditionally styled like this.

Ficus microcarpa green island

This is a ficus I bought in Jan 2013. I have since airlayered it and made two trees.  This is the top part.

I removed the airlayer 30 Nov 2013. Roots did not grow fast…and after that it was our winter so it took a long time to remove it.

Back. The lowest right branch has a root so I can cut it off and graft the end portion to another place.

I decided to see what to do with this fig. Need to chop it down. The trunk is too thin for this height…but I shall try to add thickness to it using aerial roots and escape branches.

This is how it looked today 17 06 2014:

It has one huge first branch on the right which I am not sure yet if I shall keep or just use as sacrifice branch.

Decided on the maroon line as trunk line and chop at the red lines

 Notice the wedge cut just above the new leader? That is done so it can start healing while the top part is still attached. The healing this way is much faster. It will start healing from the top and as a continuation of the new leader.

Close up. After taking this picture I expanded the wedge but forgot to take a picture. In spring I might carve the wedge some more or remove the top depending on how it heals.

 On the left of the wedge cut is the new leader See the branch on the left just above my finger…It is too fat for a top branch, so reduction is in order to slow down its growth.

The first left branch is not in a good position. I would like to root a part of it and shift it up. For that I removed the cambium under the branch in order to create roots at that point. Later that branch will be removed with the roots attached to it close to the trunk , The cambium at the end will be removed and a hole will be drilled in the trunk where the new position will be. The removed branch will be inserted in the hole, attached and hopefully it will heal and I will have a big branch at the new position.

 I got an empty detergent bottle and here I am measuring how high to cut it so that it is supported by the pot bellow and the branch is inside it.

After cutting it I made holes at the bottom

This is how I cut the bottle.

The bottle was filled with my usual bonsai medium and positioned under the branch

The bottom is resting on the soil surface

Notice the sides are not seled so if I add soil to cover the branch it will fall out.

So I decided to bandage it above the branch so the soil does not fall out.

Then I removed the branch I marked above with red.

Wired it and left lots of sacrifice branches to fatten the trunk some more.

In spring if the branches are set I shall remove the wire and plant it over a tile in the ground.





Bougainvillea truncheon cuttings

I was trimming a big bougie in the garden…want to turn it eventually into bonsai but want to heal first all wounds and develop branches while it is on strong roots in the ground. The trunkis over 30cm diameter. I planted lots of cuttings and some I selected as potential bonsai material.

I planted all the cuttings in washed sieved river sand, and put them in the shade.

That was january 2014.

As you can see they were trimmed and all leaves removed.

21 days later the first shoots appeared:

All of them rooted and eventually were transferred first on lighter shade and now in full sun. This is how they look like now 5 month later.

It is our winter now, so I left them to establish a good root system and in spring they will be chopped / carved and I shall start working on them. Some might be ground layered also or just cut of and replanted.

This one that airlayered, but seeing how easy they are to root, airlayers for me are waste on effort.

It is also growing well now.

All the above airlayers are from Bougainvillea Pixie, the next cuttings are from Grabra.

My neighbor is building so as usual invited me to dig out some trees. This one was just too big to dig…the diameter of the trunk  must be close to 1m. So I decided to just chop few branches.

See the blocks on the floor. They are 20×10 cm, to give you idea of the size of the cuttings. The cuttings were taken in winter so they are not doing so well and the tree was burned before I took the cuttings, but few are already having strong shoots. The rest not too sure if will root. And as usual the best ones dont have any shoots.


I shall update later here to see how many survived.








creating interesting jin…on a juniper…without powertools…

Nice article on jin creation

Shimpaku Clean Up and Styling

Fantastic article on juniper styling

Peter Tea Bonsai

Shimpaku Clean Up and Styling

Now that I’m all settled back in Japan, I can get back to work and get some more posts on the blog.  If you didn’t already know, I spend most of September back in the US taking a bit of time off and working with the wonderful Bonsai people of Milwaukee.  Once I got back to Japan, I was put right back to work wiring trees and wiring trees and wiring trees…  sigh..  you get the point.  😉  I’d have to admit that after a long break, it took me some time to get back into the mode of things here but it’s been two weeks now and my body is has already gotten use to being in a constant state of aches and pains.  Haha!  Today is my first day off since coming back so I thought it was be a good time to…

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We Be Green Clubbin

The green fair and Kokufu.

Capital Bonsai

In this post I wanted to share my experience with taking bonsai to the Green Club in Tokyo, how things are setup there, and a few first impressions .There are many blog posts explaining what the Green Club is so I will not go in depth here.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty of bonsai pictures too.

Several days after the Kinbon photoshoot at Daijuen, activities shifted to preparing trees to take to the Green Club,which among other things serves as the bonsai sales area during Kokufu-ten.

IMG_2167 Getting ready to moss this Quince for the sales area. Sorry no after shot.

IMG_8626 In addition to bonsai, we were bringing a variety of soils and fertilizers.

IMG_8628 Takuya begins loading the van.

The afternoon before we left was spent getting everything thing organized and loaded in the van. I was amazed at how efficiently the van was loaded.Each square inch of space was…

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Vitex progression

I grew this from a small cutting. They were two packets in the garden, next to each other and I forgot about them. The roots went in the ground and they almost fused. Recently I found it and dug them out.

I reduced the roots and planted it in the ground to recover.

For what ever reason the middle branch died

March 2013

Sept 2013 I dug it out and root reduced it some more and put it in a training pot.

January 2014

At this time I did a preliminary carving.


All dirty and covered in dust.

April 2014 before and after trim and some more carving…actually it is here that my bit got damaged

Actually this was the intended carving

But this is where I reached.

well after I order new bit I shall continue.

Bougainvillea with fused branches

I planted this bougie 20+ years ago from a cutting… I have many in my garden.

16 Dec 2013, I dug it out bare rooted it and cut off all the downwards roots. Best time to dig bougainvillea and in general tropical plants is during warm weather in the summer.

As long as it is warm, I dig bougies any month. I Put them in the shade after planting

Trees that are watered often and mostly on top, develop nice fine roots on the surface.

I rubbed flower of sulfur on the cut surface of the roots. I could not find just sulfur here so I bought some kind of agricultural fungicide that contains 85% sulfur and use that on all cut roots on any trees I do root work on.

The remaining large roots will be cut off during repot..

I potted it in my home made training pot into a home made mix of crushed sieved bricks, and very large sand. That is what I use for all Yamadori. 100 % inorganic mix, I add a bit of vitamine B and a disprin to the water.

20 days later it had budded.

This is how it looked 26 January 2014 (40 days later)

Meanwhile while the tree is recovering, I am making plans how to style it.

My first objective was to find the front. This tree has reverse taper due to the fusing of the branches, and bougies rot too much, and dont heal easy so I had to find a compromise between as little as possible carving and masking the reverse taper.

This is the front I settled on.

Then I tried to do several virtuals and each time I think the future design improved.

First I decided to keep the small trunk:

Then remove it:

And then to balance the tree shift the apex to the left.


This is how it looks today:

30 04 2014


The progression will be continued.

SiDiao technique

For me this is the best and most natural way to create jin and shari on pines and junipers.

Fibers are pulled off with pliers and after that the wood is burned or sand papered. A very natural looking dead wood is created this way.

nice info here:

Here are some examples on how the tools are used.



Tools by Riuga:

All cement pots to date

I shall add here all the pots I made to date. July is coming soon and with it time to repot.

Let us be ready.

forgot to take a picture of it varnished and with legs.

Outside I put wet garden soil

Some more coming up soon.

Tips on root reduction-It’s always the little things

Important point to remember when transplanting/ root reducing trees.

Nebari Bonsai

Last week we looked a recently-repotted Japanese maple. Kathy and I reduced the roots aggressively, and it leafed out shortly after, as normal.


Then, the new leaves wilted:


What happened?
My analogy of a tree’s energy is like air in a balloon; in the spring, all the energy is squeezed from roots up into the buds, which open, developing into leaves that generate energy, which is squeezed down the trunk and back into the roots where it is stored for the winter.

This is why it’s important to conduct repotting and pruning just after the energy stores in the roots are squeezed up into the shoots and the tree is beginning to form leaves that can generate energy to strengthen the just-pruned roots. All the while, we must be careful to leave enough roots intact to supply the transpiring leaves with water. Got it? Good. Back to the maple.


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A bit of info on Chojubai

In praise of colanders

Colanders is a cool way to grow your trees. It helps develop good roots.

Most Expensive Bonsai Tree

The most expensive bonsai sold.

Lyons Bonsai

Came across this on Bonsai Empire recently. Its hard to put a price on bonsai but never thought this high of price tag would be put on one. From a few euros or dollars right up to this one which made headlines in Japan. For selling for over 1.3 million dollars. Check out the link below to have a look at the million dollar tree and some more expensive trees.

Heres a photo I found of the tree from a different link. The tree was sold at the Asia-Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention & Exhibition for 100 million Yen. That,s a lot of zero’s.



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How to make a virtual using paint for Windows

I make virtuals using normal Paint for Windows..

Step 1 Right click the picture> open with> paint (to open the picture in Paint)
If you want to have several copies/versions of the tree, or before and after, first drug the corner of the picture to extend the white canvas so you have space where to paste the extra pictures.

Then: Select> rectangular selection> select the picture> press Ctrl and drug the picture to a new place to make copy. select with rectangular selection and paste them next to each leaving enough space for branches…

Like this

Next step is to delete all the foliage and branches you dont need. For that use free form selection and select suitable part of the background. You will use that small part of the back ground to delete everything you dont need.

On the top menu : select > free form selection. For this whole vurtual,  You just use control and shift while selecting various parts of the tree to add or from the background to delete.

Pressing shift first before drugging the selection turns your selection into a brush.


you can see here the small part I selected and while holding Ctrl dropped on the blank canvas for you to see.
You will not need to drop it on the blank canvas, While holding control you keep dropping it over places on the tree which you want to delete

Here you can see where I dropped the back ground on several places of the foliage.

If you hold shift and drug that small portion of the back ground you selected, it behaves like a paint brush
Here I held shift and drugged the selected piece of background. You can see on the right what happens if you drug with shift

Now imagine your tree has winter silhouette and you want to visualize it with foliage…Open another tree with paint, in  another window. select the crown of it copy,  and paste it on the canvas of your virtual.

Now select a small potion of the foliage, preferably Irregular elongated section containing foliage with dark and light parts. hold control and drop it where you want a pad. Lift the mouse and drop again next to it while continuously holding control. Make sure your portion of foliage stays selected. If you need different angles of foliage go back and select and repeat dragging and dropping while holding control. .
If you have foliage on your tree just select a suitable portion from the before picture and drop it where you want while holding control. Just remember to hold control before lifting the selection in order to copy it and not cut it, or you will have a hole on your picture.

It is so simple…Just dont remove your finger from control…lift and drop that small portion of foliage…while overlapping them.
Like this. Continue until you have done it the way you want it. If you want to delete portions you dont like, select again a part of the back ground and drop it over places you dont want.

Remember to select the part at suitable angle…similar to the direction of the pad you want.

Ones you get used it will not take you more than 5 min to make a virtual


Here I used different equally easy technique

Notice above that I copied and pasted trees with branch structure that I like. The tree I want to make a virtual of is first. Notice also that I reduced/enlarged the trees so they are almost the same size as my tree, so the branches are in proportion. But dont worry much about this…Ones a branch is copied…and dropped it can be resized by drugging the corner while it is still selected.

Notice here the first picture where I deleted all the foliage. On the second picture I copied a branch from another tree and pasted it on the right by selecting it and moving it to the new place while holding control. Now notice the branch on the left…it is the same branch which I selected and drugged on the left while holding control, then while it is selected >>>Rotate> flip horizontal, and then drug it to the place you want. If you think the branch is too small/large or you want to make it longer…You can re-size it by drugging the corner.
To select a branch I enlarge the picture by Holding control and rotating the mouth wheel.  Ones it is larger I go around the outline of the branch by dragging the mouth.


Notice on the last tree how I did part of the trunk by selecting a section of the top of the trunk, and drugging it while holding shift and in some places by pasting while holding control

Unfortunately for the pictures to fit and not get cut I have to really reduce them.



Moving mature branches


This are just pictures from the internet I downloaded long time ago so I dont remember the owners to give credit.



Larger pictures.


Ficus jinseng progression with a difference

This is a very much maligned tree…and the main reason is that is bought or given as a present to beginners…who do not know what to do with it. Being a rebel I have decided to make something from this fig. I think so far I am happy with the progress. I hope something good will come from my efforts and plan. It was bought as a typical mass produced fig. This is not the actual picture of the tree but was looking exactly the same.

October 2010 it was planted in the ground. This picture was taken 2012. The separation between the roots can still be seen.

The plant was in a packet but the roots escaped to the ground and assisted with the good rate of growth, Dec 2012. it was ground layered with intention of removing the roots bellow the widest portion.

It has both type of foliage. Back branches are retusa and front microcarpa. The retusa branches are coming from a lower point, and bellow the graft.

This is the latest method for bending branches…a brick tied to he branch…and this brick is 4 times the size of a normal sized brick.

At one point it had trips. Picked all the infected leaves and put them in a plastic packet. Then sprayed it. It is fine for a year now.

July 2013 it was cut with a saw, and barerooted. Unfortunately there were not enough roots to cut it higher…The ground layered part has healed.

The possible front: There is still some reverse taper…which can be sorted out by two possible methods: 1. Grow roots to fuse to the trunk and cover the section with the reverse taper. 2. If option one does not work, ones roots above the reverse taper develop better the lower section can be removed.

This is the back branch retusa. Decided to keep it for its roots to fuse the roots to the trunk and cut it off later

Back. All the roots will be fuse to the trunk. It shall go over a tile soon in the ground, and probably some of this roots will be removed to create better taper. Wanted to stabilize it first in the small pot before planting it out.

All bandaged and ready . Soil was put between the plastic and the trunk and all tied up.Some foil bellow the plastic. Hole was left on top for watering

Only the very large microcarpa branches were reduced, for taper and movement. The retusa branches were left long for now to fatten the trunk since later they will be removed completely.

All additional progress reports, will be added here.

My mame

This are my little ones:

Cork bark JBP Nishikigoi

Another cork bark Black pine



A tiny acer palmatum oyakata gave me present, since he new I liked them small.

A little mame Trident I bought at the BGF Tokyo. Mame bonsai in japan command serious prices. Some are very very old. They are developed in tiny pots and grown very slowly.

Another litle tridents that needs to be styled.

A ginko biloba mame from the BGF Tokyo

My favorite type of bonsai. A little fortunela. It is a citrus tree, with fruits less than 1cm diameter oranges. It grows very slowly, and it is just too expensive. The bigger trunk bonsai were just too expensive, so I will have to grow this one. Bought some bigger ones too (5) but unstyled.

Moss growing applying collecting

Nice article on moss: growing…applying it to trees…collecting it.

Link :

Ebihara’s maples

Partial trunk chop to promote faster healing, faster growth and less stress to the tree.

Rooting cuttings

This is an article also on rooting cuttings that is very nice:

This is another one.

The Secret of Rooting Cuttings 

by Michael J. McGroarty

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home page.

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of our house, and our backyard nursery.

You are welcome to use this article about rooting cuttings on your website or in your newsletter as long as you reprint it as, including the contact information at the end. You must include an active link back

The secret of rooting cuttings can be summed up in two words.

 “Timing and technique”. 

When you do your cuttings is every bit as important as how you do them. So if you do the right thing, at the right time of the year, your efforts are sure to bring success. Through this article you will learn both.

“Rooting Hardwood Cuttings of Deciduous Plants” 

Hardwood cuttings are much more durable than softwood cuttings which is why hardwoods are the best technique for the home gardener. A deciduous plant is a plant that loses it’s leaves during the winter. All plants go dormant during the winter, but evergreens keep their foliage. Many people don’t consider Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and and Mountain Laurel evergreens, but they are. They are known as broad leaf evergreens. Any plant that completely loses it’s leaves is a deciduous plant.

There are three different techniques for rooting cuttings of deciduous plants. Two methods for hardwood cuttings, and one for softwood cuttings.   In this article we are only going to discuss rooting cuttings using the hardwood methods.  If you are interested in softwood cuttings, you’ll find a very informative article at

Of the two hardwood techniques is one better than the other? It depends on exactly what you are rooting, what the soil conditions are at your house, and what Mother Nature has up her sleeve for the coming winter. I have experienced both success and failure using each method. Only experimentation will determine what works best for you. Try some cuttings using each method.

When doing hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants, you should wait until the parent plants are completely dormant. This does not happen until you’ve experienced a good hard freeze where the temperature dips down below 32 degrees F. for a period of several hours. Here in northeastern Ohio this usually occurs around mid November.

Unlike softwood cuttings of deciduous plants, where you only take tip cuttings from the ends of the branches, that rule does not apply to hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants. For instance, a plant such as Forsythia can grow as much as four feet in one season. In that case, you can use all of the current years growth to make hardwood cuttings.

You might be able to get six or eight cuttings from one branch. Grapes are extremely vigorous. A grape vine can grow up to ten feet or more in one season. That entire vine can be used for hardwood cuttings. Of course with grape vines, there is considerable space between the buds, so the cuttings have to be much longer than most other deciduous plants. The average length of a hardwood grape vine cutting is about 12” and still only has 3 or 4 buds. The bud spacing on most other deciduous plants is much closer, so the cuttings only need to be about 6- 8” in length.

Making a deciduous hardwood cutting is quite easy. Just collect some branches (known as canes) from the parent plants. Clip these canes into cuttings about 6” long. Of course these canes will not have any leaves on them because the plant is dormant, but if you examine the canes closely you will see little bumps along the cane. These bumps are bud unions. They are next year’s leaf buds or nodes, as they are often called.

When making a hardwood cutting of a deciduous plant it is best to make the cut at the bottom, or the butt end of the cutting just below a node, and make the cut at the top of the cutting about 3/4” above a node. This technique serves two purposes. One, it makes it easier for you to distinguish the top of the cutting from the bottom of the cutting as you handle them. It also aids the cutting in two different ways. Any time you cut a plant above a node, the section of stem left above that node will die back to the top node. So if you were to leave 1/2” of stem below the bottom node, it would just die back anyway. Having that section of dead wood underground is not a good idea. It is only a place for insects and disease to hide.

It is also helpful to actually injure a plant slightly when trying to force it to develop roots. When a plant is injured, it develops a callous over the wound as protection. This callous build up is necessary before roots will develop. Cutting just below a node on the bottom of a cutting causes the plant to develop callous and eventually, roots. Making the cut on the top of the cutting 3/4” above the node is done so that the 3/4” section of stem above the node will provide protection for the top node. This keeps the buds from being damaged or knocked off during handling and planting. You can press down on the cutting without harming the buds.

When rooting cuttings this way it helps to make the cut at the top of the cutting at an angle. This sheds water away from the cut end of the cutting and helps to reduce the chance of disease. Once you have all of your cuttings made, dip the bottom of the cutting in a rooting compound. Make sure you have the right strength rooting compound (available at most garden stores) for hardwood cuttings. Line them up so the butt ends are even and tie them into bundles.

Select a spot in your garden that is in full sun. Dig a hole about 12” deep and large enough to hold all of the bundles of cuttings. Place the bundles of cuttings in the hole upside down. The butt ends of the cuttings should be up. The butt ends of the cuttings should be about 6” below the surface. Cover the cuttings completely with soil and mark the location with a stake, so you can find them again in the spring.

I know this sounds crazy, but rooting cuttings this way does work.  To increase your chances of success you can cover the butt ends of the cuttings with moist peat moss before filling in the hole. Make sure you wet the peat moss thoroughly, then just pack it on the butt ends of the cuttings.

Over the winter the cuttings will develop callous and possibly some roots. Placing them in the hole upside down puts the butt ends closest to the surface, so they can be warmed by the sun, creating favorable conditions for root development. Being upside down also discourages top growth. Leave them alone until about mid spring after the danger of frost has passed. Over the winter the buds will begin to develop and will be quite tender when you dig them up. Frost could do considerable damage if you dig them and plant them out too early. That’s why it is best to leave them buried until the danger of frost has passed.

Dig them up very carefully, so as not to damage them. Cut open the bundles and examine the butt ends. Hopefully, you will see some callous build up. Even if there is no callous, plant them out anyway. You don’t need a bed of sand or anything special when you plant the cuttings out. Just put them in a sunny location in your garden. Of course the area you chose should be well drained, with good rich topsoil.

To plant the cuttings, just dig a very narrow trench, or using a spade, make a slice by prying open the ground. Place the cuttings in the trench with the butt ends down. Bury about one half of the cutting leaving a few buds above ground. Back fill around the cuttings with loose soil making sure there are no air pockets. Tamp them in lightly, then water thoroughly to eliminate any air pockets.

Water them on a regular basis, but don’t make the soil so wet that they rot. Within a few weeks the cuttings will start to leaf out. Some will more than likely collapse because there are not enough roots to support the plant. The others will develop roots as they leaf out. By fall, the cuttings that survived should be pretty well rooted. You can transplant them once they are dormant, or you can wait until spring. If you wait until spring, make sure you transplant them before they break dormancy.

There really is no exact science when it comes to rooting cuttings, so now I am going to present you with a variation of the above method.

This method still applies to hardwood cuttings of deciduous plants.  With this variation you do everything exactly the same as you do with the method you just learned, up to the point where you bury them for the winter.

With method number two you don’t bury them at all. Instead, you plant the cuttings out as soon as you make them in the late fall, or anytime during the winter when the ground is not frozen. In other words, you just completely skip the step where you bury the cuttings underground for the winter. Plant them exactly the same way as described for method number one. As with all cuttings, treating them with a rooting compound prior to planting will help induce root growth.

Hardwood cuttings work fairly well for most of the deciduous shrubs. However, they are not likely to work for some of the more refined varieties of deciduous ornamentals like Weeping Cherries or other ornamental trees.  Rooting cuttings of ornamental trees is possible, but only using softwood cutting techniques.

Now let’s discuss rooting cuttings of evergreens, using hardwood techniques.

Hardwood cuttings of evergreens are usually done after you have experienced two heavy frosts in the late fall, around mid November or so. However, I have obtained good results with some plants doing them as early as mid September, taking advantage of the warmth of the fall sun. When doing them is early, they need to be watered everyday.

Try some cuttings early and if they do poorly, just do some more in November. Hardwood cuttings of many evergreens can be done at home in a simple frame filled with coarse sand. To make such a frame, just make a square or rectangular frame using 2” by 6” boards. Nail the four corners together as if to make a large picture frame. This frame should sit on top of the ground in an area that is well drained. An area of partial shade is preferred.

Once you have the frame constructed remove any weeds or grass inside the frame so this vegetation does not grow up through your propagation bed. Fill this frame with a very coarse grade of sand.  The sand used in swimming pool filters usually works.  Mason’s sand is a little too fine.  If you have a sand and gravel yard in your area visit the site and inspect the sand piles.  Find a grade that is a little more coarse than masons sand.  But keep in mind that most any sand will work, so just pick one that you think is coarse enough.  If water runs through it easily, it’s coarse enough.

Make sure you place your frame in area where the water can drain through the sand, and out of the frame.  In other words, don’t select a soggy area for your cutting bed.  Standing water is sure to seriously hamper your results.

Making the evergreen cuttings is easy. Just clip a cutting 4-5 inches in length from the parent plant. Make tip cuttings only. (Only one cutting from each branch.) Strip the needles or leaves from the bottom one half to two thirds of the cutting. Wounding evergreen cuttings isn’t usually necessary because removing the leaves or needles causes enough injury for callous build up and root development.

Dip the butt ends of the cuttings in a powder or liquid rooting compound and stick them in the sand about 3/4” to 1” apart. Keep them watered throughout the fall until cool temperatures set in. If you have some warm dry days over the winter, make sure you water your cuttings.  Keep in mind that sand in a raised bed will dry out very quickly.  Don’t worry about snow.  Snow covering your cuttings is just fine, it will actually keep them moist, and protect them from harsh winter winds.

Start watering again in the spring and throughout the summer. They don’t need a lot of water, but be careful not to let them dry out, and at the same time making sure they are not soaking wet.

This method of rooting cuttings of evergreens actually works very well, but it does take some time. You should leave them in the frame for a period of twelve months. You can leave them longer if you like. Leaving them until the following spring would be just fine. They should develop more roots over the winter.

Rooting cuttings of the following plants is very easy using this method.  variegated Euonymus varieties, Taxus, Juniper, Arborvitae, Japanese Holly, Boxwood, and English Holly. Rhododendrons and Azaleas prefer to have their bottoms warmed before they root.

Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
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Taikan-Ten 2013, Deciduous Part 2

The Trident Maple Project and Summer Maple Work

Fantastic article on trimming and defoliating Trident maples.

Peter Tea Bonsai

The Trident Maple Project and Summer Maple Work

After a long day of De-candling and pulling needles, it was good to get back to the leafy trees.  The hours after dinner are considered my free time and I took that opportunity to revisit this Trident Maple Project!  Normally, I would have gotten to work on this tree earlier but I decided to allow some branches to extend to strengthen the tree.  After all, I did cut off a bunch of branches and repotted it a little late in the season.  If you would like to read about the cut back and repotting of this tree last April, you can visit that post by clicking here.  The early Summer evenings are cool now and it is a good time to get some work done.  I grabbed my camera and got right to it.  In this post, I am going to…

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Species Profile: Acer buergerianum (Trident Maple)

Species information on trident.

Bonsai Prelude

I’m confident now that with the exception of wiring,  which I plan on addressing later in the season, I’ve provided the best ground work possible for getting started with bonsai. There are certainly volumes of knowledge to be learned in regards to bonsai, but I’m confident that if you use the articles published so far you’ll at the very least be in an excellent spot to grow your knowledge (and trees).

Having said all that I’m excited to post what I hope will be a great new segment for the blog. One of the most important facts of bonsai you’ll realize soon after you get your first tree, is that the tree is going to grow the way it wants to. The key is figuring out the best way to trick it into doing what you want. A lot of the “figuring out what to do” is going to depend…

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Glazed and Confused

Pots info

See this post about pot ID and pictures of all many pot stumps.

Bonsai Prelude


I love glazed pots, and it’s easier to justify buying them even if you don’t have a tree for them in because they look just as good on the shelf as on the bench. And this feature comes in handy, since many of the more outlandish pots you’ll find are difficult to match with a tree.

A glazed pot is not the same as a painted pot. Glaze is essentially a slurry of dry ingredients suspended in a liquid medium (usually water). Glaze generally has a minimum of 3 components. Silica usually comprises that majority of the glaze, while a second ingredient (generally a metal oxide) acts a flux to lower the melting point of the silica. A third ingredient, Alumina, is added to affect the glaze’s molten viscosity (and keep it from sliding off the pot). Finally one or more chemicals can be added to produce a range of…

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A Theory of Style

Theory of styling a bonsai. Good article.

Bonsai Prelude

So far we discussed a great deal on how to start your trees and your techniques in the right direction. When I was thinking about the path my writing would take, guiding you from complete novice to at the very least “familiar” with bonsai, the next logical step in the progression would be wiring. However, I will not be discussing wiring yet. The first reason is that wiring is one of those hands on things that I really want to do my best to take detailed pictures of and so I think it best to wait until spring time to post on. Second, Wiring is really the last procedure in the process of  the initial styling of your bonsai. I wanted to make it absolutely evident that you have to learn the mechanics of bonsai before you begin to think about the creative aspects. After all, you can’t expect to…

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Japanese Pots

Pot: good info about pots.

Bonsai Prelude

I (intentionally) haven’t talked about pots on the blog yet because I didn’t know anything about them. Most of the trees I’ve bought have come with generic pots, or the pots I’ve purchased have been budget pots. Up until now my motivation for buying pots has been based purely on utility, mainly as just something my tree can sit in while it grows. I’ve slowly moved most of my trees from their nursery pots to either cheap garden store clay pots or wooden boxes of my own construction. But as my collection grows, and specifically during the winter when there is nothing else to do, I’ve taken a strong interest in nicer pots.

This past Christmas season (combining my birthday and Christmas in a single week) I received a pretty good amount of money in gift cards and cash, so I decided that having the funds and the time, it…

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Some of my maples.

I shall post progression pictures of each later.

I like My trees mostly small. Most of my trees are in early stage of development…so nothing too special.

This is a trident that has two branches hugging the stone and holding it tight…A bit puzzling to style it…but I shall just have to consider the stone as part of the trunk…and style the tree all around it.

My largest trident. Very large and terribly neglected when I bought it. It is also very old. I have since trimmed it hard, and plan to start grafting roots for better nebari.

Planted all the cuttings from it.

A shohin trident

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This is my Quasimodo trident.

Exposed root shohin trident before I styled it.

Another shohin trident

Another small shohin trident in early development

Trident mame, still being fattened.

Trident mame ROR, just started to style it:

Another trident mame…small but old.

Another trident shohin

Need to graft branches or force it to back bud.

Medium  sized trident, that I am still trying to decide on course of action.

Another mame trident, just being grown for now.

A shohin trident that needs to be restyled

A small JM sumo Mame in development

JM mame, present from Oyakata.

JM shohin Just started on branches

I have some more but never got to taking pictures yet.

I shall post progression photos of them all later.

DIY concrete bonsai pots part 3

This is a different type of concrete pot. I am trying to reinvent the wheel, but it seems this method is fine, and you can make any shape pot without mold.

It takes less than an hour to make it.

I used a mosquito metal wire mesh. The thick wire is there to hold it in place and will be cut off later.

I made a soft mix of white cement and water, just  soft enough to pass through the mosquito mesh and lock it into position.

I spread it with a spoon while gently pressing, and paying attention to cover the edges.

Make sure you put a plastic under, and remove all the material that drips through the net, and collects at the bottom near the edge of the pot.

Dont worry if it is not beautiful, it will be plastered later, so just try to spread it evenly.

Let it to dry for a day and cut off the wire where it is seen

At this point it is reasonably hard.

After that plaster it with a mix of sand and cement 1:2 to around 1cm in the body and less than that near the edges.

Let it dry for another day.

Mix very light mix of cement and water , put in a plastic bottle with a small opening and drip cement all over it.

Let it dry and the next day paint with PVA.

Next time I shall mix the PVA  paint inside the cement together with equal amount of water to color the cement body. The PVA paint also has glue inside which helps strengthen the mix.

For a pot like this a table spoon is enough.

Here is the final result: It still neds one more coat of Paint.

The best and easiest pot is coming in part 4. I think I am getting better. He he he!

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