Archive for the ‘repotting’ Tag

New pot for an old Friend   3 comments

This Trident maple has been the subject of many articles here but this time it will get a new pot. Re potting here startes early, like in January. This tree wtill has Christmas ornaments on it from the previous month.

The tree is lifted from the pot and a thick matt of roots are starting to move already. This tree is so vigorous it must be re potted each year as the roots lift the tree from the thin pot.

I remove a full two inch ring from the tree and comb out the roots.


The new pot is from Robert Pressler and Kimura Bonsai in Southern California. It is a sky blue Chinese bag pot. Trying the pot for size. I like it!

Drainage layer.

Soil layer with 30 percent coarse fir bark.

Watering it in…

The beauty shot.

At the recent Fresno Home and Garden Show March 2017.

Juniper Winter Work   6 comments

I have worked on many shimpaku and other species juniper over the winter. Many were restyled and re-potted.

Mas Ishii Shimpaku

This first tree is a tree I purchased in 2002. It had been a very beautiful tree but I managed to ruin it over the years. It has escaped death numerous times from spider mite and pinching misfortunes. This is the tree in 2005 after escaping death twice.

Another few years and more rattyness.

A few more years and even less green left.

Left to grow for a few years to get strong and now it may be ready for a restyle….at least with whats left.

Restyled and repotted in a glazed Bunzan.

George Muranaka prostrata.

This tree was purchased in Nov. of 2014. It was left to grow for a couple years and then a first styling was begun.

Cleaned up and put into a first pot.

part of the canopy would be removed and jinned entirely.

Re grow and then style whats left.

George Muranaka Shimpaku

I purchased this tree from George around 2006. Once again it suffered from spider mite and my lack of awareness on how to take good care of the species.

Left to grow and a re style and then a repot. Looks like this now and is growing quite well.

Benny Kim (Kim’s Bonsai) procumbens.

The tree is on the left and purchased in 2002. It had a good trunk about two inches across.

Lots of jins on this one and some carving.

A first styling

Starting to look pretty good.

A new direction for this one. It had started to slump really bad due to the roots giving up on one side. Time to turn it upright.

Done…for now.

Steve DaSilva Procumbens.

These were struck as small plants and wired and twisted up. Planted in a field for a few years and dug up in 2015.

I would use the stock as a demo at the Fresno Home and Garden show in 2016

As it sits today.

Ed Clark Shimapku

This tree came by way of Ed Clark from Bonsai Northwest in Washington State. I kept it for a year making sure it was good for a repot in 2017.

Ready for some work.

It was removed from its growing container and combed out. Root structure was fairly small like most junipers but was rather one sided. I wnted to plant it into a signature Begei pot I had and felt that once planted here it could stay for a while. The one sided root meant it was planted well off center but will be fixed later when new roots go and allow for more diligent root pruning.

Now for the style part.

There is a large looping jin that comes over the top of the tree. The shoot I wish to be the apex is in front of that jin. I need to get it behind.

So…with some praying and bending and pulling I ease the jin around the shoot.

Now I am happy with the position of everything and can start the details.

More pruning and removing everything I don’t want. That should mean I have only the things I do want. Good in theory and poor in practise….

After some wire and manipulation I am able to coex a pretty decent tree out of the aftermath. Next year I will concentrate on managing shoot strength and how to treat possible shari on the trunk….or not!

Mas Ishii Shimpaku

I purchased this tree from Gary Ishii in 2004. Like all my shimpaku I battled the spider mites with fury. Mostly they seem to win but never kill the tree but ruin it for many years till successive cut backs get rid of grey and yellow foliage.

This style took place in 2010 after the tree had recovered for many years. It was planted into a Sarah Rayner shallow glazed bunjin pot.

This winter the tree underwent another re style and pot change. This time into a heavily patinanted Bunjin Begei.

….then the styling

Almost too late   2 comments

I looked over the trees on Friday and had a trip to the coast planned for Sat. The buds on the maples looked good and I felt I had some time to repot. Good…I can go to Santa Cruz on Sat. and repot the maples on Sunday. Got up Sunday and decided they would wait until next weekend. Big Mistake! Never put off to tomorrow what you can do with your lazy ass.

Came home from work today after a 74 degree day after the small rain storm on Friday and Sat. The buds on the tridents had jumped right over the swelling stage and bolted right to the green leaves unfurling stage. No time to lose, move the table into the yard, get the buckets of soil already made and wire for the pot this is “go time”.

The tree was already in a state that need repotting for sure. The tree was pushing the root pad up and out of the pot.


The tree was unwired from the pot and the whole root pad was lifted from the pot. It was thick as the pot and dense and fiberous. The entire rim of the pad was removed from the tree. In past years I have taken this even shorter to the trunk but this year the nebari is finally improving to the point that cutting back too short means getting into larger roots and I don’t want to disturb those yet.


This is how short the pad was made this year. At this point it still has a small layer of soil on top and the pad is full thickness, about 1.5 inches.


I then rake the bottom of the pad to dislodge the roots from the bottom. These are allowed to hang down and then are trimmed flush with the hard bottom of the trunk.


Now the old soil is raked off and the roots teased for the new soil. At this point the root pad is about 3/4 inch thick. The tree is oriented for aesthetics and then placed directly on the bottom of the pot with out soil. It is wired firmly…I mean firmly, so that it will not push away from the pot. I want all the energy of the first growth spurt to be against a hard surface to get maximum girth on the roots around the tree and to swell at the soil line. The tree at this point is starting to get a good flare at the soil trunk transition and this is due to planting directly on the pot and firm tie in of the tree.


The tree is tied and I can pick it up by the trunk and the pot does not move. The tree at this point still has no soil in it. Just a tree and pot. The soil for the whole tree is backfilled around the depression around the edge of the pot. The soil in the roots from the previous season are not washed from the root mass. This allows the new roots to fill the new area with roots while the roots next to the trunk can inarch and graft together to help form the nebari.


The tree is now backfilled and watered in and placed back on the bench. It will be full of leaves by Friday.



Repotting the Big Tridents   4 comments

I started repotting some of the big tridents into pond baskets today.

This was the first tree I repotted. The soil had settled down in the pot and much was gone from splash out. The tree will actually consume akadama and many times I have had junipers in soil for years that have no soil in them at repotting. All the soil is just consumed. Many of the large roots can be seen with their ends sticking out of the soil. These roots are very large and while they have helped the plant with considerable flare, they will hinder me from placing the tree in a suitable pot. All of these large roots will have to be dealt with over a number of years to reduce their length.


What follows is some pictures of the roots and how they have sprouted from the ends of the cutoff roots. Much of this is due to a combonation of increased air, water and fertilizer. Add to that 10 months of sun and they grow strong here. All of the roots have sprouted from the ends.





Here is a shot of the base that I cut on my band saw. It is healing well and the callus is rolling over the base.


These two roots were far to high on the trunk and will always look like crap. They were about as large as a pencil and I just snipped them off.



Here is a root upside down that I have reduced back by half. It is cut back on the long bias (at an angle) to expose as much cambium to the ground as possible. The roots that I hope will sprout back further , closer to the trunk will mean I can cut this back more safely next year.


Here is the tree turned right side up and showing the angle parallel to the ground.


Here is a very large root. This is roots that one will se in material that has been grown in the ground. They grow large and fast while trying to increase trunk size quickly. While the trunks are indeed large, so are the roots and it will take a few years to pare them down. This root is about 1.5 inches across.


The root is reduced by half. I saw it with a square cut at the end.


After sawing the root I turn the tree over and begin working on the roots bottom. I split the roof almost in half. This one will be nibbled some more with the knob cutter and then smoothed with a knife. No sealer on these.


Here is another about 1/2 inch. This root was treated the same way.


Here is a group shot of the reduced roots. I cut about 60 perecnt of the root tips back on the entire tree. The 40 perecnt I left will help the tree recover as well as the roots that were small and could be kept for the future.


Here is a wheelbarrow full of soil. I went thru two of these while repotting. This grow out mix has about 10 percent grow stone in it.


Here was a really compacted root ball. This tree had not been repotted for five years. It was soild mass of roots and hard as a brick.




I tried to break up the root mass but it was too hard. I have a very sharp Japanese cleaver that will hack thru a three inch trunk in three whacks.


The bottom on the right and whats left and the trunk on the left.



here is a good shot of the bottom after seperation. I had no idea I cut thru that much wood. The cleaver just sails thru like butter.


So here is the tree efter teasing apart the ball as much as I could.


I used a big die grinder with a 1/2 router bit in it to take down some of the wood on the bottom. I took is down about 1/2 inch.


You can use your own palm as a comparison as to how thick the root ball is now. Before I started is was 14 inches tall. Now it is only 2.5 inches.


This tree is one I have been working on since I got it in 2009. The branch structure is getting better but the base needs lots of work. In this view I did a partial ground layer in that void of roots area. I did get the two small roots you see, and they will get larger. The rest of the tree has a good radial root spread and just needs reducing in length.


While I do have a good radial root spread, I do have a couple root on the inside that I left last year. These were reduced last year but need further reducing this year. I did not take it off last year due to not having enough roots to feel comfortable in taking off that much roots at once.


Here I am holding onto the roots extending from the end of the tap root that must be cut off. I just saw it off.


These two roots emerge too high on the trunk for it to lok great in a pot. I have a lot of rootage now and the top has been reduced by 75 percent in the fall so removing these roots now is a no brainer.


This large root is also to high on the trunk. Time for that to go also.


The scars from the previous two and the other side of the other one. All were removed and it was potted up.


Another trident, this time I show how last years cut back has grown new roots from the tips. On a healthy trident this happens in about 45 days with new roots pushing out of the tips.


This is what the bottom side looks like after trimming last years growth.


A few of the larger roots are cut back as previously and split to show more cambium at the bottom helping me next year.


Now I started working on Frokensteen. This is the tree blending together three trident maples. I had some holes in the nebari around the base that would need filling to help the trunk graft together at the base. This is the part of the tree that has to be the most convincing to reall sell that that is one tree.


This is a Al Keppler trident seedling. 27 inches tall, about 5/16 at the base. The roots were really well developed.


The cross section.


After cutting off the tap root.


After pruning back to a pad shape. That is a pretty good looking root base for a 10 month old seedling.


What I did was thread the shoot thru the bottom of the root ball into a hle in the base. This seedling should sell up and fill in the hole in this year easily.


I sacrificed two of my twisty seedlings that I grew under screen to fill in a couple other holes I had.


These too should help to cole up the bease this year. Once the base is totally fused the increased root s will be working as one and the tree should take off. The top will be allowed to throw a sacrifice off of each tree this year. That was something I did not do last year. I think it will fuse faster with the sacrifie.


The really white roots are the new tree shown from the bottom. This year if I have better luck at seeds, I will add more trees to the base and really get a spread going.


This is the layer I started last year that bridged and did not throw roots. I recut it and it rooted but it only rooted in the one spot. It bridged again just after it rooted and it did not root anymore. I left it till late winter and it was time to remove it. I grew weary of the project and if it makes it great, if it dies oh well…




In some of these close ups you can see how much better the bases look in the pots now.



This tree, you can make out a scar down low at ground level on the right of a couple roots removed that were too high on the trunk. Now the soil is level all the way around and no roots out of the soil. Once the ends root, I can begin exposing the larger roots around the trunk by Fall.


These two also have a nice soil emergence with no roots above the crown of the tree. The tree in the middle is the base of the one I removed the layer off of. It was tilted at an angle and the leader is ready to bolt this year.


Just a couple pines I repotted to pond colanders to get a better root structure and something I can cut back to get in the correct pot size.



This was a taller pine that I did not chop. I purchased like that with the intentions to produce a semi cascade from it. Just planted it into a larger taller pot.


This is the last trident I got from Muranaka.


Just a large slab of wood under the soil. Repotted it into a larger colander also.


Repotting the Clump in a Basket   Leave a comment

The clump I started last year has fused at the base in one season. I started out with five cutting thru one hole with nary any space for the cutting so fusion was a no brainer. Now this year I need to bulk up the tree at the base as well as start to come up with some kind of trunk out of the mass of cutting I poked thru the hole.

This is the tree today before the work. All of the trees doubled in size, which is not to say much since they were as big as a match stick and now they are as big as a pencil.


The basket had been sitting on the soil in one of my planters so that the weekly sprinkler would water it. The roots grew right out of the planter and into the ground.


It wouldn’t come out of the pot so I had to cut all the roots flush with the bottom of the basket.


Once it was unpotted I was able to wash away the soil and really look at what I had. The roots had grown over the edge as I suspected they would and they were about half the size of the trunk. I was missing a few roots on one whole side though.


I cut back the large roots to the edge of the tile. I might have wished I cut them a little shorter as next year I may have to do this all over again. Also take a look at the tree at 9 o clock and three. the both have a bud down real low. Both buds face inwards. Since I started this project with all the trees thru the tile, I have no central tree to use as a main tree with a flared base. My original intention was to make a clump style but starting with trees all the same size is probably not the way to do it.


Here is a nice view of those two buds.


Here are the two trunks chopped back to the buds. I seal them well and they should grow very hard this year.



This clump is also grown out in pure agricultural pumice. This is natural volcanic pumice and stark white and a little smaller than the growstones. I turn the tree over and pack the bottom roots full of pumice using a chopstick. Since I didn’t cut the rim off the saucer when I did this, there is a pocket of sorts that the original roots grow in. I just need to make sure I have plenty of soil in there with no dry spots or cavities with no soil to dry the roots before they grow.


It is turned into the pot and then I refill the top with last years medium which is my base mix of half lava half pumice.


These are close ups of the two trunks that will be possible candidates for keeping for a single trunked tree depending on how they grow this year. Both have kionyl type sealer on them.



Posted January 12, 2014 by California Bonsai Art in Repotting

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Wicked tools   Leave a comment

Many years ago I got an education in repotting from Ripsgreentree. Glenn explained that taking back roots with a cleaver was much better than just nipping away root by root for mass reduction. I still use the small pruners on my more developed maples and elms, where they have a more fiberous root structure rather than a coarse root structure. Those first root reductions can be made much easier with an appropriate cleaver to just “one whack it” and then wash the root ball. As the years go by, the roots get finer and scissors becomes the tool of choice then.



The real trick is placing your finger over the parts of the roots you want to keep, forcing your mind and coordination to strike in the correct place. If your off a little you can always grow back a finger, but chopping roots to short is a no no….err is it a lizard that grows back something, oh I forget.

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