If any one tree in my collection deserves the moniker “project tree,” it’s likely my ficus. When I wanted healthy roots I let the branches run. Now that I want to stimulate new branches I cut back hard.
Ficus before cutback
That’s it for the time being – another round of growth and cutback will follow in late summer or next spring.
For the past few years, I’ve been refining a Yaupon holly with an eye toward showing it at an upcoming Bay Island Bonsai exhibit. It’s now one of my better candidates for our upcoming 15th anniversary exhibit.
Yaupon holly – front
The work at this stage involves letting new shoots run for a time, and then cutting them back to within the desired silhouette. The progress is subtle, but necessary if I am to create branch pads with good definition.
Front – after
Right side – after
Of course, well-defined branch pads are still a ways off. In the meantime, I’ll continue repeating the grow/cut routine and see how the tree looks this winter.
Sixteen months into a layering project for a large cryptomeria, it was time to separate the layer (see “Large cryptomeria air layer – part 1“).
September 2012 – time to make the cut
Over the previous nine months, roots had grown to fill the makeshift pot, pushing the soil almost half of an inch above the edge.
Full of roots
Roots growing on the surface of the soil
Below, the original cut was plainly visible. This is where I’ll make the cut.
View from below
I didn’t worry about cutting too close to the base of the new roots as leaving a stub allows me to rest the trunk on the bottom of the new pot, relieving pressure from the new roots and adding stability.
Look ma – a new tree!
With a little cajoling, I popped off the old pot. Here’s the view from underneath.
I lightly combed out the new roots growing on the surface of the soil and around the edges so the roots could find purchase in new soil. I didn’t remove additional soil as there was nothing but good soil and root-mass within.
After combing out the roots
From here, I treated the layer like a normal rootball and tied it into the new pot with wire.
Securing the rootball
For further stability, I fixed two wires to a high branch.
Separation/repotting complete – 34″
It felt great to finally place the tree on a bench. In another year or so, I can actually start the bonsai work. This too will be an adventure as I have much to learn about actually working with cryptomeria!
Over three years ago, I mentioned picking up a cryptomeria at Maruyama’s Bonsai Nursery, but had yet to follow up with a post. Here’s the tree.
Tall cryptomeria – about 48″
The tree was the left-over base from which a large air layer had been removed. Although there was little taper, much of the trunk was straight so I thought this could become a good project.
I’d long wanted a cryptomeria bonsai after watching a friend’s tree develop over many years. Although the tree is now in a different collection, it’s under the care of Michael Hagedorn and is looking great (see Michael’s post “Cryptomeria and Foemina juniper year two“).
As the base of the trunk was a bit wobbly, I spent a long time spinning the tree on a turntable trying to identify the lowest spot from which I could layer a straight section of trunk. I ended up selecting a point about a quarter of the way up.
Curvy below, straight above
The layer process was straightforward. Having practiced on younger trees (see “How to air layer cryptomeria for bonsai” and “Cryptomeria from air layer“) I was ready to cut into this much larger tree. I began by removing a large ring of bark. In hindsight, the ring didn’t need to be so large.
After removing a ring of bark
Next I affixed some plastic with aluminum wire.
Putting an old akadama bag to use – Power Up!
I may have skipped root hormone as cryptomerias layer easily. After adding moss, I held moss and plastic in place with wire.
All tied up
I completed this work in May of 2011. By fall, I saw lots of roots so I removed the moss and took a look.
New roots – November 2011
The ring of bark behind the roots
This is where the fun started. Although there were plenty of roots, I wasn’t comfortable removing the layer so I built a temporary pot in which the roots could continue to grow. The pot comprised two nursery flats lined with plastic screen held together with aluminum wire. I assembled the pot in place and carefully spread out the roots.
Spreading out the roots
From the side
I added a little bit of bonsai soil at a time, working it in between the roots as I went along.
Adding bonsai soil
When I was finished, I covered the soil with shredded sphagnum moss to retain extra moisture
Soil with sphagnum moss
The result was easily the strangest looking tree in the yard.
Cryptomeria in two pots
I’ll cover part 2 of the process - removing the layer – on Friday.