Repotting season has mostly wrapped up in Northern California. Once trees start to grow in spring, repotting can slow or even stop new growth. I repotted the hornbeam below ahead of Bay Island Bonsai’s 12th annual exhibit this past January. I wrote previously about cutting back the branches and displaying the tree at the exhibit – today I’ll describe the repotting.
I hadn’t planned to repot the tree at all. Last year I planted it in a large container to encourage vigorous growth over the following two to three years as the tree’s ramification is still under development. Having decided, at the last minute, to show the tree, I needed a more appropriate pot. Fortunately, a Raho pot I’d carried back from Japan appeared to be a good fit.
Screen for drainage holes
Chop – “Raho”
Note patina on the rim of the pot
Measuring the tie-down wires
We repot bonsai to keep them healthy as much as to change pots when the occasion merits. This means I focus on the health of the tree whenever I work on the roots. As hornbeam roots grow relatively slowly, I didn’t remove as many roots as I would for a trident or Japanese maple at a similar stage of development.
After removing the rootball from the pot
The little rake used for combing out the bottom of the rootball
Combing out the surface roots with bent-nose tweezers
Roots combed out
After trimming long roots
Checking to see if the rootball fits in the pot
Repotting is also a great time to improve the nebari. A large root in the back of this hornbeam had bothered me since I acquired the tree. After this repotting, it would bother me no more.
Removing a large root
Further reducing the wood where the large root was removed
The reward for successfully repotting a bonsai is the vigor with which the tree comes out in spring. The health of the tree and the weather play large roles here too – this year everything seemed to come together and I’m already seeing up to a dozen leaves on new shoots.
Nice and healthy – spring 2011
In a few weeks I’ll begin cutting back new growth to allow light and air to visit upon the interior shoots. As the ramification improves, I’ll spend more and more time maintaining the silhouette. And if all goes well, I’ll have the tree I’m aiming for in another 5-10 years.
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