Northern California’s mild winters aren’t always enough to put trees to sleep for the season. My Japanese plum started sending out new growth in December before all of the old leaves had fallen, but I didn’t get around to repotting it until January.
The tree has become quite a long-term project for me. I’ve refined the top left part of the tree and created all of the foliage on the first branch from scratch, but have yet to make real progress on the top right part of the tree. The roots, however, are in great shape. I repot the tree every year and every year new roots fill the pot. It took a long time to get the roots in good shape, but now that they’re healthy, the tree develops quickly. Here is the tree in a Michael Hagedorn pot before repotting.
Before repotting – Michael Hagedorn pot
After removing the pot
As always, the roots have filled the pot. Particularly vigorous roots have begun to circle in the drainage layer at the bottom of the pot.
Plenty of new roots
Over the years I’ve replaced all of the old soil. This makes root work easy. Here is the bottom of the rootball after removing the bottom two inches of roots. By starting with the bottom of the rootball, I can safely set the tree on the table and work on the sides and top of the rootball without damaging the roots.
Bottom of the rootball after rootwork
Next I combed out the roots on the top and sides of the rootball.
Combing out the roots
I had been planning to repot the tree in the same Hagedorn pot when I noticed a quince coming out of a blue pot across the workshop. The pot looked like it might be a good fit for the tree, and the owner was willing to sell it. I didn’t hesitate.
A new pot for the tree – wired and ready
As this pot is more shallow than the Hagedorn pot, I further reduced the roots so the tree would fit.
Japanese plum – rootwork complete
Just before I got the tree in its new pot, I noticed a cedar being repotted. The tree was very old and showed its age well. The same could be said for its roots – old! The trees owner was doing the work I had done with the plum many years ago – slowly removing half of the old soil and removing dead roots.
Removing old soil
Long-neglected roots ready for a new start
Attending to the roots will strengthen the tree so its owner can work on the branches without hesitation. And what a tree this will be! It’s hard to find cedars with such great age – I look forward to watching the tree’s progress.
I finished repotting the plum in the new pot. It’s still a bit awkward for me, but I’ll withhold judgement until I get the silhouette right.
I’d been concerned that repotting the tree with leaves would slow it down. Not so. The tree continued growing a couple of weeks after the repotting and it is now quite full. In a few weeks I’ll attend to the new shoots and see about fixing the silhouette.
Japanese plum – April 2011
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