When the time came to air layer two large grafted hinoki, Michael Hagedorn happened to be in town for a visit – a perfect opportunity to learn how he approaches layering. He’d last visited my garden about four years ago (see “The joys of professional work“) so it was nice to catch up.
Before cutting into the tree, Michael and I scrounged around for a pot we could fashion into a temporary home for new hinoki roots. We found a three gallon container that would do the trick. Michael cut the container down to size and then perforated the ends so we could tie it up once it was in place.
Michael cutting down a three gallon container
Ready to go
After setting the new pot in place, Michael found some of the dead branch stubs were too long for the pot to fit so he cut them down to size.
Shortening a dead branch stub
The next step was to determine the level of the layer. Michael selected the lowest point above the graft line and drew a line.
Marking where to cut
Michael used a knife to define the top and bottom edges of the layer and then a chisel to remove the bark between these lines.
Removing the bark
The important detail at this stage is to remove all of the soft bark to force the tree to grow new roots.
Bark removed – note the graft line
Michael then poked holes on the lowest part of the bark just above the layer line as an additional technique to stimulate new roots.
Poking the bark with scissors
Next, he painted the area above the layer line with Dip ‘N Grow root hormone.
Painting root hormone
That was the final step before the layer could be covered. Michael next placed a sheet of landscape fabric above the soil to prevent the new roots from growing into the soil below. This will make things easier when it’s time to remove the layer.
Michael placed moist sphagnum moss around the area to be layered and held it in place with raffia. It’s very important, he noted, to keep the moss tight around the layer for new roots to develop as roots are far less likely to venture into dry air pockets – a good tip!
Tying the moss into place
Moss tied and ready
Next came the custom pot.
And then standard bonsai soil.
Adding bonsai soil
After which we watered.
Future hinoki bonsai?
That was great for the first tree, but I still had one more hinoki to go. A few days later I repeated the exact process with the exception of using a different root hormone – Olivia’s Cloning Gel – to see if there was a difference between the two.
Newly exposed graft line
Moss tied into place
Sewing up the custom pot
All sewn up
Of course, the larger question of whether or not hinoki respond well to layering remains unknown. Will report back when I know more!
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