I’ve been growing black pines in colanders for years. Thanks to Bonsai Today issue #20 and Boon Manakitivipart, many enthusiasts have been doing the same. Sizes are convenient, drainage is great, and the cost is reasonable. I have yet to find pots that make it easier to keep black pines healthy.
In general, I’ve grown pines in colanders until the trunks reached the desired size. At this point, I’d transplant the trees into ceramic pots made for bonsai and get to work developing the branches.
I began to think twice about this approach after my recent visit to Mr. Iwakiri’s garden. Iwakiri keeps his pines in colanders throughout the entire development process. Based on his results, it’s hard to argue that more formal pots are necessary to produce outstanding bonsai.
Young black pine in colander
A slightly more developed pine
Even further development – the small-sized tree begins to take shape
What most stood out to me is the quality of the bark on some of the older trees. Container-grown pines can produce great bark.
I was also surprised to see how large some of the trees were in relation to the size of the colander. As long as the trees get enough water, a surprisingly small pot can support a lot of tree.
Large tree in colander
In the corner of Iwakiri’s garden was an almost 8′ pine in a surprisingly small colander. The colander sat in a saucer that held runoff from watering. Near the base of the saucer was a chopstick protruding from a small hole. During extended periods of rain, Iwakiri could remove the chopstick to prevent the roots from sitting in water for too long.
The one colander-related technique of which I’m not a big fan is the double colander approach. Simply planting a tree – colander and all – into a larger colander is a simple and fast way to provide more space for roots with very little effort. Up until it’s time to repot anyway. Having clawed through thick roots and plastic fragments from the inner colander in the past, I prefer to remove the inner colander before setting the rootball in a new, larger, container.
If all of this isn’t enough to trigger some curiosity about growing bonsai in colanders, I’ll finish with two last trees, each around 32 years old, developed by Iwakiri. Not bad for a hobbyist.
Black pine in colander
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