Over the years, I’ve seen a number of spectacular azaleas at exhibits like Taikan-ten and Kokufu-ten – trees with super trunks, interesting movement and full canopies. I’ve appreciated them for years and they make a compelling case for satsuki azalea as a great variety for bonsai.
On a recent visit to the Kobayashi Sangyo company – a major satsuki garden in Kanuma City – it took me by surprise how much I was taken by rough stock that had recently been dug from the field. The trees had very interesting trunks and primary branches but were in need of maybe ten years of branch work – the kind of work I enjoy but have yet to undertake with such awesome material.
On the day we visited, one of the nursery’s workshops was filled with recently dug specimens. The trunks were in good shape, but the primary branches needed some tune-up and the secondary branches wouldn’t be started for another year or two.
Straight from the field
Another field-grown specimen
I think these trees struck me because it was clear that investment in the time it would take to grow branches for these trees would be rewarded with awesome results.
On the other end of the spectrum were wired whips – the starting point for enthusiasts willing to invest some time in developing the trunk.
Not surprisingly, I spent far more time investigating the trees that already had well-developed trunks.
After an initial cutback, the azaleas were bare-rooted and placed in a greenhouse that was kept hot and humid.
Trunk and primary branches
Not a bad starting point
Some of these trees had leafed out a week or two before we visited.
A few weeks after cutback and repotting
Some of the trees in the garden were just a little bit further along the development path. At this stage the trees were easy to appreciate as bonsai.
Informal upright azalea
Satsuki azalea – the basic outline is in place
Unfortunately few trees in the garden had any labels, and the labels we found were usually in Japanese. I’ll be sure to report the variety names when they’re known.
Live Q&A on Facebook this Sunday!
Bonsai Empire and I will be hosting a live Q&A on Facebook this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. PDT. I’ll be showing viewers around my garden and answering as many questions as I can.
I’m looking forward to meeting you – join us on Facebook here.
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