My recent trip to Japan included some satsuki sightseeing at Takahashi Engei – a large azalea grower in Kanuma City.
Kazuhiro Takahashi showed us around his growing fields which gave us a good look at the stages azaleas go through on their way to becoming bonsai.
Although I didn’t see young trees on the property, I saw acres of land that looked like this.
Azaleas in the field
While most of the trees were unsheltered, some grew under structures that could be covered in summer.
The goal of keeping these trees in the field is to thicken trunks and heal large wounds. It can also help weak trees regain health.
Recently planted azalea surrounded by fresh kanuma
A common next step for the trees is to go into raised beds or large wooden boxes. The tree below was in a long greenhouse with raised beds that extended the length of the building.
Satsuki azalea in a raised bed
The benefit of growing trees in raised beds is that it’s easier to work on them without bending over. This isn’t as much of an issue for trees that are in the trunk development stage, but when it’s time to start branch work, it’s nice to have the trees higher up.
I’ll cover the next step in the following post – the initial cleaning after removing trees from the field – and will cut straight to some of the finished bonsai in Takahashi’s display area.
The first tree is in a surprisingly shallow pot.
Satsuki azalea in a shallow pot
The tree below is in a much deeper pot. The red wires are being used to pull the outer branches down – a good way to move branches that are too large to bend by coiling wires around the branches.
One of my favorite trees in the garden was a prize-winner from the 31st Satsuki Exhibition held last year.
Apologies for not providing the cultivars of the above trees – will fill that in if I can find the info.
Up next: azaleas fresh from the field at Kobayashi Sangyo.
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