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Repotting Eventualities for a Shohin Privet and Intro to Bonsai Soil

Supply Materials: March 02, 2023

             Welcome again bonsai lovers, right now I share a brief article targeted on a current repot which illustrates some bigger questions we should ask for our timber to look their greatest. The place ought to I place my tree within the pot? To the middle? To the left? To the precise? How do I need the nebari/root flare to look given the choices the tree offers? Learn on for a more in-depth have a look at the distinctive challenges and character of this tree, assume by way of what you’d have accomplished if it was your tree, and be at liberty to share these concepts within the feedback beneath.


  1. Reviewing Repotting Fundamentals
  2. Historical past of the Tree
  3. Nebari Selections
  4. Planting Place – What Matches Greatest?
  5. Closing Consequence
  6. Bulletins

IA. Earlier Posts on Repotting

            I’ve beforehand made a number of posts on the subject of repotting bonsai which I’ll refer you to for extra data. These posts are all listed in my “Bonsaiclopedia” web page so you’ll be able to simply refer again to them. First, relating to when to repot, watch the buds for swelling and adjustments in shade and maintain your eye on the climate too. Second, when repotting or root pruning a tree, be conscious of the “water and sugar equations” which define what wants have to be met always for our timber to proceed surviving. These two components should at all times be equipped to the plant and in steadiness. Thus we can’t prune off too many roots directly as this impacts the power for water consumption, but when we dig a tree in the summertime (when water use is at its peak), you then also needs to defoliate or prune the highest of the tree to cut back water loss, in any other case, you will note dieback or the tree could not survive in any respect. Likewise, the tree at all times have to be wholesome sufficient and have sufficient saved sugars to recuperate from any root pruning or top-pruning operation, in any other case, the tree won’t put out new development and may die. Think about these components throughout your digs and repots.

IB. Intro to Bonsai Soil

            The final idea I need to evaluation is soil sort. I’ve additionally made a put up beforehand in regards to the repot of my mulberry tree during which I touched on the soil sort that I take advantage of which I adopted from my very own trainer, Dan Robinson of Elandan Gardens. As we speak I need to delve a bit extra deeply into this topic as I noticed I had not written about bonsai soil beforehand and the roots of my privet are demonstrative of what I usually get when utilizing my customized soil combine. As skilled bonsai practitioners know, soil is a controversial matter as a result of large range of substrates out there. The actual fact is there are a number of soil varieties that work for various folks, elsewhere, in numerous climates, with completely different substrate availability, with completely different species, completely different watering regimens, completely different objectives, and generally with completely different outcomes. There is definitely a variety of room for experimentation right here if individuals are as much as that problem (I’ve some soil-type experiments happening now which I’ll write extra about after they conclude later this 12 months and subsequent 12 months). Anyhow I am not right here to say my soil combine is the one choice. As an alternative, I solely will say my combine has served me and my trainer nicely! In that vein, if you wish to stage up your bonsai and perceive soil on a deeper stage, I like to recommend beginning by discovering an artist – ideally in your native space – whose timber you admire and studying from them what soil sort they suggest.

            To know what makes a great bonsai soil combine, we are going to first describe the essential classes of soil elements. I usually use a customized mixture of inorganic and natural supplies in an outlined ratio primarily based on the species of tree. The inorganics promote air house within the pot and permit us to realize dense advantageous roots. That is fascinating in bonsai tradition (extra so than different container vegetation) as a substitute of utilizing common dust from the bottom or potting soil as extra air and extra advantageous roots = much less water retention within the pot, thus it is more durable to kill timber by overwatering in good bonsai soil. Furthermore, the advantageous roots do all of the work of importing new water and vitamins from the soil into the tree, thus extra advantageous roots in a pot = extra dense foliage mass which the bonsai can help. Now on the natural aspect, the aim of natural materials is to retain some water so we do not have to water fairly a lot in the summertime and to supply and retain some vitamins. Natural materials additionally helps the colonization of useful micro organism and fungi which support our timber. Additional studying might be accomplished on the CEC (cation alternate capability) and pH (acidity/basicness) of various substrates for bonsai however that’s past the scope of an intro article.

IC. An Akadama Substitute?

            Now that you recognize the essential element varieties that go into customized bonsai soil mixes, we will transfer on to debate my particular combine for instance. The premise of the combo I take advantage of is the “Boon combine” which can have been in use in Japan lengthy earlier than that title was coined within the US. Volcanic soils resembling lava rock (aka scoria), pumice, and akadama (a volcanic clay-like particle that behaves like natural particles in some ways and has been described beforehand by Jonas Dupuich right here) are the primary soil varieties utilized by bonsai professionals in Japan and right here within the US. Sadly, these soils are restricted of their geographic availability which makes them costly however they continue to be extensively used attributable to their confirmed effectiveness! The akadama particularly is at the moment solely mined and exported from Japan itself, though an analogous soil sort has been discovered within the Cascade Mountains and should in the future be out there. Anyhow, I’ve maintained the usage of the lava and pumice as they’re dependable inorganic elements regardless of their value in Ohio. Nonetheless, partially to save cash and partially attributable to witnessing the success of another materials, I typically don’t use akadama. As an alternative, I used aged fir or pine bark chips which act because the natural materials for water retention with out clogging the air areas within the pot. I take advantage of a 1:1:1 ratio of those supplies for my conifers and vegetation that wish to be slightly on the dry aspect like succulents. In the meantime, a ratio of two components bark chips, 1 half lava, and 1 half pumice is what I take advantage of for the vegetation which want extra water retention like most deciduous species and a few youthful seedlings. Under you see the amount and density of advantageous roots produced by my shohin privet after 3 years of dwelling on this combine. You be the decide as as to whether bark chips as an akadama substitute are price attempting!
Dense advantageous roots stuffed the pot after 3 years rising in 2 components aged bark chips, 1 half lava, and 1 half pumice. Collectively these elements present air areas for advantageous root growth, retention of vitamins, and promote a wholesome soil microbiome.

            I dug this shohin privet in 2020 in Bellevue, WA from the backyard of somebody who had actively pruned it again such that it was simply two small, undesirable, fused stumps within the floor once I chanced on them. Later, I’ll dig up these early photos to indicate the development however the secret for this put up is focus! Anyhow, after the tree recovered from the dig, I educated it during the last 3 years with annual pruning and wiring changes to the crown. For that point, it lived in the identical pot and, as it’s now trying like a good bonsai, I needed to lastly get it right into a bonsai pot to decelerate its vigorous development. Under you’ll be able to see the place to begin for the tree in its coaching pot on the time of our repot.

Potential entrance. Pre-repot, March 2023.

One other potential entrance? TBD. Pre-repot, March 2023.

                Right here you’ll be able to see the nebari on the entrance. There’s one significantly lengthy floor root that rises above the airplane of the remainder of the nebari after which descends again into the soil. Additionally, it is arduous to see right here, however there was much more enticing nebari beneath the soil which we uncovered a bit extra of right now and we are going to proceed exposing that over time because it develops. Behind the lengthy, rightward root can also be floor roots from the decrease trunk which we will exhibit if the offending root was repositioned or lowered. So listed here are the choices…

  1. Do nothing, go away the lengthy, rightward root. It is not essentially too excessive or too giant as to be unnatural trying.
  2. Press the rightward root down into the soil with wire staples or a rock to decrease it does not disguise the roots behind it as a lot. This might additionally ultimately result in extra roots rising off of it which we will select to shorten the basis again to.
  3. Completely take away the rightward root from the purpose the place it ascends into the air. Develop the opposite roots behind and beneath it extra to indicate off sooner or later.

Which tact would you’re taking right here? Choose an choice earlier than continuing beneath to see what I selected.

The entrance of the tree’s root unfold/nebari with the problematic rising and descending root seen on the middle proper.

            Under you’ll be able to see I really did a fourth choice for now. I used to be leaning in the direction of killing the basis nevertheless it does have some attention-grabbing pure motion so I used to be contemplating choice 1 and a couple of to maintain making use of it. Ultimately I attempted a compromise between all three choices. I killed the basis in order that the tree’s sources will go in the direction of growing the decrease nebari which will likely be extra enticing in the long term. I additionally determined to kill the basis whereas leaving it as a lifeless stub (jin in Japanese), and I carved the stub for now by eradicating the outer bark and peeling layers of the freshly killed wooden again. I do not anticipate this stub to final perpetually as it’s going to ultimately decay, however whereas the decrease nebari is enhancing, this may be one other supply of visible curiosity down low on the tree.

I made a decision to kill the basis and peel again the contemporary deadwood to make some visible curiosity out of it.

            Right here I need you to check the beneath 3 choices on planting positions for this tree. Give you a solution for which choice (place within the pot) you’d use for this tree? I will not share my opinions till after you evaluation the photographs in order to not bias you.

Possibility 1. Slightly off to the left. The decrease tree’s crown meets the sting of the pot. Right here neither tree is centered.

Possibility 2. Extra to the middle. The decrease tree’s crown goes past the pot and there appears to be like like there’s now extra damaging house between the pot and the crown of the higher tree. Right here the decrease tree is centered however the higher trunk isn’t far off.

Possibility 3. Extra to the precise. The damaging house between the pot and the higher tree is emphasised and the decrease tree extends far past the rim of the pot. Right here the higher tree is centered.

            After reviewing these choices, I preferred each choices 1 and a couple of, however I made a decision to go together with one thing extra like choice 1 as I loved how the damaging house emphasizes the directionality of the tree. The tree is pointing to the precise because the decrease trunk reaches in that course. Thus, the damaging house on the left aspect of the higher trunk needs to be minimized so the attention doesn’t concentrate on it and as a substitute the attention follows the directionality to the place I’m intending. Additionally, the additional house beneath the righthand trunk in choice 1 may very well be used so as to add a penjing figurine sooner or later, however the house in choice 2 is extra restricted and thus too cramped for that choice. Possibility 2 can also be compelling in its personal proper because it is a little more balanced, and it may very well be price returning too sooner or later. Lastly, choice 3 I didn’t select as a result of damaging house between the pot and the higher trunk being completely in battle with the course of the tree. In the event you had a unique decide or a unique rationalization for why, please let me know.

            I hope you loved practising your bonsai problem-solving abilities in right now’s select your individual journey article. I have never written many weblog articles not too long ago however now that I’ve handed my candidacy examination in grad faculty, you’ll be able to anticipate to listen to about my tree work extra usually as I’ve extra free time once more. Thanks once more to Mark Passerrello of Historical Artwork Bonsai right here in Columbus, OH for the reasonably priced pot! You’ll be able to see our interview with Mark on the Bonsai Time Podcast right here.

Potential entrance. Publish-repot, March 2023.

Potential again. Publish-repot, March 2023.

  1. Spring is sprung right here in Ohio! One of the best time to start out a bonsai from seed was yesterday, however right now is the subsequent greatest time. Get your seeds for over 30 species of timber each native and conventional Japanese species for bonsai from my Etsy web page to start out your bonsai from seed. As at all times, I ship my customized bonsai-from-seed information for each buy of seeds which works over the steps you should take for germination and long-term bonsai success. You can even view my lecture on seed rising bonsai totally free right here.
  2. Extra Bonsai Time Podcast Episodes coming later this week! See our previous episodes at
  3. Upcoming Central OH Bonsai occasions:
    1. CBS March Assembly – 3/19/23, 2pm-5pm @ Franklin Park Conservatory – repotting BYOT, a brief presentation by Kevin Faris on his work with Todd Schafer, and Ken Huth of Ken’s World of Bonsai will likely be attending and promoting seedlings of many species.
    2. OSU Bonsai Membership March Assembly – 3/22/23, 5pm-7pm @ the OSU Ag Admin Constructing – Wiring Bonsai 101 with instruction on my own and Kevin Faris.
    3. CBS + Columbus Parks and Recreation Division Invasive Honeysuckle Dig on 4/15/23, 9am-12pm. The placement will likely be introduced quickly. See the potential for utilizing invasive honeysuckle for bonsai right here


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