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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Dad's Purchase

     Sometimes, a father will plant a tree when a child is born to him. Given that I'm such a bonsai enthusiast, I guess it's no surprise that when my daughter was born, I bought a plant for bonsai to mark the occasion!

The tree is a shimpaku juniper (Juniperus chinensis var. 'Shimpaku'.) I've always thought of it as "her shimpaku" because of my reason for buying it, even tho it's actually mine. (She does have one tree of her own; see this post.)

"My daughter's shimpaku" before repotting.

This tree was one of the ones that (I am thankful) survived the far-reaching transitions in my early years of marriage. But altho it survived, it suffered some significant damage. Some of that damage was due to "forced neglect" during those years; some of it was due to my ignorance, at the time, of proper juniper care. The primary trunk died, leaving just the secondary, horizontal trunk. And much of the original root system died, leaving one major root on the back of the tree and a few lesser ones.

For the last several years I've been nursing it back to health. By last fall, it was vigorous again. I decided to leave it in a 1-gal. Rootmaker® for one more year, before potting it on in 2013.

But the tree had its own ideas. Since it broke dormancy this shimpaku has been using water much faster than I expected; it seemed to need watering twice as often as my other hardy trees! Such a situation, if a tree is healthy, usually means that it has filled its pot with roots and needs to be repotted as soon as possible. Never mind when the bonsai grower had in mind to do it!

So yesterday I moved this tree into a roomier growing pot. I found a healthy root system, not as crowded as I kinda-sorta expected. The major root that now supplies most of the tree branches close to its base; this should give me enough secondary roots at the surface for a good nebari.

Repotted. The styrofoam block maintains the planting angle while the roots re-establish themselves.

The new mix is Turface and chopped sphagnum, at approximately 7:3, sifted to remove fines. The new pot is a standard plastic planter. (I added extra holes with an old-style soldering iron in an attempt to duplicate the air-pruning results of a Rootmaker®. I've never been sure whether my idea works.) The tree will spend at least two years in this container, growing freely. I want it to put on some bulk before it is styled for the third time. One of the results of the damage the tree suffered in the past was that the first two stylings were ruined.

Another setting. The dead trunk will be jinned later.
I bought this shimpaku well before I developed an allergy to all junipers. This is the last juniper in my personal collection (with the exception of one other shimpaku that I'm developing a little more before I sell it.) This one I will keep. I don't mind that I have to wear gloves and a surgical mask when I work on it! :-)

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