This pine was the subject of a recent post. The main goal for the next few years is to encourage backbudding so I can reduce the length of the branches. Grafting may even be in the agenda. To achieve these things, I will need to make sure the tree is vigorous and comfortable in its pot.
My understanding is that pines are best repotted just before the buds start to move. How can you identify this time? My friend gave me a handy tip: break off the tip of a dormant bud and check back the next day. If there is sap flow, the tree is coming out of dormancy and it is a good time to repot. Another indicator is if the roots have started to grow, indicated by white tips.
This tree tested positive for both of these indicators, therefore repotting was a go. For those of you in my climate – keep in mind this tree was just flown out from the Vancouver area in Janurary, and spent the winter in my garage at about 4 degrees C, therefore it is weeks ahead of any pines that were wintered outside.
Like many bonsai enthusiasts, I am obsessed with old, collected trees. For several years I have been heavily biased towards collected material and still am today – nothing (well, almost nothing) excites me like a stunning piece of yamadori. Nevertheless, I find that wild material almost always lends itself to a dynamic, survivalist image. If I were to fill my yard with this material only, I would have a pretty monotonous bonsai collection. Already my collection is lacking in delicate deciduous trees (nine years of bonsai and I have never had a japanese maple!).
I was recently inspired by an article in Bonsai Focus #120 entitled Easy Does It, Forest Planting by Nobuyuki Hirose (see the preview of this issue here). In this article Mr. Hirose and his apprentice use young beech and hornbeam seedlings to create simple yet elegant and attractive forest plantings. The careful selection of the material and design of the planting made these “sticks in a pot” into something special.
Armed with these images in my mind, I visited my friend Andrew who works at a gigantic (read: millions of plants, literally) wholesale nursery and picked up a trunkload of American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and European Beech (Fagus sylvatica).
Today I made a nine tree forest planting of American Hornbeam. This species grows locally, although I have never found one worth collecting (most people who collect them trunk-chop them drastically, thus creating a long-term project). Like most hornbeams, these have fine twigs, smooth bark, and small buds – things which are useful for a small group planting that is best appreciated in winter.