Posts tagged “rhododendron

Futame-futaba-nokoshi

As I have recently come to own two satsuki azaleas, I realized I’d better figure out how they work. One step I took was buying and reading Satsuki Azaleas for Bonsai and Azalea Enthusiasts by Robert Z. Callaham. It is an interesting book with some good satsuki techniques, but the bulk of it is designed as a reference for identifying cultivars.

One interesting technique is known as futame-futaba-nokoshi, and it means pruning the tree such that each branch ends in two shoots, each with two leaves. All other growth is removed. This allows an opportunity to wire the young shoots and promotes budding in the interior of the tree. Essentially it is partial defoliation combined with branch thinning. This ‘Kaho’ azalea which I purchased last summer has been undergoing a major restoration project, and it seemed a good time to apply this technique. All of the secondary branching was cut off last year, so futame-futaba-nokoshi provides a good opportunity to carefully create the future secondary branches.

The cutting/wiring was done almost exactly one month ago, and the follow up pictures are from today. This tree will probably have another round of cutting this year, as well as flower bud removal. Some long and awkward branches still need to be removed/shortened.

One view (front?) after cutting.

One view (front?) after cutting and trunk scrubbing.

Another view after cutting.

Another view after cutting.

Branch detail.

Branch detail.

One month later.

One month later.

Tree as purchased July 2013

Tree as purchased July 2013

 

 

 

 

 


Satsuki Azalea Checks into Rehab

I always preach about growing species that are suited to your climate because it makes bonsai so much simpler and less stressful. For this reason I have never had a satsuki because they require quite a bit of winter protection around here i.e. garage or coldframe. Nevertheless, the opportunity recently came up to buy a Satsuki Azalea ‘Kaho’ for a great price, and I really couldn’t turn it down.

This tree has been neglected for quite a few years. It is completely overgrown, with no interior growth and lots of interior dieback (although fortunately none of the branches are dead). However, it has a great nebari and good branch placement. These characteristics make it worth spending a few years rehabilitating this tree. Azaleas are perfect for this type of project because they backbud profusely and grow quickly (or so I hear).

This year there is one goal for this tree: get backbuds.

As soon as I got the tree I spent some time removing the old flowers just to examine it in detail. Then, I thinned it out heavily, leaving just one bud at each branch tip. The apex was thinned less heavily because I have been told that azaleas are generally weaker in the apex – a very unusual characteristic but perhaps not surprising since this is a shrub in nature. All dead interior growth was removed.

Ideally the branches would have been cut back to stumps (secondary branching), but this is probably not the best time of year and I am skeptical about the vigour of this particular tree so I felt it not worth the risk. Next year it will be barerooted, planted in kanuma, and cut back much harder.

The tree is now getting blasted with full sun and fertilizer. This work was done under two weeks ago, and I’ve just noticed that new buds have started popping in the interior of the tree much closer to the trunk.

    As purchased. The shapely Yamaaki pot was a bonus.

As purchased. The shapely Yamaaki pot was a bonus.

Nebari

Nebari

After flower removal.

After flower removal.

    After thinning but before removing all the dead twigs. This picture shows how much interior dieback there was. Literally, there was only green on the very tips of the branches.

After thinning but before removing all the dead twigs. This picture shows how much interior dieback there was. Literally, there was only green on the very tips of the branches.

    Completed work for the season. This work was done just under 2 weeks ago, and new buds are now popping in the interior of the branches.

Completed work for the season. This work was done just under 2 weeks ago, and new buds are now popping in the interior of the branches.