Spring is gonna be early this year so I better get a potting. A Repotting.
I’ve had this red maple for about 7 or eight years now (I’m not really good with time, in case you’ve noticed)
Last year I removed all the wire and let it grow a bit wild with only a topiary cut now and then. Hence the reaching branches.
It’s tough to see but the trunk is totally hollow and there is a chimney-like opening in the top.
One of my Instagram friends said this looked like a feminine tree.
There is a story (with a moral to it) behind the procurement of this maple.
I purchased it from a landscape nursery probably about 8 (or 7) years ago. It was about 12 feet tall (3.657 meters to our metrically challenged friends).
To fit it into the automobile,I chopped it at about 3 feet (.914 meters).
This was in the middle of summer and the tree was literally dripping water from the chop site. It was going to die.
I asked my first teacher, Ray Aldridge, what to do. He said “Bonsai it!”
So I cut the roots (it was in a 10 gallon nursery can, thats 37.854 liters) and shortened it to about 8 inches high (do that one yourselves). I sealed the top and hoped for the best. I should add; the time to do this is drastic work is usually in the late winter.
By cutting the roots I slowed the water uptake (and, therefore the alow drip on top) and saved the tree. But, being an acer rubrum, it rotted through the middle, of course. The word is “serendipity” my friends.
I think it’s cool. And believe it or not, that thin bridge on the top of the trunk is still living.
From the top.
For a red maple in Florida, it has pretty good ramification. The native bonsai-ists here in the sunshine state have very little respect for the red maple. They disdain it, cursing the tree for dieback and its watering needs. Personally, I just don’t think they’ve tried hard enough. I mean, have you ever tried to grow a black pine? Talk about prissy.
Back to the tree.
The branching has grown long and leggy; reaching up.
The limbs need to be brought down again to a horizontal attitude. And then sorted out a bit.
First, though, I need to repot.
This tree has been in a bonsai container for a while. I don’t think I repotted last year. All of the big roots have been removed and what is left are the fine, feeder roots.
Using my trusty homemade root hook I will comb out the root mass.
Trim all these long roots
Isn’t that beautiful? Look at that root mass. This is what you want to see in a healthy root system.
Now I wash out some of the old soil.
Pick out all the weeds (and their root systems) at this point and also use this time to clean the trunk.
I use my wife’s second best toothbrush for this. Angled, medium soft bristle. With wear indicators and gum massager.
And I’ll also brush the deadwood
Brass works well here.
If you do this now you can spray off the debris and not worry about washing off all that new soil you just put on.
Now we choose a new pot.
Oval or rectangle?
You might think this one. But, remember, I am going to bring the branching down, making the canopy wider, and when the leaves are on it it will be wider still.
And remember, this is a feminine tree. Feminine trees go in roundy pots.
Basic technique: mound the soil where you wish the tree to sit.
Take tree and push into the mound
Then, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, rotate clockwise (putting downward pressure) first
Then rotate anti-clockwise (if youre in the Southern Hemisphere it is opposite; start anti-clockwise and then rotate clockwise)
Keep twisting until the tree is sitting where you want it and is stable.
Make sure you tie your tree into the pot.
Backfill with good soil.
And using a chopstick, pencil, knitting kneedle (I know it’s spelled wrong, but I think it should, in that context, be spelled that way) or any other slim, pointy tool, tease the soil in between the roots.
And that’s basically the drill; refine branches where three or more shoots are coming from one spot down to two shoots, remove upward and downward growing shoots and cut back to thinner branches and buds.
A tree goes from thick to thin. Taper, taper, taper.
How’s that for a camera angle? That should win me a Pulitzer.
So the toughest part to build on a deciduous or a tropical tree is the crown. Some call this the apex but if you look up that word it is singular.
The top of a mature tree should be like this
I’ll post some pics in a month or so of the tree with foliage and again next winter to see how much ramification I’m able to get on it.