Okay, I admit it, I have an ilex problem. I collect ilex bonsai the same way that some people collect Hummel figurines, baseball cards, comic books or cats. Or even ex-husbands.
What can I say? they have small leaves, quick growth, they’re able to be kept in a small pot, cold hardy in my area, and just so darn cute.
I had thought to break this post into five different posts about each tree but I don’t want to torture you with so many little stories, so I’ll just hit on the important parts of each tree.
It’s about a foot tall, really good taper…
I cut it back (blue arrow) and wired a secondary branch into its old spot (red arrow). As your tree ages, it’s important that this process is done regularly. Taper is the one of the things that give age to a tree. By cutting back and re-growing taper is achieved.
Now the roots
Pretty healthy looking, I haven’t had any health issues with this tree. It’s been 2 years since I’ve repotted and you can tell by the matting in some spots. Not as bad as the “old ilex” in the previous post by any means.
It’s always best to clean the pot, especially making sure the screen on the drain holes is clean.
I’m gonna save all the finished “glamor” shots ’til the end.
It’s important to understand that we don’t need to be repotting our trees every year. Each time you do it some vigor is sapped away from the tree. The soil in this pic above is not showing too many roots (an ilex roots will fill the pot)
In late summer I restyled the branches
And cut out the older, over lignified branches and replaced them with younger ones that I let grow long.
This is important with ilex; as the branch becomes more woody and stiff, it loses its capacity to move water and nutrients. And the result is that branch withering and dying.
This is the first step in the rejuve process. Let it grow unrestricted.
There was a nice moss layer on the soil but something removed it. I haven’t caught the beast in the act yet so I don’t know exactly what it is , but it must be faster than the cats, that’s all I have to say.
Maybe it’s the children?
If you look close you will see the fine roots on the soil surface. This happens from keeping moss on the tree. And this is why moss is a good thing on the soil surface, especially on little trees. It allows the tree to utilize the entire soil mass where, without moss, the first 1/4-1/2 inch is wasted space.
But we don’t want moss on the trunk so a toothbrush and some water and…
If you’re re-using the same pot, (which requires cleaning, installing new tie downs etc) while preparing the old pot and the trees roots are naked, put the tree in a pan of water so the roots don’t dry out.
And you get a cool photoshop opportunity too…
I don’t like fertilizer on the soil surface, it cakes up and just looks bad. I mean, who wants to see poop on the lawn?
Just tap the pot a bit and the fertilizer will disappear. That’s also why I prefer granular poop to the poop cakes.
This tree is at the end of the rejuve. Last year, I repotted it into a slightly larger pot with better drainage, let it grow without much trimming, and made sure that it stayed fertilized. It has a lot of flowers so it must be happy.