That’s better…look at all those roots!
The tree is a murraya paniculata, variously known as orange jasmine, or orange jessamine, or box orange, Chinese box etc.
In Florida they call it Lakeview Jasmine.
I have a suspicion why, but I won’t tell.
I’ve had this tree for a long time, I originally got it from Walmart when they were still selling plants in big pots, this one was in a 15 gallon size can. I’m guessing I’ve had it maybe about 9 years.
I haven’t repotted in 4 or 5 years, too many, but it’s not shown stress until this year.
It hasn’t developed much either.
The older leaves are yellowing but it’s put out new growth and it even has flower buds starting.
The flowers are white and very fragrant, a real feature of the plant.
They are why it’s called “orange jasmine”.
These are the roots before I raked them out.

Here’s something interesting.
Whenever you see mycorrhizae, you should put some of the old soil into the new soil.
Sifted, of course.
Try to get as much of the old roots out but don’t obsess if there’s still some left.
I know a few people who would be in there with the tweezers, not me brother, not me.
This is what you want to keep.
All the white moldy bits you can get. Mycorrhizae is a fungus that benefits the tree by making the roots more efficient at nutrient and water uptake.
Some trees, like pines, are almost totally dependent on the fungus. All plants use mycorrhizae so be careful with your indiscriminate and haphazard use of broad spectrum fungicides; especially try not to let the liquid get in the soil.
That said, there are good bugs and bad bugs, so the same applies for insecticides.
I’m using the same pot but I’m trying some new drain hole covers from AB tools.
They are made from anodized aluminum and will last longer than the plastic ones.
Here’s how I secure them into the pot.
I prefer the “double, over-the-top, and opposite” Secure Lock System™.
It has nothing to do with the fact they look like the letter “L”.
What I’m liking about the new mesh is the rigidity. If you have to use the drain holes to put tie down wires through, the plastic mesh often deflects the plastic and can create a little environment for a critter to live in or even let the soil spill out. The aluminum isn’t bending at all. Good idea Cullen.
And, after all that, we are back where the post began.
Some new soil (with the old soil added).
And now, ladies and gentleman, I give you the first, fully American-designed and American-manufactured tool from AB tools.
It’s a soil chopstick designed to minimize root damage. You’ll notice how thin the tip is.
It’s also ergonomically shaped.
Now, to be honest, when they showed me the 3D-printed mockup, I was a bit skeptical. I was thinking, why bother?
I can steal as many chopsticks as I need from my favorite sushi bar whenever I need one.
Who’s gonna pay for a fancy soil pick?
Then Cullen gave me the new, CNC’ed one made out of stainless steel and I put it to the test.
The feel is perfect in my hand, it’s balanced and heavy enough for the job.
The wasp-waisted handle just feels right. Like holding your sweetheart’s hand in yours, it fits.
I was (and still am) impressed.
My two complaints:
There needs to be a smaller size for shohin trees and I think it needs to come in different colors (like a red or blue) so I don’t lose it in all the mess on my bench.
I was still skeptical about people shelling out money for a fancy soil pick until a client of mine used one today and he ordered one on the spot.
Flabbergasted is the word.
Enough about my new toy, how’s this look?
At the next repotting I’m going to remove these two roots.
They aren’t bad but there’s another root behind it that’s more mature looking.
If this were May or June, I might cut them off now, but it’s September and kinda (not kinda but really) late to be repotting this tree, so I’m going to be cautious and wait.
Here’s a little more history to the tree:
It was originally styled by Suthin Sukosolvisit.
I took the tree to him in a CFBC workshop and totally expected him to chop it down and turn it into a shohin.
It really surprised me that he didn’t.
He understood the flowering aspect of the tree and that it would lend itself to a more “treeish” look if we kept it tall.
It was also an opportunity to explain taper.
There are two types of taper, basically, and they are fast and slow.
Fast taper means the ratio between height and trunk base is closer to being 1:1 (we are all looking for that perfect Hershey kiss tree, aren’t we?).
Modern bonsai is pushing towards that aesthetic of wider bases and shorter trunks and many old school bonsai masters abhor the look. It’s grotesque to them because trees don’t really look like that.
What is it that makes modern bonsai artists make trees that are short and fat?
A tree with fast taper forces perspective and makes a tree look bigger. Try this: pick a tree outside, a medium size one, and lay at the base, looking up at the top of the tree.
Makes it look huge, right? The base takes up your field of vision and the apex disappears in infinity like a set of railroad tracks.
It makes you seem kinda small, doesn’t it?
Now, walk away from the tree about 100 yards. Looks small, right?
The tree with fast taper is a “near” view tree. A tree with slow taper is considered a “far” view tree. More on that in a minute.
It’s easier (and takes less time) to make a tree seem bigger with fast taper, kinda like using the comic book trick of shrinking the size of the head on a human figure to make it look taller, and with today’s younger stock trees, we need all the help we can in creating the illusion of age.
It used to be the ratio was 10:1 but nowadays it’s taught as 6:1. I’m partial to 3:1 myself, but I grow a lot of shohin.
Let’s turn to the far view.
You should be able to guess that the ratio will be further away, 6:1 or the classic 10:1.
The far view depends less on a massive trunk and more on subtle cues like twisted branches, finer ramification, and taper that is smooth and natural. Slow, in other words.
Suthin chose a far view for my murraya and I’m going to continue with his vision.
Well, mostly….
Wide nebari.
And decent trunk size.
Thinner first branch.
And thinner up high and so on.
The problem is that I have branches with no taper.
Now, even though I’m setting back the development years, I’m going to have to do some chopping.
I learned that camera angle from Nick.
Choppity chop chop!
And so on….
Not much to look at, eh?
That’s about what it looked like when Suthin left it.
I know it’s tough to see what it might develop into, here’s a progression to give an idea.
And next June:
Maybe July.
Some growing tips:
Lots of water, lots of fertilizer (lots of chelated iron too), trim, trim, trim, and full sun.
Hold me to my prediction that the tree will look that good next summer.
Hell, if it does, I’ll enter it into the 2016 National Bonsai Exhibit.

8 thoughts

  1. As usual, you worked your magic on this tree. Is it just me, or did the chopping actually accentuate that great nebari? And here’s some trivia for you: I was born and raised in Miami….I grew up with Orange Jasmine. So, not all “Florida folks” call it…whatever you said. In fact, I only know it as Orange Jasmine! The flowers have a heavenly scent!


    1. There’s a regulatory reason why they call it lakeview jasmine now.
      I’ll tell you the exact story when I see you next.
      Chopping a tree often makes the nebari better, that’s why the near view aesthetic is gaining momentum worldwide.


  2. Good morning gentleman. Excellent written about working root growth in the tree. This explained in simple steps and for anyone who wants to start learning is unafraid to enter art of turning a “big” tree a “small” tree (bonsai)
    I will follow with enthusiasm and sense of learning. Thanks and greetings from Bilbao Basque ..Pais


  3. Hello, Adam!
    It’s about one year later and I wonder has the tree met your prediction regarding its growth? Any update photos?
    I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. Well, I see that you have done repotting and pruning in September, am I right? September temperature in my country (Greece, EU) is 28 – 20 C (82,4 – 68 F) and I have just bought a Murraya paniculata for training into pre-bonsai. Is it safe to do the root reduction and chop the tree now. What is your advice?
    Thank you so much in advance!


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