We have a pot.

Kinda ugly, very cheap. Blue. But solidly built, and it will hold water. That’s the problem.

Below, we have a tree that needs a good training pot. The pot above will do…..almost.

Celtis lævigata, hackberry, southern hackberry, sugarberry, swamp sugarberry, etc.

I said the pot holds water, though you can clearly see it has holes.

Looking at the bottom, you begin to see the problem. Whoever designed the pot, in a structural integrity way, made a ridge down the middle of the bottom.

Which is fine, we don’t want a weak pot. Especially a large one like this. But the holes are above the lowest part of the pot.

And the drain holes being where they are cause water to pool on each side of those holes. Like this:

Now, if you’re a careful reader of the blog, you’ll know that a pool of water is only good for gazing into to see your reflection, or into the soul’s abyss that is the eyes window, contemplating eternity, or maybe just to see what you’re doing when popping a zit. And a pooling of water in the bottom of the pot can kill roots, or at least slow growth (being that, at night, during the process of respiration -which is the process when plants breath oxygen just like you and I-, the plants use the sugars they’ve been making all day with photosynthesis. They breath through their roots and, again, just like us, they can’t breath water, so no respiration, no growth). And yes, most growth occurs at night.

So, simply put, we need to drill a few good holes.

When I began in bonsai, that was a hard thing to do. We had masonry bits or concrete buys. Today, we have these amazing things called “diamond core drill bits”.

They cut through ceramic “like butta”.

The edge is coated with industrial diamonds….

They’re cheap, I got this set for less than ten bucks.

And all you need to do is to make sure you use water when drilling.

Tonight I’ll be using about a 1/2 inch hole size, just for the harmony in calling it 1/2 inch.

You can definitely use a drill press while drilling, but I use a hand drill. The secret to using a hand drill is to cut a little half moon starter mark into the ceramic, for the bit to grab on to, otherwise the bit just chatters around on the surface. I do it by holding the drill at an angle, about 45°, and grind that cut into the pot.

Like so….

Then I straighten the drill to 90° and let the bit cut it’s way through. Like so…

Amazingly, it took less than 30 seconds to cut through this pot, even though the thickness is about a half inch thick (see, there’s synchronicity in the 1/2 inch size…)

The “core”!

In about two minutes I have all four holes drilled.

And here’s the tree in the pot. Like I said, it’s a training pot, so not the best fit for the tree, but it’ll work for the development I’m wanting this year.

And that’s that……you thought I was going to talk bonsai politics, weren’t you? Sometimes a hole is all you need…..

5 thoughts

  1. Re: LAP item on drilling holes. Part of your intro talked about the standing water killing the hackberry tree. Well, I live in Rowan County, North Carolina and I can show you many hackberry trees growing along the banks of streams. Big trees, probably at least 60 years old, growing quite happily beside a creek or branch, in the flood plain, so that during wet periods the roots are in water for weeks or months and are healthy. Why would the one in this pot, before you drill your holes, die? I’ve been using these bits for almost 2 years. Love how they work.

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    1. That is true about hackberry, and the same with bald cypress, but the physiology still holds true in a contained environment like a bonsai pot. We have to make the growing conditions ideal (one reason we use bonsai soil, the only reason actually) In a developing tree we want more growth, so the soil size tends to be more coarse for better drainage, and as the tree gets better ramified with branch size where we want it, we switch to more shallow pots (which drain less) and finer soil particles.

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