Here I am, outside a church, holding my newest acquisition, won at the latest Shofu Bonsai Society’s auction. I love auctions, you can find so many deals.
It’s a Pinus thunbergii var. “mikawa”. A Japanese black pine that’s a variety called “mikawa”. What’s special about them? Well, Mikawa, capitalized, is the name of a province in Japan, and that’s also probably why the variety is named that.
It’s known for getting mature bark sooner, and, therefore, on smaller, specimens.
It was said at the auction that the tree was originally styled by Suthin Sukosolvisit, one of, if not the, best stylists and artists in the USA. Suthin’s original website was my go-to when I first started bonsai. He is the best developer of tropical stock bonsai, in my opinion, anywhere. And considering he lives in Massachusetts (literally a few miles from where I spent my formative years in Brockton) that’s saying a lot.
First thing I did was to cut the needles. This helps to get light onto the branches and cause back budding.
Checking the health of the tree, I’m noticing yellowing on the tips of the needles. This, infuriatingly, could be from too much water or not enough. Let’s do a water test.
Add a little water and…
Yeah, it’s not draining we’ll at all. Means it’s pot bound.
Since, here in Orlando, it’s a little late to repot, I’m going to slip pot it into a bigger container. I have this nice Japanese training container that should work.
First thing is to remove the tree from its old pot. Gentle like.
Pull the old tie down wires without messing with the roots too much.
Nice and healthy, good mycorrhizae.
How does it fit? Not too badly. I’ll have to shoehorn it a bit, but that should be ok.
I like these pots. I have a few. The shape is more conducive to drainage, with the walls slanting at an angle. It’ll move the water down faster.
But I don’t like the lack of tie down holes. Easy fix, if you have some diamond core hole drill bits
Now for my mix. I’m going to take my regular mix and add some well sifted akadama. I know, I know, “Adam doesn’t use akadama” but in the case of pines and junipers, I add it to my standard mix. Here’s why.
The sifted akadama, top pic ⬆️
My mix below. ⬇️
Put it all together and sift again.
There we go.
Looking good. I removed the largest particles and the smallest.
I prefer my mixes to be homogenous throughout the whole pot. I don’t put a coarse layer, a medium layer, and a fine layer as many people teach. That causes the water level to stay high, and I want drainage, not water logged roots. This is a pine, and pines like to dry out. That’s so the oxygen at the roots can do its job, mainly, a process called “respiration”. To quote myself,
“…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”
That’s from a blog where I drilled some holes. Read it, it’s informative and expeditious.
Now to the trees roots. Ever so gently I’m going to tease out the corners and the bottom of the root ball (rectangle?) a bit with my home-made, handy dandy root hook
Just a little. We are slip potting now, remember.
Then I wash out the roots and old soil with a hose. Gentle.
And, TADA, it fits!
Put some new mix on the bottom. Tie it in.
And, again, gently, tease in the new soil.
When working with akadama you have to be gentle because if you go thrusting the chopstick in, willy nilly, you’ll crush the clay particles of akadama, and all the soil prep of sifting will be for naught.
On the hard root ball (it’s more of a ball now I guess), I gently (how many times will I use the word “gentle”?) poke some holes so the water can percolate down.
And that’s it, a quick slip potting.
Now for some fertilizer. A new product from American Bonsai Tools.
Just a little…
I tend to mix it into the soil as opposed to using teabags or those fertilizer cages. It’s a practice and a belief I’ve adopted from reading about microorganisms in the soil needing the actual organic particles that the fertilizer is made from to be able to break down and utilize it. Pines are highly symbiotic with mycorrhizae and bacteria, and if those microorganisms don’t have access to breaking down the fertilizer particles, the fertilizer is only getting half it’s use.
Let’s check the percolation.
Perfect! It seemed to work, the water is peeing out of the drain holes
Now, what next? Let’s look at the tree. it has strong candles and stiff needles, so it’s growing well and has been in good sun.
I think this might have been the front, above.
I kinda like the flow of the tree on this side, below.
I’d just need to move some branches…
But not yet. Maybe in June. I don’t want to over do it. I paid a good amount for this tree, and it’s history is special to me, so I don’t want to kill it or set it back too much. One insult at a time, as they used to say.
And we take little steps with pines in Florida. They grow well and we can push them hard here, but we need to take into consideration the cultural requirements in our climate. Like drainage. We get a lot of rain all at one time in the summer. Hence the slip pot.
And here we are, just a few weeks later and it has new growth. Zoom in, you’ll see the candles breaking already.
And that’s Brutus, getting a head scruff while I take the pic. He’s a good cat.
I’m gonna enjoy this tree. Stay tuned, update in the summer!