Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

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Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  cmd5235 on Wed May 02, 2012 9:31 pm

Hey Everyone!

I've had this azalea for a few years now. When I first got it, it had been ripped out of a neighbors yard in early fall. It had no branches and few roots. I planted it in a pot (beginner mistake), but it recovered well. I let it go for two years to grow and regain strength, but now I'm not sure where to go with it. Unfortunately, it caught a nasty mealybug infestation. I've started a chemical treatment regiment on it, and have my soapy water spray bottle and tweezers ready to go today. I want to give it a little time to recover, but also would like to start formulating the next move for styling. Thanks everyone!






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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  marcus watts on Wed May 02, 2012 9:49 pm

hi,
to make a future bonsai i would cut off all the right hand trunk (it is too straight and bare) and reduce the remaining trunk so 3 bunches of branches remain. you have the trunk already so its now time to make the branches so using these and all the new buds that will form from the hard pruning will make your tree quite quickly

cheers Marcus

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  cmd5235 on Wed May 02, 2012 9:53 pm

The problem is the right trunk is joined at the base with the others. The scar would be absolutely massive. I was thinking that maybe I could try to cut the right one back and see if it buds back down low?

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  Jesse McMahon on Wed May 02, 2012 10:01 pm

There are things I like about that right hand trunk. A better picture of the base in its entirety would probably help the process for all of us, I think. Looks like a nice start to me.

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  Gideon on Wed May 02, 2012 10:14 pm

Create a deadwood feature with the right trunk if you feel cutting it would leave too large a scar.

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  cmd5235 on Wed May 02, 2012 10:17 pm

I've got three pictures for everyone. The first is the front, then the back, then the scale. I need to work on the roots, they are under there. Keeping it alive through the fall and winter was my big step 1. Every branch now was grown from late season back-budding. The roots and branches are the next step (with everyones help!)

Btw.. everyones responses are greatly appreciated, I thank you all.









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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  marcus watts on Wed May 02, 2012 10:19 pm

hi,
dont worry about cutting - if you do it neatly and slightly hollow it will heal over - the branches will take at least 5 or 6 years to form anyway so the scar will heal at the same time.

cheers Marcus

safe route cuts 1 & 2, best eventual route A & B - now the tree is at this stage the only way to make a nice tapered trunk is to cut it back


cheers

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  prestontolbert on Wed May 02, 2012 10:37 pm

I agree with Marcus on the chops, but you don't need to hollow out the cut, azaleas bark is so thin it isn't necessary. Just carve the cut to flow along the trunkline. Cut the edges of the chop with a razor to make clean bark edges and use a cut paste. You could probably go ahead and make the "A" chop and the "2" chop now. Wait till you have good branches to carve the "2" chop.

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what to do next for the azalea

Post  Leo Schordje on Thu May 03, 2012 6:15 am

Hello,
This is nice starter for a shohin size or slightly larger azalea. It looks like the trunk is about 2 inches in diameter and the pot it is in is about 6 inches in diameter. I have a couple thoughts. I don't know what mix the azalea is growing in, the moss on the surface may be hiding a great root system or it may be hiding a nightmare. If it is growing in a mix that is made of particles over 1/8 inch with all fines removed, so that it 'breathes' and drains well, then you are in good shape to do the suggested trunk chops.

If the mix has a lot of peat moss, garden loam, and other organic material (over 50%), and when you check there are no roots escaping the drainage holes, and if you lift it gently out of the pot, you don't see an intact root ball, then don't do the trunk chop. Work the tree from the bottom up. If you don't have a healthy root system the response to the trunk chop will be weak and you may loose the parts of the tree you really like.

In addition, a 6 inch diameter pot is too small diameter for training and getting the vigorous growth you need to develop branches. You need at least a 10 or 12 inch diameter pot. It does not need to be deep, but it needs to be wide. You want to be able to spread the roots out and develop a nebari. (root base)

Find a pot, or a large diameter plastic colander or a 12 inch pond basket and repot the azalea. You want a contain between 4 to 5 inches deep, no need to be deeper and at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Repot into a soil that has been carefully sifted to eliminate all fines. You want fairly uniform particle size to get good air circulation. I use a blend of pumice, kanuma, crushed granite and some 1/4 inch pine bark. No Peat Moss. The peat moss will decompose into muck, and turn very acidic as it does so. Bad for the roots long term. Repot now so you have most of 2012 to establish a new root system. As you repot take a good look at the root system and make sure you have a nice dense fine root mass. Correct any obvious issues like circling or girdling roots, surface roots that cross over other roots, etc. Use 2012 for beefing up the roots. While beefing up the roots, don't do more than a little cosmetic pruning, because the more foliage, the more roots the tree has to make.

Then 2013 do the chop, but only if growth for 2012 was really vigorous and you are certain you have good roots. Then when you do the chop you will get many more dormant buds to pop out. The reason the trunk chop works is that if you have adequate roots to support a large mass of foliage, then when that foliage is removed (by doing the chop) the tree will respond by activating many dormant buds. Weak roots, weak response.

That is my thoughts. If you feel the root system is really in good shape and that you have a good nebari down there, then feel free to ignore my advice. But if you are not sure, slide the tree out of the pot and take a look before you do the chop. If what you see is just a few scraggly roots, then do the repot into a better mix and a larger diameter pot. Grow it out for another year without pruning. If you see great roots and a good nebari, slide the tree back into the pot and go ahead and do the chop.

I know I have lost quite a number of trees by using techniques before the tree put on good roots, and before the tree was established and growing vigorously. Rush a tree and you may loose it. The visual check of the roots before you start is very important. Good luck and a nice piece of starter material.




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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  sunip on Thu May 03, 2012 9:08 am

[quote="cmd5235"] I need to work on the roots, they are under there. Keeping it alive through the fall and winter was my big step 1. Every branch now was grown from late season back-budding. The roots and branches are the next step (with everyones help!)
Hello,
Leo expressed already what i was thinking of.
To start any design the rootflare should be visible, you could end up with two trunks or chop the other one.
Sunip Wink




Last edited by sunip on Thu May 03, 2012 6:06 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  Glaucus on Thu May 03, 2012 10:18 am

There is risk of dieback when you remove such a large trunk. The roots supporting the trunk you remove may die rather than switch over to support the other trunk.
If so, that part of the base of the trunk may also die and then it will eventually rot and you will get a hole in the base of the trunk.

I see the other trunk has a shoot just below it at he base. You may want to wait for one to grow or graft one in just below the other trunk.

Cut back the trunk you want to remove to the first few leaves now and try to see if you can cut it off shorter later. Eventually you want to remove it entirely. This gives the azalea time to have the roots switch over to the main trunk.
A branch just below the trunk you are going to remove is best.
You may want to put it in a larger pot and have it grow as much roots as possible before you finally remove the side trunk. Always work with patience and work for the very long term. It is not ready for display anyway.

Don't hollow out cuts. It will take a long time for the scar to heal if it ever will. As said by someone else, azalea don't really have bark so hollowing out as done with pines with their huge thick bark is completely different. Make cuts that are as neat as possible right away.

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if it were mine

Post  MikeT307 on Thu May 03, 2012 1:50 pm

***Let me give a disclaimer that I'm a rookie to the bonsai world.***
I wouldn't go quite as drastic in my trunk chops while it's in that pot. I would shorten the top of the left trunk in half. I'm calling the "top" the vertical portion where the main trunk on the left has been chopped before. I would also remove everything where your inverse taper is on the right hand trunk but leave the smaller branches that look to be growing towards the left trunk. These would be left to keep some life on that trunk. I'm guessing this is not a young tree and a severe trunk chop may or may not kill the right side. Then next year I'd hope that this pruning would give me some lower buds on the trunk and plant it in a bigger pot for the more drastic trunk chops others have suggested. The left trunk bothers me less because is has some movement but it does need to be shortened quite a bit. The right trunk "needs" to be chopped down low to have it compete less in height with the left and to allow you to wire some interest in the new right crown to be grown.

How long has it been in the current pot? Looks like someone has been working on it for possibly a couple of years.

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

Post  Russell Coker on Thu May 03, 2012 2:05 pm



Some good azalea advice here, especially from Leo and Glaucus. Some not so good advice too..

Never hollow anything on an azalea, or intentionally create deadwood especially with trunks and the connecting roots. Working with deadwood that's already there is a different matter.

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Re: Decent sized azalea styling help. Where to from here?

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