Lockdown Bonsai Part Two

Well the year continues to throw the unknown at us. Bonsai clubs and events have been cancelled and I do wonder how this will impact on club membership in the future.

Throughout the pandemic our club chair has provided a monthly update on appropriate activity that has been really beneficial. And as an active club there is usually someone with experience of techniques who is willing to help if anyone has a question.

So what have I been up to over the recent weeks?

Due to the warmer weather in May watering was crucial, sometimes twice a day and I commenced a fertilising regime using a combination of liquid seaweed and Naruka.

Deciduous trees grew rapidly and
leaf pruning was needed on some of these such as this Field Maple. The leaves of the outer foliage were quite large and crowded, I removed about one third of the them to allow light into the inner shoots and promote stronger growth.

This tree, like a lot of deciduous trees, also needs the distance between internodes needs to be controlled otherwise the branches become quite leggy. I achieved this by removing the apical bud as new leaves emerged, an almost daily task,

(This can be done with either your finger and thumb or a pair of scissors).

The weather influences not only the growth of the trees but also our activities. Locally we had some quite strong and gusty winds during May. Now windy conditions may be beneficial to potters, broken pots may be good for their business but they can be a real pain for enthusiasts. During a particularly windy evening I found that one of my trees had been blown from its stand. I was relieved to see that it was in a mica pot……UNBREAKABLE… But what about the tree, a Juniper media blaaws, fortunately no structural damage had been done to the tree itself as it was wired into the pot, the only concern being that the growing medium was no longer in the pot and I do not know how long it had been like that which is a bit of a worry.

So replacing the medium was all that was really needed.

However I had planned to carry out some work on this tree in the near future, it was ready for a bit of refinement and styling but due to the accident I decided to carry out only minimal pruning to reduce the canopy and I removed some weak and unwanted growth with the objective of allowing more light into the tree as well as reducing stronger growth around the apex. A bit late I know but now I have tied the tree to the stand, (The foliage is better than the image reflects).

Well as demonstrated above accidents happen and in my previous blog I talked about a maple that had suffered some damage during last December.

It had been dropped and the pot smashed and branches snapped off leaving it in a mess with few badly positioned branches. Fortunately it is not very valuable as can be seen in this image.

After discussing the options which I considered suitable to salvage this at the club, namely should I bin it, remove all growth back to a trunk and hope for it to throw buds along the trunk, or thread graft it, I decided on the latter. I planned to remove the four remaining branches leaving only the crown intending to allow it to grow freely to use as thread grafts while hoping that it would also put out some new buds on the trunk.

In mid springtime I removed the remaining branches after the tree leafed out indicating it was growing well leaving only the single branch at the apex of the tree.

The crown in turn grew strongly and there were soon several lengths of new growth as can be seen in this image taken from above the tree. These were allowed to grow unrestricted for use as grafts.

However there was only one new shoot on the trunk itself which was disappointing but fortunately it is in a useful position.

Having never attempted thread grafting I researched the process as well as the best time to carry it out.

My research provided different times as the best time to carry out thread grafting springtime or mid summer. I then posed the question to some club members and they suggested spring and autumn. Talk about being confused, and there was well presented arguments for spring and summer around the strongest growing times.

So the decision was mine to make, now I’m no spring chicken, and spring is another nine months away. The tree was growing strongly, the apical growth on the tree was really vigorous and more than long enough. I really was uncertain about doing it now or waiting until spring. I decided to get on with it, nothing ventured nothing gained style.

So on the second of June I took a deep breath and got on with thread grafting!

The process was quite simple, first I marked the positions on the trunk where I hoped to have branches. This was not as easy as I thought due to the fact that wanted to avoid drilling through calloused bark. Next I wired the new growth to support it while bending into place, then I removed the leaves being as careful as possible trying to ensure dormant buds were not damaged, (time will tell). I decided to leave the apical bud and it’s two accompanying leaves on each branch.

Then it was time to drill the holes through which the grafts were to be fed. There was no going back once I drilled a hole, (At this point I almost changed my mind).

The research and advise I had been given recommended that the exit hole should be higher than the entry hole(as shown) as this would promote better growth on the exit side.

As this process depends on the cambium layer of the trunk fusing with that of the grafted branch, I drilled from the exit side as this ensures the neatest hole at that side.

Commencing with a small diameter drill and increasing this until the branch passed through with enough clearance for the dormant buds.

Next was a moment of trepidation as I fed the ‘branch’ through the hole in the trunk. It is recommended that you carefully pull rather than push, but you have to get the thing in there first. I found this quite a challenge with the supple new growth at the tip of the branch.

Hoping that this works and looking to the future I positioned an internode close to the trunk on the exit side (as shown), which will be an advantage in the development of the new branch.

To prevent the branch moving I fixed it in place with a small bit of wood and then applied cut paste around the entry and exit holes, trying to make sure that it did not reach the cambium layer.

This was then repeated with the other grafts with just as much trepidation as with the first.

My first attempt at thread grafting, only time will tell if it’s successful. It really is experimental and now all I can do is feed the tree well for the rest of the growing season and hope that I don’t regret the decision to do it now.