Future Azalea

Eallend7

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Hello all, this is my first post to this site. This is an Azalea of some sort that i plan on collecting in the spring, a question to anyone interested would be, when the time comes to prune this back very hard, where would you start? Second, should i chop it back before collecting, or after giving it a year or more to establish itself? Any images or advice is greatly welcomed.
Thanks,
Eric


 
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wahoo172

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Eric,

Where do you live? I am guessing south east US.
The pictures are a tad blurry, but it appears to be a satsuki
Is it growing in your yard? Do you have to collect it this spring?
What size bonsai do you want this to be? What size is it now?

As to where the cuts should be, the second picture shows a large branch
growing from the left side of the trunk. That branch is what I would cut off
for sure, then I might cut around the first fork in the top/branch
emerging from the top of the trunk. There appears to be some small branches
between the first fork in the top and the thicker part of the trunk.
If the tree is healthy and cut back hard, it should pop buds from all
over the trunk, giving you lots of potential branches and many many sacrifice
branches to break off right away or keep for a while depending on what
your vision is.

George
 

Eallend7

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Thanks for the response,
I live in North Carolina
It is growing in my yard, but it is not at risk if i dont collect in the spring, so no i dont have to.
But i would like to :p
I'm not sure as to the final size of the tree, i definitely want to utilize all of the trunks already wide base to its full advantage. But what i was thinking is to cut right above, or right below, the smaller branch that crosses over the large right hand branch, right before it curves. That would introduce some decent taper atleast from that angle from what i see.
It is currently about ~2.5 feet tall, i can get exact measurements if needed.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Wait 'til March...I've dug about 100 of these, and they're nearly foolproof. Here are a few photos.

Long/short...they have a very shallow root system, and can survive on a very small quantity of them, but wash all field soil and go HARD on the roots at first, since it will be strong coming out of the ground. Remove anything that isn't immediately interesting so you at least have a good trunk, and then be patient because it will take a couple years to get good branches with which to begin styling. As it grows in the spring, vigilantly rub out the suckers that you don't want.
 

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treebeard55

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(I keep wanting to change your username to "Elendil," after the character in Tolkien.)

Here's another idea. I worked from your second photo.

Flip the planting angle about 15 degrees to the left. This levels the nebari (making it look more stable,) and gives you a slanting tree with pretty decent taper. Cut at my yellow lines, and then grow out the branching. My virt shows one possible outcome.

The decision is yours, of course. But maybe this will whet your thinking, if nothing else! :)
 

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Brian Van Fleet

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How can you tell if an azalea is 'satsuki'?
Pretty sure that one is a Kurume, but the best way to tell the difference is this:

Kurumes bloom first (April), then they grow. Satsukis grow first, then they bloom; in May-June.
 

Eallend7

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Yes Ryan, i did post on that site as well, but theres no harm in gaining more information. Treebeard, yes, thats almost exactly what i was thinking for the future. So you would recommend leaving that curved piece to develop into the new apex? And then completely re-do branch structure?
 

rockm

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This is a nice potential bonsai.Heavy trunked azaleas are not very common...you lose this one and you probably won't see another collectible one for some time. It shouldn't be rushed. If you have never collected a tree before, I'd save this one for a few years and get some actual hands-on experience.

Not being a drag, just being practical. Ask about any collector who's been digging things for more than a few years and they will tell you your first efforts are the hardest and have the highest mortality rates. You usually lose your first tree (s) because you dug them too aggressivel, or not aggressively enough, and/or provided inadequate aftercare.

Unfortunately, colleciting trees is simply NOT a matter of reading stuff --books are books, not real life. I have never had a collection go the way the books have said. There have been no perfect circles of soil and roots. There HAVE been self-cleaing root masses that drop all their soil once they're lifted (clay soils are infamous fort hat); sporadic, diffuse root systems that spread 30 yards from a tree; gigantic tap roots that defied every saw I used; I've NEVER used a shovel to collect a tree. Mostly useless in most situations.

That's only the collection part. Aftercare can be even more complicated and ever-changing.

If this were in my back yard, I'd keep it there for a while and learn on how to collect OTHER azaleas. Then come back to this one with the requisite experience.
 

Eallend7

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Well said rockm, there are many other small eastern red cedars that i plan on digging up just for fun, since they grow like weeds around here. Not for fun, i plan on giving them a lot of attention and keeping it alive, but this will provide some experience i believe. Granted, not contributing to azalea experience necessarily, but collecting in general.
 

Harunobu

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Pretty sure that one is a Kurume, but the best way to tell the difference is this:

Kurumes bloom first (April), then they grow. Satsukis grow first, then they bloom; in May-June.
That's a definition the Japanese use. But western cultivar that have been cultivated independently may bloom late while only having wild species and kurume in their heritage because they were selected to bloom late. For example, R. nakaharae species blooms later than most satsuki. R.nakaharae has been used quite a bit for hardiness and creeping habit. And wild R.indicum is also used a lot in western hybridizing.

Also, why do you think this azalea blooms first, then grows? Or are you judging based on the leaf shape?

Most azalea bonsai are grown in Japan and are satsuki. They are created from cuttings that are grown into long slender plants which are called 'whips'. You see many tall thin S-shape satsuki. You don't see this in any other kind of bonsai. This plant can't be styled the way whips are styled because it was grown very differently. Often these bonsai have no taper and unimpressive nebari but are ideal for showing off the amazing flowers. Satsuki often have big flowers and those flowers need to be on a big tree. A big flowered azalea that is big and has impressive nebari and taper is extremely rare.

Now all azalea grow back quite easily. You could do an extreme prune. It will often sprout from old wood, but you need to be careful that the old wood doesn't dry out and the sap stream stops.
But indeed, an azalea trunk like this is very rare because garden plants are often deliberately grown in a way that makes them bad for bonsai. But to an azalea the flowers are everything. I dislike filled solid purple or lavender flowers quite a bit compared to other types of flowers. You might have your own preference. How much you like the flowers will affect how high you should value this tree.

Maybe a good idea would be to go azalea shopping late may and buy some garden azaleas. Then you can root some cuttings from the new growth after flowering and grow those into bonsai. But before you really can do some work on those similar to what this tree will require may take too much time.

What you may want to do sooner is to shift to focus of growth away from that one thick branch growing out of the side on the left on the last photo. If it gets even thicker it will cause even more problems to the main trunk. And you probably don't want to cut it below that because then it will be kinda short.
 
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rockm

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Harunobu is right about possible die back after drastic pruning. Azaleas can be a bit touchy about it and can die back below big cuts.

Flowers are everything to an azalea, but the best azalea bonsai IMO are also cultivated for thick, drastically tapered trunks and spreading nebari. From what I've seen there are two kinds of azalea bonsai growers--Flower enthusiasts that grow trunks basically as a rack to display flowers --long "S" curved trunks with branch "shelves" to show off flowers
http://www.bonsaitreessouthampton.co.uk/images/Satsuki.jpg

another group that goes for more "bonsai" than a flower display...
http://www.bonsaitreessouthampton.co.uk/Kinsai copy.jpg

I've seen more than a few high-end imported Japanese azalea bonsai that have quite stocky trunks and close branching, almost looking line white pine...
 

Harunobu

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You can style an azalea any way you want, of course. And shonin and sumo-trunk azalea do exist and are nice. And this tree obviously has no problem with flowers and tree being too much out of proportion.

As for collecting. You can repot from early november through early March, ignoring frost and weather. If winters are shorter or longer because of colder or hotter climate then this window has to be adjusted. The idea here is you want to repot without interrupting the flowering or growing period(s). And before blooming in case of an early flowering cultivar. But repotting during this time you will have to remove most or all flower buds as flowering will require a lot of strength from the tree.
Best is to repot in early spring or after flowering. In early spring before the tree gets out of dormancy but after any serious frost. Not sure at all about North Carolina weather as a European.

When you repot after blooming it is often recommended is to remove all flowers once 80% have opened. Then prune both plant and roots.
Maybe watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDLVsTf4buE


Calender overview from the website of Shibue Satsuki En from Kanuma. Kanuma is the satsuki capital of the world and Shibue Satsuki En is one of the several satsuki nursery they have in Kanuma.

What about cutting this tree into shape without repotting it? Would that help the tree recover faster? It will have a big scar.
 
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treebeard55

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... Treebeard, ... you would recommend leaving that curved piece to develop into the new apex? And then completely re-do branch structure?
Yes, that's the way I would do it, if it were mine. The taper continues to be good on the curve, and it gives the trunk a bit more visual interest, IMO.

As for the how of successful re-growing of the branches, I must defer to others with more azalea experience. Fortunately, there seem to be enough such people around and willing to help!
 

digger714

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Since it is growing in the yard, and can be easily accessible. Would you start by spading the roots around the tree and make the roots start growing closer to the trunk a couple years before collecting. Then you could start reducing the top also, and working it in the ground?
 

Eallend7

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digger714-That is an option, And thank you for the information.
Treebeard-I agree on the trunk design.
Can anyone give me some information on re growing branch structure? How well azalea's bud on old wood etc? If it's anything i should be worried about?
 

Harunobu

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I don't think you should be worried about it not budding. As long as it is healthy it will. How well depends on the cultivar, which is unknown. There's like 8 or so different species commonly used for azalea and once you have an azalea that has only hybrids in it's parentage until way way back it all becomes very diverse and unpredictable. Some grow slow and others fast. Some will be very branchy and compact, others the opposite. Some are creeping, others upright. There's quite a bit of genetic diversity.
You can remove all foliage and expect it to be fine. But you probably want to play way safer, just in case.

The guy in this video trimmed back several azalea to literally nothing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQCYRlkcEb0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oEB7OjlBl4&NR=1


The only issue is that if you remove all foliage off a certain branch, it may 'die back' and not bud on that branch at all, as I said before. It will cut off the sap stream to the wounded branch. So you have to keep the sap stream intact. You can either do this by leaving foliage or sealing the wound with wound paste.
Of course an azalea won't direct it's sap stream away from it's trunk as that is obviously not possible. There's probably no to little die back possible on the trimming you want to do.

[edit]
What you can do is grow new branches right below the big branch you want to remove. That way the new foliage there will keep the sap stream flowing. Otherwise, the part of the stem and the roots that basically only transport to that big branch are at risk.
 
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