Hinoki recommendations


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Palatine, Illinois
Any recommendation of what to do with this dwarf Hinoki? It needs some styling! :)


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Port Orchard, WA
Any recommendation of what to do with this dwarf Hinoki? It needs some styling! :)

There's almost nothing you can't do with a Hinoki. They are really one of the most versatile and lovely of trees, but you need to be VERY patient - both short time when wiring and styling, and long term. Few people have them in their collection for this reason, and because of their problems. The few people who do have have almost never made a convincing bonsi from them. Dan Robinson loves them, and is famous for saying, "everyone ought to have a Hinoki in their collection - but no one should should have more than one!" They are that much work. Dan has about a half dozen, four of the best of which are gorgeously pictured in my book about him.

I just finished a week's worth of trimming and fine wiring on a tree of mine that's been preparing for this first styling in the ground and a pot for about six years now: I'll post it this evening in its own thread, if you want to refer to it concerning the things I say later here.

Your tree has a lot of potential, and much can be done with it, but your work's cut out for you. First, you need to understand their problems. Even in the ground they grow and thicken very slowly. They also put out huge masses of dense foliage - quite beautiful, but so dense that no light or air gets in, and the inner foliage is quick to die, and THEY NEVER BACK BUD! So, you have to keep after their foliage yearly with proper trimming and FINE wiring, and that's a huge amount of work.

There are several ways to trim them, but the basic concept is laid out well by Harry Harrington's site bonsai4me.com.

Dan tells me that the fine wiring is best achieved with annealed copper wire you can make yourself. The 0.5mm aluminum wire - the finest size made - is just too thick and awkward to use to get the sort of bends you need into each little branchlet or even each frond. The size copper wire you need is the thin little stands you can untwist from electrical cord. You can anneal it by heating it with a little blow torch until it is cherry red. Let it cool - it will then be supple enough for the job, but after the first or second bend at a spot the copper structure disrupted by the heat will reform, and it will go back to its original mighty stiffness, with great holding power compared to aluminum wire of comparable diameter. (The tree I've done was with 0.5mm aluminum wire, and the job at that level of detail and finesse is quite crude compared to what I wanted, and the next year I will try the copper. Dan shared that little secret with me yeasterday when I took the tree by to show him. :) )

You must trim and then fine wire almost every little frond every year or two - otherwise they will grow dense, the inner foliage will die, and then you will have the foliage tufts even further out along increasingly bare branches. NO back budding will EVER appear.

This is the problem with most Hinokis one finds: Years/decades of untrimmed growth in the ground or nursery pots has left them with very long bare branches, and all the foliage very ditsal from the trunk. It's very ugly without extensive bending to bring the foliage in close to the trunk, and it's tough to do this convincingly. You have wrap wired some of these long thin branches, and perhaps used that wire to place them a bit, but you will need to get very bold and skilled at using that wire now to bend the living daylights out of each branch, shortening its percceived length and setting its position in such a way that the foliage you do have left is more proximal to the trunk. The "gnarly" look of the contorted branches will also add the impression of great age to the tree, If you then do the detailed wiring of the branchlets and fronds to create space and foliar pads or areas.

Fortunately, the branches on Hinokis are very tolerant of even extreme bending, and even re-bending multiple times at a sitting. It's a very hardy tree in that regard. I would use guy wires extensively to place or pull down the branches, and then bend the heck out of them such that each one represented some sort of little tree on its own - a cascade, an informal upright, etc. Place those little trees into a configuration that then makes a pleasing bonsai, making sure the placement allows space between the barnches and light to penetrate to branches down lower.

I hope that helps.

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