Mame/Shohin azalea progression


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Hello everyone,

I purchased this tree as a bush in a 1 gallon container about 3-4 years ago. There were many azaleas, all completely untrained. However, this one had some nice nebari which none of the others had and believe me, I went through each and every

After 4 years, I am finally becoming very happy this tree. However, ironically enough. The tree's health had begun to decline last Fall. Most likely becausee the Kanuma mix it was planted in, was holding much more water than I thought. I am hopeful, that the tree will make a full recovery after the recent repot and the protection I am giving it.

Pic 1 is the tree almost immediately after purchase. It was root pruned and put into its first bonsai pot. Very little pruning of the branches was done.

Pic 2 After 2 years, the tree was ready for another size down bonsai pot. Also, a large side branch was taken off. This gave the trunk a nice curve.

In a workshop. My teacher was displeased with a part of the nebari. After a well placed cut, the tree was on it's way to't 100% sure where yet.

With the new look and nicely structured nebari, the tree needed a complete change. I cut off practically the whole tree. Leaving a few of the thick powerful branches, I also trained a leader, which isn't really visible in the pics. The tree, att his point is about 3 1/2 inches tall.

Pic 3 The tree grew pretty well and I was able to do some minor shaping.

Pic 4 and 5 Is the tree this season. This tree is very small..It is slightly over 4 inches tall with a 2 1/2 inches nebari spread.

As always, comments very welcome..



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Wow Rob - this is another great tree! You didn't mention it specifically, but watch your soil mix with azaleas. They are acid-loving plants and will go yellow on you very quickly if the soil pH is too high. Consider including peat in your soil mix, and fertilize with Miracid or similar acidic fertilizer (they will often say "for azaleas, camellias, and other acid-loving plants" or something similar). Also - as you noted - they tend to be susceptible to root rot if they are kept too wet.

Goes to show how quickly you can develop something with the right starter material and an eye for the final design!
Great Shohin. thanks for posting!
Thanks you very much BonsaiNut... Yes,,ironically enough. Through the few years of training the health of the tree was outstanding. I finally get the the specimen almost completed and it is going down I repotted it a week or so ago. I did not like what I saw. Feeder roots on these trees are very fine. I found clumps of very fine feeder roots caught is clumps of mud.... However, I smelled nothing fowl, so I believe there is still hope... This time, the mix I used had more turface and river sand along with the kanuma. It is actually a pre made mix from the bonsai nursery which is very good. I have been watering only when needed as well.

Thank you RyanFrye for the nice compliment..

Every time I see this tree it looks better. The nebari and lower trunk really set this one apart from other shohins like this. One question...has it every set flower buds? I'd love to see this one in flower some day.

Hello Dave......yes, it usually flowers every june. The flowers are pink. They are also large which destroys the look of the, I will not let it flower at all this year... The tree is very weak at this point and I need it to gain much strength..

Here it is in flower from last season.. The tree was so much healthier then...


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Nice azalea! Do you know what variety it is? Looks like a chinzan (or chinsoy) to me. I enjoy all the trees you post.

I really appreciate you replying Martin Sweeney.... It is a satsuki azalea.......Although it is supposed to flower in 5th month.. This one can't read the calendar very It flowers in the 6th month.


That's all right, the satsuki here in the Charlotte NC area start blooming in the 4th month most years! Perhaps the satsuki in between get it right!

I really like this tree! Do you have any pics of when you first got it before any work was done?
Hello mahler365.....unfortunately, the oldest pics only go back to when the tree was root ptuned, lightly trimmed and put into it's first bonsai pot.

I designated in red where the cuts where made on this tree over the past few years...


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Hi Rob
Great work, nice progression. couple years ago I root pruned and cut the branches heavily on a couple similar azaleas, both of them died :(. I have 3-4 plants with good nebari in 3 gallon pots but i do not want to kill these trees too. I would appriciate if you could elaborate the whole process giving timeline and the time of year each step was performed/ should be performed:confused:. thanks
Hello fh05......Well, I will try to recall the details....However, my plan more or less unfolded as I went along...When I first got the tree. I did some light pruning. I also root pruned about half the root ball. It was put in the black oversized bonsai pot. I will need to state that work such as chopping an azalea or doing heavy root pruning is reserved for a very healthy tree. If the tree is not healthy, I do not recommend doing a lot of work to it...

Basically, the tree sat in this pot for about 2 years. I did very little too it... It was apparent that the tree just looked like a bush..the only thing interesting was the base. Also, another problem was that there was no leader. All the branches where practically the same thickness and there was not one good central one.

Anyway, I took it to a workshop. My teacher liked the nebari except for a knee like protrusion on one part of it. So, he cut that part off. Then we potted it in the next size down bonsai pot, the earth colored pot. Upon taking it home and seeing the beautiful nebari. I thought that the rest of the tree needed something drastic done to it. I mean, it did not match the beautiful natural nebari. I then cut off the branches and left just enough on each branch so when it grew in, it would form a nice crown. However, I still needed some kind of central branch. The tree was too small and the branches too thick to really get the large gauge wire it would have taken to move them. So, I threaded twine and I think maybe wire, in some spots, and just used a sort of guy wiring techinique. Instead of pulling the branches down though, I was pulling them in and where I needed them to form a crown. I also used this technique because I did not want to possible destroy fragile buds that where possibly unseen. Also, if I had used the heavy gage wire, it would have probably crushed many of them.

After this work. I defoliated any leaves that were left. It took about a couple/months or so for the tree to start to rebud. It stayed in that pot for 2 years. However, the tree started to decrease in health because the soil was holding too much water. This year, I repotted the tree into it's third bonsai pot in 4 years. This will be it's final pot. I believe I got it just in time becasue the roots were in bad shape. Anyway, having been repotted in fresh soil and then protected from all cold for the last 2 1/2 months. The tree has pretty much made a full recovery again and is very happy. Also, during this recovery time, not only was it protected from all cold, but it was only watered when needed and I used absolutely no fertilizer until the tree started growing very well. I'll have to take a pic of it now that it is back to almost full health.

The thing with azaleas is that the branches seem to all be too thick on them. I was able to keep some branches here simply because of the style and size. The nebari of the tree carries it's look... You can't really see the branches, but rather it looks like a small mountain with the nebari and then the crown. In my opinion, a great look for a very small tree. However, if this was a lage azalea, I don' think it would be able to pull off the look quite as well. Simply because you would not see the branches.

All in all, the process took 4 years... However, if I had a intitial plan and had the vision of what the tree looks like now, I may have been able to pull it off in 3.

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