Rivka's Azalea 2020-2025 Contest Entry

Rivka

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Been dragging my feet starting this entry, though following the contest since last winter and documenting my process, life, covid, and family being what it was, I half expected my entire collection to up and revolt. Well, my first Azalea I collected, lovingly by hand in March, did precisely that and in depressingly short order. The dominant truck dried and cracked in such short order. I never even got its thread started.
So admitting failure and soon pinned my hopes on a scraggly but fun curbside gutter rescue that showed up on my neighborhood "free stuff" site in May 2020. While they claimed it was in the ground, and we could come to take it, by the time I got there the next day, they had ripped it out "to save me the effort" and dumped it street gutter for the night. Somehow despite a nasty start, it has insistently pulled thru the last 8 months. Despite colors that are far from my favorite, they show bizarre variety, which makes me smile. So, in this case, I think the tree picked the caretaker; who am I to question a job in this market?

Anyway, here she is. I got lucky and got to see some of the flowers before they got cut off and wilted away. We saved what we could and enjoyed them in a vase for a few days. While I know Rhodie/Azalea can often fade and lighten as the blooms age, this variation between blooms seems more structural. It will be interesting to see if it's persistent or was due to some growth factors in its previous location. As you see in the second image, its previous life was not much. This picture was what I say posted on a "free stuff" site and took a chance on.
Anyway, here she is. I got lucky and got to see some of the flowers before they got cut off and wilted away. We saved what we could and enjoyed them in a vase for a few days. While I know Rhodie/Azalea can often fade and lighten as the blooms age, this variation between blooms seems more structural. It will be interesting to see if it's persistent or was due to some growth factors in its previous location. As you see in the second image, its previous life was not much. This picture was what I say posted on a "free stuff" site and took a chance on.
flower variation.jpegIMG_2034.jpeg
A day later, it was shoved in the back of my station wagon and home to see what I was working with. While the roots looked pitiful (this was basically zero cutting on my end, all happened when it was ripped from the ground by the previous owner), the nebari was the most exciting thing, reminding me of some pile of live things sliding over each other. While at this point, it only had a haphazard trim to help it stay out of my face while I potted it up, it was a tree in a tub, and I was tired.
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So like the Dread Pirate Roberts said to Westley, I put my tools down and thought, "Good night. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

(more posts coming in the next few days)
 
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Rivka

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So after a strong drink and some staring, the following evening I hacked it back.
Initially keeping a strong trunk extending to the right that clearly had to go later because it was WAY to straight, it was hard to have the guts for that, so you will see it removed in later updates.
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I know folks will tell me that i should take down the left side more, and maybe i should. But at this point it has this amazing resemblance to the arms of a flamingo dancer and I had decided to just sit with the high/low for the time being.
 

Rivka

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by mid summer, we could see growth on nearly every part, it was awesome after the dismal failure of the previous collected azalea.

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Rivka

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The Leaves:
A little look again at the past/future. The variety is clearly evergreen, while its new leaves yellowed a tad in our first serious cold snap this fall, the leaves show no signs of dropping at all. It is now tucked in a semi protected spot on the porch to hopefully avoid being caught off guard by any remaining cold snaps. We have a solid 6 weeks left to winter, and if patterns hold true, the coldest portion of the year is usually in around 3 weeks from now.
But over all it seems like the leaves were in the 1.5"-1.75" range at their largest.
The Flowers:
Flowers are single about 2-2.5" though honestly and hilariously it is one of the rare parts I didn't measure when I had the chance. They came usually 4 to a cluster, have rounded petals that vary from wavy to ruffled, 5 stamen and have a broad range of pinkish purple with mild speckling on the dorsal petal and a darker border.
The placement and scale of the gradient border varies immensely.

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Harunobu

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Nice job. Surprising to see how little roots it had. But seems like it is doing fine. I would let this one grow uninhibited for maybe 2 years? Yeah, there is more of the trunk to potentially get rid of. But on the competition timescale that would not be feasible. And this tree has a future beyond the competition for sure.
I kind of feel you should let this one go so much that it may decide to backbud even more. Or make it grow so much that it has a lot of energy stored in the roots and stem that you can prune it back a second time to see if you can get more buds. Then grow out those buds to see if you can grow over some of the scars by fattening up the main trunk some more.
I wouldn't think about really properly styling foliage pads for quite some time. And you can probably do well in the competition with an unruly trunk with nebari.
But if you do want to quickly get this into proper bonsai shape, one could still decide to do so. Up to you.

Looks like on the (very) long term, you want this one to be a twin trunk. The question then is if you want to grow with a thinner tall trunk and a short stumpy one, or make them both similar.

Very likely this could be a Glenn Dale hybrid with 'Shinnyo no Tsuki' as one of the parents.
 
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Rivka

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Thanks for the feedback, and for the hints into its possible cultivar, I’ll look that up. Yeah I agree, while the contest is a fun event and Im sure she will be able to hold her own in the contestant field, bonsai is always a long game and it would be sad to sacrifice long term gain for short term glory.
 

Forsoothe!

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I agree with @Harunobu that you have a nice long term or even short term project, but we differ on growing out. I would keep it tight to an imaginary canopy that flows with the wood. That's kind of a loose statement, but there is so much great movement in the existing wood that I would be pretty happy to keep it about the size it is, plus a suitable canopy. Sky's the limit here, but good wood so close to the ground is hard to come by even if you're a smart shopper, and you got it free. And, you got Karma, evidently.

As to the Seattle Space Needle that you kept with it: I think it's potentially pizazz if you can work the two ends of the design together. I would try really hard.
 

Rivka

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Thanks for chiming in @Forsoothe , I have so much to learn specifically about growing out a tree from a full truck chop. I will just have to take it one growth cycle at a time and read and watch everything that i can.
Do you have any recommendations for reading/watching that helps explain development of azalea form? Its really interesting to me to see how clearly this tree responded to the chop completely differently based on what year wood it was.
i love the science of everything, and the year over year stages woody plants go thru is so interesting and significant in bonsai, i want to learn as much as i can.
 

Rivka

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Space Needle! 🤣 nice

here i was being are poetic talking about dancers and you come and blurt out the painful truth <snort>

I see one of the most iconic forms of traditional Flamenco Dance in its top two branches, and azaleas already are so reminiscent of flamenco clothing, the mental reference was pretty persistent.

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Thanks for chiming in @Forsoothe , I have so much to learn specifically about growing out a tree from a full truck chop. I will just have to take it one growth cycle at a time and read and watch everything that i can.
Do you have any recommendations for reading/watching that helps explain development of azalea form? Its really interesting to me to see how clearly this tree responded to the chop completely differently based on what year wood it was.
i love the science of everything, and the year over year stages woody plants go thru is so interesting and significant in bonsai, i want to learn as much as i can.
It seems you do have an interesting subject to work with. There are no specific books that come to mind on a yamadori style azalea. However there may be an old magazine article that might help. PM me if you wish and I’ll see what I can find that might be of assistance.

btw: Based upon the roots that I see in your original images and the color of the leaves in your photos, it appears that this tree will need at least another year strengthening. I’d recommend that you grow this out and be very cautious about over fertilizing, before you do.any styling.

cheers
DSD sends
 

Rivka

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"Uptight" Deadwood & Making Room for Growth...

So she is waking up and looking happy and for the most part I'm going to do very little this year, just have a few questions.
I have what seems to be some deadwood, so now pondering what I do with it?
I would just leave it for a while, however the top part of it is blocking other vigorous growth from the portion underneath, so I would like to nibble or grind it back to some extent and was thinking I should sort out my general goal before I start. Here is a few pictures with the section I think is dead greyed out, and some other angles showing the growth pushing into it. I have checked very carefully, despite tiny backbudding all over, it is varly clear where it is happening and where it isnt. I dont know enough to know if the back-budding will encompass more area that has no growth now in time, or if this is pretty clear that this is where I'm going to get growth from (and frankly it is quite good coverage and I'm ok with this being it in terms of areas of back bud growth) Even if some of this one trunk/branch did possibly get some growth later in the year, the top portion is over blocky and straight and not in sync with the flowing tumbling overall form.
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Rivka

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My other question is about encuraging the right sort of growth. I assume I want to be avoiding flowers this year, so would pinch off anything that starts to look like a flower bud. But other than that, what can i do to encourage strong growth? Should I just let things grow? Trim them at some length, some growth type? I see lots of videos on developing structure later on in Azaelas, but not as much on this first year after a chop. Got any awesome videos for me to watch, threads for me to read back over?
 

Forsoothe!

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What do you want the style to look like down the road? Do you want some deadwood, jin? If so, you need to draw a crude picture of what you want, and then decide which of the buds that appear may accentuate that design and which need to be removed. You encourage growth you do want and don't allow any other growth that is going to be cut off later unless you have a reason to leave it on. One reason might be to refresh the vigor of a tree that is not growing well and you think it needs all the energy possible. Another might be a sacrifice branch to fatten some part of the trunk or whatever. Otherwise, you want all the growth to be keeper wood with as little wood wasted by growing it only to cut it off later. So, draw some pictures for yourself if you don't want to show us that you are a poor artist (which I am), but do it for yourself. You will learn something about what shapes seem to compliment other nearby shapes and what doesn't. Take your time, I'll get a beer and poke you in five minutes.😂

It might make it easier for you to print out some of your photos and draw on them what you want to see.
 

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Times up. You should be looking at a beginning, then an extension of that into something else, and so forth. Something like this:
With foliage...
az 04.JPG
With some modest carving...
az 05.JPG
This is of course only one style, a sort of maybe kind of bunjin. Want more foliage, less carving? Start drawing. It's only paper and you can toss anything and start again in another direction. One you start cutting wood, that's a horse of a different color.
 
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Good ideas and I like the plain recommendation lots!

However for now, in the condition it’s in without a solid primary structure. I’d let it run at least until June and then reassess the situation.

Health will come from more photosynthetic growth right now. More growth will encourage more growth in the roots, which will cascade back to the branches.

The only no no’s I’d say at this point is that you want no basal growth. Also be careful with your fertilizer amounts. It’sa number one cause of new yamadori azalea death.

Cheers
DSD sends
 

Rivka

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having never grown an azalea or a flowering bonsai of any type, am more focus on learning the health than fussing on the hairstyle.
I am quite moved by most of the branches i left and the overal structure they provide, from there I'm totally happy follow its lead for a year or two more. there is a but there and there that i think may come off in the end, but will leave for now and let it plead its case.

So i think my question was more about encouraging healthy growth as apposed to the exact placement. the technical, like do i need to pinch new growth or make sure not too till its 4 leaves long (this was a totally made up scenario)
And again, the nuts and bolts of azalea deadwood rather than what should it look like. Eg strip bark or don't. How to find or define edges, Linseed now or no?
 
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Nope, so sorry, no pinching for now @Rivka! Let her run a fast as she can at least until summer, then it’s time to think and decide about future directions. With potentially after blossoming pruning.

Now it’d you see strong growth, be ready for some easy work.

Yet if it’s merely mediocre, that’sa different story.

I’d try a simple fertilizer regime once the end of March kicks in. Something like bio gold or osmocote with a 10 10 10 or equivalent with miracle gro for azaleas 1/2 strength every 2-3 weeks to supplement for now.

Once you get a look at the growth by end of June and it’s good you can decide to increase the strength of the osmocote up to full, with a dash of humic acid if you desire, yet ease back if it’s hot.

Read up on this topic while you are revelling in awe at your azalea.

Also deadwood isnt quite the thing with azaleas, but wait and see what’s really dead. The issue being that azaleas don’t like larger areas of living wood being exposed.

Later
DSD sends

btw When did this azalea blossom last year?
 
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