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Good afternoon everyone!
I recently received my order of 3 satsuki azaleas from Wayne at Riverbend Gardens.
I love their small foliage and wonderful flowers. The cultivars I will developing into, hopefully, one day to become bonsai, are:
Kimi Maru, chitose nishiki & ai no tsuki.

I recently came across this Japanese guide on how to go about growing these from young to old:

so this is my plan! Any feedback or comments are welcome.
 

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Glaucus

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Whoa, you found that website. I found it for the first time nearly a decade ago. And it seemed dated then. But it is still online today, and has good info.

Well, exactly the 'plan' as described on that website, that would take several decades.
Once these get decent trunks, they put them in raised beds in polytunnels for 20-30 more years. Then dig them up and take 5 years or so for refinement.

I would wire these up when the sap in them starts flowing. Be sure to put a serious curve in them. It will even out with time and with fattening.
There are some other articles out there, from Satsuki Kenkyu, dealing with wiring, bending and styling whips like these.

Yeah, these are some somewhat known cultivar. The website you linked rates Ai no Tsuki at 8.5 out of 10.
Chitose Nishiki is ancient. Somehow still commonly grown in the US. Maybe quite rare in Japan today.
Kimimaru is somewhat off the beaten track.
 
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Whoa, you found that website. I found it for the first time nearly a decade ago. And it seemed dated then. But it is still online today, and has good info.

Well, exactly the 'plan' as described on that website, that would take several decades.
Once these get decent trunks, they put them in raised beds in polytunnels for 20-30 more years. Then dig them up and take 5 years or so for refinement.

I would wire these up when the sap in them starts flowing. Be sure to put a serious curve in them. It will even out with time and with fattening.
There are some other articles out there, from Satsuki Kenkyu, dealing with wiring, bending and styling whips like these.
Oh thank you Glaucus! Yeah I’m aware the timeline is rather in a galaxy far far way. But I don’t want to make these as big as they do overseas, however definitely have some thickness to them for sure.
interesting that site has definitely been up! I saved it on pdf in case it comes down.
where can I look up satsuki kenkyu? The sap will probably start flowing here pretty soon in early February as our temps will start going between night temps of low 50s and day temps of high 60s then.
 

Glaucus

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Here is a link to a Dutch translation of the English translation of the original Japanese.:

I do not have the English translations. But it says they were done by Mack.
He has many articles here:

But the English translations don't seem to be available.
(You can try use google translate to go back to English, but think about what would be lost vs reading the original in Japanese.)
 
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Here is a link to a Dutch translation of the English translation of the original Japanese.:

I do not have the English translations. But it says they were done by Mack.
He has many articles here:

But the English translations don't seem to be available.
(You can try use google translate to go back to English, but think about what would be lost vs reading the original in Japanese.)
Very much appreciated. Thank you!
I will be using this thread to update these little ones for the hopefully many years to come.
 

Deep Sea Diver

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@Deep Sea Diver i know you’re quite the azalea fanatic. So I was wondering if you’ve heard of these cultivars before?
Hi. I am familiar with both Riverbend Gardens and and the cultivars you have. I’be purchased a number of cultivars from there. They are all solid. Also the single stem growing method he uses is great. Yet It is really more conducive to clip and grow rather than growing a whip. That can be remedied though.

Riverbend’s cultivars are all in 4”pots so I wouldn’t even think about Initial staying until at least next year, or the trunk becomes pencil width. So enjoy them this year, and maybe the next. Loosely wire upright or use a-stabilizing dowel if the plants become unstable though.

Up potting is ok, and likely is needed. Unless you want to match Waynes mix… call him if you do… root wash gently and put in Kanuma (I use 90/10 kanuma / pumice l right now. or your favorite mix in a cutdown to 4.5” tall 1 gallon nursery pot. or a deep ceramic pot.

I’ve got plants of both Chitose Nishiki and Ai no Tsuki still growing out, but not as any of my whips. Chitose Nishiki needs lots of branches low to grow a thick trunk. So leave things to grow densely and get about 16 - 18” tall or more if possible. Then initial style it. Since it is a smaller flowered cultivar it would make a-good smaller / medium bonsai.

Ai no Tasuki has larger flowers 2,5-3” so a bigger bonsai plant.

Kimi Maru is off the beaten track as @Glaucus mentioned. Sorry, I don’t have my resources with me right now. Yet it has a nice looking flower that would be good for bonsai.

Looking forward to seeing your updates!

Cheers
DSD sends
 

Huggz13

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Good afternoon everyone!
I recently received my order of 3 satsuki azaleas from Wayne at Riverbend Gardens.
I love their small foliage and wonderful flowers. The cultivars I will developing into, hopefully, one day to become bonsai, are:
Kimi Maru, chitose nishiki & ai no tsuki.

I recently came across this Japanese guide on how to go about growing these from young to old:

so this is my plan! Any feedback or comments are welcome.
Very nice!
 
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Hi. I am familiar with both Riverbend Gardens and and the cultivars you have. I’be purchased a number of cultivars from there. They are all solid. Also the single stem growing method he uses is great. Yet It is really more conducive to clip and grow rather than growing a whip. That can be remedied though.

Riverbend’s cultivars are all in 4”pots so I wouldn’t even think about Initial staying until at least next year, or the trunk becomes pencil width. So enjoy them this year, and maybe the next. Loosely wire upright or use a-stabilizing dowel if the plants become unstable though.

Up potting is ok, and likely is needed. Unless you want to match Waynes mix… call him if you do… root wash gently and put in Kanuma (I use 90/10 kanuma / pumice l right now. or your favorite mix in a cutdown to 4.5” tall 1 gallon nursery pot. or a deep ceramic pot.

I’ve got plants of both Chitose Nishiki and Ai no Tsuki still growing out, but not as any of my whips. Chitose Nishiki needs lots of branches low to grow a thick trunk. So leave things to grow densely and get about 16 - 18” tall or more if possible. Then initial style it. Since it is a smaller flowered cultivar it would make a-good smaller / medium bonsai.

Ai no Tasuki has larger flowers 2,5-3” so a bigger bonsai plant.

Kimi Maru is off the beaten track as @Glaucus mentioned. Sorry, I don’t have my resources with me right now. Yet it has a nice looking flower that would be good for bonsai.

Looking forward to seeing your updates!

Cheers
DSD sends
Thank you so much! Part of starting this thread is also receiving feedback as many of you have already paved a path and willing to share “tips and secrets” of the azalea development.
That is all very helpful! I have a few terracota pots that are suitable for them to repot this spring and I do have some small Kanuma as well. When the time comes, I will update here along with their flowers (left up to 3 flower buds on each to see them in person).
 

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Unless you want to match Waynes mix… call him if you do… root wash gently and put in Kanuma (I use 90/10 kanuma / pumice
I spoke with Wayne about his mix. I have several azaleas from him. His mix is:
20% Shale
20% Turface
20% Bark
30% Kanuma
10% Oak Leaf

I have been very pleased with azalea from Riverbend. As a plus, they all have single trunks because they are intended as bonsai starters.
 
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I spoke with Wayne about his mix. I have several azaleas from him. His mix is:
20% Shale
20% Turface
20% Bark
30% Kanuma
10% Oak Leaf

I have been very pleased with azalea from Riverbend. As a plus, they all have single trunks because they are intended as bonsai starters.
That’s awesome! I have all that except for oak leaf. That’s interesting he uses that
 

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Thanks for that information @penumbra it explains why this mix is running drier then my kanuma mix.

I feel this may be a good grow out mix, although I favor pear/perlite myself.

However I wouldn’t put it in a tree bearing development. Too much concern of the organic component rotting in the shin.

Cheers
 
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Thanks for that information @penumbra it explains why this mix is running drier then my kanuma mix.

I feel this may be a good grow out mix, although I favor pear/perlite myself.

However I wouldn’t put it in a tree bearing development. Too much concern of the organic component rotting in the shin.

Cheers
May I ask what your mix includes?
 

Deep Sea Diver

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90/10. Kanuma/pumice sizedHope that helps. I think in your neck of the woods ditching the pumice might be wise.

I do know for a fact that @Brian Van Fleet messaged me a couple years ago he used 100% kanuma in Mobile Alabama.

The good news is whenever you decide to switch from the Riverbend mix, to kanuma or whatever you eventually choose, that rotating the old media out should be fairly easy compared to most other mixes except for getting the bark / oak out.

There are so many azalea bonsai mixes out there that folks say works, yet I haven’t seen a one on one comparison ever done. I did a survey and over 40% of the residents used kanuma azalea. A much higher majority used kanuma for the later stage development.

For some background. Alexander Kennedy in Floral Treasures of Japan, a good Satsuki book to start with, mentioned peat based mixes work better up in England for growing out young azaleas. Julian Adams in Virginia uses a blend sorta like Riverbend, but simpler, for growing out his azaleas.

I just go with peat/perlite because that’s what they use at Nuccio’s Nursery…and they have been breeding azaleas for over 75 years… I ‘be been starting a lot of azaleas from cuttings to grow out whips in the past three years. It’s easy and cheap. Then I switch to kanuma.

Here’s some of this years cuttings below.

Riverbend’s mix ought to work as long as you watch for dryness. It doesn’t show the dryness as well as kanuma though. But if that’s all you are using you’d pick up the signs quickly.

Hope that helps. I’m always interested in seeing what other folks do

cheers
DSD sends

BC53F74C-FE86-4E37-8AB9-8BDB6E93FCF4.jpeg
 
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90/10. Kanuma/pumice sizedHope that helps. I think in your neck of the woods ditching the pumice might be wise.

I do know for a fact that @Brian Van Fleet messaged me a couple years ago he used 100% kanuma in Mobile Alabama.

The good news is whenever you decide to switch from the Riverbend mix, to kanuma or whatever you eventually choose, that rotating the old media out should be fairly easy compared to most other mixes except for getting the bark / oak out.

There are so many azalea bonsai mixes out there that folks say works, yet I haven’t seen a one on one comparison ever done. I did a survey and over 40% of the residents used kanuma azalea. A much higher majority used kanuma for the later stage development.

For some background. Alexander Kennedy in Floral Treasures of Japan, a good Satsuki book to start with, mentioned peat based mixes work better up in England for growing out young azaleas. Julian Adams in Virginia uses a blend sorta like Riverbend, but simpler, for growing out his azaleas.

I just go with peat/perlite because that’s what they use at Nuccio’s Nursery…and they have been breeding azaleas for over 75 years… I ‘be been starting a lot of azaleas from cuttings to grow out whips in the past three years. It’s easy and cheap. Then I switch to kanuma.

Here’s some of this years cuttings below.

Riverbend’s mix ought to work as long as you watch for dryness. It doesn’t show the dryness as well as kanuma though. But if that’s all you are using you’d pick up the signs quickly.

Hope that helps. I’m always interested in seeing what other folks do

cheers
DSD sends

View attachment 417330
nice cuttings! living in an apartment and having a tiny patio is such a hindrance. would love to have your setup or just a backyard to begin with lol. Yeah, I think im gonna just move on to 100% kanuma. I have a shohin azalea that is about to start its ramification phase of development and ive had it with me for the past 7 months (ish)... So far 100% kanuma survived the summer really well here. I will definitely be top dressing some chopped sphagnum moss on all my azaleas though.
 
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hello everyone.
lately we’ve been getting some perfect weather ranging of high 40s nights and high sunny 60s days for the past week and a half. Starting to warm up down here.
I did some initial 3D bends on these little ones; I’m satisfied but I believe I was too greedy and should’ve done double wiring instead of one. I manage to, foolishly,
lightly snap the top side of both tall whips but I immediately applied cut paste and tried binding the side that was damaged on both; hoping that this will keep the top alive… if not, well, great lesson on the hardwood of azaleas.

Post flowering I will try to bare root them into bigger pots with 100% Kanuma. Thoughts on the repotting? Should I slip pot instead maybe? Or wait after flowering or before?
thanks in advance.
 

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Glaucus

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I would prune the spokewheel down to 2 branches. So a Y instead of a spokewheel. Like in the first picture.

Ideally, one is able to achieve some bends so that the first bend has the most amplitude, but the second and third bend occur more quickly.
A bit like y=exp(-2*x)sin(π(-1+4x^2)) from x=0 to 1 (put it in https://www.wolframalpha.com).
And then of course in a third dimension.

And even then, that can be a bit cookie cutter. In the end, it takes an artist. That is the hard part. One has to have wired many. Or one has to have an artists touch PLUS knowing the horticulture.

But I find it very challenging to wire like that.
These are about the level how I wire them as well. And I have some doubts about how good that will look in 10 years' time...
 
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I would prune the spokewheel down to 2 branches. So a Y instead of a spokewheel. Like in the first picture.

Ideally, one is able to achieve some bends so that the first bend has the most amplitude, but the second and third bend occur more quickly.
A bit like y=exp(-2*x)sin(π(-1+4x^2)) from x=0 to 1 (put it in https://www.wolframalpha.com).
And then of course in a third dimension.

And even then, that can be a bit cookie cutter. In the end, it takes an artist. That is the hard part. One has to have wired many. Or one has to have an artists touch PLUS knowing the horticulture.

But I find it very challenging to wire like that.
Much appreciated on the insight. Yeah, honestly it’s always hard to find enough variations within the bends but also know the line between their fragility and the artistic vision. Once I heard the snap, I had to finish the bending as not to damage the health of the tree. I’m waiting for the flowering to be done before cutting the whorl, if you see the branch I chose with wire there, that one branch was snapped slightly so I may need to choose one of those for the leader. Should I wait for the flowers to prune the whorl or do it now?
 

Deep Sea Diver

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Looks like you are learning a lot by experimenting!

I do that a lot too. It often results in long lasting knowledge … and a few, “I’ll not do that again” moments.

Here’s a few items that might help your practice in the future. I’ll start with some background and move forward to your situation.

When folks talk about azalea whips, they usually mean taller 3-4 year grown plants, sort of like these 26-18” whips in their 3rd year. (Although in Japan they grow to 36” and up. These make larger bonsai. Usually, but not always, the ultimate size of the bonsai is related to the flower size. They are often bent using double wires, which are often wrapped in paper. The most respected professionals in Japan often use a thicker aluminum wire and and a thinner copper wire. The copper to keep the bend intact as copper gets harder when flexed, while aluminum becomes more pliable. The initial bend begins as low to the nebari as possible. Ideally right on top. The whips are often put into the ground for multiple years after bending to create the nice bonsai we are used to seeing in images of good trees…. Enough about that…

9987A89F-6359-45C8-BDA3-008B4D006D75.jpeg

Once can also pre style young nursery azaleas, like these two, members of a nursery raised group of two dozen I was practicing with last year. In these cases the styling is non functional in a traditional sense, yet could be used in a more off the cuff design, or a group design if a number of similar cultivars were styled in concert.

618C84F0-B07D-4CDF-BBAF-84DB6D22B0DE.jpeg577D8794-4F6D-40F7-B8D4-D9AD310FDACF.jpeg

Bending - When bending, proper wiring… keeping the gauge size up, even over wiring and maintaining effective wire/trunk contact prevents many breaks. Of similar importance is timing the bend. To get the most supple wood, one needs to wait until after the buds are pushing. At time 80% of my azaleas are not pushing. The other 20% are, yet all my azaleas have been greenhouses all winter. So they are pushing multiple weeks before the same trees would have if kept outside. You may be a bit early for this.

Bend breaks - Once a small azalea is bent, it’s often fruitless to seal and tape the wound and expect the strength of the wood to recover. In experiments in the past years, I even used parafilm to firmly secure wire wounds. The wounds healed over, the branches grew, but when the wire was removed, the branches snapped in the wind. Larger azalea seems to be a different story if only lightly cracked and sealed. Likely that’s because there is so much good wood left that calipers out.

Repotting…. Your call. These could live another year on the pots, or you might up pot to 4” and slip pot over. Shifting to Kanuma would be ok, but I’d wait awhile, say 4-6 weeks, until you warmer wash out the nursery soil and repot in Kanuma. In any case it would call for either a nursery or training pot as opposed to a bonsai pot. Yet your tree, your call.

I hope this helps.

cheers
DSD sends

btw: @Glaucus is right on about the traditional bend, largest to smallest at the apex.
 

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