Satsuki styling tips

ceriano

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I need some tips on styling satsuki azalea. I currently have 2 azaleas and both are in dreaded fan shape. I appreciate any tips
 

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Bonsai Nut

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Your question is perhaps a little too broad to be answered easily. People have written books on styling satsukis. What specifically are you asking for? How to see the design structure in a mop of foliage? How to prune for ramification? Etc?
 

Pitoon

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Wow that's a tough one. Looks like someone took some hedge shears and gave it a flat top. There's a ton of branches from what I can see. You need to start by removing some to find the trunk line.
 

ceriano

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Your question is perhaps a little too broad to be answered easily. People have written books on styling satsukis. What specifically are you asking for? How to see the design structure in a mop of foliage? How to prune for ramification? Etc?
Building structure, right now it looks like a mess. I'm not even sure where to start.
 

sorce

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I've seen things like this, that can be beautiful but not really bonsai, used as accent plants.

I think I would just continue on in that fashion, rather than ruin it's beauty trying to make a "bonsai" out of it.

Sorce
 

Paradox

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It looks like it's a mass of trunks/branches

I guess I would start by seeing which ones you could eliminate.
 

0soyoung

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The only way to produce an azalea in this shape is to keep eliminating low branches = don't do that.
The only way to produce a flat-topped azalea is to cut it flat = don't do that.

Some azaleas will produce (more or less) vertical shoots. If you get one wire it while it is young and make it wiggle on some curvy trajectory instead of just accepting the arrow straight stem.
Most azaleas naturally form a mound and they are commonly shaped to resemble rocks in garden settings. Just keep shearing it into a rock-like form and it will be one in a very few years.

All evergreen varieties of azalea have a trio of leaves around the tip of a branch. Sometime after the summer solstice, the bud at the tips will morph into a flower bud, as long as these three leaves are present. If you want flowers don't cut off branch tips in late summer. Watch closely and you'll observe that at some point growth keeps extending and the tip bud gets fat (because it is now a flower bud). Any further growth will come from buds on the stem 'behind' the flower bud and its special trio of leaves. One can defoliate, except for this special trio, to induce back budding (spring, before flowering is prime for satsuki.

Regardless of variety, all azaleas and rhododendrons will back bud when cut back right after flowering --> cut it into a shape that interests you, then work from there next year.


btw,
if you look closely at a stem, you can see a little eye or eye-shaped thing that is the side of a bud (or a potential node, if you will).
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@ceriano
I've had material like this. Best option is to eliminate, or rather prune off skinny slender branches from the base. Keep the larger diameter branches.

Most likely, the 3 to 5 larger diameter OUTSIDE branches of the clump will become your trunk and or multiple trunks. If one of the outside trunks is larger than the rest, that's the one.

But don't cut off smaller branches all at once. Get some cut paste, "Top Jin" is the best. It is an orange liquid, somewhat like carpenters glue. Comes in a tube with Japanese label. Other brands of cut paste will work, even glazier's putty from the hardware store, but Top Jin is the best.

Take off may a third of the branches, cut flush with the trunk. Seal each cut. Then let the azalea grow out a year. Then take off the next third. Seal cuts, let heal a year. Then you can finally get it down to just the keepers.

Slow route, but guaranteed to get you better results. And by reducing the number of branches in phases, you have opportunity to change your mind about which to keep.

Key is, the azalea can not heal hundreds of little branch removal wounds. But doing it in steps allows the trunk to reroute sap flow from the roots to the branches.

And each autumn, you remove at least half of the flower buds. Keep some, as that is the reward for watering the tree. So in spring you can enjoy flowers even if it is not quite bonsai yet.
 

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