Seeking ideas about my new Satsuki Yuki Azalea

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Just picked up this azalea and to my novice eye it looks to have a lot of promise. I would appreciate very much any guidance, ideas, or advice that any of you with more experience (which includes about all of you) could give me about how to proceed. Here are photos:

20210906_111900.jpg20210906_111906.jpg20210906_111915.jpg20210906_112050.jpg20210906_112055.jpg20210906_111900.jpg
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
268
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
I'm liking that one! I see 2 options:

1) Raft Style - Cut that lowest branch to prevent inverse taper. Keep the small branch above it for now. Thin out the canopy by cutting everything back to one or two pairs of leaves. Hopefully new buds will push along the horizontal trunk and you can start cutting the leggy vertical branches in favor of new shoots with short internodes.

2) Informal Upright - Keep the lowest branch for now. Perform a number of hard cutbacks to stimulate backbudding. Eventually, cut back all the way to the current second branch near the bottom. Develop a new leader and use trunk chops or other methods to get a curvy trunk line. Cut the bottom branch once the tree has enough foliage to support itself.

Personally I think you have a good potential raft style tree here. That's where my vote goes!

Just my novice thoughts 😁
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Thanks a lot for your input. A raft style hadn't even occurred to me because I was only seeing an informal upright. This forum is great for giving ideas and fresh perspectives. I'm not so sure about a curvy trunk line and trunk chops as I'm not quite comfortable with performing such a procedure yet. You've got me thinking about it now so who knows? The more I look at it now, the more raft style appeals to me. My only real concern is about how it would affect flowering; I'm thinking that it would be awhile before the upright branches/trunks will support much flowering at all. Nevertheless, that's now the style I am considering the most.
 

shinmai

Chumono
Messages
707
Reaction score
1,524
Location
Milwaukee WI
USDA Zone
5b
My two cents:
I respectfully disagree with the raft idea. From the photographs it appears that you have a nice basis for a shokan, or slanting style. Keep in mind that satsuki are not like our bonsaI—they are all about the display of the flowers, and if you end up with a good representation of a classical style, that’s a bonus. My observations in no particular order of importance:
  • I would leave the secondary trunk in place for the foreseeable future, but remove the small branch part way up the main trunk.
  • Examine the canopy, and to the extent possible, remove branches that are three fourths of the main trunk’s diameter or larger. This is particularly worthwhile wherever it allows you to reduce a junction to two branches.
  • ‘Satsuki have a pronounced tendency to produce five shoots at the site of a blossom. You should at each location reduce the number to two. Choose the shoots that naturally point in the direction you want for future growth. Do not necessarily choose the strongest shoots—if you choose the strongest and a weaker shoot, the strong one will continue to run at the weaker shoot’s expense, pulling resources to itself. Better to choose two weaker, but balanced shoots. If you were doing this in late spring right after flowering, I would advise cutting each shoot back to two leaves, but it’s late in the season. You can prune them back in spring.
  • As long as the nursery pot is draining, wait until spring to repot. DO NOT use a water hose to blast out the old soil. For the first move into a grow pot, reduce the root mass only as much as necessary to fit it into its new home, plus a couple of finger-widths of space on all sides and underneath. Use a medium grain size kanuma underneath and a finer size around the sides and on top. At each repot you can tease out more of the original soil.
  • ‘When you wire it in, remember that azaleas have fine, tender roots. Conventional wiring can work like a cheese slicer. I like to cut a chopstick to the right length, lay it across the root mass at the opposite edges, and run the wire atop the chopstick sections.
  • Do your wiring in January or February, and then pay close attention—young azaleas can grow surprisingly fast in spring, and it’s easy to get wire bite. On young trees like yours, the outer bark is very thin, and tears easily. At any tear, or anywhere you cut, use the bright orange cut paste from Japan. It’s both antifungal and antibacterial.
  • If you can find them [and afford them] get a pair of Masakuni convex cutters. They are blisteringly expensive but they cut flush to the branch. Azaleas don’t callus over a wound like deciduous trees do.
  • The single best bonsai investment I’ve ever made was forty bucks for an in-line carbon water filter to take chlorine and metals out. I have about 35 azaleas and rhododendrons in various stages of development, and when I started using the filter I saw an across the board improvement within two weeks. More balanced, healthy growth in robust green, most noticeably among my Satsuki’s.
  • There is only one reason for azaleas to get yellow leaves [solid yellow], and that’s inconsistent watering. Also, remember that Satsuki are not evergreen—they’re semi-deciduous, meaning that each year they will replace some of the prior year’s foliage. This starts as browning at the tips of the leaves being replaced and can cause considerable anxiety if you don’t know that it’s perfectly normal.
  • Finally, since you’re in the Sacramento metro area, if you haven’t already done so you simply must go to Yuzo Maruyama’s Satsuki nursery. You’ll see trees ranging from young pre-bonsai material to imported specimens that cost more than what I paid for my car. When we went there, I told my wife that I felt like a kid in a candy store. My son chimed in with, “yeah, Dad, I’d say more like a pervert in a porn shop.”
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Thank you for your extensive post shinmai. As to Matsuyama's, that's where my two Satsukis and all but one of my other six trees came from. It is also where we will be returning on our next tree expedition. Question: why use medium grain kanuma on the interior and fine on the outside? Is it because of the relative strength of the roots as they grow further from the tree? Another question: is the Misekuni cutter that much better than my Kaneshin one?
 

shinmai

Chumono
Messages
707
Reaction score
1,524
Location
Milwaukee WI
USDA Zone
5b
The medium grain underneath simply allows for better aeration. The finer size seems to work better for me, at least, for fine root formation.
I didn’t know that Kaneshin made a convex cutter, but if they do, you’re good to go.

My visit with Mr. Maruyama felt like something right out of the Karate Kid. I suspect his English is much better than he lets on. When Mrs. M. was ringing me up, he walked up and asked, “Where you from?” When I replied “Wisconsin”, he asked, “You can have azalea in Wisconsin?” I replied that I had a heated greenhouse. “Oh.”, said. He turned away, walked a couple of steps, then turned back and said, “Good luck with that.”
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
My wife is actually the one of us who visits the nursery as I am disabled and can't get out, and she has told me that they are very nice people. I should be able to get there this year and am looking forward to it.
 

Glaucus

Yamadori
Messages
73
Reaction score
70
Location
Netherlands
USDA Zone
7b
I feel that the first branch is coming out at the wrong angle to make a good dual trunk. Also, it has some reverse taper on it right away. It is a bit knobby. I would prune back that branch at the point where it has this fresh new shoot coming out. So you keep that shoot. And prune the rest of that first branch off just beyond that fresh shoot. Long term, you will remove it completely.

The second branch, the two short ones, those are good to keep. But probably next spring, you want to remove one of them as they emerge from the same spot.

Then going up to the third spot where the trunk deviates, that is a bit of a funny area. First, it has two shoots similar to the second branch, just a bit older. They also are a V shape coming off from the trunk. But it is also as if the trunk splits up in two parts. The weaker trunk that looks like it was chopped but has several branches growing out of it (picture 3) doesn't look very attractive. I would say you do away with all of that.

Then the apex is pretty busy and a bit hard to see. But usually on an azalea, the apex is a weak area. I think there could be an awkward or fat sidebranch there that has to be removed. Watch for branches emerging from the same spot that could produce reverse taper. But I cannot really tell what is going on in the apex. So if there is nothing obvious to prune away right now, you can keep it. At some point you may chop out a large part of the apex and regrow it or replace it with a branch.

For the main trunk line, all branches seem to be on the same side. So you kind of want options on the other side as well. If you look at the base of the trunk you can see it is backbudding through the moss. So it has the vigor to backbud, potentially without pruning. And for the base of the trunk, when you repot this you want to dig for nebari.

Then the final design would be a single trunk with a curve. And you have sidebranches that you wire parallel to the ground/horizon. And you grow the bottom ones larger, having empty space in between. That makes for a pretty traditional bonsai design, though. Maybe there are other more creative ideas. A decision you do have to make though is if where you want the main trunk curve to move back on itself. There is a line now that just keeps curving the same way. It is tricky, because it is a gentle curve, and you also don't want it to change direction and then be basically straight.
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Thanks a lot Glaucus for the careful analysis of my design choices and possibilities. You identified a couple of trouble spots I had spotted but you added a number of ones that I hadn't yet seen (if ever). I appreciate your extensive post.
 
Messages
1,625
Reaction score
3,043
Location
Bothell, WA
USDA Zone
8b
Greetings and congratulations on a nice purchase!

Concur with @shinmai a slant style would work as the simplest design, especially for one of your first projects. shinmai likely has seen more single trunked slant satsuki, and could send some examples, then I have.

Not wanting you to lean any particular way, JFYI. My experience is more on the line of multiple trunked small clump, which make a bit more statement then a single slant trunk. Yet that would require you to allow selective basal growth to build up additional trunks, which your tree is entirely capable of. The upside in doing this is that the nebari will build faster. Here’s a couple examples of this style…note the second small trunk could easily be ‘turned’ with the small branch growth by directing it to the right…. btw the deadwood shown is a bit gaudy and likely ephemeral….
41DF0855-3E64-4F89-A3BA-6318F4A416DB.jpeg 23E70A5F-1A2C-4D7E-A9C3-2EC9C9ACCF83.jpeg

A raft could happen, yet imho this isn’t the tree for that type of project. Practically, the branching above is too close and you’d have to lose a bunch of the branches to get some widely spaced trunk and the raft would be straight as an arrow. If you want to create a raft, see if Mr M has a whip to sell, or grow your own, so you can learn to do this type of project from the ground up…. And consider a sinuous raft design.

Echoing earlier advice…. The very first step imho is to get the architecture right on the branching in your foliar mass down to two branches at each intersection. I absolutely wouldn’t remove any branches on the trunk at this stage.

This will be a good start no matter what design you ultimately go for, while giving you time to carefully plan out all the potential design possibilities. In my experience this step is hard to do for the very first time on a nice tree and takes a good deal of emotional energy and thought. Take your time and consider each cut on your own.

obtw, one might find out exactly what type of media the tree is actually in before repotting. Mr M is very experienced and there’s likely a reason he’s using this media in the Sacramento area….

Finally: Along the way it would be interesting to see which of the two Yuki satsuki you actually have.

Looking forward to seeing your future progress,

cheers
DSD sends
 

Paradox

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,650
Reaction score
7,418
Location
Long Island, NY
USDA Zone
7a
I also agree with the slant style being the best option.

Rafts dont really work well if the "trunk" is in a straight line and that is too thick to bend
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Thanks DSD for the detailed post. I've pretty much decided on a slant style, but I think I see a major problem. As I understand it, a slant style lacks foliage on the side into the wind, i.e., the side away from the slant, while the foliage grows on the side away from the wind. As I see it, my tree has the foliage on exactly the wrong side. How do I correct that? Grafting branches from one side to the other would seemingly work, though I've never used that technique yet. Thoughts, please.
 
Messages
1,625
Reaction score
3,043
Location
Bothell, WA
USDA Zone
8b
Yes, that’s a windswept slanted style in the second photo. You can vary from that to a basic slant. Recall azalea styling is fluid, these trees don’t need to hold firmly to any rules, except your own design and basic Bonsai principles. Sorry, the windswept tree shown is a bit advanced. It’s the basic realm of possibilities is what I was showing

One thing that I found hard to remember at first… What you see today is not what will be tomorrow. Especially with azaleas. Branches can be grow, others can be pruned. A well pruned azalea will bud back profusely. If you want this very first project to be a rehab windswept slant, you’ll want to use use pruning to force back budding and wire the growth to fit. Otherwise your tree is fine for a basic slant.

This point you might want to do some personal research on the internet for the different base styles. Try not to limit yourself to azaleas. The idea is to comprehend the possibilities.

Best
DSD sends
 

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
268
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
My two cents:
I respectfully disagree with the raft idea. From the photographs it appears that you have a nice basis for a shokan, or slanting style. Keep in mind that satsuki are not like our bonsaI—they are all about the display of the flowers, and if you end up with a good representation of a classical style, that’s a bonus. My observations in no particular order of importance:
  • I would leave the secondary trunk in place for the foreseeable future, but remove the small branch part way up the main trunk.
  • Examine the canopy, and to the extent possible, remove branches that are three fourths of the main trunk’s diameter or larger. This is particularly worthwhile wherever it allows you to reduce a junction to two branches.
  • ‘Satsuki have a pronounced tendency to produce five shoots at the site of a blossom. You should at each location reduce the number to two. Choose the shoots that naturally point in the direction you want for future growth. Do not necessarily choose the strongest shoots—if you choose the strongest and a weaker shoot, the strong one will continue to run at the weaker shoot’s expense, pulling resources to itself. Better to choose two weaker, but balanced shoots. If you were doing this in late spring right after flowering, I would advise cutting each shoot back to two leaves, but it’s late in the season. You can prune them back in spring.
  • As long as the nursery pot is draining, wait until spring to repot. DO NOT use a water hose to blast out the old soil. For the first move into a grow pot, reduce the root mass only as much as necessary to fit it into its new home, plus a couple of finger-widths of space on all sides and underneath. Use a medium grain size kanuma underneath and a finer size around the sides and on top. At each repot you can tease out more of the original soil.
  • ‘When you wire it in, remember that azaleas have fine, tender roots. Conventional wiring can work like a cheese slicer. I like to cut a chopstick to the right length, lay it across the root mass at the opposite edges, and run the wire atop the chopstick sections.
  • Do your wiring in January or February, and then pay close attention—young azaleas can grow surprisingly fast in spring, and it’s easy to get wire bite. On young trees like yours, the outer bark is very thin, and tears easily. At any tear, or anywhere you cut, use the bright orange cut paste from Japan. It’s both antifungal and antibacterial.
  • If you can find them [and afford them] get a pair of Masakuni convex cutters. They are blisteringly expensive but they cut flush to the branch. Azaleas don’t callus over a wound like deciduous trees do.
  • The single best bonsai investment I’ve ever made was forty bucks for an in-line carbon water filter to take chlorine and metals out. I have about 35 azaleas and rhododendrons in various stages of development, and when I started using the filter I saw an across the board improvement within two weeks. More balanced, healthy growth in robust green, most noticeably among my Satsuki’s.
  • There is only one reason for azaleas to get yellow leaves [solid yellow], and that’s inconsistent watering. Also, remember that Satsuki are not evergreen—they’re semi-deciduous, meaning that each year they will replace some of the prior year’s foliage. This starts as browning at the tips of the leaves being replaced and can cause considerable anxiety if you don’t know that it’s perfectly normal.
  • Finally, since you’re in the Sacramento metro area, if you haven’t already done so you simply must go to Yuzo Maruyama’s Satsuki nursery. You’ll see trees ranging from young pre-bonsai material to imported specimens that cost more than what I paid for my car. When we went there, I told my wife that I felt like a kid in a candy store. My son chimed in with, “yeah, Dad, I’d say more like a pervert in a porn shop.”
Wow when you say "blisteringly expensive" you really do mean it. That line of tools does look very appealing though, especially the shears under $200. That seems a bit more justifiable than $400 for concave cutters
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Yes, that’s a windswept slanted style in the second photo. You can vary from that to a basic slant. Recall azalea styling is fluid, these trees don’t need to hold firmly to any rules, except your own design and basic Bonsai principles. Sorry, the windswept tree shown is a bit advanced. It’s the basic realm of possibilities is what I was showing

One thing that I found hard to remember at first… What you see today is not what will be tomorrow. Especially with azaleas. Branches can be grow, others can be pruned. A well pruned azalea will bud back profusely. If you want this very first project to be a rehab windswept slant, you’ll want to use use pruning to force back budding and wire the growth to fit. Otherwise your tree is fine for a basic slant.

This point you might want to do some personal research on the internet for the different base styles. Try not to limit yourself to azaleas. The idea is to comprehend the possibilities.

Best
DSD sends
I've been studying like mad, both on the internet and through books. I'll order "Floral Treasures of Japan," which I understand is a good book about satsuki. "Secret Bonsai Techniques" by Misekuni is on order. Do you have any book recommendations?
 

63pmp

Shohin
Messages
253
Reaction score
177
Location
Australia
From what I can see in a Google search Yuki has hybrid flowers of red and white. Red is a dominant color so have to be careful not to let solid red flowers dominate as you will lose the white and mixed flowers. Pruning to keep mixed and recessive coloured flowers is very important. To difficult to explain on forum post. My two cents, let it grow some more, trunks are too thin IMHO.
 

Glaucus

Yamadori
Messages
73
Reaction score
70
Location
Netherlands
USDA Zone
7b
Yes, developing the right flower patterns generates pruning demands entirely independent form any bonsai endeavors. However, we do not have a picture nor the expression of the OP that this is important to them. So it is hard to dive advice. Ideally, the cells in the stem are the white flowering type with the full potential for all other patterns retained within them. That would be good. But it might be better to keep a branch that gives very good patterns already, despite it not being so desired for bonsai. Regrowing that branch may replace it with a mostly white branch. That could give underwhelming flower patterning.
 

mlmcdonald

Yamadori
Messages
78
Reaction score
26
Location
Roseville, CA
USDA Zone
9b
Yes, developing the right flower patterns generates pruning demands entirely independent form any bonsai endeavors. However, we do not have a picture nor the expression of the OP that this is important to them. So it is hard to dive advice.
Actually I don't know enough to have much of an opinion about the right flower patterns, though that is something I want to learn more about.
 

Moridin

Shohin
Messages
328
Reaction score
978
Location
Sacramento, CA
USDA Zone
9b
obtw, one might find out exactly what type of media the tree is actually in before repotting. Mr M is very experienced and there’s likely a reason he’s using this media in the Sacramento area….

They use 100% Kanuma for their azaleas
 
Messages
1,625
Reaction score
3,043
Location
Bothell, WA
USDA Zone
8b
Thanks @Moridin . In that case the OP shouldn’t need to be concerned about repotting right off.

I apologize in advance if it seems like I’m hijacking this his thread. There’s a fine line for answering open ended questions.

Books in General, my favorites, Deborah Koreshoff Bonsai…, Understanding Bonsai by Pieter Loubser, Flowering Bonsai by Peter D.Adams, but on to Azaleas.

I’m going to unload some of my databanks on this post about Satsuki. Likely I won’t have the bandwidth to do this again for a couple years, so if you are interested in satsuki here it is. ( btw there are many others on site with years more practical, and differing, experience to date that it would be interesting to hear from. Like @shinmai @JudyB @Shibui @Leo in N E Illinois and @Mellow Mullet to name just a few.

btw: I’m bound to miss something and will not talk about references like Galle’s Azaleas and Satsuki Dictionary etc.

Books: Specifically for satsuki Floral Treasures is as good as it gets for beginners…. short of Callaham’s Satsuki Azalea and Naka et al Bonsai Techniques…. yet both are out of print. Callahan is the best overall.

There is a really good resource in the Resource Section posted right here on BonsaiNut that is very helpful and is free!

Also Bonsai Tonight sells a satsuki book by Watanabe for $18.00 that is really good, especially for the process of crafting a tree. Its translation to English is a bit lacking, so it needs a couple three read through to ’get it’.

Finally Janine Droste‘s Satsuki Bonsai from Bonsai Europe is also a good beginner book too with lots of photos, but pricey due to origin in Europe…. see if it’s on eBay or other second hand sites.

Styling: Before I get going I must point out that you live in the catchment area of one of the best satsuki clubs in the US. I hope you’ve reached out to them for help. They have years of in depth practical experience.

Only one US book exists with detailed instructions on how to do multiple types of styling azaleas, Naka, Ota and Rokkaku’s Bonsai Techniques for Satsuki. That’s why it’s the book to get for styling ideas. However they start all their techniques from whips, a really good reason to learn to grow whips from cuttings. Watch for a decent price on publication this on eBay…. if that ever happens. Yet last check it was $299-$579!

There exists another, much more comprehensive book on styling that was translated toEnglish and copied in limited quantities (with the authors permission) and passed out in limited the NoCal area when Master Suisho Nakayama, the President of the Japanese Satsuki Assn visited. His bookSatsuki Bonsai is the most comprehensive that I have ever seen. I only mention this because someone in the club might loan you and @Moridin a copy.

Side note: Online YouTube the only clips I found had to do with styling informal uprights, yet but there is some great stuff… perhaps 20+ clips on maintenance by a Japanese Master merely called Bonsai Master. These are subtitled, but one could learn a real lot frm watching these.

Final on styling: There are numerous articles (some repeated!) on styling azaleas from existing plants, cuttings, young and old found in back issues of International Bonsai, Bonsai Today, Bonsai Magizine, Bonsai Focus and Golden Statements. It took me well over a year to find most of these. However, with a bit of perseverance one can search and find these.

Propagating Multi Patterned Azaleas: Floral techniques has a great discussion and illustration on this process. The very best is from Jim Trumbly, again from your area, (Roseville) This article was published in The Azalean. This is pertinent in that There are two Yuki cultivars, one of which you have. Mr. M might know which. Both are multipatterned.
image.jpg

To propagate these type azaleas (not just satsuki) to yield “True to type” clones from cuttings one needs to mark and select the correct areas to take shoots from... see the references ….

Gotta go.

Cheers
DSD sends
 
Top Bottom