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 cuttersMy 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.”
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?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.
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.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.
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