What to do with a (new to me) Old Shimpaku?

orangeyeoman

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Not to thread jack, but when people say "put them on the ground" does a cement walkway or patio tile/blocks count as "on the ground"?
On dirt. Concrete will get colder than the surrounding ground, and act like a big heat-sink.

I'm a contractor, and deal with a lot of concrete.
 

gjones_42

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I use bark mulch from any of the big box places. I push my pots pretty close together, to minimize how much mulch I need, and then fill from ground up to the top of the pots, making sure to get it in between the pots too. On the outside edges of the pile of pots, I go about 5"-6" before I let it taper down to the ground. I'm doing it on dirt, so this year I dug down a little bit, to also minimize how much mulch I needed.

Got it, so you're effectively using the mulch to simulate the tree being in the ground by making a pile flush to the top of the pot.

The problem with my system is that it puts all the pots together, and my wife can see how many I actually have.
Hah!
 

gjones_42

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Alright, next question about this tree has to do with the moss on it. I noticed that the actual base of the tree where it grips the ground is totally covered in moss. This looks ugly and hides what feels like nice movement and root base from view. Maybe this is normal for clump style to hide the multiple trunks, but I think it could look real nice. See the red circle below.

My question: can I safely scrape this away now? Should I wait for a different time of year? Will exposing the bark underneath be a risk at all to the tree?
 

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yashu

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Alright, next question about this tree has to do with the moss on it. I noticed that the actual base of the tree where it grips the ground is totally covered in moss. This looks ugly and hides what feels like nice movement and root base from view. Maybe this is normal for clump style to hide the multiple trunks, but I think it could look real nice. See the red circle below.

My question: can I safely scrape this away now? Should I wait for a different time of year? Will exposing the bark underneath be a risk at all to the tree?
You can remove that. Generally you want the moss on the soil but not on the bark of the tree as it can hold moisture and cause the bark to break down. I use a stiff bristled toothbrush to keep the moss off the trunk and nebari as needed.
 

gjones_42

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You can remove that. Generally you want the moss on the soil but not on the bark of the tree as it can hold moisture and cause the bark to break down. I use a stiff bristled toothbrush to keep the moss off the trunk and nebari as needed.
Good, cause I started poking at it and found some nice movement, but then got afraid I was doing damage.

Is it OK if I just peel it off by hand/gently scrape it back with a plastic tool? In some spots it looks like the moss is growing on the trunk so I don't want to cause damage.
 

yashu

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Is it OK if I just peel it off by hand/gently scrape it back with a plastic tool? In some spots it looks like the moss is growing on the trunk so I don't want to cause damage.
Yes, you’re fine to clean it off. I’d just be aware of the bark as it can be pretty dark in color if it’s been damp and under the moss and blend in but you’d have to be going at it pretty aggressively to do damage.

On that note, you can do “soji” or surface cleaning of the soil almost any time and performing that regularly (once or twice a year) can keep the moss off the trunk going forward. I don’t think a small amount of moss on the tree is hugely detrimental but it’s something to keep in mind during your regular maintenance.

*edit:
Another note, it’s common practice with junipers, unlike many other species where old bark is preserved, to clean off the older peeling bark as it can harbor disease and insects. Older bark will also get that gray finish and you will see less of that red color that’s desirable in most shimpaku.
 
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gjones_42

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Yes, you’re fine to clean it off. I’d just be aware of the bark as it can be pretty dark in color if it’s been damp and under the moss and blend in but you’d have to be going at it pretty aggressively to do damage.

On that note, you can do “soji” or surface cleaning of the soil almost any time and performing that regularly (once or twice a year) can keep the moss off the trunk going forward. I don’t think a small amount of moss on the tree is hugely detrimental but it’s something to keep in mind during your regular maintenance.

*edit:
Another note, it’s common practice with junipers, unlike many other species where old bark is preserved, to clean off the older peeling bark as it can harbor disease and insects. Older bark will also get that gray finish and you will see less of that red color that’s desirable in most shimpaku.
You beat me to my next question, which was about the peeling bark (and part of my question about damaging the trunk by removing moss, cause some of the bark was coming off with it). I was wondering why my Shimpaku looked gray and I kept reading it should look red. I kind of like the aged bark look, so I probably won't peel it all off (unless I should for preventing disease) but I won't feel bad if any comes off. Maybe I'll just run my hand along and if any flakes, it's loose enough to remove.

I'm going at this with small tweezers right now, but so far so good. Revealing tons of great root base. This must have been neglected to be so hidden under moss, because it looks substantially better already. Will post photo updates when I am done!
 

gjones_42

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Now my next question, is about the loose bark. Suffice to say there is a ton. This is a good example photo. Should I slowly peel all the loose stuff away now? Should I do it very slowly (say 10% per month) or all in a different season?

Clearly this was a neglected plant and with some love will come back strongly!

Peeling Bark.JPG
 

yashu

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Now my next question, is about the loose bark. Suffice to say there is a ton. This is a good example photo. Should I slowly peel all the loose stuff away now? Should I do it very slowly (say 10% per month) or all in a different season?

Clearly this was a neglected plant and with some love will come back strongly!

View attachment 462673
I think you could remove any that comes off easily with a light tug without doing any damage. Take your time, enjoy the process. I don’t think there would be an issue with doing it all at once as long as the under layers of bark that protect the cambium remain intact. If you get to a point where you’re thinking to yourself “hmmm, I’m not sure if this is too much🤔”, then just hold off. You can always do more later. Patience is the game with this stuff… still the thing I struggle with 😅

It looks good, the base has a nice flair and looks interesting.
 

yashu

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You’re basically just cleaning up the tree at this point and none of that should impact how it over-winters. Once you start cutting branches, wiring and messing with roots you are going to have an effect on the health of the tree and those things should be done in their proper seasons.
 

gjones_42

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I think you could remove any that comes off easily with a light tug without doing any damage. Take your time, enjoy the process. I don’t think there would be an issue with doing it all at once as long as the under layers of bark that protect the cambium remain intact. If you get to a point where you’re thinking to yourself “hmmm, I’m not sure if this is too much🤔”, then just hold off. You can always do more later. Patience is the game with this stuff… still the thing I struggle with 😅

It looks good, the base has a nice flair and looks interesting.
Alright, good to know. Maybe I'm being too patient/afraid to touch it in the first place, hah! I'll keep slowly cleaning it up and see how it goes. Waiting for some more of the moss on the roots to dry so I can peel back the last few bits. Then maybe I'll lightly brush it to remove soil debris.

I can say some of the spots where I did peel up bark look great with the deep red color.
 

coltranem

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Right on, glad to hear you have direct experience w junipers in this climate. Now I am thinking of a spot on the north side of the house where I could tuck the tree near the foundation and a set of brick steps (so protected from wind on 2 sides) and behind a huge rhododendron that I keep fenced in.

When you surround with leaves, how thick of a pile are you talking? How high up does it go?
Up to pot rim and usually a bit higher since the snow will pack them down some.
 

gjones_42

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Alright, time for the next round of newbie questions, about when to do certain clean up tasks for this neglected tree...

Been getting to know this specimen while cleaning up the loose/flaky bark, and there are some obvious defects that have to be cleaned up, which I listed below. My question for more knowledgeable folks is when is the right time to do these tasks? Can I do any of them now as it is entering dormancy or do I need to wait? Hoping some of you in similar zones can chime in with your thoughts (@coltranem @yashu @Leo in N E Illinois )

1. Remove old dead needles (old, as in totally gray), some coming directly off main trunks/primary branches, others on secondary branches.
2. Remove newer dead needles on otherwise healthy/vigorous branches (the brown ones)
3. Remove dead needles on branches without other growth (so the whole branch should go, which is likely a spring task)
4. Remove tiny stumps left over from old prunes. There are a surprising number of these (I'd estimate 10-20) that are 3-5 mm long, max 2mm diameter, and way too short to be jinned. Pretty sure I'll need to cut them more flush to the trunk or branch from which it originates and cover with cut paste.

From my general plant care experience, I know cuts have to heal, which diverts energy, and this is probably the wrong time for it. I'd guess late winter/early spring before buds start to grow is the right time, but Idk if diverting energy to heal over a cut is detrimental to growth.

I'll also fess up and say I got my first pruning tool set and really want to try them out :)
 

Dav4

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On dirt. Concrete will get colder than the surrounding ground, and act like a big heat-sink.

I'm a contractor, and deal with a lot of concrete.
When I started keeping Bonsai over 25 years ago, I kept many trees on the concrete floor of an unattached garage in zone six Massachusetts… Did that for over a decade without a single loss to cold. I recently moved to zone six Michigan from Georgia… Again, many of my trees were wintered last year on a raised concrete block patio, mulched in with bark. Again, no losses despite temperatures falling below zero F 4 or 5 times and the trees being frozen solid for months. Concrete has +++ density/thermal mass and is a great heat sink and still transfers heat from the ground to anything on it's surface. Anyway, I’m no contractor so what do I know, but I keep on hearing about how bad a concrete floor is to overwinter your trees… the temperature below the pots-sitting on the concrete- never fell below 32 F all winter in the garage, and was also right at 32 F when I spot checked here in MI last winter. My two cents…

This year… not quite done with placement and mulch
image.jpg

Last November (2021) right after arriving from GA…
07249D52-6D6C-49CA-B00E-1D5AB42D5A3E.jpeg
 
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coltranem

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I don't have specific time of year to remove old needles. If all the material you are removing is dead it really doesn't matter the time of year. I would not clean up cuts as that could go into live tissue. Junipers aren't really known for healing over so the removal of the stubs should be an aethstetic choice only.
 

gjones_42

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I don't have specific time of year to remove old needles. If all the material you are removing is dead it really doesn't matter the time of year. I would not clean up cuts as that could go into live tissue. Junipers aren't really known for healing over so the removal of the stubs should be an aethstetic choice only.

Cool...I may play it safe and wait till end of winter to cut any needles off. I suppose it won't hurt to be sure this tree survived before putting too much into it

Stub-wise, is it typical to leave a small nub when cutting off branches that are a few mm in diameter? It seems unsightly since it can't be jinned. I figured a well placed cut with the concave cutter should get it fairly flush and less obvious. Good point about getting into the live tissue, so that will wait for sure.
 

gjones_42

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When I started keeping Bonsai over 25 years ago, I kept many trees on the concrete floor of an unattached garage in zone six Massachusetts… Did that for over a decade without a single loss to cold. I recently moved to zone six Michigan from Georgia… Again, many of my trees were wintered last year on a raised concrete block patio, mulched in with bark. Again, no losses despite temperatures falling below zero F 4 or 5 times and the trees being frozen solid for months. Concrete has +++ density/thermal mass and is a great heat sink and still transfers heat from the ground to anything on it's surface. Anyway, I’m no contractor so what do I know, but I keep on hearing about how bad a concrete floor is to overwinter your trees… the temperature below the pots-sitting on the concrete- never fell below 32 F all winter in the garage, and was also right at 32 F when I spot checked here in MI last winter. My two cents…

This year… not quite done with placement and mulch
View attachment 464633

Last November (2021) right after arriving from GA…
View attachment 464634
Must've been a pain lugging trees that far! For the time being I am sticking to on the ground under a porch protected from wind when it dips to 25-32, since the garage hasn't gotten cold enough. I'm guessing it will be below 40 in there when it's consistently below 30 outside and am tracking. Mine is a wicked small pot too, which will make it a bit more delicate

BTW, while you were in MA did you dabble in any eastern white pine? Seems they are poo-pooed as bonsai, but they're prevalent up here and quite inspiring to model after.
 

Dav4

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Must've been a pain lugging trees that far! For the time being I am sticking to on the ground under a porch protected from wind when it dips to 25-32, since the garage hasn't gotten cold enough. I'm guessing it will be below 40 in there when it's consistently below 30 outside and am tracking. Mine is a wicked small pot too, which will make it a bit more delicate

BTW, while you were in MA did you dabble in any eastern white pine? Seems they are poo-pooed as bonsai, but they're prevalent up here and quite inspiring to model after.
I sort of messes around with them. Friends of ours owned a farm in ME and gave me an EWP they dug from a fence line. It had a fat trunk and some movement, but even though the tree was probably 10+ years old, the bark was a smooth as can be and the needles were typical for the species being 4+ inches long and twisty. It didn't make the cut when I moved south. It is a magnificent landscape tree... one of my all time faves... but good ewp bonsai are rare as hen's teeth. Ok to play around with, though.
 

gjones_42

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I sort of messes around with them. Friends of ours owned a farm in ME and gave me an EWP they dug from a fence line. It had a fat trunk and some movement, but even though the tree was probably 10+ years old, the bark was a smooth as can be and the needles were typical for the species being 4+ inches long and twisty. It didn't make the cut when I moved south. It is a magnificent landscape tree... one of my all time faves... but good ewp bonsai are rare as hen's teeth. Ok to play around with, though.
Fair points, seems like the bark and needle combo turn people off. I have some great specimen in the area to collect with (another thread for another day...), and an endless supply of young trees to hone my craft before over investing in proper stock.
 
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