Jeez, can you believe it's 2015 already? I saw this Facebook post saying that we are now closer to the year 2030 than we are to the year 2000. It's a trip for me to think about how time seems to go by faster and faster as I get older. Anyways, I hope your 2015 is off to a fantastic start and you and your trees are happy and healthy!
For this post, first I'm going to rewind to fall of 2014 and throw back a few pictures from then. The first is this Mikawa Black Pine owned by Mr. Manakitivipart. This is the first tree I ever saw of Boon's and one of the reasons I decided to sign up for an intensive with him. I saw the tree at the GSBF convention some years back and remember thinking, "This Black Pine looks like something you'd see in a Kinbon magazine." One of the coolest things about the intensive series is that you get to work on quality material like this pine below.
This time around, I didn't do a whole lot to the tree, just some needle pulling helping to balance the trees energy and thinning in some over crowded areas. I think the picture above was taken at a better angle, but here is a before and after the work.
In October I went on my last collection trip of the season. The first pic is a tree that some might call unique, while others may think it odd. It's hard to tell what you really have from this picture, but I like it and think it's pretty interesting. I'll make sure to post updates on it's progression in the future.
This second one is a bit of a back breaker and was collected by one of my good friends. Forget going to the gym, just start taking something like this back to your vehicle on a daily basis and you'll be set.
This might have been the first Mame size Sierra I stopped to take a good look at. Something this small doesn't normally have natural white deadwood like this one.
Fast forwarding to the first weekend of 2015, I brought my Ume up to Boon's workshop where we cut it back and re-potted it. Because it stays relatively warm during the Winter on the Central Coast of CA, I made sure to remove all the leaves in December to help push the tree into it's dormant period. While I keep the tree in full sun during Spring, Summer and Fall, I usually place it in a spot that gets more shade during the winter to help keep it from growing new leaves until early spring.
This years new green growth had many small flower buds which would've bloomed into white blossoms if I waited another month to cut back. However because of timing, scheduling issues and the fact that I'm ultimately more concerned with focusing on branch structure for the time being I cut it back and will get to enjoy the beautiful flower show in the future.
The first thing I did to repot the tree was to cut the wire on the bottom side of the pot which holds the tree in place. After the wire was cut I used my sickle along the edge of the pot to create a very thin channel between the root ball and the interior side of the pot.
Depending on the interior edge and lip of the pot sometimes this can be a challenging task. Fortunately, because there's no interior lip on this pot, the tree and root ball were removed easily.
The next step in the repot, for me, was to reduce the bottom of the root ball. It's important to try and keep the bottom of the root ball as even as possible while scraping it with your rake. You don't want to dig any holes in certain spots or make the root ball too uneven. The goal is to try and keep it nice and flat all the way across.
After working to reducing the bottom, I used bent tweezers to comb out the root ball creating a gradual downward slope going away from the trunk. This is also the time to uncross and roots and redirect them so they are growing outward.
I got a smaller pot ready which I bought from Boon on his recent trip to Japan. To prep the new pot I added screen to the drainage holes, put in the tie down wire and sprinkled some pumice on the bottom for better drainage.
Here's the tree after tying it into the pot.
And finally, here it is below, in it's new pot after it was cut back. This is a relatively young ume, I'm guessing it's maybe between 10-14 years old. It hasn't yet developed the desirable old crackly bark that contrasts so well with the delicate flowers. It still needs more carving and branch development. In a few weeks, I plan to spray a mixture of lime sulfur and water on the tree as a fungicide to help maintain the trees health.
One question I've wondered about and have heard asked a few times is, "Is this called Ume or Mume" and "Is it actually an apricot or a plum?" It get's a bit confusing because it is commonly called, "Ume", but the scientific name for it is, "Mume." In the US I've commonly heard this called Japanese flowering apricot, but I've also heard it called Chinese Plum. Among Japanese websites that I've browsed using an English translator I generally see it translated as, "Longevity Plum." However to me the fruit of the tree looks more like an apricot than a plum. I was interested to recently learn that both answers are correct because the species is related to both plum and apricot.
The past few years i've experimented with taking Ume cuttings. Here's a cutting that is approx 2 years old above and a 3 year old one below. I wired movement into them while the growth was still soft and then planted them in the ground last weekend.
That's all for now, I'd love to see some of you at the Bay Island Bonsai show on Jan 24th and 25th in Oakland. Take care and Happy New Year!