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In this video Paul Pikel  demonstrates the very basics of bonsai tree wiring. The demonstration of how to wire the trunk and branches uses a teaching tool for clarity.

People sometimes don’t understand the purpose of wiring, perhaps thinking it is for decoration or as a way to stunt the bonsai’s growth. In reality, the purpose of wiring is to take control of the branches and put them where you want them to be to develop the tree. Then, as the tree begins to heal and thicken up, the wire can be removed and the branch will maintain the placement you gave it. Think of you bonsai pot as your frame and the wiring as your brush. Wiring is almost an art form in itself.

The first step is to anchor the wire to keep it from wobbling. If you’re starting on the first branch and have nothing to anchor it on, stick the end of the wire into the soil beneath the tree. Then begin wiring, going over the branch first. To wire successive branches, take the wire around the “back” of the tree (opposite the side you have chosen as the “front”).

Do not cross wires when wiring the secondary branches.

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Part Two begins with a recap of what was done in Part One.

All of the undergrowth and overgrowth has been trimmed out and three trunks were selected.  Two out of the three trunks have been wired but have left them in their original positions so that you can be shown the bending activity that is necessary for the final shaping.

In Part Two the third trunk will be wired as an illustration. A 5mm strand of bonsai wire will be used. First, stick the end of the wire down into the soil and anchor it among the tree’s roots. Then spiral the wire around the trunk. With a young juniper such as this the limbs are still flexible and wiring is not difficult. Just be careful not to crush any foliage.

As you are wiring, take note of any interesting side branches and where they’re going to end up in the final composition.  Finally, cut off the excess wire at the end of the limb.

When you begin to shape the trunks, put on a pair of work gloves. The foliage on this type of juniper is quite prickly. Of course you must take care in bending because the trunks can break.

Next, do some preliminary pruning on the branches, primarily the low ones.

Part Three will cover potting and final pruning.  For more: http://www.kuromatsubonsai.com

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This video contains a lesson in how to create a pre -bonsai from a nursery azalea. The nursery plant is root pruned, re-potted, pruned and styled, and moss and a rock are added for decoration after the tree is potted into a cream colored bonsai pot. Total cost of this project was $25, $20 for the pot and $5 for the azalea. For more, please visit www.kuromatsubonsai.com

Remove dead flowers, being careful not to disturb any buds. Any yellow leaves indicate the soil could be somewhat waterlogged. Remove the plant from the pot and clean off the soil on top.

Go into the root ball with a cultivator and loosen up the soil a bit. You need to work between the roots, being careful not to injure them. Usually, if you start with a 1 to 5 gallan nursery stock plant you will need to remove roughly the bottom half of the root mass to get it to fit in a bonsai pot because nursery pots are much deeper.

When the root ball has been loosened, use a high-pressure hose to remove the soil and expose the root system for examination. At this time, remove any circling roots that encircle the trunk.

Next look at the plant from all angles to determine the best angle for planting and begin pruning accordingly. Azaleas tend to put out a lot of growth near the base so it is hard to get them to send growth to the top. Thus, you will be cutting off growth at the base quite often so they do not take energy from the top of the tree.

Be careful with the bark since it is quite sensitive. For that reason we don’t like to wire azaleas. If wiring is done the wire is wrapped with tissue.

Once the trunk is established begin pruning the foliage. With an azalea you want to trim branches just past the leaf internode because the new growth is going to come out of the gap between the leaf and the stem.

Now take another look at the roots to determine where to trim for re-planting. Be careful in removing roots because, if you take one that is too long, you can seriously impair the tree’s ability to absorb moisture.

In this planting, the soil mixture used is composed of equal parts decompsosed granite, builders sand, pumice, and organic matter–the organic matter being potting soil in this instance. Stay away from the soils which contain water-holding polymers because these will expand and move the tree around in the pot. Also, they are not needed with this mixture.

Give the plant a watering, using a shower nozzle, watering from above. Do so only until water begins draining out of the bottom of the pot.

Finally, to give the plant a more established look, you can add a small rock and some patches of moss to distract the viewer’s eye from the small trunk and give the azalea more of a “bonsai” appearance. Follow with a little more watering with the nozzle set to “mist.”

A light fertilizing completes the job. The plant should give a profusion of blooms over the next several months.

You are not going to get something that looks like a finished bonsai immediately but a pre-bonsai that will give you some pretty flowers.

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In this video PauI Pikel discusses the methods to control growth by removing upward and downward growing branches. He talks also about removing the terminal bud to force the tree to break back and generate more secondary branches. Example trees shown are Bald Cypress, Trident Maple, Simpson Stopper, and Pond Cypress.

Once your trees have recovered from the dormancy of Winter, Spring is an exciting time with much to do. It’s also a time that your trees can quickly get out of control with new growth. You need to be actively involved so you can bring trees back to their orginal, basic shapes.

For example, the bald cypress likes to put out long, long shoots fairly quickly. You first need to remove the new branches that are going straight up or down, as opposed to laterally because these represent a lot of wasted energy.

Each new shoot wants to develop into a new branch so you need to pull of the tips, or terminal buds of those branches to inhibit further growth and forcing that energy to go back into the tree.

Another tip, especially for maples is to avoid fertilizing during this period of initial growth.

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The large Benjamina Ficus Bonsai in this video was taken out of a flower pot and shaped two years ago. As you can see, a lot can happen in two years! In the last year there has been a tremendous amount of growth. In fact, during that year in a roughly eight-week period this tree was wired, unwired and rewired three different times.

At present, the plant fits well in its pot. Shaking it back and forth shows that it is anchored well there by its roots with good surface root development. Although it is a slant style tree, it is leaning to far to one side. That needs to be corrected with pruning and wiring.

Typically with this type of tree, you want to first prune all of the growth that is going straight up. Large leaf trees have a “weeping” aspect and the leaves tend to hang down and you want to encourage that.

It is better to shape trees like this by pruning than by wiring because they have very “springy” wood and grow very fast, meaning that frequent rewiring is necessary to get the positioning you desire.

Next, the first branch is considered because it is a little too long and a little too heavy. More upward growth is removed to lessen the amount of wiring to be done later.

Then, we work our way up the tree.

Through judicious pruning much of the need for wiring is eliminated. Still, there are a few branches that will need it. This wiring can be somewhat “loose and sloppy” since it will need to be redone and will not be on long. The wiring may start to cut into the branch in as little as two or three weeks.

For more, please visit kuromatsubonsai.com

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First, we look at the branch progression and see a problem. Unfortunately, the tree has been out in the sun a little too long and two lower branches on one side have been lost. So there is no counterbalance for the lowest branch on the other side. These things must be corrected.

The first task will be to cut the lower two dead branches back to live wood. The hope is that with enough soil, fertilizer, and nutrients maybe there will be some new growth at those points once they are cut back.

The next thing to do is give the tree a good pruning. The shoots are cut back to the first two nodes of growth. The object is to get light to the inner branches so the tree will grow fuller. The leaves on the outside are larger than those further back–an indication of lack of light and air. At this point we are not overly focused on shape. Before we can shape the tree we must get it healthy and with new growth. Longer branches at the top shade out lower branches and, as with the two lower branches on this tree, they tend to die.

Because of this tendency, this is why we try to establish more of a cone shape rather than a dome so that the upper branches don’t shade out the lower and kill them off. If you desire a dome-shaped tree, the recommendation is to use a Japanese Elm, or Zelkova. These are more shade-tolerant and you are far less likely to lose lower branches if the tree gets too full.

Trimming the first branches reveals just how serious the lack of fullness is in the tree interior and leads to the next task of cleaning up the top of the tree to get sunlight and air to the interior.

Lastly, this tree will be repotted into a deeper pot with a larger soil volume

For more about Chinese Elm bonsai, please visit kuromatsubonsai.com

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When people are new to bonsai there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about how to keep a bonsai small and looking like a tree. The content of this video demonstrates the basics of trimming a  bunjin bonsai and how to get the growth back under control and looking great!

Bunjin refers to a tree of slim trunk with meaningful curves, of fewer branches and leaves, and of no useless elements.

Begin pruning by removing all the branches that are growing straight up or straight down because in nature that doesn’t happen. With this type of tree it’s easiest just to pinch off the branches you want to remove and not use shears or other tools. This task will have a great effect on the tree, giving us a series of flat pads or planes with horizontal branches that are more controllable. In addition, the health of the tree will be improved without branches that block the sunlight.

Remove any growth at the base of the branches and also any branches–even if horizontal, if they don’t fit into your design plan.

The final step is to pull off the tips of the bald cypress foliage to make them uniform (for this tree that’s about 3 inches). If they are left longer they tend to connect with and wrap around other branches.

This process should be done once or twice a year as long as the tree is in its initial growth period.

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The Crassula Ovata, better known as the jade plant or friendship tree, originated in South Africa. It is a succulent so it doesn’t need much water. The plant shown is only a couple of months old.

When potting the plant be sure to consider future growth and leave room for it. And don’t pile the potting soil to the top. He has some difficulty in pulling up the plant for potting but finally accomplishes it. After potting, the lower branches are trimmed to give the plant a more tree-like appearance. With this plant, the pruning can be done by hand, pulling off the lower leaves.

Because it is a succulent, the leaves trimmed can potentially become new plants.

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In this video Paul Pikel shows the last transition of a Brazilian Raintree that he air layered last year. He shows the steps to rake the roots, cut back roots and foliage to balance them out.

Care must be taken in working with the foliage because it grows spikes, which can be very painful as they grow larger and dry out.

The first step is to remove the plant from the nursery pot and begin trimming the roots. Place the plant in the pot and gently rake out the soil. If the plant has been air layered there will not be as many roots to work with. and the raking will be easier.

Using a pair of sheers he begins removing the roots at the upper part of the trunk bottom and trimming the longest roots at the bottom of the root ball.

Finally he pots up the tree into bonsai soil and a bonsai pot.

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In Part Three, the finale, we wire and trim the branches and we pot our juniper bonsai tree in a bonsai pot.

We first take a piece of wire about twice as long as the selected branch> After wiring, place the branch into position. Since these junipers grow so quickly this wiring will stay on for a year at most.

Next we use a root saw to take off the bottom part of the root ball to fit the bonsai for our pot. Note: we potted this tree in July just to do the video and it will need some special attention to survive the hot weather. DO NOT cut roots in hot weather, unless you are working on a ficus, bougainvillea or other tropical variety of tree.

For potting, a standard mix of 1 part pumice, 1 part decomposed granite, 1 part builders sand and 1 oart potting soil is used. Spread a thin layer on the bottom of the pot and then check to see if more must be removed from the root ball. Do so until the plant is the right heighth in the pot.

Water the root ball top and bottom before placing in the pot. Then fill in soil around the plant, tamping it down to eliminate air pockets.

Finally, mist the plant and then shower it until the water begins running out the bottom of the pot.

For more: http://www.kuromatsubonsai.com

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In this video Paul Pikel discusses the materials used to make bonsai soil mixes, and reviews the benefits of each of them. Lava rock, turface, fafard, red bonsai mix, basic bonsai mix.

The attributes of a good basic soil mix are ingredients that will hold water to keep roots moist but not wet, have sharp edges to promote shorter roots, and good drainage to get air to the roots.

Bonsai soil mix is not so much true soil as rock particles to promote drainage. Since their are no nutrients in this “soil” a bonsai must be fertilized fairly often.

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Graham Potter (www.kaizenbonsai.com) shows simple techniques to style bonsai trees from average quality plants that are readily available.  The sample used is an Italian Cypress collected in Tuscany about four years ago.

Since it has not been repotted in four years, the pot is absolutely packed with roots. However, it is a good specimen because you want to use a plant that is well-established so that the strength and vigor of the tree is not compromised.

Potter first removes the foliage growning beneath the branches as well as any dead foliage.

Next, he turns to shortening the branches. This is a simple matter of deciding where the branch will fit in the design of the tree. He then takes the central rib of the branch and prunes it back doing so at a point where two side branches will develop to help build the foliage.

Dead material on the primary branch is then scraped and cut until live material is found.

Trimming the top and texturing the previously-trimmed live material are the next steps. The top is cut using a branch splitter. The surface is then charred with a torch to burn away the sharp edges and all the till marks followed by a wire brush to remove the charred material. the result is a nice, smooth, weathered appearance.

The next task is to wire all the branches, starting from the trunk outward. Then the wired branches are all positioned. Note that the thickness of the wire should be approximately 1/3 the thickness of the branch.

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Hello. I’m Kaori Yamada from Seiko-En. I’d like to introduce a small arrangement using grasses, flowers and a maple tree. Today I’ve got a lovely Shishigashira maple that I’ll use as the centerpiece and I also have a Fuirinohatozao which I’ll put at the base of the maple. The theme for the piece will be “The Coming of a New Spring.” You’ll need to prepare a small pot with a hole, a screen, and a wire to hold the screen in place. In addition, you’ll need two grades of Akadama soil: normal and fine.

To begin, let’s attach the screen to the base of the pot. Bend your pin to a 90 degree angle and then do the same to the opposite end. Put the pin through the pot and spread the wire so that it firmly stays in place.

Next, fill 1/5 of the pot with Goro tsuchi  (normal grade Akadama) and then sprinkle a bit of fine grade Akadama on top.

When deciding on the part of the tree to be the face, check the trunk.You’ll want to choose the face that leans forward. In order to exemplify the curve of the tree I’m going to cut a bit off the opposite side. It’s a rule that three offshoots is not good. This  tree has 3 branches, so I’ll cut off the weakest one. If the tree didn’t have its leaves yet, I wold cut 2/3 of the roots back. But this tree has already gotten its leaves so, in order not to harm it, I’ll just cut off 1/3 of the roots.

Cutting the roots gives the tree a bit of stimulation and allows it to create new roots. So, it’s important to cut them back a bit.

Next, take the Fuirino Hatazao out of its pot and just loosen up the roots with your hand.

After you’ve loosened the roots, decide on the positioning of the plants using your hands. Keep in mind that you want to show off the slope of the maple.

Once you’ve decided on the design hold all the plants firmly in your hand and place all of them simultaneously into the pot. When planting bonsais in small pots it’s important not to plant one at a time but to take all of the plants in the arrangement in your hand at once and successfully hold them in place.

As you continue to work, don’t loosen your grasp and positioning of the plants. Press downward on the plants, keeping a firm grip but not exerting too much pressure. Use chopsticks to poke deeply to the bottom of the pot. This will allow the new soil to get between the roots.

When you water the plant be sure to use a watering pot with a spout. A bit of muddy water will come out of the pot. Most of it will be powder from the Akadama. It’s important to wash this powder off and  continue watering until the water becomes clear.

When you apply the moss, you’re not just placing it on the soil. You need to lightly push it down so that about 1/2 of the mosses thickness is below the soil.

Once the surface is covered with moss, you’ve successfully finished your bonsai arrangement.

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Lindsay Farr of Bonsai Farm interviews  Kaori Yamada at the Omiya Bonsai Festival.

Kaori Yamada is hosting an exhibition of her students’ work. Her father is a fourth generation of Bonsai Seikou-en growers and she is is only daughter. She says the reason she inherited this art is that, at first, she thought bonsai was a man’s hobby but now she wishes to introduce it to women as well. Of course, she is making not only big and old and magnificent bonsai but also a little softer and more feminine bonsai as well.

She considers the style and shape of the pot and has named this process Saika and has offered it to the Japan especially for women. This new style of “mini-bonsai” is getting popular — especially among women. About 80% of her students are women and they work eagerly. Now, she now wants to introduce Saika to the world. Maybe viewers will enjoy her students’ work.

Another interview is with Tomizo Ichino. He shows and talks about a 40 year-old kaede (trident maple). In Japan, the leaves turn red in autumn. It is a characteristic of this tree to have a rough bark when it is old. The measure of a good tree is the nebari. If the nebari is good it’s expensive. Leaf size is also important. If it has a big leaf it’s not so precious. If the leaf is small it becomes more precious.

The video also contains comments and information from other expert bonsai growers.

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The first interview is from the garden of Masahiko Kimura in Japan. The first bonsai shown has been in the same pot for a long time but it has not. It has been in the pot for only three years. However, the age of the tree is a thousand years but it has been a bonsai for three years.

The second tree shown is a pine that was inspired by the spontaneity of the trees in Huang shan and Chinese mountains. The pine came from near Huang shan in China and Kimura created this composition from it.

The next form of bonsai is usually planted in stone. But Kimura has dared to plant the white pine in deadwood (jin). This plant got the grand prize in a Japanese contest.

Kimura then points out various other plants including a shimpaku and takes note of its interesting form. He says that the top of this one wat the root and the bottom was the top. He says, “I reversed the sky and the earth.” He continues by saying that now everyone knows how to do this as this bonsai has become quite famous.

Moving on to another plant, he points out one that seems to be very old. There is moss growing on the rocks. Though it appears to be of great age, Kimura created it just 14 months ago. He says it’s a long story of how he came to create such a piece so, “please use your imagination.”

Pointing out the next plant he says that is it six years away from the mountain but, like the first example, its life in the mountain was more than a thousand years.

The next plant shown is one Kimura first entered in a contest, where it won the Prime Minister’s Grand Prize. Because he thought it was very beautiful, the Prime Minister at the time, Noboru Takeshita, requested to name it. He named it To-ryu no mai (Dragon Reaching Skywards).

Rounding out the interviews is one with Ryan Neil.

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