Securing a tree without repotting

I started to de-wire a grafted California juniper yesterday when I realized the tree was loose in the pot. The culprit was a loose tie-down wire.

Grafted California juniperGrafted California juniper

Grafted California juniper – 25″

Loose wireLoose wire

Loose tie-down wire

There are a number of reasons why tie-down wires can become loose over time. If deadwood or wood blocks in the soil rot before the roots fill the pot, this can allow the tree to move.

I prefer to work on trees that are well-secured in the pot so I went about tightening the existing wires. To do this, I cut the loose wire so I could attach an additional wire that would allow me to better secure the tree.

Cutting the old wireCutting the old wire

Cutting the tie-down wire

Connecting the first wireConnecting the first wire

Attaching a new piece of wire on the left side

New connectionsNew connections

Both sides of the new wire are connected

Adding the new wire allows me to tighten the existing wires by twisting the new connection points. Unfortunately, as the wires began to tighten, one of them broke!

This led me to a second approach for securing trees without repotting: removing the old wires and inserting new wires from below.

Because the soil in the pot had yet to break down, it was easy to slip new wires in the drainage holes from below and attach them as I do when I repot (see “How to secure bonsai in the pot” for details).

New wiresNew wires

New wires for securing the tree in the pot

Now that the tree was stable, I could remove the wires and think about re-wiring. This is when I noticed that although some of the foliage showed signs of new growth, most of it was green and not growing very much.

Growing foliageGrowing foliage

Pale green tips on a healthy branch

Weak foliageWeak foliage

Foliage with good color but few signs of new growth

Knowing that junipers respond to styling much better when they’re strong, I decided to thin the old needles and let the tree grow for a season or two.

Waiting will also give me time to think about the best front and planting angle for the tree. The side we’ve been looking at is a good option for the front, but the other side has similar merits.

Do you have a favorite?

Side ASide A

Side A

Side BSide B

Side B

Soil Update

I’m expecting a shipment of akadama and Aoki Blend pre-mix toward the end of December. In the meantime, I have pumice, kanuma, medium-size akadama, and medium-size Clay King in stock.

I’ll make an announcement when the next shipment arrives. In the meantime, call or email me with questions about bulk orders or the soil available on the online store.

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