Our goal is to always have fun while doing Bonsai, hence our company slogan    You know you are a bonsai freak when you ...


Autumn re-potting

Our last formal class of 2014 Class Number 18 was a mix of a few new people, and one student finishing her first year and moving onto second year and another finishing his second year and moving onto his third year. As usual we go over class notes first and then begin to tackle whatever we have planned for class.

This particular class we focused on autumn re-potting of Japanese Black Pine. I have a tree that I have had in my small collection that needs some improvement. It’s sort of flat near the base, in other words, it has no butt! One of the reasons is that a side root has been allowed to grow a little too long. And so instead of helping to increase the girth of the trunk it has fattened the root.


Shawn has removed the tree from the pot, and pushing it backward to then turn it sideways to begin working on roots...Notice the water bottle, its important to not let your roots dry out. Notice the beer...



This tree has been in the pot for two years, because of the fast draining bonsai mix, fertilizing regiment and our climate we could almost re-pot each year. I read last week on a training centers blog that Japanese black pines roots don't grow very fast...oh yes they do.  Here we are Splitting the root.


How do you fix that? Split the root! What you say? Right after I posted a picture on Facebook; I received a few frantic emails…what are you doing they asked. I am doing what should have been done two years ago. I am splitting the root to redirect the energy from the tip of this long root to the front and back sides of this root. This can be done on some plants but not all.

This is another way to fix roots that have shall we say “got out of hand. I know I have said this numerous times…every time you work on your plant is an opportunity to improve it. In this case we are re-potting and improving the root base. Next time I re-pot in two years I will have extra roots growing out both sides of the parts we split. I will both shorten these roots and split them a little farther with a chisel… in your case you may want to…get rid of crossing roots, big fat nasty ones, remove the ones that are too strong sided, bury your plant a little deeper or raise it a little higher, Tilt it left or right to improve the base of your Nebari. Because of our mild climate we can re-pot up till the middle or even end of October. Those with a little extra protection can almost re-pot here in California year round.



This young black pine has only been in the pot one year. This was re potted last October by one of my Foundation Students...Currently we are mainly working on the nebari and some basic branch structure.



This first tree i have had for 4 years now and slowly have been improving it. We put it in a little deeper and wider pot, Next year we will slowly remove the knot sticking out of the pot on the left. The second bonsai will be cut back to two growing buds and rewired. We also removed two large roots that were growing to high on the tree. Isn't this fun!!


Why autumn re-potting; honestly there is no need to wait until spring with Japanese Black Pine, this invigorates your plant before winters rest and prepares your tree for its dormant time. We trim the bottom and side combing out the top and trimming upward growth. If we do not do this, these areas can dry out and stop receiving water and nutrients. This also gives you time to comb out all those stiff superfine particles that have become imbedded in your roots…This is most important!! Something we need to remember is are we re-potting to make our plants thrive or just keep them alive. If you completely disagree with re-potting during this time, it’s all good. But after pulling old needles remove the top half inch of your bonsai mix and add new bonsai mix in. Your plant will thank you.

Last minute TID BIT or Rant…Have you ever gone to a show or someone house that’s in bonsai and saw a boat sitting in a bonsai pot? This was the old practice, a bad version of slip potting... pull your plant out and shove some more mix in and tie it back down. This method never address's the importance of removing half or more of the old roots and sinking it into the pot. It didn’t address combing out the sides and top of the bonsai. These boats are so hard caked roots around the base of the bonsai it’s a miracle they are alive. I have a boat….I bought it last year, it was a sickly little tree with potential. We took off 3 inches of roots and it’s still sticking out 3-4 inches. How did I get off on that tangent??   

This is the boat tree i was talking about, a gentleman in Monterrey was getting rid of his fathers trees. At one time they might have been OK trees. They were almost given away because of how sick they were. They were Psycho sick...We emergency re-potted it and then Sprayed them with Lyme sulfur three different times, it was covered in red spider mites. The pines both dropped all there needles and then as a way of saying thanks. produced about 50 new buds. Why would you save a tree like that? Because someone grew this tree for years before they became sick, i look forward to nursing it back to health. I purchased it in June of 2013....Its coming along. This is a future project please check back in a year or so to see its progression. These pictures were taken in July 2013.

It’s November 9th and a little too late for some to re-pot. If you do and the temperature drops to below 32 degrees, bring your plant in during these cold times. I threw in a few Celebration photos of us at the certificate dinner. My Teacher says…we work hard, you need to play hard also. Yes we do!!


Shawn Silbough receiving his second year certificate. Ashley Hubback receiving her first year certificate



Loren Stirling receiving his first year Summer/Fall certificate. Let the good times begin!



A few friends and family joined in our celebration...Due to the graphic events of the evening some photos could not be published!! We had a great time at Sakes.









Written by Ron Anderson — November 09, 2014