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Tall azalea
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Author:  bluesky [ 20 Aug 2020, 16:20 ]
Post subject:  Tall azalea

Hi! I'm considering investing in this lovely azalea because all my four current azaleas range from small and taking too many years to grow. They seem to grow as slowly as boxwood.

This tall azalea has a nice trunk base, good movement and at least some taper. But, IMHO the tree is too tall for the trunk girth.

So if I get this, I could air layer half way up, just above the two middle branches. I'd then get two shorter trees, one of them a pretty good bonsai, and the other a thinner one in need of fattening. Or maybe air layer about 2/3 of the way up.
But, am I ruiining a fine, tall thin bonsai by doing this? And, am I just defeating the whole purpose of forking out on a larger azalea?
Maybe I should just spend more and get a shorter, fatter azalea to start with!
I don't know... please let me know your opinions!

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Author:  Brendan [ 20 Aug 2020, 16:34 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

The lowest 1/3rd of that tree must be pretty perfect if you buy the whole tree intending to remove the top 2/3rds.

If the supplier has a shorter fatter tree maybe make an offer?

Author:  bluesky [ 21 Aug 2020, 10:48 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Thanks Brendan! I will report back.

Author:  Harunobu [ 15 Sep 2020, 15:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

It is a meika azalea. They are supposed to be that way. In a sense, it is not a true bonsai. It is tall to display flowers and likely the range of flower variation of that cultivar.

I am wondering if these are often transitioned into traditional bonsai as they get older and older and the cultivar type is going out of fashion and is superseded by newer more impressive ones.

If you want to grow it fatter, that can of course be done. But I feel that a trunk chop is a bit of a waste. Azalea are basal dominant (corrected, see post below), so to grow these trees as a single trunk takes some effort.

Yeah, it is viable to air layer the top part and split it into two trees.

But why spend money on a tree that is imported to Europe all the way from Japan. Then cut it in half?

Isn't the point of bonsai in the growing? Put it in full ground? Maybe in your climate, even a greenhouse or polytunnel (with a shade cloth for sunny summer days) to increase humidity. Then grow out a bunch of lower branches. You can grow several sacrificial branches that are as thick as the ones toy have now. And if this is a special cultivar, you can propagate all the clippings and sell them for 10-30 euro. You get to enjoy tons of flowers. And after a decade or so, it will be way fatter, but still tall.

Probably just as much time as you need to fatten up the other azaleas you mentioned. But if you want a finished azalea bonsai, buy that. Yeah, it may cost you a decade worth of growing in price as well.

Author:  richardb [ 16 Sep 2020, 09:42 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Harunobu, did you mean. NOT APICALLY dominant.?
Bluesky. I have 2 which are similar and when they flower they look great. I have left all the growth on mine and the base is fattening up at a reasonable rate. Are you not better to let it grow on as the more foliage the greater the growth rate, with a view to chopping down in a few years to start to create taper ?

Author:  Harunobu [ 16 Sep 2020, 12:34 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Yeah, sorry exactly. They are NOT apically dominant, so the low branches will grow stronger than the apex. And as a satsuki, it will likely backbud on old wood without pruning.
As you say, you have two and you think they are fattening up at a reasonable rate AND they look great already with their flowers. So why chop? You want it to look as fat as a strong traditional pine bonsai? I just think it is always a waste to remove half or 1/3rd of your imported satsuki bonsai. It is not a 10 euro nursery azalea, which you could chop. A tall azalea is of value, as they are not apically dominant and naturally don't grow tall and single-trunked.

If you are skilled at bonsai, you can make finely branched foliage pads even on very thin tall satsuki azalea. Those will look good and do well out of flower in satsuki azalea exhibitions in Japan. Or feature in the magazines. They will look great. But they won't look like a miniature version of a 300 year old strong masculine pine tree, as a high quality pine bonsai would. But it is not a pine. It is an azalea. Do you really need to meet that trunk diameter to tree height ratio? Yes, it may take way too long for a tall meika satsuki azalea to grow out and be as fat so that it meets the ideal diameter-to-height ratio for a bonsai. Unless you chop. But chopping won't make it look older. And it won't make the tree trunk be fatter either. I am not saying that one should never remove the apex of a satsuki azalea. But I don't think you should plan to do so. Let alone buy a tree you don't like as it is, grow it for years, planning to remove the apex from the beginning, and then doing it.

Sure, grow the trunk thicker. You will have more age and more taper. And maybe better nebari (though don't count on it). It will take years, but you should be enjoying the journey. And if at some point in the far future, you throw a white cloth over the apex and it turns out it looks great without it, then go for it and remove it. But don't buy an imported meika satsuki azalea, and plan to turn it into a 'true bonsai' by planning to chop 25% to 50% of the top of the tree from the start. Accept it as the tall tree it is, with the apex. Then see it fatten up, age, mature and develop. And then maybe it might reach a point far in the future where with the apex gone, it will be a better bonsai without it than it will be a meika with apex. And then you remove it.

Author:  bluesky [ 16 Sep 2020, 14:09 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Harunobu, thank you very much. I'm certain you're right. Why get a beautiful tall azalea and then chop it into two more normal size plants that would still need 5 or 10 more years of further training and pruning to look like something that they're not.

I can enjoy this meika azalea for the next 10 years and longer without doing much except moving to bigger pots and growing out plenty of low branches/foliage to increase the trunk girth. And at some point to start removing (&selling) the sacrificers as you said, and refining to grow pads later on.
Thanks again for your advice and tips!

Author:  bluesky [ 16 Sep 2020, 14:11 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Richard, thanks too.
Yep the decision is made!
Will post updates to this thread.

Author:  Harunobu [ 17 Sep 2020, 12:29 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

In case that you aren't ordering this specific plant but a import satsuki azalea in general, check the cultivar.
There are varieties that are old, or common, or both. Or even those that exist as garden varieties here in Europe for decades.

But other varieties are very new and flashy. In Japan of course when a new varieties is developed, everyone wants that one but demand is low because it is new.
Similarly, your import variety could be very new, meaning that almost no one outside Japan has such a plant. There isn't that much of a market for it outside Japan, but here are people collecting azaleas.

So if this is Hoshi no Kagayaki or Yata no Kagami, it isn't very special. But if it is Naruka or Hanatsuzuri or Kisshoten, you have something very new and in fashion right now. That said, those two early now very common varieties may make much hardier plants. Or you may like exactly the variety you selected, regardless of how novel it is (sometimes the varieties with the most beautiful flowers can be a bit delicate, or uneven in growth, or have some flaw in plant habit, but the flowers make up for it. And varieties with more plain flowers may be much better as plants.)

Personally, I'd pay 40 euro for a 2-3 year cutting from those 3 varieties listed. But maybe 5 to 10 euro for 5 year old cuttings from the other two.

Author:  bluesky [ 24 Sep 2020, 21:56 ]
Post subject:  Re: Tall azalea

Ugh. I was deliberating for too long. That azalea got sold.

So I took my disappointment along to the shop and I made an offer on a similar one. Similar but with masses of nebari which I think look amazing for the similar price. They accepted! And also threw in a small precumbens juniper as a gift.
One thing, my guess is this is not a rare or fashionable variety because the price just didn't seem high enough. They imported it in February but they didn't note its variety, just said Azalea.
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Once again they didn't give me the pen ;-)

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I will do a video on it soon. Not much to do on it now except remove a few downward pointing new branch shoots. The soil is not draining through as quickly as I'd like so I definitely need to repot it next year. Tempted to slip pot now though. Maybe this weekend I'll scrape away the moss to see what's happening under the surface.

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