Risking It All for My Portulacaria Afra Bonsai

For the first work on my Portulacaria afra bonsai, I’m doing it all – pruning, wiring and repotting! I do have a new secret weapon though…

My dwarf jade (Portulacaria afra) really suffered last winter, living in my north facing conservatory, it didn’t get enough light. But, I have a new tool that I think is going to become invaluable:

I’m excited to see the results and will post updates showing any progress of my Portulacaria afra (and rosemary!) bonsai.

I’ve just got this secret tool that’s going to give it just that little just that little bit of extra oomph so let me show you now come and take a look today i’m going to be styling and maybe repotting my dwarf jade portulacaria aphra or elephant bush or spec boom or whatever else they could be called in your area so without further ado let’s dive in and get started first of all i’m going to go through the tree and clean it up so that we’ve got a good clean base from which to work off so this is going to mean pulling off any dead or dying leaves pruning off any obvious unwanted branches performing this cleaning task is just a really good way of getting in touch with the tree having a look at some of the finer details any issues that i’d like to address branches that i particularly like or don’t like i got this dwarf jade from kaizen bonsai which is graeme potter’s business i got it roughly this time last year and i had a couple of issues keeping it healthy over the winter and i’ll talk about that a little bit later i’ve got something uh i’ve got a new toy to show you so i’ll go into more detail a bit later on okay there’s one or two just broken branches i’ll just prune those off because they’re just really really quick winds there we go quite like that little branch there that’s quite nice another thing what we should do with this this low down branch here i’d be keen to know your thoughts on this low down branch what will you do with that let me know in the comments so in terms of simple cleaning that’s about it really but what i need to do is stop looking at the dead leaves and whatnot i really need to examine the structure the primary structure we’ve got at the moment isn’t where we need it to be it’s very sort of so that it’s very cluttered in this area with multiple trunks all going almost straight up and we’ve got this very top heavy effect so yeah i really think what we need to do is focus on the structure now so let’s start then by marking off what i see is the front where are we so this is what i see is the main viewing angle it does look reasonable if we just alternate there to there that looks pretty good but i think this one’s the main so let’s just show that to you we’ve got the big we’ve got the big line that’s what i see is being the main viewing angle and we’ve got just a couple of smaller little tweaks to spice it up a bit so in terms of the front then we’ve got a nice broad base this comes into play a little bit giving us some depth and filling in some of the negative space that we would have but it’s not so obvious that we see the entirety of this branch it’s just towards the back there and we’ve got the option of using this branch or we could remove it see how it goes and around towards this side we’ve got another small piece developing there so those pieces kind of come into play nicely um another reason i’ve chosen this front is because it offsets this these two sub trunks a bit so it gives us a bit of depth instead of being an ugly v shape we’ve offset it a little bit uh the reason i didn’t go for this side as the front is because this branch just completely um gets in the way i don’t necessarily want to remove the whole branch although i suppose we could remove this piece and this piece and have it sort of off to the side but i think generally the base isn’t as good on this side so we’ll go for this one around here i let it grow all summer i think it really needs raining in now i think the profile of the crown could do with being a bit wider and shorter so let’s just come in a bit closer and i’ll show you exactly what i mean by clutter in the structure the main trunk divides into two here and then it just keeps on further subdividing subdividing but it’s all in a very very close proximity to each other and it just goes up and up and up um there isn’t there is taper but i think it could be improved but it just gets so cluttered in this central area right the first thing i’m going to do is simplify this first branch down here i think if i can remove one or two of the structural pieces from this branch is going to make it a lot easier for me to see what’s going on a bit further above so how can i get in here what’s the best way for me to get in here as well look i have to get the saw on this piece now it’s fine i’m going to be keeping these for cuttings by the way oh yeah now that space is opened up it’s going to make it a lot easier for me to come in and do this okay so with the bulk of this piece out the way that really just emphasizes how tall and narrow this tree is and really how it needs width you might be thinking well that brunch was contributing some width down here but the trouble is it was but the trouble is the branches were too long and tapeless didn’t really didn’t really add anything to the feel of the tree in terms of quality it just made it wider it was spreading off in both directions looking very cluttered and not just wasn’t really um it wasn’t really doing it for me so i’ve reduced this piece right back to two pieces i’m thinking about let me know what you think about this but i’m thinking about removing this back to here so it’s just this one little branch off to the side but for the time being i’ll leave it there and you can let me know what you think in the comments so now i’m looking at this area on this trunk because i’m trying to remove the amount of structure we’ve got in this area here up here i think the obvious choice is to remove this inner piece here that’s really going to open up some space this is the view from the back because there’s a bit it’s a bit more space here but we’ve got the subdivision here into these two and this piece divides into another two pieces there so i think what would really help is if i remove this bit here if we don’t do something here we’re gonna get a structural issue because we’ve got one two three pieces coming from this from this section here i don’t want to remove this smaller branch because that’s going to give us a nice bit of width form a nice primary branch there so my choice is these two because i’m trying to open up some space on the inside here this bit on the inside is going to be the obvious candidate for removal all right and i’m going to remove this piece with the saw because i don’t think that my cutters are going to get in there very well try and keep the saw just outside of the segment there we go another thing now that it’s not now that it’s no longer on the tree another thing that i don’t like about this piece that i’ve cut off is this long this long straight piece doesn’t have any taper so by removing that we’ve instantly improved the quality and tidy up a little bit of this i know this branch isn’t needed because it’s too close to a piece in there i’m going to cut this central piece off it’s quite thick it’s going to leave a bigger scar that will be partially visible i think over time i’ll be able to disguise that i just think that’s going to give us a better line it’s going to improve the tree in time so yeah i’m going to do it i’m just going to stay just outside of the segment again [Music] there we go we’re through the wood just like last time i just come in just finish this off oh it’s going to fall there we go oh timber there we go then this piece it’s got multiple side shoots on it i think i’ll cut back to here where we’ve got this branch coming off nicely should be able to manage this with the branch cutters so and that’s just going to allow me to cut back to get that back to there all right let’s check the progress then i think in terms of the main structural pieces that we’ve got left to look at it’s going to be this branch here and then this area up here just the structure still a bit tall and lanky okay this is going to be nice and easy then that we can come back to there and then this piece whoops [Applause] i think i should be able to get my cutters in yeah just and this piece in here there we this bit i think i’ll just cut back nice and easily to that joint all right so here’s how it’s looking now that i’ve done all the main structural pruning quite drastic eh oh lord right so now that i’ve done most of the structural work i’m just going to come over and bring back some of the longer pieces that we’ve got that don’t need to be the length they are so take that one back to that small shoot because it was interfering with this piece underneath down here just take that one off because it’s interfering again don’t want to allow that to keep growing in towards the trunk so i’ll show them that one take that stub from the middle of there the length of that’s okay the length of this one is okay but i’m going to prune it back to the lateral subdivision we’ve got there we’ll get a piece of ramek rough we’ll get two pieces of ramification coming off from that bit okay so this piece lengthwise this is okay it does need a bit of wire to put it in a somewhere around here i guess i’ll come back to that with some wire up here that’s growing in a bit of an awkward direction so i’ll bring it back to there i’m just going to take this small piece off because that’s causing problems okay now around to this bit so we’ve got some nice movement in this section there’s a little knob in there let’s take that guy off it’s just gonna cause problems and that piece in there let’s get rid of that because that’s gonna cause congestion this long piece cut this long guy back to here back to two leaves there and that’s two leaves there then we’ve just got a couple of longer bits here that stub first where could we go with this like that longer guy i’m just going to prune it straight off where’s it going with the help of some wire that can be positioned a bit better and then this longer one let’s just take that long internet off that was ridiculously long okay and that was drastic yes but in the long run it’s gonna be worth it this is gonna really help bring the tree forward in terms of quality i’m going to put a little bit of wire on one or two branches just to tweak that position just that little bit start with this first branch i’ve locked the wire using a hook onto this piece round here i’m going to use quite thick wire to do the job that i need but at the same time i’ve got to apply it quite carefully so that i don’t end up damaging the branch i don’t want to rip apart um i don’t rip apart the segments i certainly don’t over tighten it okay then just for the bend i’m going to rotate and bend it just a wee bit and very slowly watching those segments just to make sure they don’t unfold there we go i think that’s as far yep there we go that’s as far as we need to go with that just by rotating it a bit we’ve we’ve oriented these two pieces in a slightly more favorable angle i’ve also moved it down and out just a little bit giving it some lateral movement as well so that’s much better there okay so for this piece i’m just going to come a bit further around into this area here i’ll put just a little bit of a wiggle of movement into it as well i think i think although it’s not essential for me to wire this piece i will just pop a bit of wire on finish this guy i off hear something tearing then all right and then so this one just want to come initially just around here and then just like so so it’s filling in this space it just peeps through from the front and i think that’s looking good all right the next piece that i’m going to wire is this bit i’m just going to tweak it around i’m just going to tweak it up a bit up into this area [Applause] again there’s nothing to wire it with so i’m going to hook it onto this structure just up here do just dislodged a leaf really got to concentrate doing this just with all these segments over and i was really paranoid about damaging the branch especially as we start to get round here into these thinner pieces i’m going to hold the wire with my pliers just to try and reduce how much it tightens on the branch because this wire is much too thick for that okay so that wasn’t that wasn’t fun but it’s on and i’m gonna go watching the uh watching the just watching the um the joins in the segments as i twist that round and up and then this piece very very carefully i don’t enjoy wiring these uh jades i must admit it’s quite a stressful thing to do but having done that i think that does look just a bit better let’s come in and cut the excess of that wire off okay so i’m done for the pruning and wiring for now just turn it around for you to have a look there we are back to the front now in terms of some of the structure i do still think there’s a bit too much going on in this upper region i don’t know whether this piece here needs to come off or at least be cut back um maybe this section here could come off or come back i’ll come once the tree is recovered we see what it’s going to do in reaction to what we’ve done so far and once the trees recovered i’ll think about what we do with some of this upper structure for the time being i’ll just keep it there for the um the additional foliage i’m gonna do a repot it’s been in this pot for quite some time judging by how hard it is to water i think if we leave it in this soil for much longer it’s going to start to cause problems so i’m going to get it out of this pot put it into a bonsai container i’m tired i’m told that repotting is best done in the summer with these species and it’s almost autumn now but i do have a secret weapon up my sleeve which i’ll tell you about now and then we’ll go and do the repot it’s a few days later now and i’m absolutely exhausted i’ve come back to do the repot i’ve been numbing and eyeing and i’ve decided to go for it i’ll talk a little bit about why i’m doing it in the middle of september a bit later on i’m going to do an update of the rosemary if you remember it about this time last year i did some work to it i’ll show you where it is now and the reason for that is because i’ve got a new tool that i really think is going to help this rosemary and the dwarf jade progress [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] first though let’s dive into this repot and see about getting it into a nicer pot i’m not going to try and extract this from the pot i’m simply going to cut the pot out i don’t like wasting plastic but with the sides trimmed down and whatnot already i don’t think there’s no chance that’s solid right just cut in then so over the last couple of days i’ve been letting this dry out a little bit just to make it a little bit easier to work with normally i like to keep my trees while hydrated when i’m going to work on them even repotting but this one i think having it dry i think for this particular tree being a succulent and i think keeping it dry [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] okay let’s look at pots then so this this rectangle is made by nick payne of spring wood ceramics i think this one’s just a touch small bearing in mind that the silhouette the silhouette of the apex is going to be a bit bigger than what it is now i think yeah it does look a bit small but i suppose i could always go bigger what i do like about this pot is the shape and i really like the color of the clay okay i’ll switch to the air in obviously that’s not in the perfect position we’ll sort that out when we finalize the repot but what do you think of this one i kind of think this pot is actually just a touch too big i think if i had a pot that was somewhere in between the two that would be perfect but even when the crown’s a bit larger than what it is now i still think it’s too big um right let me know what you think in the comments uh part one for the rectangle part two for the oval what would you do after a quick poll on facebook and over on tick tock i’ve decided to go with the oval it was unanimous everybody who replied said the oval so let’s do it right so first of all then i need to address the bottom of this root ball it’s a bit high in the middle you can flatten it out a bit lower the tree in its pot lovely all right i think we can drop it down in the pot just a bit lower [Music] ah that’s much better try it in the pot again [Music] okay so aesthetically i still think it’s a bit high in the pot but at this repotting i’m actually not going to take any more off the bottom there because we’re starting to hit quite a lot of thick roots i think it could do with being dropped lower in the pot but because of the amount of root that i’ve removed and the pruning and whatnot i’m going to stop reducing i’m going to stop there free up some of these circling roots around the outside and then we’ll get it potted i don’t want to remove more roots than i really absolutely have to and a bit of an aesthetic tweak isn’t essential enough for me to do that this time come back and do the next repotting if needs be i don’t want to go bananas and remove loads of roots just loosen them up so that when they start to when they start to grow away after being repotted [Music] they can do so unhindered and establish nicely and quickly [Music] poke the soil out of the way and then i can see what’s going on much better this root here that’s a reasonably thick root but it’s circling i don’t want to cut it because i can’t tell how much it’s attached to what i want what i want to do is just there we go we freed it without cutting it perfect see that’s tearing there cut that nice and clean the clean cuts is just gonna start to grow away much much more efficiently without dying back and rotting then any torn ends that will be leaving behind if we didn’t clean okay i think that we are good pruning of these roots great [Music] [Music] [Music] i’ll use three wires one here one here one here and that will give me the two to tie down there two to tie down there and two to tie down near the middle at the back middle [Music] so [Music] [Music] to secure for the tie-downs i’m going to use a bamboo stake pressed into the root ball and then tied off to the wire just like on mirai [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] so [Music] do [Music] all right folks the repot is now complete here we have it then folks let’s just do a nice little 360 for you we are done for this tree now there we go and back to the front lovely all right so i mentioned earlier that it might be a bit of a questionable time to be doing this repot so let me just tell you about why i’m doing this repot now and what i’m going to do to ensure that the tree thrives moving forward the information that i’ve been given about portulacaria aphra in the uk is that the best time to repot is in the summer according to graham potter of kaizen i’ve not bothered to do any experiments around this i’ve just taken it as a given and got on with it obviously now it’s the middle of september so that’s like at a push late summer in the northern hemisphere i think you’d probably call it early autumn or fall now so it’s not exactly summer so we’re about outside that window the reason i’ve done it is because it really needs to be done also this species can take it i wouldn’t have done this on a species i wouldn’t have done this on practically any other species if i’m going to do an autumn repot i normally wouldn’t hard prune it as well but i’m absolutely confident this tree is going to be fine it was super healthy and i’ve got a secret weapon to make sure it survives not that there’s any doubt in my mind that it’s going to survive i’ve just got this secret tool that’s going to give it just that little oof just that little bit of extra oomph so let me show you now come and take a look ah this is just beautiful i could do with a cocktail now oh gosh so over winter last year i put the portuguer into my conservatory which is actually north facing i think that it wasn’t getting enough light because oh my god did it ever drop foliage it was raining leaves i thought something was seriously wrong at one stage i was concerned that it wouldn’t make it and so i was um so i was actually quite worried and i actually thought about selling the tree to somebody else to look after because if i can’t keep it healthy there’s no point and then over on the rosemary video that i did last summer we had some branches die off on that rosemary and i’ll show you that in a minute actually but anyway i mentioned in a comment actually i think that where i am with my aspect and being in the uk as well the rosemary i think would benefit from some supplemental lighting over winter and that was probably gonna put the rosemary back into the garden to use as a herb completely out of the blue i got contacted over on instagram by a company called mars hydro who said that they would really kindly sponsor me a grow tent and a light and i had i absolutely jumped at the chance it was as if it was as if it was a sign from heaven that this is what i was supposed to do don’t plant the rosemary back in the garden you’ve come this far give it a go with the light that’s what the universe was telling me so yep i jumped at the chance to get a miles hydro grow light and here we are just in time for the autumn i’ve got it rigged up and it is absolutely lovely in here in fact i might make this my new office because i work from home full-time you see and oh the sun whenever i want oh that’ll be perfect no just kidding super humid in here already very warm i have to get out let’s do it okay there’s all the cuttings that i got off that tree there’s the tree itself lovely right this is my secret weapon then i’m gonna see how it progresses over winter i’ll do some regular updates just in case you’re interested to see how it’s going along obviously with the amount of pruning that i’ve done on this tree i’m not expecting to see it drop a bunch of leaves this winter anyway so i think the measure for success of this setup is going to be if and how much the trees grow and develop during the winter time obviously if it was in my conservatory it’s going to be pretty much dormant wouldn’t expect to see any growth and as i saw from last winter drops a load of foliage and ideally what i’d like to see is the tree really just burst into action in the spring grow away strongly that would be the ideal scenario and that’s what i’m going to use to measure the success of my experiment i’ll also be putting the rosemary in here i’ll do that a little bit later in the year before then i think i’m going to experiment a little bit with the height of the light and also get something to stand these plants on some shelves or even even just something on the bottom to lift them up up off the ground a bit i’m really not gonna get too scientific about it like they do in other industries i’m not gonna i’m not gonna investigate like the ideal height and you know the the best color of light or anything like that i’m just gonna give them some supplemental light i’ll i’ll set the light on a timer i’ll have a play around with how long it comes on for and just see how it goes really i think in the future i might think about investigating working with some ficus because there’s been a lot of people request that i do stuff with ficus and i don’t have the space in the house to keep them over winter but now i’ve got this i might be able to not not only keep them happy over the winter but i might also be able to just really grow them out i’ve got plenty of space in this tent loads of height for them to really stretch and grow so it might be that next year at some point we do a bit of experimentation with that i’ll just go and get the rosemary and i’ll show you which bits died and how it’s looking it’s not a brilliant winter or growing season to be honest with you but it’s recovering now let’s have a look here’s the rosemary then in the greenhouse which is on the north side of my house so it gets no sun or anything like that all winter it really did suffer this like this back branch died i think that’s more to do with my wiring than um than the lack of light but generally the whole of the tree looked very weak started to lose its greenness over winter there’s been one or two smaller branches as well as this back branch that died again i think that’s more likely to do with my wiring than the actual environment issues but the environmental issues didn’t help but generally the health of the tree was definitely the environment which is why this winter i’m going to keep it with some supplemental lighting back in the tent i did prune in july even though the health of the tree was not optimal um it was extending a bit far from the silhouette well because it’s rosemary they don’t backward they don’t back bud particularly well on older wood so i wanted to keep it compact it does need some more wiring a bit of fine-tuning here and there um but yeah i’m not going to do that what i am going to do is i’ll put it in the tent over winter to get some supplemental light and then in the spring i am going to repot it this box is falling apart so i’ll get it into a more suitable container and keep fingers crossed we’ll see how it goes hopefully that hopefully the mars hydro light and the tent’s really just going to keep it topped up with energy over winter so in the spring it’s just going to fly away that’s the theory we’ll put it to the test

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