The Joys of Chojubai-

I’ll find any excuse to share photos of Chojubai!

A few of these photos are of older trees blooming in my yard this spring, in their new antique pots. (Love that oxymoron, ‘new antique’—new to me, but also old to me and everyone else). I’ve also included photos of younger plants I’m growing.

‘Chojubai’ is the cultivar name for a dwarf form of Japanese Flowering quince. Because of the scarcity of Chojubai bonsai in the United States, and because I enjoy working with them, a few years ago I started growing them in some volume. Even though the ability to develop woody plants is nearly unparalleled in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it’ll still take me about 8 years to make a product I’m happy with, ready for a bonsai pot. In the meantime I’ll share a few of the Chojubai I’ve got going here, in various stages.

To date, pots with Chojubai outnumber all other plants combined in my yard… although I’d NEVER admit to any favoritism. Really, they just multiply whenever I turn around, I have nothing to do with it. Randy critters. I think they need a lecture on safe propagation. Until I do that, I’ll keep potting up the newcomers.

For more about Chojubai including some famous trees from Japan, see my earlier post Diminutive Jewels.

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12″ H, 22″ W. One of the older Chojubai I have. This one seems to start growing a bit later than others and only flowers once a year, but has great bark. In a pot that is not antique but maybe 40 years old, and must have been used for at least 39 of those years as it has a lovely patina developing on its surface, softly greying the cream glaze.

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10″ H. This modest-sized tree is in a nakawatari Chinese shirokouchi, which is fancy bonsai lingo for: The pot came from China about 150 years ago and has a cream glaze. Pot supplied by Maestro Matt Reel.

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16″ H. Although about as old as the first one, maybe 40 years, this tree doesn’t have quite as good bark, but it grows more vigorously and blooms 2-3 times a year. Bark is related to age, but more significantly for Chojubai, it’s related to genetics. So if we’ve got a young plant and don’t know where it came from, we won’t know when or if it will develop that wonderfully craggy, checked bark that adds so much to their beauty in the winter. One 25-year-old plant I have still has none of that characteristic bark.

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11″ H. This Chojubai was grown by Anne Spencer since 1990 from a three year old plant. Container by Sara Rayner. Anne was meticulous in her notes, and they read: “Purchased at GSBF convention from Roy Nagatoshi. Is cutting from original plant near Nagatoshi’s nursery, originally from Japan. $7.50–3 yr. cutting. Planted into garden for winter.” This little tree blooms a couple times a year. We all miss Anne.

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20″ wide. This rascal has been growing in my yard for a couple of years, bought as a 6-7 year old plant from Telperion Farms. Blooms several times a year, if I let it. Which I don’t.

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More rascals in the back-forty, also originally from Telperion Farms a couple years ago.

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A rascal-to-be. Cuttings taken last year from the old multiple-trunk tree on this post, the first photo. Love the bark on that tree! Some of these cuttings were trying to bloom less than a year from growing roots. I don’t make this stuff up! They’re crazy plants.

25 Comments

  1. Dave Martin says:

    An absolutely fabulous variety for bonsai I understand your preoccupation with them. There should some sort of help available for those in love with them.

    • crataegus says:

      There is little information available outside of Japan. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have of their care and development- I worked on many in Japan and feel as familiar with them as an old friend.

  2. Wood says:

    Sir Hawthorne, addiction or infection? I’m just glad there isn’t a cure 🙂 They are really looking good!

  3. crataegus says:

    Worse, I think it’s a parasite… nope, no cure in sight!

  4. ted matson says:

    Great that you’re doing this, Mike. There definitely is a shortage of these wonderful specimens in the US.

  5. yenling29 says:

    Beautiful Pictures, thank you for all the great info!
    Hope it’s okay if I ask a few questions
    -Is summer the best time to wire?
    -Do you work on the nebari much when repotting?
    -should flowers generally be removed on all trees in development or when growing them out?

    • crataegus says:

      1. -There are two good wiring seasons, nov.-feb—and then june-july. Those are the same times that pruning is best, too.
      2. -There is very little nebari work done on Chojubai, although one could attend to it a bit… it is one of these trees like collected juniper or pine where we really don’t expect much from the nebari area. The tree does not naturally grow anything that looks like a spreading root system, in fact some are raised root and combinations of those two. It’s a blank canvas in that regard, but if a Chojubai does not have a nebari, you’d never count that against it such as when judging a show.
      3.- Yes, flowers should be mostly removed if you’ve a young plant and you’re trying to grow branches and trunk size. And then more will come out. They may keep trying to push flowers even if you’ve taken all those off that you can find. It may take a couple of lectures before it gets the hint. And older ones should have their flowers taken off as they darken in color and open fully; never let them die on the tree or form fruit. This is daily work in the spring.

  6. Bruce Winter says:

    Gotta love Chojubai!
    I have a pot very much like the nakawatari Chinese shirokouchi and I’m wondering if yours has any marks on the bottom.

  7. Outnumbers everything else in the garden, huh? Great – keep ’em coming!

  8. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit and commented:
    I’ve taken a real notion for these dwarf flowering Quince. Gotta get me some stock to work with.

    • crataegus says:

      Wonderful! There are several sources of young plants, Telperion and Evergreen Gardenworks, I think Lone Pine had some too. That’s west coast, not sure who has them on the east side-

  9. mrmurt says:

    Many of the plantings or photos I have seen were clump style, like the first photo. Some of the others you show are more of a trunk style. Is there a preference? As you know, we have to follow what has been done in the past 🙂

    • crataegus says:

      Clump style is the most popular because it’s the way the plant wants to grow. It makes sense, and it’s beautiful. Single trunk trees are rare. It takes longer to make a good single trunk tree as they don’t thicken very fast, and for clump style plants it’s not really necessary to have thick trunks, it’s more the language between the thin trunks that’s interesting.

  10. dick benbow says:

    Always like to check in here to find comments on my favorite, chojubai!

    the Big white you helped me to wire two years ago, got repotted this spring into a sharon muth pot from 1978. Nice!

    My Oranges are just beginning to bloom. course, they remind me in leaf style and bloom size like whites.

    For some reason I struggle most with my favorites-the reds.

    almost brought tears to my eyes to see how well the chojubi you got from Ann is doing. If you ever make a start from that tree….I have a shohin corkbark elm she started 7 years ago that has a special meaning for me.

  11. Aman says:

    Mike, There is a Flowering Quince close to my work and I plan to take some cuttings from it. I am almost certain it is not Chojubai, but it is a larger and more courser bush. I want to know how these other varieties behave as bonsai.

    • crataegus says:

      They are very similar— the most important thing is to let the extensions grow in the spring, and then cut back in June to a couple of internodes. This gives the tree energy to flower, and to regrow and build ramification. So we don’t pinch quince, you cut them with scissors, after they have extended. Be sure to cut the shoots that come up out of the soil or from the base of the tree; if you let them grow the old parts of the quince can get weak.

  12. Marty says:

    Micheal – Related to the last comment. I have one that we dug last year and let grow to establish good roots. It grew well and never lost leaves during the warm winter we had. I need to cut back hard to start producing the twigginess of a clump style flowering quince since it is now composed of many long straight branches from 6 – 12″ long. Can I cut back now as it start to grow or should I wait until it has produced new third year shoots.

  13. nadir says:

    Dear Michael,

    Thanks for the post.
    When would be best time for hardwood cuttings? Do you use special soil for them?
    Thank you

    • crataegus says:

      Chojubai can be rooted at almost any time of the year. The best time is in June, just after the leaves have hardened off. Then they will need some misting.

      Any fine soil that isn’t muck will probably do ok. The main thing is to get some capillary water into the cutting. So our usual coarse bonsai soil is not the best for cuttings.

  14. Kit Bowns says:

    Michael,
    I have a chojubai single trunk which has a diameter of about 1 inch. It is a shohin tree and I would like another couple of branches further down the trunk. Have you any experience of grafting with this species that you could share?
    Kit

    • crataegus says:

      I have never grafted chojubai, interesting thought. Here’s an option: If you make a horizontal cut with a sharp knife above a likely area for a bud, you might be able to push that bud. Prevents the down flow of auxin, which will then encourage a bud to break.

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