A Few Takeaways from the Joe Harris III Seminar on Satsuki Azaleas-
Every year we invite a talented bonsai artist to talk in the studio here for our summer Crataegus Bonsai Seminar, and this year it was filled to overflowing with more than 30 people in a space that was built to teach 6. We were well rewarded for the sardining, however, as Joe Harris III gave us a remarkable 5-hour lesson in the history, cultivars, propagation, care, and styling of Satsuki Azaleas.
Few can claim Joe’s background—he studied for four years at Kanuma Bonsai Park in Kanuma, Japan under Mr. Hashimoto and dealt with a terrific number of azaleas while there, as well as other specialties like Japanese White Pine. Since then Joe has been in the upper management of the industry-leading Iseli Nursery here in western Oregon, and so he brings a wealth of knowledge from disparate fields to the table. It was an illuminating talk—our thanks to Joe for sharing his expertise and wry humor.
Joe Harris III speaking on the history, cultivars, propagation, care, and styling of Satsuki Azaleas.
Here’s a few rare facts from Joe that surprised the audience:
- By 1850 at least 260 cultivars of Satsuki were known.
- In the 1970’s the oil crisis forced Satsuki growing fields and greenhouses to be turned over to grow vegetables.
- Similar things happened in the 1990’s financial crisis.
- A pH of 5-6 is ideal.
- Keep Satsuki at 25 F or above during the winter.
- ‘Kozan’ was discovered at a temple and is the parent of dozens of cultivars.
- At Kanuma Bonsai Park they did not just let the azaleas flower every third year as is normal practice, rather, they let them flower every year. But they also fertilized in the springtime before flowering, too.
- The mushy flowers in the springtime are a blight, and a fungicide or taking them off just as they get old may help prevent it.