To repot now or not to repot now?

(With apologies to ol’ Bill Shakespeare.)

I acquired this ponderosa in Andy Smith’s Burlap Bonanza in 2015; its age was estimated at 40 years. I built the box after I received it, and potted the tree up in a mix of (if memory serves) 60% scoria, 30% Turface, and 10% chopped bark. By the end of the first season there were root tips poking out of the bottom seams of the box. (I live in northern Indiana, USA, by the way.)

Last August, after 3 years in the box, it received its first major styling in a workshop with Bjorn Bjorholm. The first picture shows the tree before-hand, the second afterward.

You can see that a lot of the foliage was taken off. I kept it well watered and fertilized, and in the sunniest spot I had, for the rest of the season. Once the weather got quite cold it went onto the ground, sheltered from the wind by my garden shed. When a week of extreme cold hit in January, with absolute temperatures as low as -20 F (-29 C), it went inside the unheated garden shed until the weather got back to normal…

My dilemma: should I repot this spring, as I had intended, or wait another year? Any tree depends on its foliage to fuel a rebuilding of the root system, and I wonder if the tree would manage the rebuilding with so little foliage left, percentage-wise.


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how is the foliage responding in terms of development of new growth/buds?

Pertinent question, and maybe I should already have mentioned this. The buds are plump and hard, but haven’t started to elongate yet.

The tree sits beside two other ponderosas, both much younger, nursery trees bought for learning (for me) and development (for them). The buds of one of them are at the same stage as the buds of the tree in question. The buds of the other have begun to elongate, enough to see the elongation but otherwise not even to the “fuzzy pineapple” stage.

I’ll try to get up-to-date pics of the buds this afternoon.

Update: I haven’t yet gotten new pictures - rain and I keep forgetting my camera. But, while catching up on past live streams, I heard RN say that a caramel color to a ponderosa’s buds in spring means it is beginning to break dormancy.

This tree’s buds are caramel-colored, and this morning I could see that a couple of them have just begun to elongate. So I need to make a decision soon, I guess!

A few days before I posted this question, I also emailed Bjorn Bjorholm to get his advice. I just got his response yesterday: he strongly advises me to leave the tree’s roots alone for a year to let it recover after “such heavy styling” as we did in August.

That was my own inclination, to leave it alone and let it rebuild its strength. And that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe a little refreshing of the top ½-inch or so of substrate, but otherwise just baby the heckoutovitt!

Thanks for the response, Antelion.

hello Treebeard,

thank you for the update regarding Bjorns answer. My take would also be the presence of strong new growth (not just the passing of set interval of time) and not only signs of the tree “waking up”. Hope you have some trees to bridge the waiting time on this one.