Luo Han Song ( Podocarpus macrophyllus or Yew padocarp ) Penjing - Basic Techniques in Form Development by Wu Xi-Fun

Luo Han Song is an evergreen pine, the leaves are small and dense. The branches are short and the trunk looks aged and energetic. It has a long life span and stands well to trimming, thus making it a superb choice as a material for penjing creation. As the plant grows very slowly, the process of form formation is also slow. Good Luo Han Song penjings are hard to come by and are thus more expensive. In order to speed up the creation of Luo Han Song penjing, we attempt to improve those Luo Han Song plants with good trunks but with the defect of not having more branches. Our purpose is to make remedial changes to the plant to make it look more perfect for penjing creation. Having gone through a number of years of practice we will try to sum up our experience and introduce our basic techniques employed as follows:

Remedial Techniques on trunks with the absence of branches in the lower portion.

Some of the Luo Han Song penjing plants may have very good trunk but without a good base. Also some of these plants may have very little branches in the lower portion but the upper portion has plenty of branches. As the growth is slow, it would be difficult and take a long time to nurture and reshape them to a balanced plant. To solve this problem we tried a very effective method of grafting a small branch to the trunk. We selected a strong plant of suitable thickness with plenty of leaves and branches and transplant it next to the main plant that required remedy. We did the grafting in March or April when the temperature in Chuan Si area is about 15°C to 22°C. With proper management, according to the growth and healing conditions, the small plant is cut off at two different times. After grafting and when the plant was completely healed, trimming and wiring was carried out to maintain a good form. So, by grafting young plants onto a Luo Han Song at proper positions one will produce a plant that would look more perfect in posture and greatly increases the appreciation value of the penjing.

Remedy on the Root System

Luo Han Song may be damaged through water logging or other mistreatment. This will adversely affect the growth of the plant and if not remedied in time may cause death. The method is to select a young plant and transplant it near to the affected Luo

Han Song. The lower portion of the young plant is grafted to the base of the Luo Han Song. If the grafting is done carefully and secured in place properly by a thin membrane, the success rate may reach 95% or higher. Once the grafting is done and growth and healing proved successful, the top plant of the young plant is cut off and eventually its root will replace the root of the Luo Han Song. If the original Luo Han Song is very large or if the damaged root system is extensive, we can use more than one young plant to do the grafting and do it at different affected parts of the original plant. This will enlarge the root system or even replace the old system all together. Through this method we can even modify the form of the root in a penjing e.g. exposing part of it to give the effect of "hanging root and exposing claws."

The Method of modifying the form at different parts of the plant

This method may be used for large, grown-up Luo Han Song plant, which because of various reasons, shows damages in the branches, a reduction in the tree crown size or rotting in the root. The shape thus appears terrible yet it is a pity to throw it away. The method is to cut up the trunk of the affect plant at different points according to its form into various sections. The sections are then position in the soil with three sticks Firstly using the method of root remedy, the lower position is grafted with new roots and using the method of branch remedy, new branches are grafted to the appropriate parts of the trunk. When the grafting becomes successful, trimming and wiring may be carried out to create a new form. After 2- 3 years of nurturing we will have a fully- grown new Luo Han Song plant ready for the creation of a penjing. By this method the otherwise interior Luo Han Song is turned into a more valuable material for Penjing creation.

(Translated from "Chinese Flower and Penjing" magazine 02-2, )


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