Care sheet for Japanese Five Needle Pine please!

tanlu

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Hi Everyone!

I joined this forum to find info on specific species used in bonsai. Some threads have been helpful, and I've contacted a few pine experts, which has been even more helpful, but I would like to have a reliable accurate species guide that I can always go back to myself. I started bonsai a year ago and my favorite subjects are pines, particularly Japanese Five Needle Pines. I'm quite broke, but I can't help but be drawn to the beauty of this species. Fortunately, after A LOT of research, I managed to purchase a few young seedlings (the oldest plant is roughly 12y/o) for a bargain price earlier this fall.

I've been looking online all over the place for care guides for the species and a lot of what I've found is either redundant or contradictory. I live in the Greater New York City area(Zone 6b), similar to its native climate in central Japan. Can any of you Japanese Five Needle Pine experts in this forum KINDLY provide or know how I can find a care sheet/species guide for this kind of pine?

Thank you!

-Theo
 

tanlu

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Thanks jkl, but I've seen that care sheet and sections of it used for other pine species on that website and on others numerous times. Making it too general in my opinion. I've spoken to a few Japanese Five Needle Pine(JWP) experts and most say they are quite different from other pine species. I've found a lot of JBP specific care sheets, but very little for JWP. Since mine are grown from seed, I would assume some of the care requirements would be different.

I'm always looking for new info on this species, but if anyone else can provide a link or are themselves an authority on the species, I would love to hear your input!
 

yamins

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I'm pretty much in the same situation as you. Despite much searching, I have found that probably the only way to gain real understanding of something like growing JWP is to A) study on a regular basis with someone who works on the species over a period of years, and/or B) try a lot of things out yourself with inexpensive "test" trees. A) is expensive but comparatively efficient, while B) is cheap and -- if you take the right attitude -- fun. Myself, I'm pursuing a combination of A and B, and am still at the very earliest stages of the learning curve.

That said, the book "Bonsai Today Masters' Series: Pines, Growing & Styling Japanese Black & White Pines",
published by Stone Lantern publishing, has VERY extensive information on JWP care (including info on handling young trees), and is largely tuned for our climatic zone (5a - 7b).

Amazon lists the book for an absurdly high price, but call Stone Lantern and see what they say. (I bought it myself directly from them, at a very reasonable price, within the last few years.) If you absolutely cannot locate a copy, I'll be happy to lend you the book in person to make photocopies.

Dan
 

tanlu

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I'm pretty much in the same situation as you. Despite much searching, I have found that probably the only way to gain real understanding of something like growing JWP is to A) study on a regular basis with someone who works on the species over a period of years, and/or B) try a lot of things out yourself with inexpensive "test" trees. A) is expensive but comparatively efficient, while B) is cheap and -- if you take the right attitude -- fun. Myself, I'm pursuing a combination of A and B, and am still at the very earliest stages of the learning curve.

That said, the book "Bonsai Today Masters' Series: Pines, Growing & Styling Japanese Black & White Pines",
published by Stone Lantern publishing, has VERY extensive information on JWP care (including info on handling young trees), and is largely tuned for our climatic zone (5a - 7b).

Amazon lists the book for an absurdly high price, but call Stone Lantern and see what they say. (I bought it myself directly from them, at a very reasonable price, within the last few years.) If you absolutely cannot locate a copy, I'll be happy to lend you the book in person to make photocopies.

Dan
Dan,

Thanks for replying to this thread! Although I was hoping some JWP expert would take the opportunity to flex their knowledge on the species, meeting someone dealing with the same issue can be just as helpful! You're right about "A" being expensive, and I think my bugging the pine experts with questions has almost crossed the line to pestering.

Like you, I also enjoy experimenting with my little "trees" and seeing what works. My budget limits me to downloading any info I can find online. Are your JWPs grafted or from seed? Do you also live in the NYC area? If it's not too inconvenient for you, meeting up works for me. I do have a scanner at work.

-Theo
 
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jk_lewis

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Bonsai Today Issue Number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 (several), 25 and 26

International Bonsai Magazine: #4 1988, #1 2004, #4 2004, #4 2002 and number 4 2006

Bonsai Magazine (BCI): 12-99

In addition to a host of general pine articles and there ISN'T THAT MUC H DIFFERENCE. Remember that "specialists" like to claim that their is a very complex specialty.
 

Bill S

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"and I think my bugging the pine experts with questions has almost crossed the line to pestering."

I am not one but I would say no you aren't pestering, asking a lot for a post maybe, but thats OK.
There is a huge lack of comprehensive "instruction" on almost any given species, partly because there are so many variables, starting with your local climate. Throw in not everybody here is "on" all day, so be patient you must.

There are some good pine articles around written by various members of the bonsai community, have you tried the search function here and other sites? Someone mentioned the master class pine books, they have gotten good reviews.

Part of the issue(if there is really issues) is that it is very general , it is almost not possible in a few hundred words to give you comprehensive pine lessons, in a thread like this without stretching it out over many pages. You may have better luck asking specific questions, if you know what to ask(sorry hard to tell what you may know).

Welcome aboard, and good hunting
 

Brian Van Fleet

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You may have better luck asking specific questions, if you know what to ask
Exactly...where do you want to start?

Growing seedlings' trunks out for bonsai?
http://www.evergreengardenworks.com/pines.htm

Sacrifice branches?
Bonsai Today #84

Pinching/Pruning?
Bonsai Today #95

Repotting?
Bonsai Today #40 and #94

When to do what?

Growing them out is mostly a matter of selecting branches that are the final design and growing out sacrifice branches to thicken the trunk...and always keeping it straight as to which is which!
 

yamins

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Theo -- Those magazine references are good. The Master Series book I mentioned is actually composed of all the Bonsai Today articles (though of course not the IBM articles) compiled together, with a few additional chapters and commentary. I would be happy to meet up, send me a private message about doing so.

JKL -- As a beginner, I think that Theo has a good question about what the differences between JWP and most two-needle pines are, and how much they matter. Various readings I've done, plus my own short experience comparing my JBPs and JWPs, suggests that they bud back very differently (the JWPs hardly at all, the JBPs quite a lot). This could change the "planning" for a tree's future considerably; and while the information on how to use JBP's abundant back-budding to "push in" growth on middle branches while getting a thick trunk is well-disseminated on the web, corresponding techniques for JWP are not.

In fact, I still don't understand what those JWP techniques might be, or even whether you really need different techniques that much anyway. I have briefly interacted with people who have long-term experience working with JWP, and I think (but am not sure) that they have a large amount of intuitive knowledge about how to handle two- and five-needle pines differently. This knowledge is almost "built in to their hands", and is very hard to extract by a sequence of questions.

Even articles and books have a hard time communicating this stuf -- there is a line in one of the Bonsai Today articles about how a specific candling technique for JBP described previously in the article "would not work at all for Japanese White pine" -- but it doesn't say exactly in what way this technique differs from their JWP advice, an when I look back to compare, it all looks very similar, leaving my really confused. Somehow, the articles fail to communicate the relevant axes along which to differentiate JWP from JBP, but leave the definite impression that some substantial difference exists.

Ultimately, it seems to me that the only way to learn these things is to either a) apprentice in a long term way with an expert or b) try a large number of experiments over a multi-decade period. Probably some combination of both is the best way to go. But it requires a non-trivial financial commitment, unless one is willing to be ultra-patient and diligent and do everything from seed or learn to make excellent grafts.

D
 

mcpesq817

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Hans van Meer had a great comprehensive article on overall pine care which I believe included the differences in care for five-needle pines. He also had another article which largely reproduced the first one that concentrated on two-needle pines. I can't seem to find the first article online any more - I think I have it printed out at home, but the second is on his website.
 

mcpesq817

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On the Stone Lantern book, be aware that it is a compilation of various translated Japanese articles that were published in Bonsai Today. The big issue I have with that book is that nobody took the time to make sure that consistent terms are used, so in my view, the book can be very confusing.

The best article I could find on two needle pines was Hans' article mentioned above. The overall best resource on JBPs is Boon's set of videos. Maybe he'll do one in the future specifically on JWP care?
 

yamins

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Mcpesq817, I totally agree -- the Bonsai Today book can at times be quite confusing, even though it has voluminous information -- largely because the various articles haven't been harmonized.

But even with the mentions of Hans van Meer and Boon's stuff, we basically only have information on two-needle pines. There still does not seem to be a clear explication, with the same level of clarity as all the excellent JBP information, for JWPs.

Perhaps the differences simply don't matter that much? Does anybody strongly disagree with the statement

"Japanese White Pines can basically be treated like Japanese Black Pines, both in the early growth and
training phases, as well as the later maintenance phases?"

Mind you, I'm not agreeing with this statement (or disagreeing). I'm just trying to elicit a reaction that might point to a really clear and easily findable resource that settles the question, and in particular addresses JWP training. Of course, maybe no such resource exists, and the only way to understand the situation is to simply learn by doing. I'm fine with that ... but I'd love to know the community consensus.

D
 

mcpesq817

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Hi Yamins,

I haven't worked with JWPs (I do have a few small ones in the ground to grow out), but I believe that they are treated differently than JBPs when it comes to needle thinning and candling. I could be wrong about this, as it is coming from memory from reading up on JWPs when I first started out a couple of years ago.

What would be nice is a comprehensive guide, season by season, of what to do with 2-needle pines and what to do with 5-needle pines, so that any differences will be readily apparent. Hans' old article did do this, but I can only find the article he did that focused on 2-needle pines. A couple of years ago I tried to put together a chart using all the various sources I came across, but I'm not sure where I put it. :(
 

Bonsai Nut

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At lot of the difference comes from the way you balance strength in the trees;

With JBP you separate the tree into three "zones" based on strength of buds (when you balance strength in the Spring). In most cases the strongest buds will be the highest, and located on the outside of the strongest branches, but not always. Weakest buds you don't touch. Middle strength buds you trim FIRST. You wait several days (depending on strength of tree and speed it is growing) and trim strong buds SECOND.

JWP is a much weaker tree (in general). When bud pruning you also separate the tree into three zones. You don't touch the weak buds. You trim the strong buds FIRST (exact opposite of JBP). Wait several days, then trim middle strength buds second.

Don't know an easy way to remember. I guess you could think Black Pine - speed up strong buds first, White Pine slow down strong buds first.

If you trim white pine middle buds first, when you trim strong buds later the middle buds will die.
 

yamins

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Thanks -- that's very helpful -- it definitely addresses the "maintenance" and "fine development" part of the equation. That is, what to do with the tree when you already have developed the trunk and the main branch structure. Of course, having a very extensive maintenance and development series for white pine -- like the JBP videos by Boon.

But there's also the "development" part of the equation, e.g. what to do with young trees to balance the simultaneous but somewhat conflicting needs of trunk thickening and ramification of low main branches. There's a lot of good information available on this aspect of JBP, especially the articles by Brent Walston on his Evergreen gardenworks site. But there's not much about analogous aspects of JWP development.

Perhaps this is because most JWP is grafted and bought once already developed, and so slow growing that most people are totally unwilling to do it from seed and never really go through this part of the process.

Or maybe it's because the development stages of 5-needle pines are very similar to two-needle pines, unlike the later maintenance phase? I have the sense that the strength balancing differences, though, matter at least as much if not more during the trunk-development phase.
 

tanlu

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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful input and thorough responses!

First off, I've tried to find copies of Bonsai Today issues online with little success. (I lack the funds and I'm reluctant to purchase any literature, especially if it mostly applies to established bonsai and will lead beginners like myself to more confusion) I'm looking for care guides because they are FREE, straight-to-the-point, and reading them over and over again reassures me and gives me confidence to use the appropriate techniques. I've done LOTS of research already and while I DO find Brent's and Hans' articles to be very helpful, my trees are not grafts, nor are they established bonsai. I can usually recognize techniques applying to the development of my "trees" and which are for refinement of established JWP bonsai.

Yamins, in those last few replies took the words right out of my mouth, in a more eloquent manner.

Brian, since I don't have any pre-bonsai stock/or established bonsai, I'm looking more into developing raw JWP material to become pre-bonsai. I'm looking for specific best practices/tips that can help improve the vigor of my trees. For example: I read that seaweed extracts are excellent for strong growth and cold resistance. If I remember correctly, was it you that uses seaweed extract micronutrients?

Just for the record, Although I'm not that experienced, I experimented with the early fall-repotting/light root trimming of a 12y/o JWP seedling and it was a success (The cool-overcast NY weather during that time may have helped). I'm seeing more and more new white feeder roots! Eventhough, I'll stick with early spring repotting since it gives me the whole year to develop healthy roots, it's rewarding and fun to see what works! I don't plan to repot for at least 4 years.

My theory is: since JWP are known to have weaker roots, resulting in weak upper growth, I'm wondering how I can strengthen/promote vigor in the roots as a means to promote upper growth.

More insights and thoughtful comments are welcome!
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Brian, since I don't have any pre-bonsai stock/or established bonsai, I'm looking more into developing raw JWP material to become pre-bonsai. I'm looking for specific best practices/tips that can help improve the vigor of my trees. For example: I read that seaweed extracts are excellent for strong growth and cold resistance. If I remember correctly, was it you that uses seaweed extract micronutrients?
Look at Bonsai Today #84. It has an EXCELLENT article about growing JWP whips into whoppers. Granted, they're using 'Zuisho', which are a heavy-trunked dwarf, but the process should be identical. Note, they wire the whips for shape, and then put them into the ground for 5-10 years.

Every year or two, you'd do a trunk-chop to redirect the trunkline into a branch; which builds movement and taper. ALL ALONG, you need to identify branches that will be the final branches, and then keep them well-ramified, healthy, but all growth close to the trunk. Everything else grows wild. Here are a few photos from that article in BT#84, page 46 that clearly illustrates this concept.

I do use micronutrients derived from seaweed, and also fish emulsion, seaweed...with kelp and humates, which are supposedly quickly available to plants at a cellular level. I would suggest that you keep them in well-draining soil in the ground, and keep root disturbances to a minimum while you're growing them out...i.e., don't dig them up! Feed them heavily with organics, but I'd avoid chemicals (others will balk here) if you're growing in the ground, since you really want to amend the soil with organic feeds, rather than feed the tree directly with chemicals. Think well-balanced meals vs. a Red Bull. Most of the in-ground growing I see consists of raised beds, so you have slightly better control over watering, but I don't know how much difference it will make with JWP.

Finally, we should be careful with the word "weak". The term "weak" is relative. JWP aren't "weak" trees, or else they eventually wouldn't exist. They simply develop more slowly than Black Pines and so we need to adjust our expectations...because we can't do much to adjust their growth rates, other than keep them healthy. Best of luck, I hope you turn out some great stock in 10-15 years! JWP is rare here.
 

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yamins

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Brian, that's really useful information. Thank you. (I've ordered the BT back issue.)

The process you describe has a somewhat different emphasis than the JBP process, which involves heavy use of back-budding to convert large-trunk material into bonsai: keeping low branches, having a strong sacrifice leader, and, crucially, getting internodal back-budding to produce reasonably-spaced trunk sections with good movement.

In this JWP process, it seems that you have to be creating the ramification of secondary branches VERY close in while growing the trunk out.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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In this JWP process, it seems that you have to be creating the ramification of secondary branches VERY close in while growing the trunk out.
Bingo, Dingo!

And...keep track of what purpose each branch is serving...final or sacrifice; which will get easier each year!
 
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