Creating nebari on pine sapplings

Ply

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I've got some 2-5 year old pine sapplings, and plan to collect a few more. I often read that if you want to create a good nebari starting early on is paramount.

What would be the best way to create a good nebary with these pine sapplings?
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
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Depends where you are collecting your saplings, and how many you can obtain, but I would simply collect those already showing decent nebari, and skip those with poor nebari. If you have a 25 year-old tree that needed root work, it might be worth it to spend years working on root grafts, etc, however with such young trees it probably isn't worth the labor.
 

MaciekA

Mame
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Delete downfacing roots and radially arrange the remaining ones according to feasibility in the tree and your skillfulness in the practice.

If the material doesn’t lend itself to this, as @Bonsai Nut says, move on to other material (or else suffer through wounding/moss-packing/hormoning and slowing down the material to try to ramify the roots, and accept the steep time cost vs better material. If seedlings are otherwise plentiful this can be a waste of time).

The younger a pine seedling is, the more likely you are able to intervene safely and with good results.

At 5 years, it’ll be tricky. At 5 weeks, you might be doing the taproot seedling cutting method and able to achieve a near perfect result (and should consider field growing pine prebonsai for a living, as this is step one).

I’ve collected my share of wild pine seedlings and IME this is a site-specific challenge. If the site is prone to drought or drainage (pines often compete for these sites) then you will discover a tap root since drought tolerance leans on early root colonization and sources may be deep.

If you do mess with restructuring collected seedling root systems “from scratch”, bottom heat (29C / 85F) is your secret magical superpower.
 
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JEads

Yamadori
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In addition to what has already been said, which I agree with completely, I would say to work the roots often (every year or two.) Cut off offending roots, down roots (unless they can be bent up) crossing roots, etc. then plant and grow hard for a year and repeat. A pine should be able to handle that work in the first 4-5 years of its life fine.
Start with more than you need and if at any time it seems weak, did not recover from the cutting, or is not spitting out roots where you want them, just discard and do not throw good time after bad trees.
 
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If you are starting with seedlings(especially conifers)from nature then your first years have been a crap shoot. To me those first few months and up to 24 months is the period to encourage radial roots from the trunk using various techniques. Collecting 2 or 3 yr old pine seedlings seems to be self defeating when there are reems of literature on how to do this from seed
 

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