Dwarf Mugo Pine knuckles

GailOD1

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Hi - I picked up a couple of nursery dwarf mugo to learn on. I am enjoying learning to select buds and pinch candles, and observing effects and growth.

When I bought the pines they appear to have had lower limbs trimmed as there are knuckles on both plants. Can I trim the knuckles with my concave trimmers or will that kill the tree? The knuckle swells to either side of the trunk like this: ((llllll))

So, can I trim both sides at once, one side a year, or not at all? Thanks!!
 

Vance Wood

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Hi - I picked up a couple of nursery dwarf mugo to learn on. I am enjoying learning to select buds and pinch candles, and observing effects and growth.

When I bought the pines they appear to have had lower limbs trimmed as there are knuckles on both plants. Can I trim the knuckles with my concave trimmers or will that kill the tree? The knuckle swells to either side of the trunk like this: ((llllll))

So, can I trim both sides at once, one side a year, or not at all? Thanks!!

It will take more than one year at a time but yes you can cut the knuckles. The trick is to let it heal over at least 50% to re-establish a growth pattern to the top of the tree. Once this happens you can cut the other side. Once that one heals the same way you can remove the other two if they exist. This is the major problem with Mugos is this tendency to produce an abundance of strong growing ends emanating around an axle producing a knuckle as they mature and elongate. When the tree is young and being forced to grow by the nursery developing them for the garden trade these knuckles can become a real problem.

There are ways to get around these kinds of formations in future development by carefully managing what buds you allow to develop in the future. In young trees, one or two seasons beyond their a knuckle formation, you can cut growth to a point below the knuckle as long as there are needles existing below the cut point. New buds will form, usually randomly, and the problem is solved until a strong growing tip with a terminal bud and two to five axillary buds start to form.

When this happens the terminal bud should be removed and any other buds but two at the end. Any buds forming below the major terminal should be saved. These give you future points to cut back the branch and keep growth close to the trunk.
 

GailOD1

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Thank you for your informative reply Vance! I understand your first paragraph and preventing knuckles will be more understandable to me, I suspect, as I see the mugo progress. I have a glimmer of understanding, not having seen the unusual Mugo progression before.

Sometimes bonsai seems like a chess game to me, with possible future moves for the desired results three (or many!) moves further on. The mugo is my respected game partner.

Thanks again,

Gail
 

Vance Wood

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Sometimes bonsai seems like a chess game to me, with possible future moves for the desired results three (or many!) moves further on. The mugo is my respected game partner.

Thanks again,

Gail

This is particularly true of Pines. There are things that can be done, there are things that could be done and there are things that should be done--and there are some things that never should be done. The problem is in deciding what you want to accomplish, or what needs to be accomplished, or what needs to be done because you missed a step some where along the line. There is a tendency to read articles about developing small needles and things like that. This is fine with older trees coming into some sort of artistic maturity.

However these fancy and sexy needle reduction techniques can actually work against a tree that should be in development mode for a while. The big thing you are faced with right now is developing an artistic branch and trunk line and reducing the knuckles. You can kind of associate this idea with attempting to develop wash board abs on a twelve-year-old boy. This practice is considered damaging to the young person. So too, some advanced things you may see in the books could be damaging to a young tree in need of branches, not small needles.
 

GailOD1

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Vance, thanks for the guidance on priorities! It makes the challenge manageable. I am going to go back to the nurseries, look at all their material in search of a knobless mugo specimen, and add it to my little collection.

I removed some of the needles from the branches so I could see the trunk, not realizing this is not recommended for the Mugo. I will keep up with the two I have but also try a third leaving the branch needles intact.

As soon as I can figure out how to post pictures, I will. I have read everything I could find online and in this forum last couple of days. I am lucky I found bonsainut. I searched for Mugo's and this forum popped up.

Regards,

Gail
 

Vance Wood

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Vance, thanks for the guidance on priorities! It makes the challenge manageable. I am going to go back to the nurseries, look at all their material in search of a knobless mugo specimen, and add it to my little collection.

I removed some of the needles from the branches so I could see the trunk, not realizing this is not recommended for the Mugo. I will keep up with the two I have but also try a third leaving the branch needles intact.

As soon as I can figure out how to post pictures, I will. I have read everything I could find online and in this forum last couple of days. I am lucky I found bonsainut. I searched for Mugo's and this forum popped up.

Regards,

Gail

It is not likely you will find a knobless Mugo, especially in a nursery. However it is more likely to find one that has a trunk bigger than its knuckles. Sometimes it goes the other way making the young Mugo kind of look like a donut on a stick. This is especially likely with the smaller trees. It is for this reason I purchase Mugos in the 3 gallon range. It is more likely to find good trunks and diminished knuckles.
 

Pine Barron

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Can someone please take a picture of these knuckles?
 

GailOD1

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looks like it worked. Click the link above to see really ugly knuckles. The mugo is about 5-6 inches tall. There is a toothpick in the soil I use as a moisture gauge. The stump at right rear above the knuckle is a stump from an unwanted branch I cut off.

The plant has undergone bud selection and removal for branch ramification about 3 weeks ago. What was not pinched off has come back very strongly. You will note I removed some needles from the branches - now I know better. The plant has not been repotted - that will wait until this summer. The pot is root bound.
 

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