How to create large black pines?

syon_r

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First of all, I have seen plenty of articles on trunk development for small shohin black pine bonsai, but I haven't seen any for large black pine bonsai. I have pre bonsai that are a foot in height, and I would like to eventually get them to around two feet in height. I have selected existing branches to use in the final design, and now I my goal is to grow the trunk taller and grow primary branches along this trunk. How should I go about thickening the trunk? Do I develop the tree to it's final height and then grow a sacrifice branch off the top, or do I grow a sacrifice branch off the side to thicken the trunk?
Also would I do any branch development like decandling or bud selection to keep final branches in check? I have been selecting two buds to ramify the tree branches. Or instead should I keep many small secondary branches and cut them back to a few when it is time to begin branch development? In other words, should I only prune off large long secondary branches and leave the rest? I think what I want to do is to not have to prune away too much growth after the trunk is the desired size, so be doing some branch development (forking branches, short internodes between whorls) while doing trunk development. Does this make sense to do, or not?
 

syon_r

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Also would I not be able to do refined branch development like decandling and stuff while freely growing the sacrifice branch? If the lower branches are already growing slowly, does it really affect trunk thickening to do branch development while having a sacrifice branch?
 

Adair M

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Sacrifice branches “off to the side” don’t do much. Terminal (apex) sacrifice trunks do.

The way it’s done is find a place with three branches at a node, or reduce branches down to three. Select one to be a future branch. Select another to be the future trunk. The remaining branch will be the sacrifice trunk. Stake it up vertical. Plant the tree in the ground. Let the sacrifice branch grow unimpeded. Keep the future branch cut back and decandle it. Let the future trunk grow a little, but don’t let it get long and lanky. Make sure the sacrifice does not shade out the future branch and trunk.

After a year or so, remove the sacrifice. Look for another node on the “future trunk” branch, and repeat the process.

Repeat until you’re happy with the trunk. Then really start working on the branches. The idea is to keep the branches small while building trunk with the sacrifices.

Here’s an example of a tree developed that way:

B7513257-8F29-4550-AA7D-82B933BE2DF5.jpeg
 

syon_r

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You let the sacrifice grow for just a year before replacing it? Most people leave them for a long time so they can get really tall. Would a year provide much growth for the sacrifice branch? Anyways, with the sacrifice do you let the sacrifice grow long by only leaving one strong bud, or do you just let it grow as many buds and branches off of it as it wants?
 

Adair M

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You let the sacrifice grow for just a year before replacing it? Most people leave them for a long time so they can get really tall. Would a year provide much growth for the sacrifice branch? Anyways, with the sacrifice do you let the sacrifice grow long by only leaving one strong bud, or do you just let it grow as many buds and branches off of it as it wants?
You can let it grow as long as you like.

One central leader seems to work best.
 

Potawatomi13

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Also would I not be able to do refined branch development like decandling and stuff while freely growing the sacrifice branch? If the lower branches are already growing slowly, does it really affect trunk thickening to do branch development while having a sacrifice branch?
Please add location to profile;).
 

MichaelS

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I've grown many of these to large sizes over the years. Not monsters, about 4 to 5 inches at the nebari.
This the way I do it. You can either wire some movement into the lower part of the trunk if you like curves or not wire if you like more angular movement. For the first 2 years you don't worry about anything but feeding and watering. Of course you will have arranged the roots well by now! This is planted I the ground by the way. You need a few lower branches. Without them you will struggle to make much in the way of taper.
At the start of the third year, you should have branches around 2 or 3 feet long and one or more leaders. Now is the time to select where you want to cut to. Usually you will have at least one low branch that emerges at more or less a 45 degree angle. If not it does not really matter. Even as much as 90 degrees or as little as 20 degrees is usable. So you come along and cut everything above that off although you still need to leave some of the original stem with some green left on it as you will let this resume growth.
Meanwhile the side branch you cut to will be rather long and probably flat. Ideally it will also have a few shorter branches coming off it's length. One of these small side branches will be your future continuation of the trunk so save a few of these and shorten the rest of the branch. Any other branches around the trunk should be assessed for the contribution to fattening the part of the trunk that they emerge from. If you have more than two or three you should reduce them to that number.
You use a little loose wire to direct the future leader into a good direction if it needs it. The roots should also be shortened at this time with a razor sharp spade about8 inches all around the trunk. No need to remove it from the ground and better if you don't. The uncut roots which remain will sustain it until it gets going again.
After that you will let it rocket away again for the entire season without any pruning - unless you get ridiculous growth that needs to be checked. By the fourth year you should have at least 2 or 3 inches at the trunk base.
From then on it's entirely up to you how big you want the tree and if you decide to keep going, remember that you will need to replace the leader with a smaller branch every year or two but repeating the above. This is the way to achieve great natural looking trunks without the horrible outdated dime-a-dozen ''S'' bends. The less you wire the more wild your tree will become as long as you ruthlessly remove the current leader and replace it with a smaller one coming at a good angle.
As an example, if you look at Adair's tree, the second main branch on the left is the one I would use as the continuation of the trunk line. Everything above and everything below would eventually be cut off. If you use your imagination, you can even use a branch that faces down as a new leader. The more you think outside the box the more unique your trees will be. What may look ridiculous today can be inspirational in years to come.
You will want to lift the tree and prune the roots every three or four years but you must at least cut them every 2 years. All this can be achieved in a grow box but will take twice as long. Keeping the branches small as suggested by Adair is totally counter productive. Let them grow if you want size. No de-candling or pinching or pruning during the growing season is required for the first 10 years. Later you can graft scions wherever you want to and this is standard practice in Japan however IMO they are stuck in a rut as far as styling at the moment. We can talk about that at a later stage too as I have done many hundreds of such grafts and they are very easy and a quick way to develop a pine.
 
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Anthony

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Get as many as 50 victims and be prepared to experiment.
Good Day
Anthony

A branch length of 32 to 36 inches = 1 inch of trunk diameter.
If you can ground grow do so.
 
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Sacrifice branches “off to the side” don’t do much. Terminal (apex) sacrifice trunks do.

The way it’s done is find a place with three branches at a node, or reduce branches down to three. Select one to be a future branch. Select another to be the future trunk. The remaining branch will be the sacrifice trunk. Stake it up vertical. Plant the tree in the ground. Let the sacrifice branch grow unimpeded. Keep the future branch cut back and decandle it. Let the future trunk grow a little, but don’t let it get long and lanky. Make sure the sacrifice does not shade out the future branch and trunk.

After a year or so, remove the sacrifice. Look for another node on the “future trunk” branch, and repeat the process.

Repeat until you’re happy with the trunk. Then really start working on the branches. The idea is to keep the branches small while building trunk with the sacrifices.

Here’s an example of a tree developed that way:

View attachment 167893
What Adair said. Also focus on keeping inner growth vigorous. Do that by pruning vigor in areas that are not part of the final design. That inner growth is the future of your pine.
 

Adair M

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I've grown many of these to large sizes over the years. Not monsters, about 4 to 5 inches at the nebari.
This the way I do it. You can either wire some movement into the lower part of the trunk if you like curves or not wire if you like more angular movement. For the first 2 years you don't worry about anything but feeding and watering. Of course you will have arranged the roots well by now! This is planted I the ground by the way. You need a few lower branches. Without them you will struggle to make much in the way of taper.
At the start of the third year, you should have branches around 2 or 3 feet long and one or more leaders. Now is the time to select where you want to cut to. Usually you will have at least one low branch that emerges at more or less a 45 degree angle. If not it does not really matter. Even as much as 90 degrees or as little as 20 degrees is usable. So you come along and cut everything above that off although you still need to leave some of the original stem with some green left on it as you will let this resume growth.
Meanwhile the side branch you cut to will be rather long and probably flat. Ideally it will also have a few shorter branches coming off it's length. One of these small side branches will be your future continuation of the trunk so save a few of these and shorten the rest of the branch. Any other branches around the trunk should be assessed for the contribution to fattening the part of the trunk that they emerge from. If you have more than two or three you should reduce them to that number.
You use a little loose wire to direct the future leader into a good direction if it needs it. The roots should also be shortened at this time with a razor sharp spade about8 inches all around the trunk. No need to remove it from the ground and better if you don't. The uncut roots which remain will sustain it until it gets going again.
After that you will let it rocket away again for the entire season without any pruning - unless you get ridiculous growth that needs to be checked. By the fourth year you should have at least 2 or 3 inches at the trunk base.
From then on it's entirely up to you how big you want the tree and if you decide to keep going, remember that you will need to replace the leader with a smaller branch every year or two but repeating the above. This is the way to achieve great natural looking trunks without the horrible outdated dime-a-dozen ''S'' bends. The less you wire the more wild your tree will become as long as you ruthlessly remove the current leader and replace it with a smaller one coming at a good angle.
As an example, if you look at Adair's tree, the second main branch on the left is the one I would use as the continuation of the trunk line. Everything above and everything below would eventually be cut off. If you use your imagination, you can even use a branch that faces down as a new leader. The more you think outside the box the more unique your trees will be. What may look ridiculous today can be inspirational in years to come.
You will want to lift the tree and prune the roots every three or four years but you must at least cut them every 2 years. All this can be achieved in a grow box but will take twice as long. Keeping the branches small as suggested by Adair is totally counter productive. Let them grow if you want size. No de-candling or pinching or pruning during the growing season is required for the first 10 years. Later you can graft scions wherever you want to and this is standard practice in Japan however IMO they are stuck in a rut as far as styling at the moment. We can talk about that at a later stage too as I have done many hundreds of such grafts and they are very easy and a quick way to develop a pine.
Here’s another example of growing a trunk:

D28B216E-B458-4948-9B24-53077BC182C5.jpeg

In this case I did graft on a couple of new branches. You can see one on the trunk just above the lowest branch on the left. I placed that one “upside down” so that it would be growing down off the trunk. That graft was placed last January.

I also placed 3 or 4 more grafts a couple weeks ago. Some more trunk grafts, and some on the low branches. When the ones on the low branches take, I’ll slowly cut back to them.
 

RobertB

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so am i ready this right, that thickening pine trunks is very different from traditional approaches to thickening trunks on deciduous trees? cutting back the sacrifice each year...?
 

Adair M

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so am i ready this right, that thickening pine trunks is very different from traditional approaches to thickening trunks on deciduous trees? cutting back the sacrifice each year...?
Not each year. But you do have to do it from time to time. That’s what creates taper.
 

Nwaite

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First you want to talk dirty to it ,then rub it a bit.... maby wear something sexy.... at least that how I get my black pines to grow big... mmmmm
 
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so am i ready this right, that thickening pine trunks is very different from traditional approaches to thickening trunks on deciduous trees? cutting back the sacrifice each year...?
Shinji Suzuki started leaving the first low branch to grow long for a fat lower trunk on his white pines. Eventually instead of cutting them off it evolved into "Long Branch Style."
 

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