Mugo Pine branch ramification

pwk5017

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Ok, this is one of my first mugos I have worked on, so I am not too familiar with the techniques used to induce backbudding on these trees. I decandled the tree along with all my JBP at the same time last year. As you can see, I have plenty of buds and shoots at the tips of the branches from decandling last year. However, it did not backbud along the branches as well as I would have hoped. I got some buds to pop on the trunk, but not alot along the leggy branches. The trunk is done and all the final branches are in place and at the correct diameter, so I want to begin tapering the branches and developing finer ramification. So, should I decandle again this year or should I prune each branch back to the most interior shoots as indicated with red lines? Also, is it correct to follow the calendar of the JBP when decandling/pruning? I know vance wood has discovered repotting in the summer is beneficial, but he never discussed pruning/decandling in detail in his article. Any info or past experiences would be nice, thanks.

Patrick
 

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garywood

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Patrick, in the photo, is this after you've cut candles and when? Can't tell form the photo but it seems to be a fairly young tree. A full shot would help. Mugos bud much better than JBP and without candle pruning in the initial training process. Your tree appears to have 3 shoots at some of the tips. That far out past the silhouette you don't need that many, only 1. If you feed very aggressively this growing season and reduce the tip shoots to 1 in the fall and remove needles on that shoot to 6 or 8 needles it will throw plenty of buds.
Wood
 

garywood

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Patrick, I forgot to ask, when was it potted?
 

pwk5017

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I decandled last june. It has not been touched since. Yes, it is a young tree. It has a 2" trunk and is about 6" tall. It is nursery stock, so that is why I am faced with these long and leggy branches. So reduce to 1 shoot a piece or just decandle the whole thing again?
 

pwk5017

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damn, forgot to answer the potting question. It was repotted in a pond basket 2 years from this august.
 

garywood

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Patrick, not at you but for anyone following later. Bonsai is somewhat analogous to baking a cake. There are things that need to done in a certain order. It's best to mix, bake and then ice. That sounds simple but what consistency should the batter be, blended or folded? How hot to bake and for how long. Will it stick to the pan? What if I grease the pan or use flour? What type icing? Should it compliment or contrast, glaze or frosting? The further your bonsai journey goes the more detailed it becomes so it's imperative when giving or receiving advice that there is a common context, complete photo's help. Just looking at the one branch only gives a partial recipe only applying to what should be done to that particular branch to get a specific response. In general, to get the most of the physiologic response possible is to grow everything very hard but that doesn't lend itself to good bonsai. The next step is to isolate what you want to achieve and where. What "I" see is a young branch with no tertiary or even secondary branching where it's needed and the branch has no bark. In order to get all the above with the least comprising technique, would be pick one leader on the tip to let grow, using the technique above. It will mature the branch faster and when there is ample buds and age below it, cut it off.
Wood
 

pwk5017

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Yes, the lack of secondary and tertiary branching is what i meant by "ramification". I need the buds to be at the blue circle(or even closer to the trunk preferably) to begin the secondary branches. Right now the growth at the tips is 12-15" from the trunk of the tree. The tree's final height is 5.5-6". The question at hand was, "what technique do I apply to force the tree into producing buds along the leggy branches?" There is very little documented about mugos about timing, and how they react to different techniques. The closest thing I have tracked down is a random board post from vance wood saying "remove all downward and upward growing needles along with the spring growth around the fourth of july". Im not sure, I suppose I was looking to confirm this application before I went ahead with it.
 

garywood

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Patrick, my first instinct is teaching so there is understanding of the growing process rather than rote application of technique. The branch in the photo can be forced back several ways, they will all work. Think of what you've learned so far from what you've posted. Candle pruning in summer is a "finishing" technique". As you noted most of the buds were at the point of cut. That's what trees get paid to do :) If those same candles were cut in early fall there would have been a more even distribution of buds throughout the tree, a "training" technique. When starting with an undeveloped tree, the progression is to prune unwanted growth in the early fall. If there is a weak branch or needs girth don't prune everything outside the perceived silhouette. Leave a strong shoot at the end and pull needles to 6 or 8 pairs. You can prune anytime but if all of the growth and strength is needed then it's an early fall timing. This forces back buds and keeps the branch strong by leaving a strong bud at the tip. The needle thinning at the end and cutting weak shoots at the end induces a survival response(back buds) plus you still have a strong branch to do the same technique with a lower shoot the next year if needed. Cutting branches back to your red lines will also induce back buds and that is the common method but when those cuts are made strength and girth is minimized. That's neither good or bad, it depends on what that particular branch needs. Keep all shoots inside the perceived silhouette to 2 at any point and any used for training (sacrifice) to 1 shoot. Take notes and have fun.
Wood
 

pwk5017

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Thanks, Gary. See, I have read and understood decandling as a technique to get the tree to backbud AS WELL AS a finishing technique to shorten needle length and all that good stuff. Would you suggest fall pruning or pruning now? Only recently have I read that fall pruning is beneficial for backbudding, but I am new to pines in general(<2 years).
 

garywood

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Patrick, I can only make a general comment without seeing the entire tree. Until a tree or a part of the tree is ready for finishing work I only do early fall work. this gives the tree the benefit of a full growing season to gain strength and any work done then gets a better response from this little extra strength. Having said that, I or you can use several techniques, at the same time, on a tree that's being developed when you gain an understanding of how they work. As I said earlier, rote technique does very little to help understand growing. Good Growing.
Wood
PS If the tree were mine, I would do early fall work on the branch.
 

treebeard55

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Interesting thread; I'm going to come back to it to "ruminate," since there's a lot I'd like to learn too about mugos. They're one of the few pines that thrive in my area.

One thing I do know: the mugo is an exception to many of the standard pine rules -- sort of the "duck-billed platypus" of pines!
 

woodguy

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Just remember when removing needles that mugos back bud from old needles (generally). So don't remove them where you want buds.
 
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