Mugo pine pruning technique

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Canberra Australia
I am new to this forum and relatively new to Mugo Pine but I am not new to Bonsai; having been at it for over 40 years. I am also new to the city of Canberra, Australia’s capital city, and its climate is dry inland at 640 mtr altitude (2,100 ft)
2 years ago I purchased an old Mugo pine. It dates back to the early 1950s and had been grown as a bonsai since the 1960s.
I changed it from this...
To this...
over a period of 2 years.
It will go into a new pot this late summer/early autumn; where I live in Australia that is March or at the latest April, as it will start to get too cold. We have long, cold and usually dry winters and long hot dry summers. Temperatures can vary from about -6 degrees Celsius(21 F) in Winter to regular and prolonged high 30s(high 80s and 90s) in Summer; however we have had -8 degrees Celsius (17 F) in extreme winters and as high as 43 Celsius (110 F) or more in summer. Summer is too hot to repot Mugo so it looks like autumn is the go.
Now my question. Pruning/pinching of growth.
I know I can remove all new growth on a vigorous pine to get it to bud back on last year’s growth and older; having done so with some youngish nursery stock. I only get buds for next year and no new growth for the rest of that season. However of course you can only do this one year in a row (ie; remove all this year’s growth) as you would keep going back to the same needles year after year and those needles would be getting older and older.
So I am presuming that with a mature Mugo pine you will candle snap the new growth (either hard or gentle depending on zones of vigour) and do a late summer/early autumn prune. I am also presuming you could also remove the very strongest buds in the strongest zones if necessary.
Does this sound right?
This year with my tree I only did very light candle snapping in spring and no full removal of any growth; as I was ensuring the tree was as healthy and vigorous after its major rework. It is very healthy and I don’t see any problem potting it 9 months after the completion of the heavy work.
Since moving to Canberra I can now grow very well the Japanese Five Needle pine (Japanese White pine, the Jack pine (Pinus Banksiana) and many other pines plus Larch(Larix) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica). Most of these trees grew poorly or not at all where I used to live which was Sydney.

Cheers, Grant


  • Original tree.JPG
    Original tree.JPG
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  • Mugo before major overhaul.JPG
    Mugo before major overhaul.JPG
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  • Mugo pine 30th October 2010.JPG
    Mugo pine 30th October 2010.JPG
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  • Cresent pot for mugo pine.JPG
    Cresent pot for mugo pine.JPG
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I like the transformation on this tree. Nice work. The pinching plan you've outlined seems solid. Remember that Mugos bud on old needles, so leave needles where you want budding when thinning needles. Potting 9 months after major work would go against the general rule of "only one major insult per year" though. It certainly looks healthy in the third picture but if it isn't in real need of repotting maybe give it one more year. Just a thought.
Thanks for that,

Some of the pines I have been looking after this last year have been staying too wet as we have had a very unusual and wet year this year. Most potting mixes in Australia historically have tended to be on the fine side to keep moisture in the pot due to the heat we can get.

However I have had to do some emergency repots this year and so far so good.

I may just do a light repot this year instead of a heavy one. The tree is certainly very healthy.

I think you need to channel Mr. Vance Wood (Vance Wood=Mugo Pine). I've heard Smoke just keep posting.....mugo...MUGO.....repetitively. It seems to work ;) You'll get all your questions answered. Try it!
I really want to get as many new buds and as small as possible new needles on this tree over time. I have read a lot of postings on Mugo but am still hungry for more knowledge.

Obviously I don't want to experiment too heavily on this old Mugo so I am after all tried and true techniques to achieve my aim.

Welcome to the Nut House Grant! Haven't I seen your posts over at Ausbonsai? In any case it is good to have you here.
Aside from Brents articles at Evergreen, if you send me a pm with your email addy, I will send you some articles on Mughos by Vance Woods, and Hans Van Meers has a good one too.
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