Mugo vs.J.B.P.

jimj.

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I like pine trees they rank as one of my favorite all around trees. Someday I hope to purchase one for bonsai. The question I have is what is the general opinion of which of these two makes the best bonsai and which one is the easiest to grow and care for Mugo pine or Japanese Black pine? I have never had one of these I would just like opinions of which one to start with.
 

buddhamonk

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I think you'll get mixed opinions on this forum but personally I prefer Japanese black pine. Grows much faster and seems easier to care for although my mugos do just fine.
 

Walter Pall

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It will surprise many. In Europe very few folks have JBP. And they are not missing them. JBP is considered a boring tree with too long needles which is too expensive and not easy to keep in central and northern European climate. The same applies to Japanese white pine. They are much more popular, but a considerable percentage die sooner or later. So most folks HAD a Japanese white pine. But the overwhelming majority not even had a JBP.
By far the most popular pines in Europe are mugo pine and scots pine. I have around 100 mugo pines, 40 scots pines and only one JBP. I would not have the JBP if I had not gotten it in a favorable trade.
I understand that there are huge growing fields in America for JBP because the market demands them. In Europe this wold be a huge misinvestment.
 
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buddhamonk

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I think one of the reason the mugo pine is so popular in Europe is mostly because of the yamadori material that grows there. Most if not all mugos in the U.S are nursery grown trees.
 

Vance Wood

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I think one of the reason the mugo pine is so popular in Europe is mostly because of the yamadori material that grows there. Most if not all mugos in the U.S are nursery grown trees.
I have to agree with Walter, in our climate JBP's are prone to winter kill and the growing season is too short to take advantage of the second budding the tree is known for. JWP don't like our summers and most will fail in a few years. All in all you cannot go wrong with Mugo or Scots. It is true that most Mugos are grown in the nursery trade but that also has to be true of the JBP unless you can afford to import something from Japan, same with the White Pine. Scots pines are also nursery grown in most cases but in a few areas they have become feral and escaped cultivation. Finding one over a hundred years old will be a trick, especially one small enough and grown under the right conditions for a favorable yamadori.

So---no matter how you cut the argument unless you go to the mountains and dig your own Yamadori you are kind of stuck with the nursery trade. Within that purview it is difficult to beat the Mugo or the Scots. The Scots grows faster but the needles are a bit stiff. The Mugo is a bit slower but if pruned and pinched properly the needles will cup upwards gracefully like the White Pine.

Face the challenges; Yamadori require work and effort to find good trees. Nursery collecting requires work and effort to locate good trees hiding in among row on row of seemingly useless bushes. The Scots pine is not so common in the nurseries unless you are looking for the grafted cultivars but you can get as many as you want from sources that cultivate it for the Christmas Tree industry.
 
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Why not try them both? Both do well in NC were I live. I guess it depends mostly on where you reside, and which you like the most. Good luck to you.
 

johng

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I like pine trees they rank as one of my favorite all around trees. Someday I hope to purchase one for bonsai. The question I have is what is the general opinion of which of these two makes the best bonsai and which one is the easiest to grow and care for Mugo pine or Japanese Black pine? I have never had one of these I would just like opinions of which one to start with.
Hey Jim,
I guess it all depends on where you live. Since Mugo will not grow in the Southern US, even in landscapes, that may completely disqualify it for you. Obviously neither tree is native so that completely removes the opportunity for anything collected given US importation restrictions. So, why not choose a native a species??? Pitch, Virginia, Short Needle, etc...are just a couple of the potential choices from the East coast. Rarely do I every see them available in nurseries but I am sure a resourceful person could find some stock. Last spring I stopped at a fellow's house not far from my home, knocked on his door and got permission to collect some Virginia Pine seedlings off his property. I think I lost maybe 2 or 3 out of 50. I have not found a good source yet for Pitch Pine so I collected some cones this year and plan to get the seeds going very soon.

Thanks,
John
 

cking0156

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I have tried both here in southern Arizona with both marginal success and
failures. Has anyone tried pinyon pines (pinus edulis)? This would be my local yamadori.
 

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Vance Wood

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I have tried both here in southern Arizona with both marginal success and
failures. Has anyone tried pinyon pines (pinus edulis)? This would be my local yamadori.
Pinyon make great bonsai, I have seen several and have been impressed.
 

jimj.

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As always I thank you all for your suggestions. I have been thinking alot about it and I think I will decide on the Mugo pine I never thought about the Virginia pine I wish I lived where I could get one grown by nature but I dont I wonder where I might buy one ? If anybody knows plese give me a message. There is no suitable trees around me of any kind I know of for collecting from the wild around me all I have are sycamores red and white oak cedars and lots of walnuts. I tried a beech but I decided it was not worth while so I took it back to the woods. Thanks again for all of your help.
 

Vance Wood

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As always I thank you all for your suggestions. I have been thinking alot about it and I think I will decide on the Mugo pine I never thought about the Virginia pine I wish I lived where I could get one grown by nature but I dont I wonder where I might buy one ? If anybody knows plese give me a message. There is no suitable trees around me of any kind I know of for collecting from the wild around me all I have are sycamores red and white oak cedars and lots of walnuts. I tried a beech but I decided it was not worth while so I took it back to the woods. Thanks again for all of your help.
Where do you live?
 

davetree

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Vance, I don't understand why you think our climate is not good for Japanese black pine. I know a lot of people who grow them in northern climates with no problems as long as you protect them in winter, and be careful with the heat of mid-summer. Same goes for Japanese white pine.

There are also some very nice black pine being field grown here in the U.S. for bonsai. There is good stock becoming available, but I don't see that for mugho pine, just plain nursery stock.

Will, your gallery doesnt convince me that black pines are inferior to other pine species. You don't seem to have a lot of good examples of black pine pictured. I think that in terms of yamadori, mugho and black pine are on a par. In terms of field grown stock in the U.S., black pine are superior to mugho.

I don't think that growth characteristics of mugho are any better than Japanese black pine as far as back budding and needle reduction.

Just my opinion.
 

Vance Wood

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Vance, I don't understand why you think our climate is not good for Japanese black pine. I know a lot of people who grow them in northern climates with no problems as long as you protect them in winter, and be careful with the heat of mid-summer. Same goes for Japanese white pine.

There are also some very nice black pine being field grown here in the U.S. for bonsai. There is good stock becoming available, but I don't see that for mugho pine, just plain nursery stock.

Will, your gallery doesnt convince me that black pines are inferior to other pine species. You don't seem to have a lot of good examples of black pine pictured. I think that in terms of yamadori, mugho and black pine are on a par. In terms of field grown stock in the U.S., black pine are superior to mugho.

I don't think that growth characteristics of mugho are any better than Japanese black pine as far as back budding and needle reduction.

Just my opinion.
Is that your opinion or your experience? Here is a point of experience; you cannot reduce the needles on a JBP down as far as those on a Mugo Pine. As to the climate issue. The nursery trade here in Michigan used to sell JBP but they stopped selling them because they were prone to winter failure. They have (the nurseries) been selling the Austrian Pine in its stead for at least twenty years here in Michigan. However you go South to Indiana and Illinois you can still find them in nurseries. As the JWP, it is the heat that kills them combined with a fungal infection they seem to prone to that the Department of Agriculture cannot identify and will not investigate, I have gone through this with them for a number of years. They just say: "Oh Well (shrug, shrug)".
 
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Graydon

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Jim - I see you have received plenty of opinion on this subject. I find it odd nobody bothered to ask where you live. You can dream about any and all of these pines mentioned but if none of them will survive in your back yard the point is moot.

So in what zone do you live?

<oops - as I was posting I saw this was asked>
 
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Is that your opinion or your experience? Here is a point of experience; you cannot reduce the needles on a JBP down as far as those on a Mugo Pine.
Vance, your experience notwithstanding, JBP are prized for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the needle length is almost completely predictable with proper technique. Newer techniques have also taken the guesswork out of them and made them easier to train. Here's a shot of a shohin JBP with needles about 3/8 inch long:
 

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Tossing in my two cents worth...

JBP in southern california are almost bullet proof. I consider them my second hardiest tree behind junipers. I have grown them from seed down here and they seem to thrive on the heat and dryness. I currently have over 30 of them in all stages of development. When I say they thrive in the heat, I keep them in full sun in the summer - with my cacti and agave - so they can really bake and show none the worse for wear.

Cons: long needles
Pros: hardiness, interesting bark (especially cork bark varieties)

Here is a photo of one of mine in early development with short needles - not as impressive as Chris' but it still shows you can get the needles down to 1". Note that a few of the old long needles remain up near the apex to show what their original length was.

 

jimj.

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I live in south central ky. for now. I may be moving futher north next year. I really like the photos of all of the trees.
 
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Will, your gallery doesnt convince me that black pines are inferior to other pine species. You don't seem to have a lot of good examples of black pine pictured.
Yes, but it does give a good overall example base of many pine species, which could be beneficial.
 
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It seems to me that the general consensus among our northern brethren is for mugo, while those more southern tend to prefer JBP. One of the major differences between the two is that mugo is an alpine tree, growing at higher elevations and more northern climes. The JBP is a warmer-weather tree that grows at sea level. Perhaps the misunderstandings between the two have more to do with the fact that it takes more heroic measures to keep JBP healthy in colder winters, and more heroic measures to keep mugos happy in extreme summer temperatures.

With enough knowledge of either species, one could get good results, as proven by folks from all over. So perhaps personal preference should have more to do with how much we are willing to do in the off season to keep our tree healthy and vibrant. If I decide mugo is something I want to work with, I am going to consult with folks who have a great deal of experience with them, always tempering what they say with the knowledge that my climate is a bit extreme in the summer months. The same might go for those in northern latitudes for Japanese black pine.

White pine, scots pine, mugo pine, austrian pine...All have their place depending on where they thrive. I'm in no hurry to attempt to keep large numbers of tropicals here, since I don't have a heated greenhouse or awesome sunroom to keep them happy. It gets too cold here in winter for many tender species without extreme care. I also won't be doing much with larch for the same reason. It gets far too hot and dry for too long here. Larch do not thrive (if they even survive). More's the pity. The same might be said of varieties of pine depending upon where one lives. The more extreme the climate, the stronger the inclination might be for a particular species. Some species may have a wider adaptability than others, but why swim against the stream? Work with something that likes your climate.
 
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