Need help with Japanese Red Pine structural development

sprout

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Hi everyone. Some advice/thoughts would be much appreciated to set me on the right path. I've read a lot on bonsai (to the point of confusing myself) but a total noob in practice so now I'm just like deer in headlights o_O... totally frozen. I've had this JRP for about 1.5 years, haven't repotted since my acquisition, cautiously candle pruned in spring, bud selected to 2 on the strong branches late Sept./early Oct. and that's about it. My concern is that this tree has this long awkward branch that is very vigorous (see 1st image) and it looks to me that it could be starting to create a reverse taper (see 2nd image). Any thoughts on where to go from here? Shorten branch or maybe just reduce buds & needles? Or, leave it alone for now?

JRP_1.jpg


JRP_2.jpgJRP_3.jpgJRP_4.jpg
 

Brian Van Fleet

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I wouldn’t worry about the area you circled having reverse taper, but rather that it has no branches. Due to that, I would probably look at the branch below it to become the next section of trunk, and let the yellow circled area become sacrifice growth to thicken the whole trunk.

I can see primary branches in blue arrows, and eventually the lowest left branch removed. Careful bending branches, JRP are brittle and snap with no warning.

It is healthy looking, and JRP aren’t common, so you’re doing good, take your time. Don’t worry about repotting it unless the soil stays wet and won’t dry out, in which case, repot in the spring.
819E8930-51C6-4189-9BC1-988194DF523A.jpeg
 

Shibui

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I would also view that section as a sacrifice branch just grown to thicken the lower trunk.
I would be more worried about the lower fork where there are 2 branches from that strong trunk makes 3 junction. One branch appears to be strong so thickening there may happen faster.

Always difficult to style a tree from a few 2D photos but it looks like one of the middle branches is quite strong.
On the strength of these few photos I would remove the strong section at that fork and use the stronger of the 2 existing side branches as a new trunk.
red pine.JPG

remove long, bare sections at red cuts
new trunk line black
develop branches - blue

Always take online virts as advice. Check the real tree to see if the suggestions could work before rushing into styling.

Please add a location to your profile. Bonsai work is often seasonal and sometimes depends on how cold/ hot your area gets. Adding a location will allow better advice for your particular area and climate.
 

sorce

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VVBV!

Welcome to Crazy!

I would also be more concerned about that next node down that still has the ability to worsen reverse taper.

Sorce
 

sprout

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Thanks so much for sharing your insights and expertise! I think I understand what you all mean about the node below the area I was originally concerned about being a bigger reverse taper threat. Here's a view from the top where that's more evident and the branch structure in that area is a little clearer. The yellow is the branch I initially inquired about and the green area is the node you all pointed out. The purple area is just really dense and I'm guessing I should do a little needle plucking there. The pink area has the branches that are the long, bare ones Shibui suggested removing. The following image is a close up of the branches in the pink area. There are 3 of these long, bare branches. The 2nd image shows the cuts that could be beneficially. Branch #1 has a little branch just below the red line so maybe cut and let the little branch below it develop? Cut #2 has no branches or buds down below so remove that completely? Branch #3 has a bud close to the crotch so maybe cut above that bud and hope the little guy takes off? There's also a little branch (in pink) between Branch #3 and the main trunk that maybe could benefit from #3 being removed as well. If those seem like reasonable cuts to make, then my next question would be is this a good time of year to make those cuts? I am in New York, Zone 6b. Average night/day temps are 28-50 deg right now. Also, how long of a stub should you leave when pruning branches to account for dieback?




JRP_5.jpgJRP_6.jpg
 

Shibui

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That new cluster of 3 branches (pink) is indeed an area of concern. I would consider removing one soon to limit problems.
I agree with your analysis of those 3 pink branches. Definitely cultivate the smaller shoots that will take over when the long bare sections are removed.

The small shoots at the base of strong branches are being inhibited by the stronger branch. They will generally take off when the competing branch is pruned.
All of the stronger pink branches appear to have viable lower shoots so all can be used. To make the choice look for those that give the best direction - new trunk and new branch and remove the one that has the most awkward angle as seen from the chosen front.
#2 seems to divide into 3 different shoots which may be a head start on ramification for the new trunk or branch? It all depends on whether the direction and spacing is good or can be wired to good.

Some of those long, bare parts can be retained as further sacrifice branches for a few years but I'd probably remove one entirely sooner rather than later and be a bit wary of keeping a side branch with a sacrifice shoot because the base of that branch will probably get too thick.

Purple section is now the lowest branch so will have less vigor. Be careful with reducing needles, etc as that branch will always grow slower than upper sections. It is crowded so could do with some thinning. Look at branch structure to see if any small branches could be eliminated entirely - opposites, too close, etc. Also shorten long shoots may help open the branch more.
 

sprout

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That new cluster of 3 branches (pink) is indeed an area of concern. I would consider removing one soon to limit problems.
I agree with your analysis of those 3 pink branches. Definitely cultivate the smaller shoots that will take over when the long bare sections are removed.

The small shoots at the base of strong branches are being inhibited by the stronger branch. They will generally take off when the competing branch is pruned.
All of the stronger pink branches appear to have viable lower shoots so all can be used. To make the choice look for those that give the best direction - new trunk and new branch and remove the one that has the most awkward angle as seen from the chosen front.
#2 seems to divide into 3 different shoots which may be a head start on ramification for the new trunk or branch? It all depends on whether the direction and spacing is good or can be wired to good.

Some of those long, bare parts can be retained as further sacrifice branches for a few years but I'd probably remove one entirely sooner rather than later and be a bit wary of keeping a side branch with a sacrifice shoot because the base of that branch will probably get too thick.

Purple section is now the lowest branch so will have less vigor. Be careful with reducing needles, etc as that branch will always grow slower than upper sections. It is crowded so could do with some thinning. Look at branch structure to see if any small branches could be eliminated entirely - opposites, too close, etc. Also shorten long shoots may help open the branch more.
Thanks again, Shibui. Lots of good tips that make sense and lots for me to consider. And, while I generally understand the concept of why you might want sacrifice branches, I'm finding it harder in practice to decide so I'm hoping with a few more photos you might be able to help me decide what to cut and when. I've color-coded this previous photo to help identify the branches in the following photos. It's just so hard to see where the shoots really exist in 2D photos.
JRP_8.jpgJRP_7.jpgJRP_9.jpgJRP_10.jpg
I am leaning towards the orange branch as the next leader based on its location (closest to main trunk) but it wouldn't have a sacrifice branch to help it out and I don't think it can really develop without all of the branches beyond that one being removed which seems like an excessive amount to remove right now. So maybe I try to develop the yellow branch instead for now, keep the pink as a sacrifice for the yellow to grow (the yellow branch stems from the lower part of the pink). Maybe cut the blue one now to give the orange a chance to develop and cut the red (the super long, bare one best seen in the last photo) in a year or two depending on how this all works out? Does that sound like a viable plan or am I way off base here?
 

Shibui

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My brain is now spinning with all these options.
There is no one right answer to developing bonsai. My best guess without spending all day trying to decipher the color code and then making extrapolations on how it may or may not develop after any pruning is that any of the options you have chosen has the potential to develop a great bonsai. The point here is not to overthink it. Pick one option and go with that.

All options have potential to use a sacrifice branch. Even though the sacrifice branch may not be there now it could grow from a new bud. I've used lots of sacrifice branches and none of them existed when the seed germinated. Many were not growing when I made the first styling decisions. After pruning many buds will usually start growing. Any of those can become a future sacrifice branches. Possibly the difference in attitude is appreciation of time. I now think in terms of decades. Many newer bonsai growers see time as weeks or months.
 

sprout

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My brain is now spinning with all these options.
There is no one right answer to developing bonsai. My best guess without spending all day trying to decipher the color code and then making extrapolations on how it may or may not develop after any pruning is that any of the options you have chosen has the potential to develop a great bonsai. The point here is not to overthink it. Pick one option and go with that.

All options have potential to use a sacrifice branch. Even though the sacrifice branch may not be there now it could grow from a new bud. I've used lots of sacrifice branches and none of them existed when the seed germinated. Many were not growing when I made the first styling decisions. After pruning many buds will usually start growing. Any of those can become a future sacrifice branches. Possibly the difference in attitude is appreciation of time. I now think in terms of decades. Many newer bonsai growers see time as weeks or months.
OMG!... i didn't even realize my photos look like a unicorn murder scene! I've officially left my sanity hanging somewhere between the red and blue branch! I guess what I really needed to know at this point is whether or not I'm about to make a catastrophic cutting error due to a lack of experience. But, I gather from your reply that my concerns have jumped off the deep end and that whatever I decide won't be tragic. Your advice and encouragement is much appreciated and if all goes well, you won't hear about this tree for another decade. :)
 

Shibui

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It is good to be informed before making changes. i know how it feels to have a number of possible options and not having the experience to choose between them.
Years ago I discovered that procrastinating and not making the decision was holding back development of trees. I now know that when there are several options and I cannot choose which is best it really means that all the options are equally good so it does not matter which option is chosen. Sure the outcomes may be different but all would be good bonsai. The important thing is to choose one and get on with the next stage of development.
In this case and at this stage of development all the options you have given should yield good results (much more positive than 'won't be tragic' :))

I would certainly like to see the tree after the first prune and even a few times as it continues to develop so keep posting and asking questions.
 

sprout

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It is good to be informed before making changes. i know how it feels to have a number of possible options and not having the experience to choose between them.
Years ago I discovered that procrastinating and not making the decision was holding back development of trees. I now know that when there are several options and I cannot choose which is best it really means that all the options are equally good so it does not matter which option is chosen. Sure the outcomes may be different but all would be good bonsai. The important thing is to choose one and get on with the next stage of development.
In this case and at this stage of development all the options you have given should yield good results (much more positive than 'won't be tragic' :))

I would certainly like to see the tree after the first prune and even a few times as it continues to develop so keep posting and asking questions.
No doubt I will have a million other questions. I just ordered some proper bonsai tools so no more staring at the tree. I'll post photos after surgery. :)
 

Potawatomi13

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No doubt I will have a million other questions. I just ordered some proper bonsai tools so no more staring at the tree. I'll post photos after surgery. :)
Not so fast grasshopper😱. First find out when time is best to prune/wire tree. Also to be aware J Red Pine brittle trees. Carefulness bending is absolute need and if break happens DO NOT try to bend back! Seal and leave as is!
 
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sprout

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Not so fast grasshopper😱. First find out when time is best to prune/wire tree. Also to be aware J Red Pine brittle trees. Carefulness bending is absolute need and if break happens DO NOT try to bend back! Seal and leave as is!
Thank you for your words of caution. @Brian Van Fleet cautioned about the brittleness of JRP branches earlier in the thread so I'm going to assume if 2 people had to bring that up, that it's a serious concern so I will be wary as I proceed . I appreciate the mention of what to do if a branch does break. I wasn't thinking about that but I'm glad ordered cut paste along with my tools! From the information I was able to gather, I should be treating JRP similarly to JBP for most functions. In that sense, hard pruning and wiring should be done when the tree's growth slows in autumn - early spring to prevent excessive sap loss. I'm in USDA 6b (early winter) and avg, temps are 28F-50F. I'm probably going to wait a few weeks before I start cutting and wiring because I am still getting warm temp. spikes in my area. I want to make sure my tree is nice and sleepy so I'll be patient.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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I should be treating JRP similarly to JBP for most functions. In that sense, hard pruning and wiring should be done when the tree's growth slows in autumn - early spring to prevent excessive sap loss. I'm in USDA 6b (early winter) and avg, temps are 28F-50F. I'm probably going to wait a few weeks before I start cutting and wiring because I am still getting warm temp. spikes in my area. I want to make sure my tree is nice and sleepy so I'll be patient.
Yes, but in your climate, I would not do any significant work on the tree until the buds are swelling in the spring, unless you can protect it from freezing.
 

sprout

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Yes, but in your climate, I would not do any significant work on the tree until the buds are swelling in the spring, unless you can protect it from freezing.
Thanks for clarifying! Too much conflicting/confusing info out there about timing, some say autumn because of reduced sap loss and some say early spring as buds are swelling for better tree recovery. Based on your comment, I'm assuming climate was the unmentioned variable in what I've read about other people's timing choices. Nonetheless, your trees are beautiful so yeah... I think it's safe to take your advice! :)
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Thanks for clarifying! Too much conflicting/confusing info out there about timing, some say autumn because of reduced sap loss and some say early spring as buds are swelling for better tree recovery. Based on your comment, I'm assuming climate was the unmentioned variable in what I've read about other people's timing choices. Nonetheless, your trees are beautiful so yeah... I think it's safe to take your advice! :)
You’re welcome. The more advice you seek, the more conflicting information you will receive. The key is to find someone with trees you admire, and then do what they do. Over time, your trees will begin to look like that too.
 

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