New to pines, bought a JWP

Umeboshi

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I am completely unskilled with pines but decided to try my hand and picked up a JWP from a local landscape nursery's 50% off end-of-season sale. The tree is massive and so is its pot. I think it is a 25 gallon pot and must weigh about 150-200 lbs. The trunk has a low graft that shows no issues as of yet. The tree is just shy of 6' with a 3 1/2” caliper at its base. It actually has a good amount of low branching which surprisingly have needles close to the trunk and not just at the tips. So my questions, I really want to get this tree more manageable. How much can I reduce the roots when repotting in the spring? I really want to get it out of its nursery muck as much as is safe to do so and reduce the roots so I can pot it in a bit more manageable sized pot. Plenty of plump roots are visible in every drainage hole. I know that bare rooting is not advisable and to keep some of the white beneficial fungus. Also, I want to start to get the tree's height down. From my understanding, it is not wise to remove more than 1/3 of a pine's foliage at a time. How much should I remove, when and when should I make the next large prunning?
 

Umeboshi

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Thank you for the response rockm.Yes, I am certain it is a Japanese White Pine and not an Eastern White Pine. The needles are less than half the size of an Eastern's and are in upright clusters of five. Also, Eastern White Pines are much taller trees. It would be rare to find an Eastern White Pine with this thick of a trunk at only 6' in height.
 

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Dav4

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Looks like JWP...can you show us pics of the whole tree and some of the lower trunk/branching as well?

Dave
 
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I like being an Optimist-Prime... but I'm going to sound like Nega-Tron when I say that I've done this... and the results were not good. A large nursery JWP was the most expensive tree I killed during the early period of my experiance. What I can try and do though is help you be a little more successful than I was...

I would not recommend trying to get it lowered, and worry about getting it out of that pot in the same year. It would be very hard on the tree. Getting this tree into a pot is going to be a process of years... not a day of hard work. The order I would approach it would be to lower the height of it next year and do some pruning to get light to the inner trunk... so you can maintain the growth you have. And even though the soil isn't ideal it won't hurt it any... and you'll get the benefit of having an intact root system to promote health and healing from the work you're going to do to it.

Then in 2013 I'd look at reducing the rootball... but not entirely. I'd take it down half the depth of the can, and remove pie wedges of the root/soil mass... but leave a lot of it in tact. It'll leave you some undisturbed roots to grow from. they'll push into the wedge spaces you cut out. How long you have to wait to get the tree out of the rest of that dirt depends on how the tree responds.

This is a conservative approach... but it's one that will give you the best chance of keeping it alive. I would also innoculate it mycorrhizae once it gets growing again, as the chances of it having much if any of a colony in silty nursery soil is very low. There is not enough aeration in that kind of soil to provide a good enviornment for the fungus.

Focus on health... styling comes later. Horticulture before art... or it will not survive. When you really know a species, you can get away with both sometimes... because you'll know exactly the kind of aftercare the species requires. If I am working with a species for the first time, I will keep it in my care, as is... for a full 4 season cycle before I work on it. I want to know everything I can based on where I live and how I care for my trees before I stress them out. It helps that I have a lot of trees to work on... so having a few sitting on the back burner doesn't bother me. I just watch and care for them.

I hope this at least provides some food for thought....

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 
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Miss Vic gives excellent advice. Two cases in point.

#1 bought it cut back, repotted, same day ala demo. result, death.DCP_0942.jpg

#2 a few years later and a little wiser, cut back trunk to desired height,(no pix) left all remaining branches, and left in giant hernia inducing nursery pot.
Next year, much backbudding, cut back thick branches by half in late winter, in same rootbound container feed a lot. 3rd spring I pulled it out chopped 1/2 off the bottom of the roots, loosened up the remaining roots, shortened the original container and back in it went with some real soil.DSCF0166.jpg
Next 2 years, more old branch removal, and feeding, same pot. DSCF0170.jpg
In my limited experience, you cant get backbudding like this on 12-15 year old wood without leaving the roots alone, feeding like crazy, and controlled cutbacks.

Tree # 2 will never be much, but I wish I had learned or listened before killing old#1.
Good luck,
Mike
 

Umeboshi

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Thank you Victrina, very good advice. The last thing I want to do is over stress this tree and risk killing it. I like your timeline, I am certainly in no hurry (wrong hobby to be in if you don't have patience).

How long you have to wait to get the tree out of the rest of that dirt depends on how the tree responds.
This is a really good point.

Focus on health... styling comes later. Horticulture before art... or it will not survive. When you really know a species, you can get away with both sometimes... because you'll know exactly the kind of aftercare the species requires.
Another good point, I definitely do not know the species and will not be able to pick up on the subtle signs of trouble if I do too much.

As far as pruning goes, when is better winter or spring?
 
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I would wait until Feb/March... you'll get less sap run, and the wounds wont be as exposed to bad weather for so long. The tree will start the healing process once it starts growing again. You want to make sure you leave space at your chop for die back. You'll get some who will recommend wound paste... I don't tend to use it myself, but that's a personal choice. Kathy Shaner once gave me sheets of wax to use as a sealer (she was trying to talk me into it)... and if I was going to use something, I'd use that. I'm not fond of the sticky wound pastes that are generally used.

I'm glad you are willing to take the time the tree deserves. Regardless of how fantastic a bonsai it will make, you will learn a lot from it. Working with larger material has different aspects than working with a whip or seedling. Many of the artistic practices can be applied to them, where smaller material becomes an exercise in horticulture... learning how to grow out material so it can be worked on. While I always advocate for accelerated learning with larger material, it is important not to bypass the horticulture. So in your case, you are waiting for it to be ready to get small... vs.... waiting for it to get big. You've got the better end of the deal in some ways... though you'll find with larger material you often have to work with what is in front of you. Which engages a lot of creativity some times. Look at the tree from all sides... tip it around... use cardboard to hide branches from your view so you can imagine what it would look like if something were gone... you've got time... so study it. Because once you cut something off, sticking it back on usually only works if you live in California. (grin)

I look forward to seeing how you and this tree get along.

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 

Umeboshi

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I will try to get some images of the tree up this weekend.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Building on what Vic has already said - Japanese White Pines are not the same as Japanese Black Pines! They are much more fickle, and the roots are much weaker. Go slow, grasshopper :) I have a very healthy respect for transplanting pines of ANY species. Because of the slow sap, a pine can be dead in the roots before it starts to show wilting in the needles. By the time you notice you have a problem, it may be too late. White pines do not like being cut back hard. You can get branch die-back just because it is mad at you :) Fertilize the heck out of it with organic fertilizer and get it really strong before you start pruning the top. And oh be careful when you start messing with the roots - this isn't a ficus :) If possible always try to leave SOME roots untouched. Never bare-root it - trust me!

I don't use any cut paste on my pines, but I really think it is a personal preference.
 

tanlu

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I grow mostly pines, which mostly consist of non-grafted JWP, and I don't find them to be finicky at all. The extreme weather we've had this year has blown each of them over at least twice, but they've all bounced back. I even leaven them alone when I leave town for the longer weekends and since they're growing in colanders I can see their roots responding well to this. They are slow growers, but they are much hardier than JBP, and are less prone to needle fungi diseases than two needle pines. Your cold NE climate will actually be more conducive to growing JWP, granted they are on their own root stock. If anything, they get finicky when they have too much organic matter in their soil. I decided not to use organic fertilizer on JWP unless they're grown in colanders. The pines that do best in my collection are planted in colanders, have courser soil, and less than 10% organic matter (left over from fert pellets) in the soil.

If you can provide a photo(s) of different views of the entire tree it would help members of the forum provide more helpful advice.
 
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Umeboshi

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Some photos
 

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tanlu

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Umeboshi,

I hate to say this, but I think you should invest in better material. I would feel bad trying to make this perfectly nice yard tree into a bonsai. It would look great in a rock garden, but just won't work as bonsai. There are just too many factors that you have going against you: zero taper, smooth young bark, ugly graft union, the size, and your lack of experience with pines. Even if you do successfully get it down to a size where it fits into a bonsai pot, which would take several years, in the end the scar left over form the large cut, and lack of taper or movement would make it a lousy bonsai.

Coming from someone living on a very limited budget, if you had the $$$ to purchase this tree you can afford to get decent material to start with. I'll even recommend you several sites you can go to for excellent deals on great material. These people are experts on pines and other species used in bonsai and I'm sure they'll give you some great advice.
 

Umeboshi

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I understand your point of view. The tree will be challenging and I knew it when I purchased it. I actually hesitated to post images because I expected plenty of people to say it was not the best material. My number one reason for buying it is the trunk size. Basal flare measures 5" and that is without uncovering it, probably have another inch at least under the soil before getting to root level. The trunk does have some taper, it measure 1 3/4" at one foot up. Certainly less than ideal but I am willing to work with it. I am no where near deciding which path to take with it but a chop where the first bend will be a definite possibility. I have time and do not expect this to look anywhere near decent for at least 5-8 years. I can appreciate your opinion and do not fully disagree (except that the graft is an ugly one) but what it comes down to is a 5"+ trunk base for $88.
 

greerhw

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Plant it in the ground and enjoy it grow. Don't waste your time trying to it into a bonsai, it will never happen.

Harry
 

Umeboshi

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Plant it in the ground and enjoy it grow. Don't waste your time trying to it into a bonsai, it will never happen.

Harry

Would you say that repeated chops are not a valid way to build a good trunk with taper? This tree is blessed with good low branches that will make fine sacrifices once the apical dominance is checked and energy can be forced lower. This in conjunction with a series of periodic chops should work to produce the trunk I am looking for. Why would this be a waste of time?
 

tanlu

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Technically nothing is a waste of time if you can learn something.

Repeated chops won't work for several reasons: 1) The difference in thickness between the trunk and lower branches is too extreme, 2) JWP don't respond well to trunk chops, and 3) It would take literally decades for the bark and the thickness of the lower branch to make the chop look natural. I've noticed that grafted JWP bark takes much longer to age than that of the species. Most of my JWP are grown from seed, and although small and only 10 years old, its already showing signs of aging bark. Furthermore, the difference in bark texture and thickness of the understock compared to that of the JWP graft above will only become more obvious with time. I have eight 40y/o grafted JWP growing in my front yard that prove my point.

Look, we're telling you this from experience. I say go forward with your plan, but in the mean time do yourself a favor and invest in quality material.

T
 
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Umeboshi

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I can see how building a gradual transition from such a dramatic chop will pose a problem. I am aware of how long it takes JWP bark to become mature which is why I find it surprising that at only 10 years you have trees that are starting to show mature bark. I did not know this could be achieve so quickly. Typically I do not like grafts either. From what I have seen, JWP is almost never grown on its own roots which is why I figured I would need to accept a grafted tree to work with.
 
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Matt,

Have fun with it. Work slowly... patiently... get more trees to help keep your interest up... but just have fun. Is this material the beginings of a prize winning tree? Probably not... but you have a wealth of things to learn from it. When I'm trying to decide how to weigh what people have said, I always go back and look at their threads and the trees they have offered up. Years in bonsai is a relative thing. I know people who have done year one for a decade or better. And others who are newer can have applied themselves in a way which took them past year ten and beyond very quickly. Take Harry for example... he has been a collector of great trees... had them worked on by an international artist to bring out the best in them, and then maintained them. He would have zero, and even less than zero interest, in a tree like this. His comments come from that space, and given his eye for great material, should be respected for that perspective, but his perspective is not your own.

What I can say is that beyond the horticulture which will keep this tree alive and healthy, you have to apply some time and thought to how you will provide the tree with visual interest... what can not be grown into a tree regarding taper can often be removed from a tree in the form of carving. Which is the next step in your evolution as an artist. Not the carving persay, but learning to see beyond what's in front of you, and seeing what can be... and then deciding if you want to pursue that vision. Learn how to play with negative space in design... visiual wieght... proportion and the different aesthetics bonsai can express. Not every tree can be a wabi sabi expression of ancient and venerable form. Sometimes a tree has to be content with looking youthful or middle aged.

Don't be discouraged... as I said... have fun. Otherwise, what's the point? You are pursuing something far more rich than just this tree... what you learn from it will effect the trees which come later. So learn well.... ;)

Warmly,

Victrinia
 

Vance Wood

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I understand your point of view. The tree will be challenging and I knew it when I purchased it. I actually hesitated to post images because I expected plenty of people to say it was not the best material. My number one reason for buying it is the trunk size. Basal flare measures 5" and that is without uncovering it, probably have another inch at least under the soil before getting to root level. The trunk does have some taper, it measure 1 3/4" at one foot up. Certainly less than ideal but I am willing to work with it. I am no where near deciding which path to take with it but a chop where the first bend will be a definite possibility. I have time and do not expect this to look anywhere near decent for at least 5-8 years. I can appreciate your opinion and do not fully disagree (except that the graft is an ugly one) but what it comes down to is a 5"+ trunk base for $88.

I don't think this tree is a waste of time, but that's coming from someone who has made a career out of wasting time according to some. I would, if faced with a decision to do something with this tree, cut it (chop) down to the group of branches that show just above the fence in your third photo. Wait to see how the tree responds and see how the growth below the cut takes the procedure. If you desire to bring it down further wait at least two growing seasons have passed before cutting it again. If the tree is not killed by the process I believe it is possible to make something of it. This tree is Pinus Parviflora Glauca. Common in the nursery trade. It is JWP.
 

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