P. thunbergii "Thunderhead" in progress

Graydon

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Here's a pinus thunbergii 'thunderhead' in progress. It's about 10 years old and is just putting out new buds after candling. Nice short needles.

It's in this pot for a season or two but please note it's not the correct pot for this tree. I needed something low and large diameter to get the root mass spread out. I purchased this pot from Dale at the BSF show at Morikami and had plans to use is with another tree in the future. The glaze is something else, it's a greenish grey to my eyes and has little sheen and a bit of texture. Reminded me of a non glazed but colored clay pot.

I like to do major root work on pines in the summer. I time it so that I do the big root cuts just as I start to see bud or candle activity. This tree was in a 5 gallon pot before this planting so it was a major reduction. It was candled in the spring and had some branches removed so I guess I broke a taboo of no top and bottom work in one season. The tree is doing well besides a few candles that were attacked by the dreaded shoot top moth (note to self - spray for them as well as use systemic). It's still a bit deep in the pot. The nebari is not bad but I took the time to tie and wire a few roots, also nicking a few spots to try to get better rootage. I planted it a bit deep to keep the area moist.

I like the tree but realize it will never be a great tree. It's 10 years from having good bark but by then I will have achieved some decent ramification (I hope). It's one of my learn as I go trees. Perhaps in the future I will see a way to reduce the height and the branch length to bring the outline of the tree in a bit for a more convincing bonsai. I don't have a "front" yet but I do not want the big scar to be seen so it will go away from the viewer.
 

Graydon

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It has some bar branch issues as seen from the inclined and overhead photos. Those will be dealt with in a couple of years based on progress.
 

Graydon

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A few more shots. A bit of an unkept look but the needles that remain were needed to keep the energy where I wanted development.

Plenty of choices for continuing the apex. I will need to do some removal before next spring to limit the growth at the top.

Thanks for looking and comments always welcome.
 

Graydon

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One last note I forgot to make clear. I mentioned root work a month ago but did not clarify that I bare rooted this tree. I removed every trace of the nursery soil as well as all down growing and other non cooperating roots. That job took well over an hour and took chopsticks as well as a pressurized water. When I was complete I had a nice compact root pad similar to the photos found in some of the Bonsai Today articles on pines where you see a Japanese bonsai artist holding a completed tree with almost no roots. I tried to keep as much feeder root mass as I could but it was tough weeding out dead and useless roots from the good stuff.

I figured it was either going to die due to my enthusiasm or live and improve as a bonsai. No use having a partially developed tree with a 5 gallon root ball.
 
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Graydon,
Perhaps because this is a younger tree, it looks like you may have gotten away with bare-rooting this one. It's normally not recommended for JBP. We typically bare-root half the tree, then the other half next time around. This gives a full replacement of the bad soil with far less shock to the tree. Watch it carefully to check its color over the next few seasons.

I'm curious, you say you do root work in summer but you also say you time it when you first start to see bud or candle activity. I know your pine candles have to start moving earlier than mine, which would put yours in March some time. Can you clarify?

You also say it was candled in the spring...how exactly did you candle the tree? Which candles did you remove?

Two more questions:
1. what is your soil mix?
2. Where did you purchase this tree? It has good movement, and did you cut the leader yourself or was it the nursery where you got it?
 

Graydon

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Chris - I suppose I should do the half and half thing, just never seems to happen that way in real life. I understand the concept of that routine and would never completely bare root a nice tree or an older show quality one. Well, yes I would, as long as I knew it was healthy and that the timing was right. This little guy was the 6th JBP I bare rooted this year. The others ranged in trunk diameter from 2" to 8"+. Most of those were languishing in nursery soil for way too long, beginning to show dull or yellow needles and had slowed waaaaaaaaay down. Dale Cochoy summed it up when he was at our club so I'll borrow his saying "do the worst first" and so I did. All of the three larger ones are looking much better and the other smaller ones are fine.

I should clarify what I mean by summer root work, I am sure that was confusing to some people that don't live in Florida. We have 2 seasons, winter that lasts oh... let's say 4 weeks and summer for the other 48 weeks. I exaggerate a bit but what you call spring I call summer - my bad. I try to do the root work just as the spring buds move. I also do root work when the buds develop and set for next year. So to me that is 2 opportunities each summer (or year). I adopted that from a discussion with Dave DeGroot on when he does root work. His answer was very complex and answered my questions but I asked him to dumb it down a bit and his response was cut roots on pines when you see activity above the ground as that is when the plant will most likely be able to recover and use the new growth to help build roots again. That was also based on my growing season and climate (zone 9B and 48 weeks of growing time).

The soil mix I primarily use is a medium size (1/3 each) lava, akadama and pumice. On this tree I used that soil but I top dressed it with a bit of finer akadama, pumice and coarse sand where I am trying to encourage some newer rootage for future nebari addition hoping the finer soil will retain a bit more moisture.

I picked up this tree from Dave Dewire. Credit Dave for the major leader cuts to give it the movement. I have merely reduced some of the branches and cut the existing leader for more movement.

All of the long candles were broken off by hand leaving about a 3/4" to 1" stub this spring. As the needles opened I removed a few more at the base for back-budding. The "A" circled area on the attached photo illustrates candles that were broken off and let grow giving me short needles. The "B" area illustrates removal of the entire candle after the needles opened giving me a couple of newer smaller options for a future apex perhaps.
 

Tachigi

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Perhaps in the future I will see a way to reduce the height and the branch length to bring the outline of the tree in a bit for a more convincing bonsai. I don't have a "front" yet but I do not want the big scar to be seen so it will go away from the viewer
Graydon, Some stats please :)....so that your statement about reducing height can be brought into context. I know you haven't picked a front, but image 2730 would be mine. Very nice movement.
 
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Graydon, good soil mix, sounds like you have gotten some good advice. I have read advice on JBP in Florida at other web forums that you have to be careful not to water too much. Nothing could be further from the truth! The author in question is using straight akadama, which of course would hold too much water! Your mix is perfect, allowing you to water as much as you can without ever harming your tree. JBPs love water, they just need to have a good mix.

On the subject of candling: there is a lot of seemingly contradictory information out there. Here's what I do for a tree at this level of development: leave everything alone until July. Remove only the apical candles on each branch if they are large, right down to the old needles. This forces a good deal of back budding and increased ramification.

The caveat here is that I live in Kansas, you live in Florida. I have heard proponents in warm climates talk about candling JBP twice a year. I think this is a recipe for excessively weakening a tree, but that is only on the basis of what Boon has told me, which is good enough for me. He has seen trees that this method has been used on, and I certainly trust his judgment.

I assume, since you are doing so many things right, that you have the tree securely wired into the pot. Come January or February, I would wire the entire tree to put movement into the branches and move some of the forks closer together, giving the tree a wilder, more natural look.

Great little tree, and good luck!
 

John Hill

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Hi Graydon,
Very nice JBP indeed. It is going to be awesome!!
I too bare root as long as they are healthy. Here are a few I dug out of the grow bed this year and they all have been bare rooted. So far so good ;)

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

Graydon

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Thanks guys.

Tom it's about 17" to tip of the top, about 2 1/2" diameter at the current soil level. I agree with your choice of the front but could have taken better photos if it were not for the looming rain that day... it looks a bit better rotated a few more degrees.

Chris thanks for the input. I agree that candling twice a year may weaken a tree if done every year. I would like to try the Julyish schedule on a tree to see the response down here. I have numerous yatsubusa and removing only the apical candle would perhaps not be enough due to the profuse budding. I'll try it next year on a few trees. I would like to discuss your concept of bringing the forks closer during wiring.

John thanks for the mention of bare rooting pines also. Was beginning to think that perhaps I was alone on that one. Would not do it every potting but like you do when you dig them it is needed. Nice trees too.
 
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Oh, absolutely, yatsubusa is a horse of a different color! Great thread, Graydon! Thanks for posting a JBP!
 
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