Pine Newbie

FrankP999

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I am new to Japanese Black Pines as bonsai. I bought one at the Bonsai Monk shop in Georgia. It appears that the tree has not been maintained. See the attached photos. It looks to me like there have been three years growth with no needles removed. See the second photo with three areas circled.

Should I remove needles from the past two season's needles? I appreciate any other suggestions.

Frank
 

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Eric Schrader

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Frank,

What you want the tree to look like ten years from now will determine whether or not you should remove the needles. In order for the trunk to get larger the tree must be allowed to grow freely. You don't have to allow the entire tree to do so, but one branch, left to grow will fatten up the trunk over the course of a few years.

If the trunk is large enough for your taste then by all means you should cut back the strong tips and remove some of the old needles. If you want the trunk on the tree to be larger than it is then bend on of the branches that is strongest toward the back and keep the other branches and buds cut back and trained, but don't touch the one that you bent to the back, it is your sacrifice branch.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I would also consider repotting for more strength and faster growth. The current soil looks pretty old and may not even be bonsai soil (hard to tell). For fastest growth, put it in the ground. If you don't wish to do that, consider a growing flat or pot - try to keep it at least as wide as it is deep. Do not remove the old soil or comb out roots at this point; you will only stunt growth for a year as it recovers.
 

Vance Wood

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You have a more important question to ask yourself: How tall do I want this bonsai? How do I achieve that height and acquire the right proportions?
 

greerhw

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Frank, to be honest with you, you need to put that tree back in the ground and let it grow. do the proper work to keep the branches short while the trunk fills out, otherwise you will an old man when your pine is the bonsai you want.

Harry
 

FrankP999

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do the proper work to keep the branches short while the trunk fills out Harry

Harry, Thanks for the advice. I guess what I am asking is what is the "proper work" you recommend to keep branhes short? I plan on transplanting to either a large training pot with screen sides (or a collander) or plant it in my front yard when spring arrives.

Frank
 

Smoke

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This pine was never properly handled to be bonsai when it was a seedling. The branching is already too high on the trunk to make most classical forms. In this case the tree will need a very experienced artist in the future to gain the best potential for the tree as it grows out.

Find a good grafter and graft on two or three branches down low for the future and hopefully one can be a sacrifice branch to thicken the base. Otherwise you can always look forward to literativille.

Smoke
 

Eric Schrader

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I would recommend, that if you want to grow pines you should look up the two articles in Bonsai Today #20 on the topic, or get the reprints that appeared in the Stone Lantern Pine Master Series book a couple years ago. You should be able to find one or the other on Ebay or at a local bonsai club in the library (many clubs have libraries for members, just ask!)
 

JasonG

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Hi Frank,

There has been some good thoughts given to you so far. May I suggest the easiest way for you to learn about pines is to buy this book http://www.stonelantern.com/Pines_p/b1pine.htm

Asking on the forums is an ok way to learn a thing or 2, but you won't learn as much if you just bought the book. Right now it is about the best book on pines that I have found.

As for your tree, yes, this all depends on how big of a tree you want, etc??? So with out knowing that I did a quick drawing using Paint. There are many options for this tree, the one I instantly saw the other day when I looked at your post was this one, the one in the pic. You could graft on to it, but really I think that would only be a learning tool.

So, the red lines are what I would cut back to on the tree. The green arrow is the branch I would let grow freely. As it it gets taller and send out side branches I would cut those side branches off and only keep the ones up higher on the sacrafice leader. When you get the desired trunk girth and tree size then cut that whole branch off.
The green is one option you could do with the tree you have now. If you wanted it taller then simply let it grow and train it as it grows, but while pliable. For details on this the book will help you out and let you know what you need to do and when.

But really this tree is a blank slate, it will back bud if pruned, pinched and fed right. We hav JBP with 8 inch trunks in the field that will throw buds like crazy on the old gnarly barked up trunk.....even bud off the trunk down at the ground! If you can get yours to respond like that then the options are endless.

The best advice I can give you is order that book!

Good luck, Jason
 

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Graydon

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We have JBP with 8 inch trunks in the field that will throw buds like crazy on the old gnarly barked up trunk.....even bud off the trunk down at the ground!

Wha wha wha what? So are you in the habit of keeping secrets like that or was that a slip? There must be a catch. Do I need to fly out to visit in order to see one of these? Do I need to make a reservation in advance to dig one? What's the deal Jason - more info please!
 

Brian Van Fleet

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When you needle-pluck pines, it is to allow light and air into the middle of the tree; it isn't as critical with a tree this early in development. If you remove the old needles in 2 of the areas you circled (middle and right circle), you'll reduce your chances of getting it to back-bud on that bare branch, and all of your growth happens too far out from the trunk. Alternatively, if you leave the old needles, and cut the branch shorter (at the left or middle circle), you'll get buds along the remaining branch. They will appear at the cut and between some of the remaining needles.

Jason is right in his post above...Choose some branches that will be part of the final design and try to keep the growth close to the trunk through pruning. Also, choose some branches that will be sacrafice branches that can grow long to thicken the trunk. Mark them with twist-ties so you don't forget...I also tend to wire them so I can stand to look at the tree, but it does slow things down.

Evergreen Gardenworks has some great articles on growing pines. I am also working on a PowerPoint that follows a JPB through 2 years of work using photographs taken from a stationery tripod. I'll be posting it on my website in the spring.
 

JasonG

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Haha, Hey Graydon...these trees are a few years from becoming bonsai and ready to dig. Give it some time and maybe they will be available. The thing is they range in trunk size from 2to8 inches. My brother in law chopped one, left it in the ground (still there) and it back budded like crazy.

In 2007, we supplied over a dozen of these pines to a very large convention. About 18 months before the convention a group of folks came out and cut them back from 10 to 12 feet tall to 2 to 3 feet tall. Within a year they looked like Christmas trees! It was crazy how well they responded! But, then after they dug them up I heard the roots were washed and most died. Rookie mistake on thier part. You just don't do that on freshly dug material!

But yeah, right now most trees are very tall and are in the process of bieng worked down as of last fall. It will be a a few years before they are ready for market. But then another 3500 pines went in in the past 2 years. some will be landscape trees, and others bonsai. These trees are a LONG way from being anything.....

So there is the story in a nutshell.

Jason
 

Eric Schrader

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You know, in many ways, growing bonsai stock is more difficult than growing bonsai. Because a tree can become almost anything between the time it is a year or two old and the time it is fifteen. Sometimes you can control it and other times the tree will take over. That's why people like Jason grow so many; the more you grow the more you have to sell, and the more chance there is that one will come out just perfect.

I wish I had enough room to grow hundreds, but my yard is too small!
 

JasonG

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You know, in many ways, growing bonsai stock is more difficult than growing bonsai. Because a tree can become almost anything between the time it is a year or two old and the time it is fifteen. Sometimes you can control it and other times the tree will take over. That's why people like Jason grow so many; the more you grow the more you have to sell, and the more chance there is that one will come out just perfect.

I wish I had enough room to grow hundreds, but my yard is too small!

There is some truth in that. The owner of OregonBonsai, Randy Knight, planted thousands of trees in the ground, right now there is over 20,000 of them. Most are grown on tiles and were planted with the idea of becoming bonsai. But, not ever tree will become a bonsai, not all of them have the attributes to become bonsai. Sure there are things you can do to giude them and point them in the right direction but at the end of the day it will just be an ok tree. Those trees meet the burn pile and that frees up room for more to get planted.

We pulled off all the field trees from the website. This is becuase the quality just wasnt' what we wanted it to be. People can come oout and buy trees but to take the time to ship a tree that was in the $100 or less range didn't make sense. In a few years we will revisit this. But for now we are raising the quality and wrestling some of the big older trees back to bonsai size.

Thanks, Jason
 

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