Scots Pine, what to do

The Warm Canuck

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Hello All,

I picked up this Scotts Pine from the nursery and I'm not really sure what to do with it.

I'd like to thicken the trunk and develop some lower limbs, that are starting to bud.

Can I chop the candles off? Or just leave a few, I'm not sure.
IMG_20210619_145050.jpg
 

penumbra

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I love Scots pines, but I think this one was a poor choice for bonsai. It will be a long road and I am not sure what you should do. I hope you have a picture in your mind of what you are hoping for but all I see is a literati style, which I would strongly discourage someone new to bonsai to take on. About all you could do for another style would be a hard chop to a healthy branch and hope for back budding. You will need to invest many years for this tree. Best of luck.
 

0soyoung

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On the flip side of @penumbra, I don't really care about Scots one way or the other as I haven't come across Scots pine material that interested me. It is commonly used as a root stock for more exotic pine varieties. It is very cold hardy. I have also noted that it readily back buds (good) and has a moderate needle length (good). It has very nice bark (good!). And, last but not least, I've seen a few good Scots pine bonsai, most notably one by William N. Valavanis that is now Bjorn's, if I am not mistaken. Walter Pall has one that makes me go 'ga-ga' every time I see it.

Your material, @The Warm Canuck, is a nice blank slate to find out what you can do. You do have a lanky low branch that might be useful/important, but I hate to hang my hat on one-way or bust. So, late this summer or early fall, I would wrap the trunk with some nice copper wire (that is about 1/3rd its diameter thick) and bend the trunk into some curvy trajectory and positioning the top foliage mass so it won't shade anything. I'll just note that If it doesn't wind up being something that floats my boat, everything above that first branch could be just a sacrifice.

Then my focus will remain on keeping it growing vigorously as this will lead to back budding and thickening. Maybe it goes into a pond basket right after I've wired it or maybe wait until next spring. The nebari that I see in the pic really sucks, so you might set the stage for this being prettier by rearranging them when you repot. On the other hand, most pine species will fuse closely spaced roots above ground. If this works out, the root fusion will look a lot like basal flare of the trunk. If it doesn't work out, the results could be regrettable, so I think the best strategy is to make the roots be as nice as you can arrange them coming from the trunk, the pot it properly. In another year or two you could change your mind and pot it high without much downside risk.


Anyway, my bottom line is that this is the sort of stuff that I find to be lots of fun. A good challenge to see what one can create. Much, much more fun that just trimming a tree.
 

Paradox

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Scots pines are my favorite pines.

This is very raw material.
If you want to thicken the trunk. You need to let it grow, not chop it back. The main trunk could be a sacrifice trunk until it grows to the desired size. If you want it to grow fast. You need to plant it in the ground.

One of the low branches would be developed as the main tree.

You need to research the differences between the pine species. Scots are single flush pines we do not cut Scots pine candles. We do that on double flush pines like Japanese black pine.
 

August44

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Just my opinion...You being new to this, I would not waste my time on something that will discourage you very quickly. Start on something that has decent branching to begin with so you have something to start with. Your subject does not have this, and might take a lifetime to ever get it.
 

Forsoothe!

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I predict that the project will be abandoned if not in a couple, then 5 or 10 years. Feedback is necessary to keep a keen interest in anything and the trouble with Pines is there is very little to do yearly, so very little feedback. To someone just beginning bonsai, that's fatal. You can keep the Scots for now, but you need another few to play with. Size matters in Pines. A shohin Scots is hard to pull off and that's why you don't see many. Growing seasons around the world vary widely and it is difficult to get a perspective on what someone says when we don't know where in the world they are. If you go to the upper right hand corner and click on your Icon, you can add your location and people will be able to customize advice for you, and you might connect with another local.

<<<<< It will show here.

Canada is pretty big. We can suggest other species if we know where you are.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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Bend the piss outta that sucker
I second this. You could probably reduce the height to 1/3rd if you crush it down with wire (in late fall or winter).
If that fails, you have one low branch to cut back to. I can tell from experience that it's going to take two years at least from that point on forward to have something to work with again.

Scots pines are cool learner material for single flush pines. They're pretty forgiving compared to other pines.
Don't get your hopes up though, this one is difficult to begin with and chances are that it's not going to satisfy you. Nonetheless, some hard cutbacks could make it bud all over. Or push it over the edge. Either way you'll be wiser.
 

The Warm Canuck

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Thank you all for your replies. I have a bunch of other trees amassed, so if it doesn't work out, I'm not too concerned, but knowing now what you all have detailed, I'll keep in mind that it's probably not going to be anything special but working on something new can never hurt.
 

The Warm Canuck

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Scots pines are my favorite pines.

This is very raw material.
If you want to thicken the trunk. You need to let it grow, not chop it back. The main trunk could be a sacrifice trunk until it grows to the desired size. If you want it to grow fast. You need to plant it in the ground.

One of the low branches would be developed as the main tree.

You need to research the differences between the pine species. Scots are single flush pines we do not cut Scots pine candles. We do that on double flush pines like Japanese black pine.
I will try to focus on developing the trunk, I'd rather not put it into the ground though. Would it hurt to split pot it, into a bigger pot at this time of year? Then come late fall/winter wire the crap out of it.
 

The Warm Canuck

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I predict that the project will be abandoned if not in a couple, then 5 or 10 years. Feedback is necessary to keep a keen interest in anything and the trouble with Pines is there is very little to do yearly, so very little feedback. To someone just beginning bonsai, that's fatal. You can keep the Scots for now, but you need another few to play with. Size matters in Pines. A shohin Scots is hard to pull off and that's why you don't see many. Growing seasons around the world vary widely and it is difficult to get a perspective on what someone says when we don't know where in the world they are. If you go to the upper right hand corner and click on your Icon, you can add your location and people will be able to customize advice for you, and you might connect with another local.

<<<<< It will show here.

Canada is pretty big. We can suggest other species if we know where you are.
I'm in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Zone 6. If you could suggest some other species that would be great.

I'll update my profile.
 

Forsoothe!

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I have come to the conclusion that all beginners should only or mostly start with nursery stock. Seeds and tiny volunteers, et al are fine to grow, but there's no serious feedback unless and until a person has something that can be made into a "bonsai", no matter how crude. The most important feedback of course is the negative, -you do something that absolutely ruins the stock and say to yourself, "Well, I'm not going to do that again." Screwing up nice stock, something I have personally done many times is painful, especially in retrospect. You remember it forever, -the tree you had in your hot little hands and destroyed it. Workshops are nice, but sharing an instructor with 8 or 10 others and not knowing what you want to do is not as useful when you're a newbee as it is when you are middling and can appreciate the expertise being shared. I'm a learn-by-doing kind of guy and there's nothing like volume to the learning process. Cheap big box stuff can teach you a bunch and especially compared to waiting around for a seedling to get to a point that any degree of sophistication of design can be seen. The fiction of a newbee gonna plant a seed and make a mame or shohin out of it is laughable at best. The smaller the bonsai, the more difficult it is to achieve. Period. Pines are also much more difficult as compared to deciduous. Kindergartners don't start out with oils on canvas, they start with finger paints and they slop it on with not much more organization than intermixing smears and hand prints. They learn color and have fun, and fun is important to everybody else, too.

Newbees should be encouraged to go out and buy themselves a $10 big box any time they get the urge to create, and do something to it. Pull volunteer weeds, plant seeds, gather yamadori, ex-landscape, houseplants, whatever they run across and do bonsai. Volume is the name of the game, especially cheap volume early on. You don't buy a Corvette for a 16-year-old to learn how to drive, you give him Mom's old car because he's only gonna make it older. And scratched-up.
 

Paradox

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I will try to focus on developing the trunk, I'd rather not put it into the ground though. Would it hurt to split pot it, into a bigger pot at this time of year? Then come late fall/winter wire the crap out of it.

Way too late in the year for repotting right now.
Best time to repot is early spring when the buds just start to swell.

For now I would water it when it needs it and fertilize it every two weeks with the liquid fertilizer of your choice.

You can wire it this fall/winter in October until March
 

Paradox

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I'm in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Zone 6. If you could suggest some other species that would be great.

I'll update my profile.

Scots pine are fine for your climate as are mugo pine. I think Forsoothe is referring to the characteristics of this particular tree. It's not the best for potential bonsai but it is a great tree to learn with which is what a new person needs.

Learn what characteristics to look for in potential bonsai material and keep those in mind when searching for plants
 
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Forsoothe!

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I'm in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Zone 6. If you could suggest some other species that would be great.

I'll update my profile.
In no particular order of preference, except they should be big enough to work on (not sticks), but not so big that you need to chop, -leave chopping for later. Avoid anything grafted:

From big box (gallon size best, or up to 2 gal): Boxwood, Privet, Ilex, Amur Maple, green Japanese Maple or any that are not grafted (if you're not sure it isn't grafted, don't buy it), evergreen Azalea, Zelkova, Elms with small leaves, Crab Apple, Cherry, Service-berry, Quince, (avoid Willows), Cotoneaster, Dwarf Alpine Currant, Dawn Redwood, Ginkgo, Hibiscus, Juniper, Miss Kim Lilac, Star Magnolia, Siberian Peashrub, Yew, English or Red Oak, Beech, Adler, Tamarack, Korean Hornbeam.

All of the above from the landscape and volunteers: Mulberry (one of the best).

Mail Order: any small leafed Elm & Zelkova. Tropical Houseplant bonsai: Figs, Arboricola (AKA dwarf Schefflera), Bougainvillea, Natal Plum, Portulacaria, Calamondin orange, Kumquat, Desert Rose, Araila.

Naturally, these are what I find easiest to keep and work on, others will offer different ideas.
 

Paradox

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In addition to what Forsoothe stated.

What to look for in material in this order:

Look for decent size trunks for the size material.
Decent roots (nebari) if you can find it
Lots of branches with foliage near the trunk, no pom poms or long naked branches with only foliage on the end.
 

River's Edge

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Thank you all for your replies. I have a bunch of other trees amassed, so if it doesn't work out, I'm not too concerned, but knowing now what you all have detailed, I'll keep in mind that it's probably not going to be anything special but working on something new can never hurt.
In twenty years it could be something special and during that time you will learn how to develop conifers from scratch. While that is slowly taking place, it can be rewarding to learn how to select better material to develop Bonsai from, or how to collect better material to create bonsai from. For an example here is a nursery Scots pine that was acquired for $50. It has some possibilities as well as challenges. Followed by yamadori that were collected, and developed. Your area has some amazing native species for Bonsai. Starting out I think it is very important to study the fundamentals of what makes good bonsai material. Lots of resources out there to identify key characteristics such as nebari, trunk movement and character, bark, leaf size and structure, age and unique appearance.
The great thing about collecting native species is that they are ideally suited to your climate. First picture is the nursery Scots pine, Then a Mt. Hemlock, Yellow Cedar, Sub Alpine Fir and a Sierra Juniper. Various stages of development or refinement but all collected trees.
Good Book to consider for information and species closely related or overlapping in your area. Bonsai from the Wild Nick Lenz 2006. Available through Stone Lantern I believe. $29.95
 

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Forsoothe!

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^^@Paradox Yes, and you buy the first few inches of trunk, you work the rest of the tree, so don't buy the canopy!
 

The Warm Canuck

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In twenty years it could be something special and during that time you will learn how to develop conifers from scratch. While that is slowly taking place, it can be rewarding to learn how to select better material to develop Bonsai from, or how to collect better material to create bonsai from. For an example here is a nursery Scots pine that was acquired for $50. It has some possibilities as well as challenges. Followed by yamadori that were collected, and developed. Your area has some amazing native species for Bonsai. Starting out I think it is very important to study the fundamentals of what makes good bonsai material. Lots of resources out there to identify key characteristics such as nebari, trunk movement and character, bark, leaf size and structure, age and unique appearance.
The great thing about collecting native species is that they are ideally suited to your climate. First picture is the nursery Scots pine, Then a Mt. Hemlock, Yellow Cedar, Sub Alpine Fir and a Sierra Juniper. Various stages of development or refinement but all collected trees.
Good Book to consider for information and species closely related or overlapping in your area. Bonsai from the Wild Nick Lenz 2006. Available through Stone Lantern I believe. $29.95
Where on the island do you live? I actually used to live in Comox.

Unfortunately, Stone Lantern doesn't appear to carry that book anymore.

I've pretty happy with my first attempts to Yamadori a few Eastern Cedars, I'm just hoping they make it. I just got this one last week, it was going to be either ran over by a tractor, or cultivated. It's currently in my garage. I'll bring it out in the sun in a week or so. I'm just not sure if I should cut some foliage to promote root growth or leave it as is.
 

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