Skinny Unkept JBP

bonsai barry

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I bought this JBP at a bonsai nursery. The tree has not been pruned for over a year. I've read a lot about pinching the candles (did you know there is some contrictory advice out there?). I've read Brent's materials and the stuff from the Pine Book by Stone Lantern. But they all address pinching the candles. What do you do with something like this that has gone beyond that stage. Probably the more important question is when to cut back the old new growth.
 

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Barry,
Here's how you should work on a young jbp:

When the two or three year old branch extends without side branching, we want to encourage budding along its length. This is done by first feeding your tree a lot so it's very strong. When you look at the end of the bud, your branch will look like the diagram:
 

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We don't want branches everywhere, and there is a dormant bud between each pair of needles, so let's remove some of the needles. We'll remove quite a few, actually. Take off all the bottom needles, as you don't want branches growing down. Then take off all the needles at about 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. Leave most of the top needles and all the side needles. Your branch should look like this:
 

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Keep feeding the tree from early spring right on into summer. In mid to late June you will candle this tree. Visually group the candles into three sizes, large, medium, and small. Cut only the largest exterior candles right at the base. The cut should be perpendicular to the growth, no angle. This will force the meristematic growth back along the branch and pop buds from some of the needle pairs. So this young branch will have only one candle removed unless it has more than one excessively large candle.

Don't confuse this with bud pinching. Allow the candle to grow as long as it wants. Sometimes with healthy black pines, they can get several feet long! Cut this about the third week of June for your area. Then remove the fertilizer. You will see new buds forming in a matter of days. You will have a number of them forming at the base of the cut you made, and probably some others popping back along the branch as well.

If you have more than two at the tip, choose two of similar size (small ones if you have to hold back the growth, large ones if you have a weak branch and want to encourage it.) The first time you do this to a branch, the candles should be arranged horizontally, but sometimes in later pinchings you will want vertical buds.

The second flush of growth will be less vigorous, and when it stops extending, you can begin feeding at half strength again until fall. In fall, do any light pruning you need to do and put the tree away for the winter.

This differs from what you have read some places in a few key areas. Many will say to cut back this tree hard in the fall, not summer. It may work as well except that you don't get a second growth surge until next spring. With this method you get twice the ramification in one year. In another year or two you will begin working on balancing the growth of this branch.

This also differs from the candling method used for developed trees, in that all but the smallest candles are cut, starting with the weakest so they have longer to develop and get stronger. This is an energy balancing technique that not only should shorten your needles, it should make all your needles about the same length. Save this technique for a more advanced tree.

All this being said, I wish you had a better tree to work on. You can use all the proper technique in the world with this one, but it will never be even a moderately nice tree. The roots look bad, the trunk is straight and thin, and you have swelling from a whorl of branches about halfway up. I hope you didn't pay too much for this tree. Good luck with it, work with it, and learn from it how these trees grow so you can feel confident to buy better material.
 

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In mid to late June you will candle this tree
Cut this about the third week of June for your area.
Excellent explanation Chris, one of the best I've heard in laymen's terms. The only thing I would comment on is the timing when to cut candles. I know for someone who is learning it is easier to have a set calendar date.

My preference would rather be telling people that when the needles have started to emerge from the candle and are at about a 15 to 20 degree angle ( hence, not fully open and when the meristem hormone is greatest) to the candle, then that is the time to cut. In this situation people reading this thread from Wisconsin, Virginia or Mass. will benefit from the information on timing. I also believe we will be forced to start explaining candling this way with an ever changing climate.

Once again Chris excellent explanation
 
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Great explanation, Chris!

As some of you know I live 100 miles south of the artic circle, so the climate is kinda extreme. There's an abundance of Pinus sylvestris, and it's a common yamadori species. I've read everything I could get my hands on when it comes to pruning techniques but as far as I know, using the techniques described above would kill a sylvestris in a season up here. The growing season is very short, from about middle or end of May to middle of August and the winters are extreme with temps as low as -40C but usually not colder than -32C. During summer it never really gets dark, but during winter the sun barely rises above the treetops. I can't even grow Juniperus sinesis because it's not hardy enough.

As far as I know it's impossible to get more than one flush of growth in one season and cutting candles off completely would kill an older tree. When pinching the candles the result of that pinching won't show until the next year. I've had advice from more experienced people, but frankly I doubt that their technique is optimal.

So basically it's trial and error and the Pine seedlings growing on our lawn take a beating every year before I touch my yamadori. However, in a year or two there will be time to start styling one or two so I'm kinda confused about what to do.

It feels like I'm too unexperienced to draw any real conclusions from the experiments with the seedlings, but what would be an effective way of experimenting on the seedlings, (even though I realize that one needs to be a lot more careful with older specimens) so that I will be able to learn the best way for my climate?
 
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The important caveat to remember is that this technique is used here in the lower 48 states, and requires a significant summer season following removing candles. On the jbp that I groomed for Boon's show in January, last year's needles were only about 3/8 inch long. After candling, the entire summer was cold and wet, and the needles were too short for the tree. Also notice that I never said cut all the candles. We rarely remove every candle on a tree.

No, it's not... You live in extreme conditions where all bets are off. You may be a pioneer there. I got nothing to help you with. Take a cue from what trees in the wild do.

The timing I mentioned to Barry was specific because he is close to where Boon practices.
 
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The stuff I've been trying so far is this:

1. Fall: Removing buds where there are more than two. I haven't plucked any needles because as far as I know I don't have any trees healthy enough because of recent collecting.

2. Spring: Pinching candles. It seems to work the same way as any other two needle pine, but as I mentioned before the results aren't visible until the following spring. There has been massive backbudding on the seedlings but I haven't really noticed if the buds shows during fall the same year or if the show up during spring the next year. I assume that this would effect pruning branches.

...and that's about it! From your experience (even though the climate might be different) does it sound ok or way off?
 

bonsai barry

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Great information and discussion. Thanks Chris for the detailed explanation. I agree this isn't a great tree but I hope to learn on it while my other JBP are still in the ground fattening up a bit!
 

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Chris's explanation is good - but I'm not sure it's appropriate for this tree. The pruning techniques he describes are for working on refinement of branches. This tree still needs growing of the trunk. Pruning it would only slow down trunk growth.

Unless you are planning on a skinny bunjin, I would not recomend doing any pruning. You should be feeding this tree heavily, maybe get it in a little bit bigger pot, or into the ground and let it thicken.

Once you have established your trunk at the caliper you want, then it's time to work on branches. Followign Chris's recomendations at that time will then be the thing to do.

- bob
 

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I have to agree with Bob on this one. It's skinny now but could fatten up rather quickly if left alone to grow. I would feed heavy and let grow without potting up this year. One can be concerned over the lack of branches or interior growth but a well fed, well watered pine growing in day long full sun will sometimes surprise you with dormant buds popping in all sorts of places - even on several year old wood.

Chris - your explanation of the refinement process was great, I wish I would have had that info years ago in such a well put form. I could have avoided the trial and error method.
 
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All this being said, I wish you had a better tree to work on. You can use all the proper technique in the world with this one, but it will never be even a moderately nice tree. The roots look bad, the trunk is straight and thin, and you have swelling from a whorl of branches about halfway up. I hope you didn't pay too much for this tree. Good luck with it, work with it, and learn from it how these trees grow so you can feel confident to buy better material.
Chris's explanation is good - but I'm not sure it's appropriate for this tree. The pruning techniques he describes are for working on refinement of branches. This tree still needs growing of the trunk. Pruning it would only slow down trunk growth.

Unless you are planning on a skinny bunjin, I would not recomend doing any pruning. You should be feeding this tree heavily, maybe get it in a little bit bigger pot, or into the ground and let it thicken.

Once you have established your trunk at the caliper you want, then it's time to work on branches. Followign Chris's recomendations at that time will then be the thing to do.

- bob
Bob, we have a little disagreement over what this tree needs, but not in the direction you might think. Does this tree need pruning or candling? Of course not! Does it need to be thickened in the ground? Why would you do that?

I never said that the technique was what this tree needed. What this tree really needs is a new tree. Sorry, but putting it in the ground is not going to make the trunk grow fat, just thick enough to be trouble. That knot of roots at the base will not allow for a nebari. Only a severe chop will provide any movement to this tree. In all, there's not much to commend it, except as a tree to practice some techniques on. Keep it in a pot in good soil, work on cultivating it, and see how well you can ramify it and equalize the energy in the tree. Then get rid of it when you feel confident.
 

cbobgo

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well, I wouldn't say that all is lost with this tree. I bet below those surface roots there is probably another ring of roots that might look better. He could remove the ugly ones, wire the first branch more upright as the new leader, treat the rest of the tree as a sacrifice to thicken the trunk, and in 5-10 years there might be something fairly decent there.

But then again, I've always been a sucker for the underdog trees. I have a hard time giving up on even my most pathetic specimens.

- bob
 
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Chris's explanation is good - but I'm not sure it's appropriate for this tree. The pruning techniques he describes are for working on refinement of branches. This tree still needs growing of the trunk. Pruning it would only slow down trunk growth.
Bob makes a lot of sense here, I agree.



Will
 
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Bob makes a lot of sense here, I agree.



Will
I agree with Bob, too. Pruning this tree would prevent it from getting a thick trunk and turning into a pretty good bonsai. My point is that there are so many factors already limiting the possibility of this tree getting a thick trunk and turning into a pretty good bonsai, that one might as well use this one to learn how to develop branches.

There very well may be better roots below the visible ones, but how will one then deal with the knot that is visible just above the soil?

Let's not conflate two different things: I took Barry's question and tree as an opportunity to make a more general lesson about developing young jbp. I don't think this tree is a candidate.
 
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This is indeed a good possibility, often what is not seen can offer amazing alternatives.


Will
I'm sorry, did you read my post? There may be good roots under the soil, but how would you deal with the visible flaw in the nebari above the soil line?
 
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I'm sorry, did you read my post? There may be good roots under the soil, but how would you deal with the visible flaw in the nebari above the soil line?
Did you read my post Chris? I said often what is not seen can offer amazing alternatives. The visible flaw may be such or may not be, depending on what is buried. Not seeing what is there can only led to guessing and I'll leave that sort of design speculating to others.

I also agreed that this tree is not ready for the techniques you outlined in this thread, although a great explaination of basic Black Pine techniques, they should be saved for the end game of this tree and not used now.


Will
 

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