Stick in a pot or Shohin material?

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Here's one of the trees that maybe I should not have collected that I mentioned in another thread some time ago. I collected it two years ago (I think it's my second collected tree) because I wanted a shohin literati. I thought the bark was good for such a small tree, but I have changed my mind about that. Sure, the bark isn't as bad as it could be but it definetly isn't great. It suffered from needle cast when I collected it, I didn't even know what that was back then, but it's getting better and it has grown pretty well this season. I really hope that the lowest branch will survive, but I think it's doomed. The pic shows what I plan to keep, I might post a virt later.
 
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darrellw

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I'd say it's much better than a stick in a pot. When you remove whatever is behind the paper, you will have some nice taper, and the top has some nice movement. It there is a significant amout of growth behind the paper, removing it might jump-start that low branch, though for a literati you probably don't need it.

Is it a lodgepole?

-Darrell
 
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No, it's a sylvestris. I wanted the low branch to make the base a bit thicker, in case I'd like to restyle it in the future. The terminal bud is still green on that branch but no needles from it, and the needles doesn't look healthy. Should I chop it now or wait a bit longer? This seasons needles haven't really matured yet, as you can see from the photo.
 

darrellw

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I would cut it now. However, if the amout of foliage on the covered area is more than the remaining tree, I would not take it all off in one shot.

-Darrell
 

darrellw

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Another thought on that low branch. Get some wire on it, and get the tips pointing upward. And if it is being shaded by other branches (as it appears the covered area might), you might move it to one side or the other as well.

-Darrell
 
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I would not wire the low branch if you are concerned about its health, wiring and bending would only stress it further. As to cutting it off now, you said you wanted to retain it, so there would be no harm in waiting to see if it survives. One possibility open to you is to cut back (pinch) the rest of the foliage, directing the energy to this lower branch.

I see a bonsai in this piece, good eye.



Will
 

darrellw

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I would not wire the low branch if you are concerned about its health, wiring and bending would only stress it further. As to cutting it off now, you said you wanted to retain it, so there would be no harm in waiting to see if it survives.
Hi Will,

I think he was asking about cutting off the "hidden" part of the tree now. I don't think moving that little branch a small amout would stress it much, and getting the tip up, and possibly getting out of the shade of the upper branches (if that is indeed the case) should help.

-Darrell
 
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Looking at the tree, I would have to say that shading is not the problem here, I also can not say for sure what the problem is with the lower branch as it could be weak or even damaged as a result of previous work, or it could very well be weak because all the energy is being used to "feed" the highest foliage. I do know that if this were my tree and if there is no damage on the lower branch, I would pinch back the stronger growing areas in order to direct energy to the weakest, in this case, the lowest branch. This is a common technique with all species of trees and a necessary one to learn in order to develop bonsai. I grow a few cascades and this style forces one to quickly understand the process of directing energy.



Will
 
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I was indeed talking about the hidden part. The shading isn't an issue, there's not enough foliage on the tree for that. The lowest branch really took a beating from the Needle cast, but as I said, "every day, it's getting better and better" :). The reason I wanted to know if it is ok to chop off some of the foliage from the hidden part is because of the "standard" procedure of redirecting energy. The question is really exactly when I should do it to make the tree do what I want. Like I said before, the needles haven't really set and the shoots are not lignified yet. It's been growing in this pot since last summer if that helps. I've been feeding it generously this spring/summer, too. Have you grown a lot of pines, Darrel? I really appreciate your input!
 
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I just thought of another idea. I could leave the top shoot, plant it in a pond basket and let the top grow for a couple of years. Then it doesn't matter if the lower branch dies, and I could make a jin from the top...Or would that be pointless? If the lower branch makes it and get thicker it would leave a nasty scar and would be too low to jin. Leaving the top shoot might also have a greater impact on the bark(?). Then again, I guess I could leave the lowest branch and the top shoot...
 

darrellw

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I guess you really need to decide what you want this tree to be. I see a nice shohin literati in there with the hidden branch removed. If that is what you also see, then I would not let the hidden branch grow much longer. It is already quite thick, and getting it thicker will only mean more work when you finally to remove it. I also don't think you need the low branch, but there isn't any harm in leaving it be for now.

I don't think the timing is all that critical, at this stage you are not trying to control needle size and such. By reducing the hidden part while the tree is actively growing, you will redirect more energy into the remaining tree immediately.

Aged bark comes along with time as much as size, and I think you already have nice taper, assuming you are going to keep a sparse canopy on the finished tree.

I hope that helps!

-Darrell
 
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I disagree with the cut it now folks. It's a very small tree. If you are happy with the size of the trunk, I would cut it, but wait until it is quiet for the winter. Leave a long stub etc. You don't want a tree this size to ooze too much sap. It won't slow down your progress in the least. Of course, I don't live in your climate, so compare this advice with what you already know about sylvestris in your area.
 
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Thanks Darrel and Chris! I guess it doesn't really need a thicker trunk, and I agree that I need to make my mind up about the styling. I think Chris makes a pretty good point about the sap, but while we're discussing different options, what about cutting the needles from the parts that won't be in the final design to make the lowest branch stronger?
 

Rick Moquin

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My recommendation FWIW is do nothing. Until you have a clear idea of what you want to do with this tree, leave it be. It isn't hurting anything and by the sound of things, you might come up with a better idea down the road.

In the meantime start reading on pines and the re-distribution of energy through proper candling pinching and needle plucking. These techniques are as old as the romans, need to be applied correctly at the right time, using the proper technique etc... Bonsai is all about timing and pines are one of those trees that timing is important.

So to return to my original recommendation, you are hurting absolutely nothing by doing nothing, as a matter of fact you are helping your tree out.
 
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Thanks Rick!

I know about the re-distribution of energy in theory, but due to my climate it's basically trial and error when it comes to timing. I have some practical knowledge as well, but can't say I have anywhere near mastered it. By doing nothing, I'm afraid the lowest branch will die. I might be wrong about that, I don't really have the experience to make that judgement.

When it comes to styling I feel fairly confident, it's the horticultural skills that are lacking to say the least (even though those are closely connected).
 

Vance Wood

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Here is a little trick that may work for you. Wait till the middle of September and cut all of the new growth on the strong upper branches back to just a little above where it started this spring, no new needles just a little bit of the new stem will remain. Leave the bottom weak branches alone. Next spring the tree is going to be producing new buds from the cut areas but the major new growth should start with the weaker branches you left alone, which if they respond according to the pattern I have seen before, should produce new growth at the time the stronger areas are still forming new buds. This should strengthen those weaker branches without seriously risking the rest of the tree to accomplish this task.
 
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Thanks Vance!

I don't know if it matters but the middle of September is very late in the season for me. We should have frost at night by then, and the first snow usually about 3-4 weeks later. Would that be too late?

I'll try it and I'm not going to argue with you when it comes to pines and horticulture, but pines producing buds during spring is something I have never seen or heard of in my climate. However, there are a bunch of pines that are only a couple of years old growing on the outskirts of our lawn and I test techniques on them before applying them to my bonsai. I have been told by some other people in my club that I should never remove all (but the weakest) candles on my pines. Well, I did just that (following the advice from Hans v. Meer's article) on one of the pines with massive backbudding as a result. On some other ones I have managed to balance the energy so that all the candles are of equal length. I realize that it's not the same with young trees and old collected ones growing in pots, but I just wanted to express the level of knowledge around me irl...
 
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I have another question for you bnuts!

I read the thread about JBP that Chris wrote over at bTalk, where he said "I will begin decandling for needle length". I the shorter needles a result of the decandling itself, or because the simply have shorter time to develop before dormancy?
 
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Vance has written extensively about this, too. The shorter needles are partly the result of more ramification, as Vance points out. The more demand there is for energy, the less goes to each candle. Therefore, the needles get shorter. However, with pines, incorrect timing can give bad results. If I were to candle mid-June or sooner, the new needles will remain too long. If I candle in late July or later, the needles will possibly be too short. These results are because of the time the needles have to grow and develop.

Climate affects this strongly, too. Two years ago, Boon candled a tree to show in the following January's exhibit. The sun then went away for the rest of the summer. Very cold and wet. The needles on this 48 inch tree came out at less than half an inch! They were too small in proportion to the tree because they did not get the summer sun and heat. Had this been the norm, Boon would have adjusted his candling date to earlier in spring.
 

JasonG

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After reading this I can see both sides of the coin here..... If it were my tree I would cut it now based on the weak low branch. Here is why I say that....
1) if the top continues to grow you will have reverse taper where the trunk splits up high. The lowest branch is too weak to provide any growth the the trunk down low.

2) I wouldn't worry about sap loss... you can burn the cut to slow or stop sap flow... Rich and I have done it on large ponderosa's before and it works. It cartarizes (sp?) the wound.

3) while it is a "cute" little tree it isn't anything very special and you will and have been collecting much better material than this. So why not learn from it?? Note: I am not saying this is a bad tree.

Cutting that now will not kill the tree and if you stop the major sap loss (burning) you should redirect the energy like Darrell points out with little to no energy loss.

4) If you wait until next year then you are another year behind.....


FWIW, Jason
 
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