These are the beginnings of flowers/cones correct? (and not regular candles)

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Shohin
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These are the beginnings of flowers or cones on a JBP correct? (Not regular candles/buds)

It it okay to clip/twist these off and remove them during winter Momiage(old needle removal) on my Niwaki JBP?

I’ve already finished Momiage and pruning of 1 tree today. Took 4-5 hours (5’ trees). Got one more big tree to go. Winter Momiage on a niwaki JBP can be such a pia, lol.
 

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What you said
 
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Shibui

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I'd say these are regular candles with male pollen cones all round the base. The candle is still there (central point) and it will grow as normal come spring. The fact it has male cones is also perfectly normal for a maturing tree so definitely regular candles from my point of view.
 

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I'd say these are regular candles with male pollen cones all round the base. The candle is still there (central point) and it will grow as normal come spring. The fact it has male cones is also perfectly normal for a maturing tree so definitely regular candles from my point of view.
Ah I see. Yes, some had a regular candle in the middle, but most were also just small clusters of pollen cones.
I cut them all off anyways, since I was already at it removing old needles and also pruning (reducing any multi-branch whorls to just 2/bifurcation). Hope they ramify and send energy to new buds/candles at the cut-ends and bases of remaining needles.

I did the exact same needle-removal (Momiage) last winter (Dec 2018), so I expect to see the same flush of foliage this year. The "before" pics I posted is almost all new foliage from just the last growing season. And, the current "after" pics is what it looked exactly like in Dec 2018 after I removed the old needles as well.
 

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Had free time today, so I finally finished my last small niwaki JBP. Wasn’t too bad, only 3.5 hours. Maybe I’m gettin faster.

Same deal - left 6 pairs of needles per tip (sometimes 3-4 pairs if I mess up and pull out too many on accident), and also prune and try to reduce any whorls to 2 laterals. Also removed those pollen cones.


Last 2 pics ...the biggest JBP branch I’ve ever cut off. It was worrisome to do lol, since it was so big, substantial and old. But, I thought about it for maybe a year.

It was covering/hiding the trunk/base too much from the front view. Also, there was already 4 other branches coming out of the same location/whorl of the trunk (as we all know, we ideally only want 1 branch per trunk location, to avoid bulging).

So, the reduction/removal of that big branch should help in bulging some... though still not perfect, since there’s still 3 more branches too many, at that trunk-whorl/location.
But, I don’t think I can get rid of the others (at least not yet), since I wouldn’t be left with much of a tree anymore and also would have too many cut scars at that location.
 

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Adair M

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I think you are removing too many needles. Needles produce the food for the tree. Removing that many is starving the tree.
 

Adair M

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Here’s my JBP after pulling needles and thinning:

A7CC6527-C98C-4814-8EBF-5DEFBFF63076.jpeg

I pull more from the apex area and keep more down low for balance.
 

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I think you are removing too many needles. Needles produce the food for the tree. Removing that many is starving the tree.
Yes, I know foliage are solar panels... and trust me, I would rather not do this tedious work, lol.

But, from my research, this is necessary for bigger niwaki in the wintertime... balances energy for the upcoming year (since apically dominant.. without pulling needles, it would have way too strong of a top and weak lower tree), more sun and air to hit branch's interior for new buds, less pests/fungus, etc., less leggy growth (shade = leggy extension), 2nd and 3rd year needles sag and brown, more sun to lower branches, etc., etc.
Fall should have accumulated enough food for Spring, that's why this is done around wintertime.

I’ve studied niwaki (not bonsai) obsessively for the past 3 years… mostly had to translate because it isn’t done/taught in the US much and these techniques are not done by bonsai people I've noticed (it's only done to niwaki in Japan, and also the rare Japanese gardeners in the US nowadays).
I’ve seen many garden/niwaki pines all over Japan after this ("Momiage") was freshly done, and it looks quite beautiful with the almost bare branches and very visible branch structure…ready for the next season’s flush of fresh foliage.
I've been to 6 cities in Japan and many traditional gardens... and they all do this around late fall and winter.
It is a technique very commonly done in Japan in wintertime for Niwaki (but, not for bonsai I guess, because bonsai are much smaller and need more foliage/energy for health).

I could be wrong though... I'm no expert lol (just lots of research). I just do this from what I've read, researched and have seen in Japan.


This time around, I left 6 pairs of needles per shoot/branch tip end (a good middle ground, not too much nor too little). Kyoto style leaves more, around 8-12 pairs. Also, a niwaki nursery owner here in SoCal told me he leaves only 3 pairs, wow (I’ve seen some of his trees after a fresh pruning too, to confirm... he's been doing niwaki for decades). Last year Dec 2018, I left 3 pairs per shoot (as per that niwaki nursery owner’s recommendation... but felt I needed to leave more this time - 6 pairs).
 
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Here’s my JBP after pulling needles and thinning:

View attachment 278975

I pull more from the apex area and keep more down low for balance.

Beautiful! How many pairs?

Yeah... I try to leave more pairs on lower section than the top. Especially the first tree I showed/posted/did, as it has way too vigorous of a top.
 

Adair M

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The garden trees that you are using as examples in Japan... are they in pots or in the ground?

I don’t do niwaki, only bonsai. So, I based my comment on my experience with JBP in pots.
 

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I agree with Adair. You still need to reduce the needles but can get carried away and go overboard. In the early stages we need to balance energy so leave a few more needles on lower and weaker branches but 3 pairs is just too few and I'd be laving up to 10+ pairs of needle on any tree as it develops. When you have plenty of branches and ramification 3-6 pairs might be enough to feed the tree but with only a few branches on this tree there's just not enough foliage to keep it healthy. Healthy trees is not just about plain numbers. It is looking for balance.
 

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The garden trees that you are using as examples in Japan... are they in pots or in the ground?

I don’t do niwaki, only bonsai. So, I based my comment on my experience with JBP in pots.
Of course, public gardens and residential gardens it will be in the ground.
But, at niwaki nurseries, they're in big 24-60" wooden boxes or nursery containers/pots.
 

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I agree with Adair. You still need to reduce the needles but can get carried away and go overboard. In the early stages we need to balance energy so leave a few more needles on lower and weaker branches but 3 pairs is just too few and I'd be laving up to 10+ pairs of needle on any tree as it develops. When you have plenty of branches and ramification 3-6 pairs might be enough to feed the tree but with only a few branches on this tree there's just not enough foliage to keep it healthy. Healthy trees is not just about plain numbers. It is looking for balance.
It's already pretty developed and relatively old (maybe 15-20yo). So maybe that's why the nursery owner recommended 3 pairs. I did 6 pairs this time around, because I was thinking like everyone else here (that 3 is just too low).
As for enough feed for the tree.. I would think that mostly happens after the big spring flush of foliage, during late summer and fall, (while the tree has much more than a couple pairs of needles, countless needles).
So I believe heavy needle reduction in the winter (momiage) won't really affect the food-production much (as it's almost dormant); as the upcoming spring flush is determined by the previous fall and summer feed and energy collection.

But yes, I agree, it looks bare because it doesn't have the ramification of a 50-600 year old tree like the ancient ones at old gardens in Japan or even residential gardens.
Yeah, with more ramification, 6 pairs will look a lot more full.

I see everyone's point here though... next year, I will do more Kyoto style Momiage, 10-14 pairs.
 
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Shibui

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It's already pretty developed and relatively old (maybe 15-20yo).
I cannot see that age in this tree. It is not really difficult to count the growth cycles in black pines by the sections of the trunk - each space between branches usually being a year's growth. Unless there's something I'm missing because I'm only viewing photos on the computer I'd say closer to 6 or 7 years to get this. The grower may be a world niwaki expert but has either grown this tree fast to a budget or a quick profit or maybe doesn't really understand all the concepts of initial development stages of black pine. The structure would be fine for a larger sized tree but IMHO there's just a bit too much space between branches and trunk sections just a bit too straight for a smaller tree this size. All those things are actually quite normal for nursery grown niwaki. Not actually desirable but all to common.

You purchased it, you like it so please don't take any suggestions personally. I'm just trying to point out some possibilities.
 

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I cannot see that age in this tree. I'd say closer to 6 or 7 years to get this.
...each space between branches usually being a year's growth

..maybe doesn't really understand all the concepts of initial development stages of black pine. The structure would be fine for a larger sized tree but IMHO there's just a bit too much space between branches and trunk sections just a bit too straight for a smaller tree this size.

All those things are actually quite normal for nursery grown niwaki. Not actually desirable but all to common.

You purchased it, you like it so please don't take any suggestions personally. I'm just trying to point out some possibilities.
When the nursery owner delivered them, he actually told me the same thing, 6-7 years old.
And, I thought he was just kidding (maybe being optimistic, to cheer my patience for my other JBP saplings). Because I have 4 other JBP saplings, and they are 6-7 years old, and only 12-20" in height and marker/pencil thick, lol.
Both also have a lot of mature and thick bark plates.
And iirc, I've read blogs where it takes the seedlings a few years initially, before it starts growing vigorously.
So maybe add a couple years on top of that "each space between branches is usually being a year's growth."
But, irdk, I never grown one from seed.
My 15-20yo estimate was just my guess (comparing it to my 4 other 6-7yo saplings and also blogs I've read).
I was thinking closer to 15yo. But, I am also a n00b, so my guess could be far off.

Yes, he grows niwaki with further apart branches... not small bonsai. So the development stages would be different and it doesn't look as "perfect" and super attractive like a bonsai.
I did notice both had some escape or apex-branches that were cut off (maybe for taper, or maybe for first structural styling a while ago).

Yeah, I think the trunk sections are a bit straight too... but you have to remember it's not a dramatic bonsai, it's a garden niwaki. Most of the movement is directional-pruning or just very very slight natural movement by age. It wont have crazy bends and loops like a bonsai. Most niwaki you see in gardens are actually quite similar... just straight trunk sections, if anything very slight movement.

No prob. The insight is good to hear.
 
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Shibui

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I have only been growing and developing JBP for around 30 years. I believe I've had time to learn something about their growth patterns in that time. At least your grower has been honest about the age even if you choose not to believe.
I do understand Niwaki. I actually maintain a couple down here though I have not studied this branch of gardening as extensively as your 3 years. You may be interested to see some of the early development of JBP in the current 6 year pine contest - https://www.bonsainut.com/forums/the-six-year-japanese-black-pine-contest.73/ The seedlings featured are currently 2-3 years old. There are some entries from absolute beginners and others from more experienced growers. You should probably ignore posts about contorted trunks and growing really little trees but there are plenty of good posts outlining ways to get good growth in the initial stages. My fast grown seedlings are currently 2 years old and over a foot tall. Some growers have achieved even more growth that that.
Bonsai is not always about dramatic bends and loops as you seem to think. Much more about aesthetic and proportion. Niwaki can also have good aesthetic if the grower understands some basics of artistic principles of design - flow, rhythm, proportion, etc. All of which are directly related to size. Then knowing the principles of how JBP grow and respond to pruning will help to get those desirable shapes and proportions.

Have fun on your niwaki journey.
 

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