to pinch or not to pinch?

koyote1

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I'm new to this forum, sorry if this has been discussed, but I'm finding conflicting info on the web about pinching, using scissors, or neither. I know not to believe what I read on the internet so I thought I'd ask you all instead.
 

Vance Wood

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The term pinching is kind of a misnomer. Pinching is the process of removing or cutting back new growth to either encourage more budding or to limit its extension. Sometimes this process can be done with the fingers by simply pinching off the new growth, sometimes it must be done with scissors because the fingers are not capable of doing it on some trees. Because this is the normal process usually done in the spring, done with the fingers with a lot of trees, it is called pinching even if it involves scissors.
 

koyote1

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pinching-yay or nay?

I understand the basics, and then some. My question has to do with conflicting methods. Some "pro" claims pinching of any sort only gives the tree a perfect look for one season. He states there are too many problems caused by the super dense pads that form after careful pinching. Instead he thins from the inside, this way the clumps of green don't become overly crowded, and the tree looks perfect for several seasons. Also what about the brown tips that form after pinching or snipping? Any ways to prevent or remady this? I'll see if I can find this article.
 
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We used to be taught to pinch scale junipers by holding the tuft of foliage between our fingers and nipping off the bits that extend a little. But no matter how we do it, the very tips get brown.

"Oh, don't use your fingernails, don't use scissors, that gets them brown!" But no matter what we do, the tips get brown just a little bit. The problem isn't the technique of pinching. It's the theory. When we pinch in the old school way, the pads do get too dense and block out the light and air from flowing freely, causing your juniper to continually get more leggy.

If you want your juniper to back-bud and look good over a longer period of time, you have to use scissors. And you have to use them correctly: only on the lignified (brown) wood. If your tree is healthy, shimpaku for instance, and growing strongly, it will send out "runners" beyond the outline of the foliage. This is when you know you can cut back. Cut off the runners and make cuttings of them if you wish, the stronger the better. You will soon see strong growth in the crotches of branches closer toward the trunk. Begin to remake the branch with this growth.

When you have a good deal of foliage, wire the branch right down to the smallests tufts and arrange into layers for those delicate clouds of foliage. This will shape your scale juniper better than pinching. And if you don't pinch, you don't get brown tips.
 

Vance Wood

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If you understand the how and whys and we are not addressing a beginer then maybe you might want to be a little more specific as to what kind of material are we talking about. Junipers, Pines, Maples or others? You seem to indicate Junipers but now I am not so sure exactly what you are asking. Are you testing us to see if we know anything, or what?
 

koyote1

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thanks Chris

Thanks Chris. That helps. Especially about the brn. tips. Vance I'm not testing anyone, and by posting in the catagory "junipers" I thought that would mean I was asking about Junipers. I'll be more clear next time.
 
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No problem, koyote1. It took me a minute to realize you were talking about junipers, but posting in the junipers forum was a pretty good idea.

What kind of junipers do you have? How old are they? Do you have some photos you could post?

Right now I only have one small older juniper started from a cutting 30 years ago and kept in a shallow, small pot for all those years. It's shimpaku and had gotten very leggy. I left it alone (read neglected) for a long time, but this year I decided to rehab it in just that way. so I repotted it into a mesh pond basket, started feeding heavily, and it is responding with a lot of new growth. As I said, it's small, with a trunk about pencil sized, but the nebari and lower trunk make it worth producing a shohin from it. I will post a photo some time.
 

Vance Wood

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Thanks Chris. That helps. Especially about the brn. tips. Vance I'm not testing anyone, and by posting in the catagory "junipers" I thought that would mean I was asking about Junipers. I'll be more clear next time.

You're right my mistake. I first picked up this thread from the new posts category and did not notice it was from the Juniper forum.
 

Vance Wood

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By the way you do not get brown tips if you pinch correctly, you do not pinch in the classic sense as in pinching someone on the arm but you pull the tips straigh out. Point is you can only wire so much of the foliage before you have to start doing something to hinder its lengthening. With Shimpakus you have to go into the interior of the tree with scissors and start removing upward and downward growing growth and anything that is starting to bud in the crotches and along the trunk and branches in places you don't want them. If you don't thin the very dense growth on a Shimpaku you will at some point start to lose any or all growth on the inside of the tree.
 

koyote1

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pinchy

Thanks Vance. I think what your saying is what I read elsewhere. I know from pruning large full grown trees, one works from the inside out. About the brown tips, I think I need a semester of class to learn this. Or a colorful picture book w/ clear concise wording.
 
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By the way you do not get brown tips if you pinch correctly, you do not pinch in the classic sense as in pinching someone on the arm but you pull the tips straigh out. Point is you can only wire so much of the foliage before you have to start doing something to hinder its lengthening. With Shimpakus you have to go into the interior of the tree with scissors and start removing upward and downward growing growth and anything that is starting to bud in the crotches and along the trunk and branches in places you don't want them. If you don't thin the very dense growth on a Shimpaku you will at some point start to lose any or all growth on the inside of the tree.

Of course you will eventually do some maintenance work to keep the foliage from getting too long, but as you say, the more there is, the less food available to each leaf. I have never seen pinched shimpakus or procumbens without the tiny brown tips. I'd like to see that.

And cleaning out the weak or dead stuff is absolutely important, but sometimes those buds in the crotches are much stronger than what you have already and can be the basis of a new branch to replace the old and reinvigorate the tree.

Which all goes to show that it's easier to learn this stuff hands-on with a good teacher than by reading about it.
 

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I have never seen pinched shimpakus or procumbens without the tiny brown tips. I'd like to see that.

And cleaning out the weak or dead stuff is absolutely important, but sometimes those buds in the crotches are much stronger than what you have already and can be the basis of a new branch to replace the old and reinvigorate the tree.

Chris, I also don't get brown tips on my junipers. (well maybe an oddball one or two if I got lazy after a two hour session) I'm not sure of Vance's method, but I twist between the finger and thumb applying pressure at the same time. Works like a charm. Your right that a crotch shoot maybe better someday than what you have now but your talking a long, long time and then again it might not be as good as what you have. So in my opinion that option might be a bit counter productive when the big picture is looked at.
 

Vance Wood

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Chris, I also don't get brown tips on my junipers. (well maybe an oddball one or two if I got lazy after a two hour session) I'm not sure of Vance's method, but I twist between the finger and thumb applying pressure at the same time. Works like a charm. Your right that a crotch shoot maybe better someday than what you have now but your talking a long, long time and then again it might not be as good as what you have. So in my opinion that option might be a bit counter productive when the big picture is looked at.

This does the same thing Tom, twisting the growth causes the end to move along its weakest point, the joint between scales which is exactly where you want it to be removed either twisted or pulled straight out. Pulling straight out will cause the end or growth to separate at its weakest point, that same joint between scales.
 
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True. Not separating at the joint, no matter the method used will cause brown tips. Brown tips are the result of improper technique and without proper technique, you might as well be using scissors.


Will
 

Vance Wood

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True. Not separating at the joint, no matter the method used will cause brown tips. Brown tips are the result of improper technique and without proper technique, you might as well be using scissors.


Will

I have known people who do this with scissors right before a show. But in about a week the tree will tell on you that you have been a bad boy.
 
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The discerning eye can see the scissor cuts, pinching leaves a much more natural look and no later brown tattletales. I have known some to use scissors to trim back pine needles as well before taking pictures or showing. Talk about instant needle reduction, lol.



Will
 

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I have used ceramic scissors on my shimpaku "kishu" and it did not cause brown tips. I thought this was rather interesting. I am not sure why this is, but I do however know that it works.
 

Brent

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About a year or two (maybe more, years tend to get compressed these days, I clearly remember standing in the airport lobby watching the invasion begin in the Gulf War, and now kids that were born that year are teenagers), I replied to a similar thread on pinching. The thrust of it was a radical new approach put forth by Boon. I am surprised that Chris hasn't mentioned it. It sure opened my eyes.

The bottom line is that Boon doesn't pinch junipers, he prunes them. Now, I may have this bass ackwards because I didn't learn it from Boon, but from Jim Gremel, who is a student of Boon's eventhough he is a good teacher himself. In one of Jim's workshops we discussed this, and I was fascinated. Jim showed me one of his beautiful old Shimpaku that he and Boon had just finished 'pruning' (this was in March I believe, or early spring). It was the most beautiful juniper I had ever seen from the standpoint of the foliage, a real stunner. You just couldn't stop looking at the foliage. There were no pads! Of course there were foliage 'areas' that were loosely separated by open areas. It was completely natural and not the least bit contrived as pinched poodled junipers usually are.

I guess I remarked to Jim about how stunning his tree was, and he excitedly told me how Boon had taught him this new method of pruning junipers. He had just started it that week, so he was relating to me what Boon had shown him and what he tried with this tree, so he was a bit uncertain about the finer points. So I am relating this secondhand. I have toyed with the process, but I don't really have any junipers that are ready for detail pruning yet, but I am getting close (actually they are ready, I just don't have the time yet).

First, Jim went into the life cycle of a 'pinched' juniper. Initially, you have to create scaffold branches. These are then headed back to maintain the outline. The 'pad' is generated by pinching as described in the posts above. The problem with pinching is not that it leaves brown tips which will disappear in few weeks (correct timing is necessary before a show) but rather that pinching is an indiscriminate process. What you get is an eternally rising pad of foliage that soon creates an area dark dead area of scaffolding underneath with no live growth. You might get an optimum 'pad' every three to four years when it looks really good (if you like the poodled layer look aka the School of Green Donuts), but you then spend the rest of the years undoing what you just did to lower the pad by removing foliage and inducing new growth back into the scaffolding.

Boon's approach (if I am reading this correctly) is to treat the foliage areas more like the ramification of deciduous foliage areas. That is, the deliberate structuring of secondary and tertiary branches and twigs all the way out to the final leaf. Have you ever seen a well ramified Trident maple? They are breath taking. Even when in foliage you can see the entire structure of the foliage area. It seems an almost endless forking of tiny branches finishing in a flurry of minuscule leaves. In junipers you accomplish this not by pinching, but by deliberately selecting each green shoot using sharp fine shears, either keeping or removing the shoot by cutting it off at its base. No pinching except perhaps in the scaffolding stage where you are just selecting places for secondary branching, and browning isn't an issue because the tree isn't ready to show anyhow.

Now this may seem like a daunting task, and in fact it is. Jim said they spent something like nineteen hours pruning three of his trees. You start at the primary branching and follow out to the secondary branching where you begin to encounter green shoots. Most of the time the small green shoots in the axils of the branches is removed to maintain the fork. As you get to green shoots and wood that has just lignified (browned), you begin the process, left-right-left-right- up, left-right-left-right-up, or whatever pattern works for you. This is repeated for every foliage of the tree. Rather than indiscriminate pinching that is mindless and leaves a cushion, you get a structure that you can see through that is light, delicate, and probably most important- maintainable. Foliage area extension can be controlled by simply pruning harder to head back to secondary branching and thus shortening the branch with almost no adverse consequences. Trees treated this way can be shown every year.

Later that summer, I saw this same tree as it was in the REBS show in August. By that time, it was fuller and richer after three or four months growth, and still a stunner, but not nearly as good as I saw it immediately after Jim and Boon had pruned it, and no brown tips!

Brent
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see our blog at http://BonsaiNurseryman.typepad.com
 

Smoke

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Was this the tree Brent?
 

Smoke

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Close up of the deadwood
 

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