Well documented JBP

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I have been playing with this tree for quite some time. It's the tree I have been documenting the longest of any. I purchased this tree May 30, 1999 at Brussel's Rendezvous for a class taught by Roy Nagatoshi. I drew a high number and so took what I got. At that time I knew almost nothing about Japanese black pines except what I had been able to glean from Bonsai Today magazines, in about as coherent a conglomeration as those articles gave. Nevertheless, I liked this tree enough to keep it all this time.

At that time the tree was in a nursery pot. I potted it in the rectangular plastic pot in May of 2000. My plan was to pinch to induce back budding over the next 2-3 years.

June of 2001, Boon Manakitivipart made his first visit to Kansas City and immediately told me the tree was weak. I do not have photos of it then, but the needles were yellow and weak. As soon as he said it, I knew it to be true. He gave me a plan of action to make it stronger.

In April of 2002 I repotted the tree, bare-rooting half the root ball, and planted it in akadama and haydite.

This was the tree in 2002 before doing any major work on it. I was candling it for the first time at the direction of Boon when he came for a "master weekend." By that time, the repotting had given it a great deal of recovery, and feeding had made it strong. The next photo was the following spring, March of 2003, ready for a major initial styling, which is chronicled here.
 

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After bending the upper trunk so successfully, I allowed the tree to recover for a time. The raffia and wire stayed on for a full year. I did, however, repot the following spring and finish bare-rooting the other half of the rootball.

These are the before and after photos of the top of the trunk. Working alone is possible, but photographing ones' self working alone can be difficult.
 

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irene_b

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Chris, I like where this thread is going.....
Can you write a how to for everybody?
But can you please go further in details for those just starting out?
How old was the tree when you bought it?
What kind of fertilizer did you use to bring it up to a point where you could start working on it?
How old should the tree be before you work on it?
Please go enough into details on when and how to pull needles.
And how to candle them.
And I think you get the picture of what I am asking for ;)
Mom
 
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Chris,

Am I correct in reading that you have been working on this Black Pine for a little over eight years to date?

Are you still using akadama and haydite? If so, how has the root development been?


Will
 
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Chris, I like where this thread is going.....
Can you write a how to for everybody?
But can you please go further in details for those just starting out?
How old was the tree when you bought it?

Sure, Irene! This tree was imported from Korea and seemed approximately 15-16 years old. We kind of figured this by counting the nodes and making assumptions that I don't even remember all of. Its branching came out at the top and bottom of the horizontal portion of the trunk, an unfortunate circumstance that also made the trunk more oval than round, which affects the ability to bend the trunk in certain directions. So that could be said to be one of its negatives.

A more serious negative was its long trunk above the emergence of the roots. That was the main reason I wanted to bend the trunk so drastically, to make the tree more compact. You can see from the two photos with the tree wrapped, the spot where the original trunk chop was performed. The upward growing branch became the new leader, and that is what I bent back on itself so tightly. When the wrap came off, the bark had split just a bit at the stub, but the tree never seemed to notice.

What kind of fertilizer did you use to bring it up to a point where you could start working on it?
Mom

For a few years I used rapeseed cake from Joshua Roth exclusively, as I was a dealer at that time and could get it cheapo. I have also used homemade fert. cakes from Michael Persiano's recipe (or close) and BioGold Original.
 
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Please go enough into details on when and how to pull needles.
And how to candle them.

I will be addressing these questions when the thread progresses to the more advanced stages of the tree.
 
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Chris,

Am I correct in reading that you have been working on this Black Pine for a little over eight years to date?
Are you still using akadama and haydite? If so, how has the root development been?

Will

Yes, the timing sounds about right. Remember, though, that I bought this tree before I knew almost anything about Japanese black pine, or pines in general. So much of my work through the years was based on what I had read and could surmise. I know that much of my treatment of the tree in the early years actually slowed down its growth instead of accelerating it.

I still use akadama, but lava (red--it's what I could get), a little haydite instead of pumice, and a bit of horticultural charcoal. It's a modified Boon mix, modified because I don't want to plow under the remaining haydite and ship in lava.

Root development was very good after I got it out of Brussel's mix, which I believe holds far too much water for most species, even ones that love water as much as Japanese black pine. However, soil components are not the only thing that can act to the detriment of root growth. Incomplete root work can also be a problem, which I found out as I learned more about it from Boon.
 
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This series is the lowest branch on the tree, the one that you see on the left from the front view of the whole tree. I cut it back when I got the tree to a closer bud, and it budded back fairly well.

The first photo is the branch after wiring and bending the whole top of the tree, 2003.

The second photo is as it appeared in June of this year.

The third photo is the result after candling (July 4 this year), although you can see that the new buds have grown and opened into needles. This photo was taken two weeks ago.
 

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This is the tree as it appeared in December 2006 after I wired the entire tree. The structure of the branches is fairly clear here.

The second photo is the tree this late spring as the candles were coming on. I used this perspective to get a little better view of the structure. You can also see clearly the tiny stub from the trunk chop given early in the tree's life.
 

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So here are the updates. I candled this tree on July 4, 2007. I used a modification of the candling technique that I learned at Boon's Intensive in June, allowing all the candles to be cut in the same sitting.

Budding began about a week later, and most of the cutting sites had multiple candles. By the first week of September, these were the results:

The photos represent the current front, 1/4 turn to the right, and the former front of the tree.

Funny, I submitted these photos to the styling advice thread of "Knowledge of Bonsai" and most of what I got was photography critique, including jokes about the fertilizer balls on the soil.
 

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Of course, trees in development are never going to be perfectly groomed, they go through stages with candles, bare, wired, unwired, some needles longer and others short. It's natural. As the tree progresses, it's not short needles we are looking for, they should be in proportion to the tree. What we are looking for are uniform needle sizes. This is not achieved overnight, or a permanent thing on any specimen, it is a balancing act.

The balancing act is the work of balancing the energy of the tree. This is why we candle and why candling must only be done to a strong, healthy tree. Candling a tree places stress on it that is difficult to overcome for a weak tree. And improper technique or poor timing can give poor results, including strengthening the wrong bits at the expense of the weak bits.
 

irene_b

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Of course, trees in development are never going to be perfectly groomed, they go through stages with candles, bare, wired, unwired, some needles longer and others short. It's natural. As the tree progresses, it's not short needles we are looking for, they should be in proportion to the tree. What we are looking for are uniform needle sizes. This is not achieved overnight, or a permanent thing on any specimen, it is a balancing act.

The balancing act is the work of balancing the energy of the tree. This is why we candle and why candling must only be done to a strong, healthy tree. Candling a tree places stress on it that is difficult to overcome for a weak tree. And improper technique or poor timing can give poor results, including strengthening the wrong bits at the expense of the weak bits.


Can you finish with the questions I asked at the beginning?


Can you write a how to for everybody?

But can you please go further in details for those just starting out?

What kind of fertilizer did you use to bring it up to a point where you could start working on it?

How old should the tree be before you work on it?

Please go enough into details on when and how to pull needles.

And how to candle them.

And please explain this: I used a modification of the candling technique that I learned at Boon's Intensive in June, allowing all the candles to be cut in the same sitting.


Mom
 

irene_b

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Chris, please describe this:
He gave me a plan of action to make it stronger.
Mom
 

irene_b

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Chris, please explain the purpose of this statement:

I repotted the tree, bare-rooting half the root ball.
Mom
 

Attila Soos

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Chris, please explain the purpose of this statement:

I repotted the tree, bare-rooting half the root ball.
Mom

Bare-rooting means that you take the old soil off the roots. You do this when you re-pot and apply new soil. Pines don't like bare-rooting (they don't like their roots disturbed), so it is advised to do it only on half of the root-ball and do the other half at the next re-potting.
 

Bill S

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Attilla Irene is fishing - for the how too section;) , she's giving those answers before I would imagine.

Although Chris, I would be interested in the strengthening regimine, and also would you get into needle plucking for this time of year, or is that for certain periods(like defoliation)??
 
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Can you finish with the questions I asked at the beginning?


Can you write a how to for everybody?

But can you please go further in details for those just starting out?

What kind of fertilizer did you use to bring it up to a point where you could start working on it?

How old should the tree be before you work on it?

Please go enough into details on when and how to pull needles.

And how to candle them.

And please explain this: I used a modification of the candling technique that I learned at Boon's Intensive in June, allowing all the candles to be cut in the same sitting.


Mom

Irene, I answered some of those questions earlier. As to how old the tree should be, it just depends on what you want. Every individual tree is different. The time to start candling is early in its development, meaning you have the basic branches you want. For a tree like most of us have, for instance:




Candling on a young undeveloped pine like this should be the branch terminals only. This forces the growth meristems back along the branches, budding back on a healthy JBP on wood up to ten years old. Do this at the same time you would do advanced candling, about mid-June in your area or a little later, perhaps the last week of june. Don't worry about needle lengths until the tree is more developed.

I will say, however, that even at this level the work is to even out the strength of the tree.
 
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Chris, please explain the purpose of this statement:

I repotted the tree, bare-rooting half the root ball.
Mom

For nursery stock conifers, bare-rooting completely can be detrimental to the health or life of the tree. If you decide to bare-root either the front or the back, or right or left, you leave mycorrhizae in the remaining half of the roots and leave them undisturbed, so it's easier to repair any damage done to the side you bare root.

Just be sure to remember the next time and do the same to the other side.

This is how to completely replace the soil in a conifer in two repottings.
 
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Chris, please describe this:
He gave me a plan of action to make it stronger.
Mom

The strengthening regime consisted of a)getting rid of half of the bad soil, and 2) feeding strongly. It only took one year for the tree to become strong enough to start candling.
 

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