What to do with this Japanese Black Pine

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Hi Friends - So I bought this JBP on Ebay for a pretty cheap price in the hopes of learning more about pines and trying different things with it as I develop my bonsai knowledge. I know its straight as a board and the whorls are terrible looking, but what I liked about it - besides being cheap - is that it does have a lot going on and lots of branching to experiment with. That's also what I hate most about it. Does anyone have any thoughts for where to start with a design on this one? It seems healthy and happy, but its ugly. It doesn't look like its been trained in anyway and I'm hoping there is potential in there somewhere? I did buy this one to play with and its got a couple new buds coming in a little closer to the trunk on 2 of the bottom branches. One of the photo has a little 2" -3" planter next to the trunk for scale. Its so bushy its hard to get great photos.

When I received it a few months ago it was in a tiny Betty Crocker strainer that was cracked everywhere so I slip-potted it into this trainer with about a third more room than its previous home.

Please share any thoughts or ideas and if anyone is in Denver and wants to mess with this one with me, let me know.

Thanks everyone Have a great weekend!
William

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sorce

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I think you should have a good all around gander of what best 2 branches can restart you from the bottom, cut the other 2 off, remembering the sacrifice will have to be cut off eventually too.

I would put a nice future transition above bud closeness as far as selecting branches.

Sorce
 
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Thank you @sorce! That's what I'm talkin about. Should the existing buds be left alone? Some of the lower branches have 2,3, some places 4 buds.

The lower branch with the internal bud has nice movement in it already. It's by far the best one.

I am reading that some people think fall is a good time to do heavy pruning on JBP, would you agree? If I decide to chop it, should I do it soon? Also, best to do it in 1 cut leaving room for die back, or better to do it in stages and go ahead and try to wire the new leader in place?

Thanks again for any input.
 
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I misunderstood on my previous post. PLease disregard.

@sorce Is now a good time to make the cuts you were refering to on the 2 branches?

Also, should I do anything to the top of the tree in the meantime to direct more energy to the bottom? Or it that not the goal? Assuming the taller the fatter... So maybe reduce the top to a couple branches too?

Could I use just 1 branch that forks and eventually take 1 side of the fork off as sacrifice? Or is it best to leave 2 branches so that I have options in the case of things not going as planned?

Thanks again for the input friends.
 
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Thank you @sorce! That's what I'm talkin about. Should the existing buds be left alone? Some of the lower branches have 2,3, some places 4 buds.

The lower branch with the internal bud has nice movement in it already. It's by far the best one.

I am reading that some people think fall is a good time to do heavy pruning on JBP, would you agree? If I decide to chop it, should I do it soon? Also, best to do it in 1 cut leaving room for die back, or better to do it in stages and go ahead and try to wire the new leader in place?

Thanks again for any input.
I misunderstood on my previous post. PLease disregard.

@sorce Is now a good time to make the cuts you were refering to on the 2 branches?

Also, should I do anything to the top of the tree in the meantime to direct more energy to the bottom? Or it that not the goal? Assuming the taller the fatter... So maybe reduce the top to a couple branches too?

Could I use just 1 branch that forks and eventually take 1 side of the fork off as sacrifice? Or is it best to leave 2 branches so that I have options in the case of things not going as planned?

Thanks again for the input friends.
 

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I misunderstood on my previous post. PLease disregard.

@sorce Is now a good time to make the cuts you were refering to on the 2 branches?

Also, should I do anything to the top of the tree in the meantime to direct more energy to the bottom? Or it that not the goal? Assuming the taller the fatter... So maybe reduce the top to a couple branches too?

Could I use just 1 branch that forks and eventually take 1 side of the fork off as sacrifice? Or is it best to leave 2 branches so that I have options in the case of things not going as planned?

Thanks again for the input friends.
I fear you are putting the cart before the horse.
This young tree has all the potential in the world.
Pictures can be deceiving, but I would focus on growth and increasing the trunk size.
What is the current trunk diameter above the root flare?
Before reducing the top and removing branches you may be able to add some movement and wire a future apical leader to introduce taper. While continuing to grow the trunk.

You may also wish to consider this aspect. It is best to have a plan in mind before asking for advice. The advice you receive may have nothing to do with the vision you have for the tree. Best to start with an overall plan such as a tree of a certain size and a style you prefer. because essentially this tree is young enough to go in any direction.
 
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I fear you are putting the cart before the horse.
This young tree has all the potential in the world.
Pictures can be deceiving, but I would focus on growth and increasing the trunk size.
What is the current trunk diameter above the root flare?
Before reducing the top and removing branches you may be able to add some movement and wire a future apical leader to introduce taper. While continuing to grow the trunk.

You may also wish to consider this aspect. It is best to have a plan in mind before asking for advice. The advice you receive may have nothing to do with the vision you have for the tree. Best to start with an overall plan such as a tree of a certain size and a style you prefer. because essentially this tree is young enough to go in any direction.
All I was asking was for opinions on what people would do if it were their tree, not a blind, plan of action. I'm only asking questions to learn more, not because I ran outside with a saw and cut the tree down. I followed up sorce's thought with a question or 2 to clarify, in hopes of learning more to develop a plan that works for me, not because someone told me to. I don't have that plan yet, but I am really excited to see where along the journey this tree and what folks would do with it if it were theirs.. I just started with bonsai several months and was only asking for other's input. Thank you for yours. I do agree it needs to thicken up, but didn't know if that meant anything should/would need to happen now.

Advice is advice and I appreciate all of it; that's why I'm here. But that doesn't make me beholden to it.

I have not dug down to the root flare to see what the diameter looks like yet, I've only seen the outer roots and the base you see in the photos. Will try to check tomorrow and report back.

Thanks again.
 

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All I was asking was for opinions on what people would do if it were their tree, not a blind, plan of action. I'm only asking questions to learn more, not because I ran outside with a saw and cut the tree down. I followed up sorce's thought with a question or 2 to clarify, in hopes of learning more to develop a plan that works for me, not because someone told me to. I don't have that plan yet, but I am really excited to see where along the journey this tree and what folks would do with it if it were theirs.. I just started with bonsai several months and was only asking for other's input. Thank you for yours. I do agree it needs to thicken up, but didn't know if that meant anything should/would need to happen now.

Advice is advice and I appreciate all of it; that's why I'm here. But that doesn't make me beholden to it.

I have not dug down to the root flare to see what the diameter looks like yet, I've only seen the outer roots and the base you see in the photos. Will try to check tomorrow and report back.

Thanks again.
Perhaps I worded it incorrectly, simply requested the diameter of the trunk near the base. This information would be very helpful in knowing what your best options for introducing movement will be at this point.
One of the most important steps in developing young trees is to introduce movement unless you are planning on a formal upright style.
 

sorce

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try to wire the new leader in place?

I reckon this would be good practice now, and if it dies over winter, choose a different branch!

I gauge what I would make as spring cuts, by the health of the fall buds. It's important to remember that you likely have a limited perspective of "health of buds", and the perspective will widen in both directions for many years, so I would err to leaving more buds on (by any manner of removal) until you have a certain idea of absolutely safe. Especially before winter. You could even let them 2 branches supply some energy in spring, before cutting them off before they fudge your transition.

Since you aren't necessarily looking for buds lower on the trunk, I'd remove those 2 branches at any time.

I am a firm believer in cutting, high energy branches in summer, if you are looking to produce backbudding, since there is a lot of traffic and quick cross-talk. So that's when I'd hit the keeper stuff.

The sacrifice stuff, where you don't want the tree wasting energy producing backbuds, should be cleaned up in winter.
I think for now, I would just bundle up the whole top whorl, almost as if you were attempting to fuse it, and let all that sacrifice fight for dominance and not worry much more about it.

All actual timing is really only cutting, the last moment before something ruins your design.

I am excited about this tree because most of them are aquired with no potential, or quickly have all the potential removed for a "bonsai" vision.

Less them roots suck!😛

Sorce
 
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Perhaps I worded it incorrectly, simply requested the diameter of the trunk near the base. This information would be very helpful in knowing what your best options for introducing movement will be at this point.
One of the most important steps in developing young trees is to introduce movement unless you are planning on a formal upright style.
I agree it needs some movement, and I don't want to keep it as formal upright. It is still small, trunk only around 1 1/8" diameter. How would you go about introducing movement, at some point a trunk chop seems in order, right? thanks for your thoughts
 
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I reckon this would be good practice now, and if it dies over winter, choose a different branch!

I gauge what I would make as spring cuts, by the health of the fall buds. It's important to remember that you likely have a limited perspective of "health of buds", and the perspective will widen in both directions for many years, so I would err to leaving more buds on (by any manner of removal) until you have a certain idea of absolutely safe. Especially before winter. You could even let them 2 branches supply some energy in spring, before cutting them off before they fudge your transition.

Since you aren't necessarily looking for buds lower on the trunk, I'd remove those 2 branches at any time.

I am a firm believer in cutting, high energy branches in summer, if you are looking to produce backbudding, since there is a lot of traffic and quick cross-talk. So that's when I'd hit the keeper stuff.

The sacrifice stuff, where you don't want the tree wasting energy producing backbuds, should be cleaned up in winter.
I think for now, I would just bundle up the whole top whorl, almost as if you were attempting to fuse it, and let all that sacrifice fight for dominance and not worry much more about it.

All actual timing is really only cutting, the last moment before something ruins your design.

I am excited about this tree because most of them are aquired with no potential, or quickly have all the potential removed for a "bonsai" vision.

Less them roots suck!😛

Sorce
Thank you for the feedback. Fair enough on "healthy buds", they look like how I'd imagine healthy ones would look ;) I think I will pick a couple of those lower branches out at some point this winter, but unsure if I'll wire them up to the trunk then or let them keep growing outward?

Also like the idea of tying the top up and letting those guys pump energy into the tree. I'll keep posting this one as it comes along and hopefully get to take it to a workshop at some point.

Thanks again @sorce
 

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I agree it needs some movement, and I don't want to keep it as formal upright. It is still small, trunk only around 1 1/8" diameter. How would you go about introducing movement, at some point a trunk chop seems in order, right? thanks for your thoughts
Wire can introduce some movement at that thickness. Suggest #4 copper with protective wrap for 1 1/4 inch diameter. If you have a jack or bending bar then it will be a simple process to introduce movement and wire an apical leader such as pictured below with a JRP similar sized trunk.
 

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That’s the image I had in my head of how it would work too. Thank you, I like it. Just bought a received a nice bundle of various size copper wire so in good shape there. Might do it a couple of the branches to see which ends up best. Very cool, thanks for the input!
 

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Personally I would be looking toward a trunk chop above the first group of branches at some stage. Reason being the second trunk section - between first and second group of branches - is very long. No amount of wire is going to change that although some really severe bends might visually reduce the length enough I doubt you'll get that amount of bending in a trunk that size.
That leaves chop and grow which is as common in fast grown pines as it is in maples.
The future I see in material like this is a new trunk grown from one of the low branches. Another of those may give a first branch though they do appear very low so that will depend on the ultimate size and style of the bonsai you develop. The rest is sacrifice.

Which of the branches to use for trunk will be a compromise between nebari and further sub branching or needles that will yield shoots if you prune. The very first step is to check the rootage to establish what nebari you are a dealing with. That will allow you to decide whether a trunk tilt to one side or the other gives a better visible nebari (assuming informal upright future styling) It then follows that the new leader will be approx opposite the trunk tilt provided the branches on that side allow. Sometimes you need to compromise one factor to get better visibility of another.

I do agree with @River's Edge that some guidance on style would be appropriate. At the moment, because so much of the tree needs to be removed to develop any bonsai, almost any style from cascade to literati is possible. Just asking for any ideas is likely to yield many different and conflicting possibilities. You also need to decide whether you would be happy with the pine equivalent of mallsai or if you want to develop something that you'd be proud to exhibit at a show. nothing wrong with either but the journey to the latter will be much longer with many more possible pitfalls on the way.
IMHO it is far too early to be looking at styling with this material (looking toward higher quality bonsai). It will take many years of grow and management to develop something that begins to suggest any particular future style. What you really need now is strategies to grow something useful from what is just a fast grown JBP trunk. I'd be allowing another 5-10 years to convert this to something that may yield a good bonsai.

The original post noted that it was cheap - there's a reason for that. Also that there's a lot of branching but also much chaos - again, that's because there is so little 'bonsai' about this tree so far. no faults or problems are too big to overcome. It just takes time and knowledge to do so.
 

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Honestly would start with one lowest branch, use another for sacrifice, remove all else above this. Wire/add bends to keeper future trunk. Reason tree relatively cheap was boring straight trunk most likely:rolleyes:.
 

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Reason being the second trunk section - between first and second group of branches - is very long
This is a very young tree, easy to induce back budding on the trunk for new lower branching to use as either leaders, sacrifice or primary branching over time. Trunk size and whorl positioning indicates a four to five year old tree nursery grown.
Honestly would start with one lowest branch, use another for sacrifice, remove all else above this. Wire/add bends to keeper future trunk. Reason tree relatively cheap was boring straight trunk most likely:rolleyes:.
Suitable response for deciduous or if the design option chosen was a shohin size tree otherwise loses a lot of development time for conifers when the trunk is changeable at this stage. Why waste all that growth and then have to wait for the new apical leader to get to that size again for progress to occur. Simply bend the trunk. And then cut back later to produce lower branching.

Please note the OP was asking for suggestions and I simply provided a possibility with no suggestion that it should be done any time soon. Retaining the trunk and wiring up a new leader for future use is just that "future use". Retaining the trunk allows for thickening the lower portion which speeds up the " set" of the movement introduced to change the straight portion. It also retains the growth so when it is reduced there is an increased response of back budding on the trunk.
Below is an example of how this happens. Note the original trunk line lower down is in place , new apical leader is in place and the partial reduction has created a lot of lower branching for design on what was previously few branches on two whorls. This is at eight years of age in development. It is important to understand the additional potential when developing trees with additional growth retained for longer periods of time during development. Those who have developed a lot of trees quickly understand the benefits of choices and additional foliage to foster development.
Remove branches, buds or trunks only when their purpose is done and they can cause issues in development or design. That is far from the case in a tree this age in my opinion.
 

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Shibui

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This is a very young tree, easy to induce back budding on the trunk for new lower branching to use as either leaders, sacrifice or primary branching over time. Trunk size and whorl positioning indicates a four to five year old tree nursery grown.
Sounds very reasonable. I've also had good budding on some recently bare JBP trunks after hard pruning the growth above. I can see that the sections above still have needles indicating that long, bare part only recently dropped the needles so it should still be able to bud quite well if given the opportunity.
Would that require reasonable hard pruning of much of the growth above that section and how long before possibility of buds on that section declines?
 

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Sounds very reasonable. I've also had good budding on some recently bare JBP trunks after hard pruning the growth above. I can see that the sections above still have needles indicating that long, bare part only recently dropped the needles so it should still be able to bud quite well if given the opportunity.
Would that require reasonable hard pruning of much of the growth above that section and how long before possibility of buds on that section declines?
The needles were removed in the bare sections to prevent shading and strengthen growth in the lower portion. I am not concerned about when the needles drop necessarily, more the age of the material in question. The possibility of back budding does decline with age, as a general guideline I use the following. Best opportunities for back budding occur under five years of age ( the portion under consideration) with decline steady up to 10 years of age with JBP.
The other aspect is to remember that needles buds are not the only opportunity for back budding, there are also adventitious buds that can occur well after needles are no longer present. The reason I usually wait till after five years is to get thicker trunks, additional growth and strength for the main development work of establishing primary branches, change of direction and taper within the design. Wiring for trunk movement is usually done by two years of age.
Yes a hard prune will create a stronger response, one of the reasons why maintaining additional branching and foliage is wise. This allows for hard pruning without slowing the development of the portions used for design. Generally speaking the harder the prune the further back on the branch or down on the trunk the response can occur.
This also is why it is important to focus on vigorous growth rather than concern oneself with shorter internodes or shorter needles at this stage of development. The more vigorous growth not only creates a stronger response but allows for quicker recovery times and the ability to continue developing the tree. A disadvantage is the additional pruning and bud management required with the strong response. But the advantage of additional design choices and faster development are huge benefits.
With both the JBP and JRP I begin cut back during the fifth to tenth year of development depending on the individual tree and it's condition. The trees are so variable in their development that by four years of age the differences require individual planning and timing for best results.
 

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The needles were removed in the bare sections to prevent shading and strengthen growth in the lower portion. I am not concerned about when the needles drop necessarily, more the age of the material in question. The possibility of back budding does decline with age, as a general guideline I use the following. Best opportunities for back budding occur under five years of age ( the portion under consideration) with decline steady up to 10 years of age with JBP.
The other aspect is to remember that needles buds are not the only opportunity for back budding, there are also adventitious buds that can occur well after needles are no longer present. The reason I usually wait till after five years is to get thicker trunks, additional growth and strength for the main development work of establishing primary branches, change of direction and taper within the design. Wiring for trunk movement is usually done by two years of age.
Yes a hard prune will create a stronger response, one of the reasons why maintaining additional branching and foliage is wise. This allows for hard pruning without slowing the development of the portions used for design. Generally speaking the harder the prune the further back on the branch or down on the trunk the response can occur.
This also is why it is important to focus on vigorous growth rather than concern oneself with shorter internodes or shorter needles at this stage of development. The more vigorous growth not only creates a stronger response but allows for quicker recovery times and the ability to continue developing the tree. A disadvantage is the additional pruning and bud management required with the strong response. But the advantage of additional design choices and faster development are huge benefits.
With both the JBP and JRP I begin cut back during the fifth to tenth year of development depending on the individual tree and it's condition. The trees are so variable in their development that by four years of age the differences require individual planning and timing for best results.
@River's Edge when is the best time to carry out the pruning you describe to hopefully cause backbudding? Would this be around conventional decandling time in early summer?
 

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@River's Edge when is the best time to carry out the pruning you describe to hopefully cause backbudding? Would this be around conventional decandling time in early summer?
I would not associate with decandling time as this leads to a lot of confusion when development is the goal not refinement. Too many get confused and begin decandling during development when it should be reserved for older trees entering refinement. And that changes based on progress.

II think it is best to describe it as recognizing the correct time based on the candle and needle progression in your location.
There are different opinions on the best time and a good case can be made for several options. It somewhat depends on your situation with respect to climate and growing season. I choose to wait for the new candles to extend and the needles to fan out and begin hardening of on the first flush. The reasoning is that I can expect a stronger response from removing material with high auxin content at that time. This in turn allows the cytokines to exert more control over lateral growth and bud development. The auxins drive apical growth and extension. In my location this is the beginning of June usually under the care routines in my nursery. I grow heavily in the initial ten years. Fertilization ( organic ) beginning of March and increasing through the season into the fall. Stop from mid September until beginning of march. Free draining dryer inorganic soil mix with plenty of water.

This is possible in my location, zone 8b with longer warmer growing season and plenty of sun. My location is south exposure so ideal for pine. My pines will often continue to grow well into December before slowing down for a few months. This year they are still active with sap flow at this time.
 

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