Bonsai Tonight

Styling a white pine

Posted in Styling by Jonas Dupuich on February 28, 2012

One of the last trees I worked on at Aichi-en last fall was a mid-sized white pine. My styling guidance was simple – I was told to make the tree look nicer. Beyond that, Mr. Tanaka told me not to cut too much. Cutting large branches can trigger vigorous growth and one of the primary goals for refining white pines is controlling vigor and keeping needles short.

I began by removing the old needles and a few small branches before I started wiring. I began with the first branch and worked my way up from there. About half way up the tree, I was unhappy with my progress – I thought the tree looked funny. At this point, Peter Tea mentioned that Mr. Tanaka often focuses on the angles of the main branches. The main branches weren’t making me happy, and Peter strongly encouraged me to go for it, so I spent about a day lowering the main branches where I wanted them. Before long, the smaller branches fell into place and I was done.

Done enough, anyway. Once I was relatively happy with the tree, I had Mr. Tanaka take a look. Here are shots of the pine before I started work and after I finished.

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Front – before

White pine - after styling

Front – after

Mr. Tanaka got to work quickly and began with the first branch. He spaced out the foliage creating a wider, and flatter, branch pad. I liked it. He then reduced a branch in the front of the tree which exposed more of the trunk. Beyond that, Mr. Tanaka made many minor adjustments and finished by lowering two of the main branches and removing a fairly large branch on the right side of the tree – a change that’s barely noticeable in the photo. The change that most intrigued me concerned the apex. It now stood upright and pointed in the opposite direction, creating more movement near the top of the trunk. Here is the tree as adjusted by Mr. Tanaka.

With Mr. Tanaka's adjustments

After Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments

Left side

Left side



When he was finished, I handed him the camera which allowed him to flip between photos of his work and mine. The comparison entertained him as it did me. He flipped back and forth between the two images for several minutes, repeating, “omoshiroi, omoshiroi” – omoshiroi being the Japanese word for both fun and funny.

White pine - after styling

Before Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments

With Mr. Tanaka's adjustments

After Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments

My work was somewhat conservative compared with Mr. Tanaka’s. I figured it was easier to remove branches later than to grow new branches after making misguided cuts. Now that I’m back in California, the decision’s all mine – to cut or not to cut – and not cutting means I have more to wire.

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2 Responses

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  1. Brad said, on February 28, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Great post! Thanks

  2. Alex V said, on February 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I am totally jealous of the great material you got to work on in Japan. Between you and Peter the internet has been a fun place for bonsai of late. Thanks for all the pictures and lessons!

    Alex V

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