Bonsai Tonight

Decandling a shohin black pine

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on July 8, 2014

Every year I wrap-up decandling season by decandling any shohin pines in the garden. By decandling small pines later in the growing season, summer shoots have less time to develop, yielding smaller needles – the desired outcome for small trees.

Shohin pine - before decandling

Shohin black pine – before decandling

When decandling this tree, I removed a few shoots that stuck out beyond the desired silhouette for the tree and repositioned a few others that had wire on them.

Decandling

After removing the top shoots

Decandling

After removing the shoots on the left

Decandling

After removing the shoots on the right

I removed a few needles as I worked in areas with dense foliage. After removing the last spring shoots, I cut back a few more branches and readjusted a couple more.

After decandling

After decandling

More thinning will be required in fall when the summer shoots harden off. Until then, the tree requires no care beyond the basics – water and fertilizer.

Decandling pines in early stages of development

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on July 1, 2014

Decandling young black pines is a treat. It’s during this phase of development that a tree’s basic elements begin to take shape. Sometimes there are clear candidates for the “first branch” or “future apex.” In these cases I’ll often add a little wire to guide these branches into place. Other times I don’t know exactly where the trunk-line will flow or which branches will form the future outline.

Having a basic idea about the future of any bonsai can provide a good guide for future work, especially when it comes to finding the front and selecting branches. I’ve found, however, that for very young trees design can be elastic and change radically. This gives me the freedom to follow basic design principles with the knowledge that many of the decisions I make today will be revisited in the future.

Some of my young pines are small but already convey their future shape and structure. Decandling and a little cutback is all that’s needed here.

Black pine

10-year-old pine – before decandling

Black pine

After decandling

Other trees, particularly the more interesting ones, could go in a number of different directions.

Black pine

10-year-old exposed root black pine

Black pine

After decandling

It’s clear after decandling that it’s hard to see the tree’s branch structure from this angle. Here it is from another angle.

Black pine

Black pine after decandling – the future front?

Trees in early stages of development aren’t necessarily young. For the past few years I’ve worked on a former landscape tree that only has the beginnings of its branch structure.

Black pine

Pine before decandling

The lack of structure becomes particularly obvious after removing the spring growth.

Black pine

After decandling

In fall I’ll have more opportunities for branch selection and wiring. In the meantime, I’ll ease off on the fertilizer for a while, let the summer buds develop, and watch the watering closely.

Decandling pines in development

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on June 27, 2014

Whether I’m working on well-established pines or pines that are have yet to experience much branch development, the basic decandling process is the same – remove spring shoots with the aim of producing summer shoots. One difference is that when I’m working on less-developed pines, I’ll often do more cutback and sometimes a little wiring when I decandle.

One of my more curious looking projects is a black pine that gets decandled every year but has escape branches. The purpose of the escape branches is to thicken the middle, but not the top, of the trunk. As the trunk below the topmost escape branch has reached the desired thickness, I removed it when I decandled the tree this year. I expect to remove the remaining escape branch in a year or two.

Black pine - before decandling

Black pine with escape branch

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling

Black pine - before decandling

Before decandling

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling

I followed a similar approach for a slightly larger pine. Instead of serving to thicken the trunk like the escape branch above, the large branch at the top of the tree below is serving to maintain sap flow while grafts fuse. Because I want to channel as much growth as possible into the lower branches, I decandled these escape-like branches too.

Black pine - before decandling

Black pine before decandling

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling

Black pine - before decandling

Closeup of the future tree

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling

The cork bark pine below was decandled for the first time last year. As last year’s summer growth filled in well, I decandled the tree again this year.

Black pine - before decandling

Cork bark pine before decandling

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling

Next up, decandling young pines.

Decandling established black pines

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on June 24, 2014

The transition from spring to summer marks the middle of decandling season, the time of year when we remove spring shoots from black pines to produce more compact summer growth. If a tree is healthy and received a lot of fertilizer in spring, it’s a good candidate for decandling. Based on this criteria, the black pine below made a good candidate this year.

Black pine - before decandling

Black pine before decandling – tea bags are filled with cottonseed meal

I removed all but the weakest shoots to give them a chance to catch up with the more vigorous ones.

Black pine - after decandling

Black pine – after decandling

My large cork bark pine is healthy but not all areas of the tree are vigorous. As a result, I decandled the strong areas and left the weaker areas alone.

Black pine - before decandling

Cork bark black pine – before decandling

Black pine - after decandling

After decandling the strong areas

Decandling select areas of a tree can yield funny results as the spring needles will be long, the summer needles, short. I don’t typically take this approach, but am curious to see how it goes. It will take at least one more year after this year to produce even growth so I expect to be living with uneven growth for a while.

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