While maintenance work like minor cutback or wiring can make a tree shine, it’s the larger cuts that really speed along development. Of course, we don’t always enter workshops expecting to make these big cuts. Such was the case for a tree that showed up to last weekend’s Bay Island Bonsai workshop. After selecting a new front and repotting the pine below, it became clear to the tree’s owner that the first branch on the left was too low and too heavy.
The longer one spends developing a branch, the harder it can be to remove it as the effort required to re-grow it is not lost on us. As these and other thoughts passed through Eric’s mind, the cutters came out and the branch came off.
Making the cut
That was easy
Lightening up the first branch made a great difference that will really show the next time the tree is wired and decandled. And I don’t expect this will be far off as the tree is healthy. Here are some shots from the repotting.
New roots growing in December
Where do they end?
After removing the extraneous roots
It took that much work just to get to the soil from which the roots emerged – a super sign of a happy tree.
One of my longer term projects has been a black pine grown in the ground at Lone Pine Gardens. It looks like a somewhat normal tree save for a few extraneous over-size branches. The large branch in the front is the new apex – the branch on the right is helping the trunk thicken.
Black pine – December 2013
From the right side – note how far forward these branches extend
After closer inspection of the base of the new apex, I figured it was time to remove the escape branch growing to the right.
After removing escape branch
Leaving the remaining escape branch intact will help the trunk continue to thicken while healing the wound left by removing the branch on the right.
With the main cutback done, I removed old needles from the remaining branches.
After removing old needles
Close up showing something closer to the final silhouette
It’s possible that the new apex will reach the desired size in another year or two, at which time I can remove the last escape branch. In the meantime, I’ll let the tree grow so the apex can continue to thicken.
Rather than make long term goals for trees, I’ll often make short to medium-term plans based on the current condition of the tree. This is true for many of the black pines I’ve been growing from seed, especially the ones for which I can’t see obvious futures.
The pine below is one of these trees. It has little taper and only a few low branches which doesn’t make it a great candidate for a small bonsai. Because the trunk is straight, it’s not a super candidate for informal or formal upright styles either. I’m thinking I’ll eventually pick a new direction for the trunk in a year or two, but as the low branches are small, I’ll wait to make that decision. For now I’m reducing the apex to encourage growth closer to the base of the trunk so I’ll have good options for new leaders down the road.
10 year-old black pine
After reducing the apex
After thinning branches
I’ve worked on enough similar pines to know that I can be pleasantly – or unpleasantly – surprised by trees’ development in as little as a single year. We’ll see what the next year brings for this tree.
A number of my young black pines are now 10 – almost 11 – years old. Depending on what they look like, I’m making cuts, repotting or letting them grow.
The pine below has a number of exposed roots. As the main trunk growing up and to the right will not be part of the final design, I reduced it to encourage the branch growing on the left. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll use this as the new trunk line or as a primary branch – I’ll make this decision in the next year or two when I see what new growth appears.
10 year-old black pine
After reducing the apex
Another pine from this cohort was slated for a new potting angle.
10 year-old pine
Future planting angle
The goal of tilting the tree to the side is to replace the straight part of the trunk with a branch that leads in a new direction.
After removing the tree from the basket
Planted at the new angle
If you look closely you can see the future trunk line, now a thin branch leading upward above the base of the trunk. In another year or two I’ll reduce the long escape branch after the new trunk thickens a bit.
Close-up of the new planting angle
Beyond the new trunk and primary branch on the right, I don’t have much in mind for tree. As with the pine above, I’ll delay making further decisions for the time being and see what new branches emerge over the next year or two.