One of my fourteen-year-old pines is a lot bigger than the others. Beyond some selective pruning the last few years, I’ve mostly let the tree grow freely. This year, it’s time to select a branch to continue the trunk line.
Why this year? After looking at the options for the future front of the tree and the branches available to continue the trunk line, it became clear that there were few branches to choose from and that now was a good time to start this new line so it would be ready when it’s time to remove the main sacrifice branch.
Here’s the process I went through to set this new trunk line.
Black pine – about 6′ tall
I started by removing a side branch that emerged along the main sacrifice branch. This branch was shading out the branches I’m interested in developing.
After removing a branch on the left side of the tree
Next I removed some low branches on the right side of the tree. I’d saved them thinking they might be usable in the final design but decided they emerged at an awkward location on the trunk.
After removing a low branch on the right
With these branches gone, I then removed some old needles to open up some dense areas and let more light pass through to the lower branches.
After removing needles along the sacrifice branch
Although it’s hard to see in the photo above, the tree only has two low branches at this point. Two branches can be a great starting point for creating a bonsai. One can serve as the first branch, and the other can become the new trunk.
I’ve grown a number of pines using this approach. For this tree, I’ll wire the lower branch down and the upper branch up so it can serve as a new section of the trunk. Here are the branches wired.
Close up showing the new trunk line and the first branch
As the tree hadn’t been repotted in a while, I took it out of the pot and worked on the roots.
After removing the tree from the pot
I removed a few large roots that grew at awkward angles and cut off the bottom third of the root ball. This will be enough to fit the tree into the new pot.
After root work
I selected a terra cotta pot for the tree as it has a shape that’s closer to the shape I ultimately want the root ball to take. I thought about using a colander, but I didn’t have a colander the right size or strength for the tree.
My main job for the coming months will be to make sure the wire doesn’t cut in too much. In fall, I plan to reduce the first branch and take a look at where the trunk might go from here.