I decandled the red pine forest below about 3 months ago (see Decandling a red pine forest). The summer growth has come out and the trees look much fuller than they did in June. But because the summer was cool, this grove isn’t as far along as I’d expect for this time of year. No matter, in the mild San Francisco Bay area climate, pines continue to grow throughout the fall.
Just two days into fall, however, it’s too soon for needle pulling and cutback as the new needles are still soft. Some enthusiasts thin summer growth at this time, but I usually wait until late fall or winter. Typically I continue to water and feed the trees this time of year, trying to encourage out what growth I can before the weather turns cold.
I also check the pines I’ve decandled to gauge their response to the decandling. The trees in this forest have a long way to go to achieve any sort of balance which makes them great for practicing decandling techniques. Here’s the forest as it looks today.
Red pine forest, 16 years old
Looking closely, it becomes clear that some areas are further along than others. The cluster of branches below came out very well. The summer needles have achieved good length and the growth is dense. Some cutback and needle pulling will give the cluster a great start for next year’s new growth.
I resisted decandling the weakest branches. They have since grown strong. Here’s a spring bud that I let grow. Note the large bud that will open next year and the tiny, yellow needles from last year.
Some of the weakest areas I decandled would have been better off left alone. The branches below are very weak – I will not decandle them next year. After a break, however, I expect them to fully regain their vigor.
Weak summer growth
The shoots below are strong. They have yet to fully mature, but there are a good number of shoots per branch and a good number of needles per shoot. These branches are a good example of the benefits of decandling as one spring bud on each shoot from last year has produced two new shoots, doubling the growth on the branch in a single season.
Good summer growth
Other areas have grown too vigorous. The single shoot below produced at least six summer shoots. To reduce this branch’s vigor, I’ll thin it to two or three shoots in winter and remove some of the new needles.
Strong summer growth
While looking at this grove I noticed another sign that fall is approaching – moss. About the time when dew appears in the morning, moss starts growing. Bay Island Bonsai members are sensitive to this phenomenon as we’re usually on the lookout this time of year for moss to use in our bonsai exhibit. I don’t know if I can bear to remove the moss on this forest – I’m hoping I’ll find enough elsewhere so I can let it continue to grow.
Moss – good antennae
I may write something about antennae theory this winter. The topic lies somewhere between obsessive bonsai technique and in-joke.
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