Refining old bonsai isn’t always a quick process – especially when the bonsai is a corkbark black pine. With brittle branches, the variety does not lend itself to dramatic restyling. I’ve been fortunate that the pine below has been healthy enough to decandle three years in a row. Many corkbark pines need a year to recover after decandling which further slows progress.
I talked briefly with Akio Kondo about the tree in a workshop this past winter. He encouraged me to continue refining it and removed a few unnecessary shoots. Then, with a big smile, he said, “Wire it.” Only now getting around to the task, I finished wiring just as the new needles began to emerge from the elongating candles.
The tree is still in an awkward stage. At best, I can hope to remove some of the “lumps” in the silhouette while I wait for new shoots to develop. It’s slow work, but I’m happy with the progress to date.
Front – before
Front – after
Right – before
Right – after
Left – before
Left – after
Back – before
Back – after
The work began with removing the old wire. As the tree had grown quite dense, this turned out to be a chore. I worked with a pliers to help with the branches between which my hands wouldn’t fit.
Unwiring copper wire (looks like 14 gauge)
I secure the wire and the branch with my left hand
And remove the wire with the pliers, one loop at a time
The wire gets recycled
I found a few places where old wire had cut in. Swelling occurs quickly in cork pines, and tight wire accelerates this. As long as the wire doesn’t cut in too deep, the natural corking will disguise the marks within a year or two.
As the pine was in bloom when I began wiring, I removed the pollen cones to avoid making a powdery mess.
Spring shoot with male, or pollen cones
As you can see from the detail shots below, the branches are very early in their development. Some areas of the tree, like the one pictured below, consist of parallel shoots with buds along the length of each shoot.
Other areas consist of short, stubby shoots. When these areas develop further, I’ll have far more options for creating an attractive silhouette.
Once more mature branches are in place, I can focus on improving the tree’s balance. And somewhere along the way, I’ll be able to show it again.
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