Decandling my cork bark black pine was a straightforward process this year. I removed the spring growth and thinned unnecessary needles. I did not decandle weak shoots or shoots that grew in areas I’m trying to develop – mostly the lower branches on the right side. Here is the tree before decandling.
Cork bark Japanese black pine – June 2011
Most branches produce a single new shoot – strong areas produce two or more new shoots.
Two new shoots – this branch is strong
Main shoot removed – one shoot remains
When two or more shoots appear on a single branch, I remove all new shoots to prevent the branch from becoming even stronger. These branches usually have a main shoot that grows upward and one or more side shoots that grow at angles. I cut all shoots perpendicular to the direction in which they grow. Cutting two or more shoots at the same time produces uneven cuts that can lead to uneven growth.
The weaker shoot grows at an angle
Both shoots removed – both cuts square
As I worked, I found a needle that was green toward the base and brown toward the tip. I likely broke it when I wired the tree in April. My goal is to break as few needles as possible when I work on pines. Lots of broken needles is a common sign of careless work.
Oh my, a broken needle!
After removing the new shoots, I thinned unnecessary needles. This allows more light to reach the lower branches and helps balance vigor. I leave more needles on weak branches and fewer needles on stronger branches.
Shoot after decandling – plenty of needles
Branch thinned to five pairs of needles
When I’d finished this work, I noticed that the tree looked different than it did last year – a good sign. If all goes well, I’ll have the silhouette I’m trying to develop in a few more years.
Decandling and needle thinning complete
Part of the improvement is due to improved branch structure. You can get an idea of what the branches look like below.
First branch on the left
Each large branch is comprised of a number of smaller branches. The subtle differences between these branches provides depth and interest.
One of the branches that comprises the large first branch
For comparison’s sake, see the tree when last decandled one year ago: “Decandling cork bark Japanese black pine“
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