I’ve received a lot of questions about decandling since I started writing about it. The basic idea is simple – we decandle pines to replace vigorous spring growth with less vigorous summer growth. There are, however, a number of variables to consider, from timing to needle plucking to after care. The best way to navigate these details is with an experienced teacher. If a good teacher isn’t available, I recommend experimenting – preferably with a tree you consider appropriate for experimentation. (For details about some of the variables to consider when decandling, see “Decandling secrets revealed!“)
The first time I decandled a pine on my own, I had an idea of when and what to cut, but was less clear about how the new growth would turn out. I watched the summer shoots develop very closely that year and ended up learning a lot. I’ve still a lot more to learn. Here’s what the process looked like on one of my more developed – though still young – pines this year.
Japanese black pine – June 2011
Vigorous spring shoot
Spring shoot removed: note that I left a tiny bit of the new shoot – this is where the summer shoots will emerge
Five needles and a short stub remain
After decandling and needle thinning
The tree is more than a bit straggly at this stage. As the summer buds have begun to appear, I have to wait until fall before I can wire the tree. What does a recently decandled pine look like after a great wiring job? I recommend Peter Tea’s recent photographs of a 100-150 year old pine for an answer. See his Aichien Journal for the story.
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