As I worked my way through the repotting of many pines this winter, I found a young specimen that’s beginning to take shape. Nice, I thought, it even has a good root base. Then I looked closer.
Black pine – 11 years from seed
Up close, I found that the roots were actually a bit much for the tree.
Is this really a problem? Not necessarily. If the idea is to let the tree grow for another 10 years to thicken the trunk, it would be possible to change the relationship between the trunk and the root base over time. If the idea is to make a shohin bonsai, it would be tricky to find a pot for the tree. I’m not sure where the tree is headed at this point, but for my taste, I prefer the roots to enter the soil closer to the base of the trunk.
Chopsticks highlight the ratio of trunk to root base
From the side, the ratio of trunk to root spread looked even more out of balance.
Root base from the side
Chopsticks indicate the root spread
What to do? One thought is to let the trunk thicken. Another is to slowly reduce the root base. For now, I’ll pursue both options – minor surface root reduction and increased trunk size. That means several more years of vigorous growth for the trunk, and attention to detail during repotting to take what opportunities I can to reduce the root spread a bit.
Would it be ok to to nothing and continue to develop the tree as is? Yes. It could be that the wide root spread could become an interesting feature that makes for a unique tree. After this year’s repotting, I’ll have a few years to think about it.
Front – chopsticks indicate root spread
The same topic came up during my visit to Mr. Iwakiri’s garden in Japan last year – see “A seedling-cutting with too many roots” for details.
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