For black pine growers, late spring and early summer offer a lot of opportunity for improving trees.
Healthy pine bonsai in the refinement stage are decandled. Depending on needle density after decandling, needles can be thinned and branches removed. If necessary, decandled pines can be wired, too.
Like many bonsai techniques, wiring branches is stressful for trees. Even when trees are healthy, wiring can weaken – and sometimes kill – bonsai. How?
Wiring trees during the wrong time of year makes it easy to separate live tissue from the hardwood beneath. This is particularly true for conifers. Heavy bending is best done when trees are dormant to avoid this risk.
It’s also possible to damage trees wired during the proper season if the wiring technique is poor. Failing to properly anchor wire can lead branches to tear away from the tree during bending. Wiring tightly or unevenly can crush living tissue, effectively severing the connection between branch and tree. The same is true for rough handling in general. If branches start dying after wiring, chances are good the techniques applied weren’t appropriate to maintain the tree’s health.
When applied properly, wire can make a dramatic difference in the appearance of our bonsai. It’s where the artistic meets the technical. Wire offers shape to young trees and refinement to mature specimens.
The pine below has only been wired a few times – just enough to set some of the main branches. The lowest branch is fairly developed while the upper branches are just starting out. This makes for a somewhat awkward appearance when wired, but I expect the tree to grow through this phase quickly.
Black pine – June, 2016
After decandling, I thinned areas that were crowded and shortened branches that extended beyond the desired silhouette. I also removed extra needles.
Normally I leave between 5-7 needles per shoot on trees at this stage of development, but I’m leaving the tree a bit fuller in case it’s ready for an exhibit sooner rather than later.
After decandling, needle pulling, cutback, and wiring
Of course, a new pot will needed before the tree goes to exhibit. I have some ideas for when the time comes.
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