The pine below is getting close to its final shape.
Japanese black pine – 15 years old from seed
As you can see from the photo, there is a large gap in vigor between the sacrifice branch and the lower branches. After decandling and thinning needles on the lower branches – standard work for pines at this stage of development – the gap is even more apparent.
After decandling the lower branches
If I put the tree back in the garden like this, I’d expect a very weak response from the decandling. The tree would continue to invest its resources in the upper branches and produce little, if any, summer growth on lower part of the tree.
Because the sacrifice branch has already fulfilled its role in thickening the trunk, I can reduce it to encourage the tree to produce stronger growth in the lower branches.
After reducing the sacrifice branch
As you can see, even though I removed a large portion of the foliage on the sacrifice branch, the remaining shoots are still quite vigorous compared with the small shoots below. To balance the top and bottom branches, I decandled the shoots on the sacrifice branch and removed more than half of the remaining needles.
After decandling the sacrifice branch
After thinning needles on the sacrifice branch – 14″ tall
The lower branches now have more needles than the upper branches. This will help me shift vigor away from the upper branches and encourage the tree to produce strong summer growth on the lower branches.
I plan to remove the sacrifice branch once the branches that form the future apex get bigger. In the meantime, I can work on pruning, wiring, and styling the rest of the tree tree.
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