One of the top goals of developing black pine bonsai is to encourage balanced growth. Because pines are apically dominant, they naturally produce strong growth near the apex and at the tips of branches. We expect to see smaller shoots on the lower branches and in the tree’s interior.
Refined pine bonsai can produce shoots that are the same size on both the upper and the lower branches.
Black pine – 30+ years in training
New shoots near the apex
New shoots on a low branch
When we remove sacrifice branches, it’s common for the area near the cut branch to become more vigorous. Here are two examples on a pine I pruned at decandling time.
In the photo below, you can see a large branch near the apex that extends about 8″ to the right.
Young pine after decandling
I had originally planned to remove the branch in fall, but instead opted to shorten it after wiring the rest of the branches.
Young pine after reducing the apex and wiring the branches
Two months later, it’s easy to see where I reduced or removed branches as the new shoots in these areas are relatively long. Here’s what the new shoots look like on branches were no big cuts were made.
New shoots on a branch with no big cuts
And here are new shoots growing from a spot where I reduced a branch by half.
Long shoots near a cut branch
This effect is easy to spot near the apex where several long shoots are developing.
Long summer shoots near the spot where I reduced the apex
If I had left the apex alone in spring, I’d expect the branches growing nearby to remain short. Instead, I now have several branches that are twice as long as the other branches in the area.
Some imbalance is expected in trees entering the refinement phase, but I like to reduce the imbalance as best I can to simplify my work going forward.
As you can see from the photo below, the imbalances are noticeable, but not severe.
Thirteen year-old black pine in early stages of refinement
In the last few posts, I looked at trees where I left the sacrifice branches in place to avoid stimulating long internodes. This is particularly important in shohin bonsai where short internodes are required to keep trees small.
To avoid triggering long summer shoots, I typically remove sacrifice branches on refined bonsai in fall or late winter as the resulting surge in growth will come in spring instead of summer. Because the spring growth will be removed the next time I decandle, I can delay the effect of the cut branches for one or two seasons instead of bearing the result all at once.
Space Available in this Month’s Bonsai Development Intensive
I’ll be hosting the summer Development Intensive on August 9-11 in which we’ll focus on fundamental wiring techniques, working with collected material, and carving techniques on juniper bonsai. Read more about the Development Intensive.
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Christopher Neale says
Have you had any good results approach grafting using a whip on JBP?
Jonas Dupuich says
Thanks Christopher! I haven’t tried grafting using whips on pines as I usually want to keep the foliage the same. Because scion grafts and approach grafts can both work, I’d suspect using whips could also work.
Andy Johnson says
This is an amazing series Jonas! Thank you so much for taking the time to take the pictures and for putting the narrative together! I live in England and don’t know of any one that does anything on JBP’s so am grateful for your blog and it’s articles.
Jonas Dupuich says
Thanks Andy – I appreciate it! Do let me know if you have related questions that I can address in future posts.