After more than twenty years of growing pine bonsai from seed, I noticed a big difference between red and black pines this year. Red pines are harder.
Specifically, red pines are less likely to develop small shoots in the tree’s interior that can be used to create primary branches after thickening the trunk.
Here’s an example.
Four-year-old red pine
You’ll notice that the three- and four-year-old needles are turning brown. This is normal for red and black pines in fall.
Three- and four-year-old needles
When I removed these needles, it was easy to see that there were no young shoots growing in the tree’s interior.
No interior shoots
This can make developing bonsai difficult without grafting in the tree’s interior.
To see how this plays out, here’s a six-year-old red pine that lost its needles along the trunk.
No shoots or needles along the trunk
Without interior buds, I have few options for styling this tree. I can remove the top of the trunk and make a small tree using the low branch, or I can remove the low branch and develop the tree using the upper branches. Am not sure which approach I’ll take at this point.
I first noticed this pattern in summer when some of the old needles started to brown out. Realizing this encouraged me to see what I could do to trigger new buds. I pruned the above tree heavily in June, but no new shoots appeared.
I had better luck with other trees. Here’s a pine that produced new shoots right where I wanted them.
Red pine pruned in June
Close-up of the new shoots
I had even better luck when I pruned back harder.
Red pine pruned in June
Red pine pruned in August
The takeaway is that while it’s possible to stimulate new buds in the tree’s interior, it’s not likely once the old needles fall away.
Red pine with no interior shoots
My plan going forward will be to prune red pines more frequently than black pines in an attempt to stimulate and preserve as many interior shoots as possible. This will slow development, but it will leave me with more design options in the future.
As you might have guessed, the next step for the above pine will be to make some significant bends above the first cut branch. In the meantime, I’ll report back when I have updates on how the new approach is working.
Pacific Bonsai Museum Launches Campaign to Fund Bonsai Book
The Pacific Bonsai Museum has proposed a new book aimed at presenting the history of thirty significant trees from its collection. To cover the printing costs, they started a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign is off and running so now’s the time to contribute!
I ordered my copy and am optimistic the project will be a big success. To see sample pages from the book and learn more about it, visit A Gallery of Trees: Living Art of Pacific Bonsai Museum on Kickstarter.
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