Decandling is a pruning technique where spring growth is removed to stimulate a second flush of growth over summer.
The basic technique can be an effective way to produce dense foliage on black and red pines, and there are several variations that can help us balance vigor between weak and strong branches at the same time.
Today we’ll look at the most effective variation for balancing vigor: decandling a tree in stages.
As you can see in the photo below, the upper branches are fuller than the lower branches. This is natural as pines are apically dominant. In other words, pines are more likely to invest resources in branches that receive the most light – those near the top – than they are to invest in the lowest branches.
To help the lower branches gain strength, I want to give them a head start. I’ll decandle these branches first.
After decandling the lower branches
About twelve days later, I decandled the upper branches. These branches will have twelve fewer days to produce new growth before the end of the growing season.
Twelve days may not seem like much, but it’s enough time to give the lower branches a boost and help them grow stronger.
After decandling the upper branches, I noticed that there were far more needles here than there were on the lower half of the tree. Why? Because I didn’t finish plucking the needles in fall!
After decandling the upper branches
I took a few minutes to thin the top of the tree and do some light cutback. Here’s the tree after decandling and plucking the excess needles.
After pulling needles from the upper branches – 25″ top to bottom
I’ll be sharing a few decandling case studies this season, so let me know in the comments below if there are decandling-related questions you’d like me to address. And for a full description of the decandling process, see “Decandling – an in-depth guide.”
Subscribe to Bonsai Tonight
New Posts Delivered Every Tuesday and Friday