Large Japanese Black Pine – Fall Cleanup

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 6 Comments
Large Japanese Black Pine – Fall Cleanup

Sometimes I wonder how many mature trees a person can have and properly maintain as bonsai before they are a full-time practitioner, if not a professional. I took this tree off my bench a week ago convinced that if I left it any longer it would not be good for the lower and interior buds. Each year, most Japanese Black pine need to be cleaned up to reduce the density of the needles so that light can reach each of the branch tips evenly. With even light distribution comes even growth.

Over the summer I decandled most of this tree, but I left some of the weaker buds to grow out, effectively allowing them to become much stronger compared to the branches that were decandled. Now the tree is too dense to leave for the entire winter without losing some of the important interior growth.

What started as a 4-hour long needle pulling session soon turned to some touchup of the wiring. I find that mature black pine need to be touched up at least every couple years, or completely rewired every three years. Even with decandling slowing the growth of the tree, the branches still manage to make short extensions; before long you’re looking at a lot of vertical branchlets rather than the beauty of the needles surrounding a dormant bud.

I’ve owned this tree for a long time, almost as long as I’ve been doing bonsai. For a more complete history with photos you can see this thread on Bonsai Nut.

Pulling needles.   Against the white background you can see almost no light penetrates completely through the tree.   Without thinning the lower and interior buds will become weak.

Pulling needles. Against the white background you can see almost no light penetrates completely through the tree. Without thinning the lower and interior buds will become weak.

When working on needle pulling start from the top and work downward, this allows needles that you have dropped to be cleaned off as you go.

When working on needle pulling start from the top and work downward, this allows needles that you have dropped to be cleaned off as you go.

After pulling most of the old needles.   Some old needles are left on the lower branching to increase its strength relative to the top.   Overall, the tree is still too dense, so adjusting the wiring and removing long and clumped growth is the next step.

After pulling most of the old needles. Some old needles are left on the lower branching to increase its strength relative to the top. Overall, the tree is still too dense, so adjusting the wiring and removing long and clumped growth is the next step.

The amount of time and wire needed to work on larger trees isn't trivial.   I used about a half of a roll of #16 wire on the fine branching.

The amount of time and wire needed to work on larger trees isn’t trivial. I used about a half of a roll of #16 wire on the fine branching.

The left side of the tree, thoroughly wired.

The left side of the tree, thoroughly wired.

Five partial days of work later, with plenty of interruptions I finally put the finishing touches on adjusting the wiring and branch positions. Reworking the tree each fall is really not absolutely needed, but I find it to be immensely rewarding to have a few detailed trees in the garden at all times.

December 2015, after work.   Another year done for this tree.

December 2015, after work. Another year done for this tree.

A view from the right side.

A view from the right side.

..and from the back.

..and from the back.

6 Comments

  1. Judy Barto
    December 19, 2015

    Love this JBP, different than most, elegant line, thanks for the post!

  2. Phillip Jackson
    December 19, 2015

    Very instructive for me as an old timer who needs help with the basics.

    Muchas Gracias

  3. jim gremel
    December 19, 2015

    Your tree is very beautiful. Thanks for this post!

  4. dave crust
    December 19, 2015

    Thank you for taking the effort to share these detailed techniques(with beautiful photos). I especially appreciate folks that show how they do stuff–rather than folks just being emphatically instructive.

  5. Scott Piatanesi
    December 19, 2015

    Bitchin’ tree. The article is well written and photographed, as usual. Thanks for blogging.

  6. Chuck
    December 20, 2015

    Beautiful tree. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the detail that you put into your posts and have learned a lot. One of these days, I hope to have a tree that refined in my garden!