Slant Black Pine

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 | 3 Comments
Slant Black Pine

This is one of my original black pine batch, from 2006. In this case I don’t think I put enough movement into the tree when it was younger. The current result is a tree that has a very nice base, but no curves or twists. I had been planning all along to remove the sacrifice branch just past the low branching. First some images of the tree when it was younger:

The oldest photo I have, the tree was in a 6" terra cotta for one year before I put it into the colander.   The first branch on the right was actually lower than what is the first branch on the right at the moment.   The first branch on the left is still the there today.

The oldest photo I have, the tree was in an 8″ terra cotta for one year before I put it into the colander like the others. The scale of a tree changes so much over time that it’s sometimes hard to plan for the future early in the process. In this case I had a lot of good low branching, but some of it was poorly placed and some was too close together

In 2011 I had the tree growing in a double colander.   The base was already good.   You can see a small stub on the tree from a branch that I cut off.   Today it has been almost swallowed by the wood expansion on the trunk.

In 2011 I had the tree growing in a double colander. The base was already good. You can see a small stub on the tree from a branch that I cut off. Today it has been almost swallowed by the wood expansion on the trunk.

The tree after some branch wiring in November 2013

The tree after some branch wiring in November 2013

November 2013, working on wiring the branches that will be kept for the finished tree.

November 2013, working on wiring the branches that will be kept for the finished tree. I’ve added wire to the new top to give it some movement close to the trunk and to position the new sacrifice branch toward the back.

Boon taking a photo of the tree prior to decandling and sacrifice cutback in June 2014.

Boon taking a photo of the tree prior to decandling and sacrifice cutback in June 2014.

The base of the tree is looking nice and fat and stable, if not incredibly dynamic.

As of today, November 2014, The base of the tree is looking nice and fat and stable, if not incredibly dynamic. I measured it out of curiosity and found that it is about 2 3/4″ diameter above the nebari, with the nebari easily being 5″ wide at the current soil line.

I recall one of my early teachers looking at one of my first seedling pines that I put in a small pot for one season. He said “Take that thing out and put it in a big pot, then put it back in there when the trunk will barely fit!” I think I almost immediately agreed that he was right. But, it’s interesting how much my perspectives have changed in the time that it takes to grow a pine tree from seedling to this stage. I’ve taken many classes, watered these trees thousands of times, and gained a whole different perspective on trees in the process.

The plan for today is to cut off the rest of the original sacrifice branch since the secondary sacrifice is now a couple feet tall. This is the fourth time that I’ve cut back the primary sacrifice branch. I cut it back once in 2011, then again in November 2013, and I decandled it and cut back in June 2014. During that time the secondary sacrifice, which is coming from the new top, has gotten progressively stronger. There is now more foliage on the new sacrifice than on the original one.

I use a larger saw for these types of cuts.   It takes many years to grow the branch, but only about ten seconds to cut it off.

I use a larger saw for these types of cuts, this “Pocket Boy” saw works well for large cuts on pines. It takes many years to grow the branch, but only about ten seconds to cut it off.

Primary sacrifice branch removed.    Count the rings!  I think I see seven but maybe it's eight.

Primary sacrifice branch removed. Count the rings! I think I see seven but maybe it’s eight.

The stub half carved out, from the right side of the tree.

The stub half carved out, from the right side of the tree.

The stub, all carved out.   The peg in the middle will stick out from the middle of the healed wound.   The cut is dished slightly toward the base of the peg so that after it heals it will be relatively flat.

The stub, all carved out. The peg in the middle will stick out from the middle of the healed wound. The cut is dished slightly toward the base of the peg so that after it heals it will be relatively flat.

The transition from the larger to the smaller trunk sections taken the front of the tree. It still needs some time to look like a smooth transition. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see tiny buds coming out from in between the needle pairs at the bend of the smaller trunk section; these will be some of the most important branches on the tree. I bent the new sacrifice branches over to encourage them to grow a bit more.

The transition from the larger to the smaller trunk sections taken the front of the tree. It still needs some time to look like a smooth transition. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see tiny buds coming out from in between the needle pairs at the bend of the smaller trunk section; these will be some of the most important branches on the tree. I bent the new sacrifice branches over to encourage them to grow a bit more.

Fingers coated in pitch from pulling needles and wiring all day.   It usually takes some oil rubbed on my fingers, followed by soap and water to get it off.

Fingers coated in pitch from pulling needles and wiring all day. It usually takes some oil rubbed on my fingers, followed by soap and water to get it off.

More on this tree to come. I haven’t decided how long I’ll leave on the second sacrifice branch. That decision will depend on how the taper in the trunk starts to look after next spring.

3 Comments

  1. tom tynan
    November 5, 2014

    This is a great progression documenting your work. I am convinced that a low bend in the trunk really helps when growing from a seed or a young pine seedling. The low bend doesn’t always work as planned – meaning the tree sometimes grows out of the curve as well. In your case – you have such powerful rootage – that when you are ready – your can raise and expose that dynamic root base- this will make the lower trunk “less straight” in my view. I also think how you wire out the first few low branches will really create alot of movement and energy in the lower trunk. I really enjoy your work. Regards and best wishes from New York. Tom Tynan

  2. Jeremiah Lee
    November 6, 2014

    You da man Eric! So cool to see this progress in the US. I don’t know if I’ve seen better Black Pine grown from seed in the States. I think the quality of bark on this one will be really good. One thing I don’t have a good grasp on is when to cut the largest leader on the tree to achieve your long term goal. Say you wanted to use this exact tree, but you wanted to base to be three times as large. If that was the case, would you have left the current leader to grow for many more years until the desired thickness was achieved? Would you leave both the primary and secondary leaders to grow for many more years? Thanks so much for posting!

    • Eric Schrader
      November 7, 2014

      Hey Jeremiah,

      It’s a good question. I hypothesized that you should cut the first sacrifice when the trunk reaches about 2/3 the size that you want. But, I can’t say for sure if that’s correct. On this tree, If I had wanted a larger trunk I would have left the primary leader on longer. But, we’re also affecting the taper. The larger the lower trunk, the larger the next section has to be. The smaller the difference the smoother the transition, the larger the difference the better the taper. I don’t have a fast and hard answer.

      I don’t think you’d want two leaders going full-steam at the same time. The balance between the sacrifice and the lower branching can be tricky to maintain, and doing so slows the trunk growth. I’m not sure when I’ll take off the new sacrifice branch (which I astutely forgot to photograph last time I was working on the tree) but it will probably be when I look at the tree and like the way the transition from the existing lower section to the new trunk section looks. Once that happens I should have a good tree. Hopefully no grafting required.