Fall cleaning up of a white pine

Here is a white pine that belongs to our bonsai association. It came home with me for some attention…specifically, it’s weak, in poor soil, tightly wound wires are digging in, and it’s leggy.

The trunk has excellent movement, and if we can get some budding close to the trunk (by luck or by grafting), it has the potential to become a decent tree again.

What is the path back to bonsai?
1. Expose it to sunlight.
2. Feed it well.
3. Remove old needles to allow sunlight and air circulation.
4. Remove wires.
5. Remove the moss and weeds from the soil, aerate.
6. Encourage or create growth closer to the trunk.

Brace yourself….


When it got here, it went into full sun, got loaded up with cakes, and liquid feed every 4-5 days. Old needles were removed by holding the base of the branches and quickly running the other hand up the shoot. A couple before and after photos:






Step 4 is removing the wires. This can be done by carefully unwrapping them from the tips backward, or by cutting with blunt-tipped wire cutters.
Cut perpendicular to the wire, twist slightly and repeat.



Step 5 is cleaning up the soil surface. This type of ground cover has a big root system, is very invasive, and is hard to eradicate. Weeds also tend to have big root systems and both can affect water penetration, aeration, nutrient uptake, and harbor pests and diseases. It’s best to remove it entirely.


In this case, after removing all the weeds and moss, as well as the top 1/2″ of soil, I aerated the root ball by pushing a chopstick all the way to the bottom, creating around 20 vertical columns, which were filled back in with aggregate. This helps watering and air exchange. Here is the newly top-dressed soil.


And here is a shot with the fall work complete. Over the next few months, I’ll assess the drainage and determine if it needs to be repotted in the spring, or if it can go another year.


2 thoughts on “Fall cleaning up of a white pine

  1. This looks like an exciting challenge. The tree has enormous potential. I would like to know if this is on it’s own roots or grafted, because I can’t see it in the photos. Also does the apex branch turn toward the back, and then come forward? Very interesting tree. At least it’s in good hands.

    1. It appears to be on its own roots. I can’t find a graft from the bark at any point, and the foliage is finer than grafted, or Miyajima pines tend to be.

      The trunk curls toward the back close to the base, then mostly pitches forward, though the apex seems to be heavier on the left side.

      Thanks for reading!

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