Candle-cutting commences

This Japanese Black Pine will be candle-pruned in 3 phases this year. Last year, I tried the “all at once” method, leaving no stubs on weak shoots, and longer stubs on strong shoots, and I was worried it wouldn’t finish growing that second flush by winter. A few other black pine growers have since confirmed their pines recovered slower last year too…but I’m still convinced that leaving some of this year’s growth keeps the tree stronger during the process. The well-known documentation of this pine’s development is here.

Here is today’s “before” shot:


After removing the weaker shoots (first right branch and interior of the first left branch):


After thinning the strongest areas, just a little (apex and upper right branch):

What was removed scarcely covers the bottom of the 5-gal bucket:


I’ll probably never be able to candle-prune without remembering the article that introduced me to Peter Warren, and helped solidify this process in my mind. It was on the Association of British Bonsai Artists website and contained an edited photo of a black pine, shaded in red, yellow, and green, denoting different strength zones on the tree. He called it his Rastafarian Pine or something…good stuff if you can find the article, but I think the website is long gone.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since, and have been fortunate enough to work with him on a few occasions; we worked with this black pine twice in ’11.

It was repotted this spring and never looked back, so as an experiment, I decandled this “all at once” today, and will compare its growth rate with its neighbor, three doors down, whose candles will be removed over the course of 3 weeks, but otherwise treated identically; down to last repotting, soil, feed, water, and siting.

Before (still a work-in-progress):

And after:


Jonas has been doing a fantastic series on this topic over the last few weeks on his site. In the scarce chance you’re reading this and not that…head there quick!

Have a safe and happy Independence Day to the US readers!


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