Zuisho Japanese White Pine Progression pt. 2

After growing out a 2-year old graft for the last 15 years, it was time to start thinking about training, and make some decisions on direction.

It was tricky to finally jump in. The lowest whorl consists of 3 branches. Eventually one would need to go. My original plan was to go with the Zuisho’s tendency to produce a long low branch. Some of the old bonsai magazines show this, and it was always intriguing.

I took it to Bjorn’s in November 2021 and we decided to keep all 3 branches for now. The right branch would become that long character branch, the left branch would become almost a second trunk, and the back branch stays for now, to add depth.

The chop made a few years earlier needs to be carved out a little to improve the transition.

While the trunk isn’t as fat as I want it to ultimately end up, it is clearly thickening in a pot, so our work won’t stop that progress. Additionally, the branches are beginning to fatten up, so we decided it was time to begin setting some branches while it was still relatively easy.

A shot mid-way up wiring out the tree. Here the right branch is wired out and the left branch is set to become a second trunk.

Work finished for the year.

January ‘22
Spring ‘22, candles showing extension at the strongest areas of the tree.
Early fall, strong candles trimmed back to begin establishing balance.
Early fall ‘22. Wires are digging in, so they need to be removed.
Late September ‘22
Moss needs to be removed. Notice the lens cap for scale…the trunk is starting to fatten up nicely, and noticeably each year.
Moss removed, exposing the nicely spreading root structure. The graft is perfectly executed to transition from roots to first branches.
Unwired, and soji complete. Next up, some light pruning and rewiring.

Another year (or two) in the life of an Arakawa JBP

First off…if you’re reading this, you’ve hung through a break seemingly longer than AMC takes between seasons of their original series. Thank you. This has been a busy year of change and bonsai has been on the periphery at best. I’ll make a post on that at some point too, as I effectively took the year off any non-urgent bonsai tasks and it has been interesting to see what that does to a collection. I have been busy growing a new business, eking out a few summer trips, getting our daughter settled into her first apartment at college in Tampa, playing tennis with our son, running, etc. On top of it all, our daughter got engaged this month too. We are excited for her and her fiancé.

So….Here is where this story left off in October, 2020:


In Spring 2021, I adjusted some branches with guy-wires to tighten up the design.

Areas to adjust
Upper left
Upper right
Center right
After guy wires were placed, February 2021
April 2021
May 2021
June 2021
July 2021…candle cutting time

This pine grows multiple buds from a single point, a strong one, and several weak ones. While candle-cutting, I am careful to also remove the weak shoots to ensure a second flush of new growth, rather than allowing the tree to sustain itself on the remaining weak shoots.

1 is the main new shoot, 2 is one of those weak new shoots.
A shot of the back of the tree showing Oxalis that must be removed…but also shows an interesting potential, and dynamic, new front…
Oxalis has a carrot-like root and issues runners. If all of the carrot-like root isn’t completely removed, this invasive plant will regrow and quickly take over a pot.
New candles removed from the upper part
All new candles removed
Pulling needles to balance the strength
After work is complete

And now the tree will be allowed to regrow a second flush of shoots. I will only allow it to develop 2 shoots per terminal and hopefully avoid having weak shoots also appear.

October 2021, new growth is well underway. More needle pulling, and a little shoot selection. When the new shoots are hardened off, they can be wired.

I am strongly considering removing the first right branch and pushing all the movement to the left.

Next up, in November, I unwired the tree in preparation for fall work.

I took the tree to Bjorn’s in November and discussed removing the first right branch and setting movement toward the left. So off to work we went.

First up, the branch removed:

No going back now!

Next up, we addressed the stovepipe-straight section of upper trunk. I drew a couple lines were I would saw a wedge into the trunk and allow us to bend the trunk to create a little movement toward the left:

Ok, that might have been a little deep. We’ll know in a few months if it was too deep, or just right!
Over the course of several rounds of pulling the apex down with a guy-wire, we were able to close the gap without snapping off the top or blowing out the side. The whole trunk was wrapped in a thick layer of cut putty, and we’ll hope for the best.
Red shows screws, yellow arrows show guy wire, and blue shows new trunk line.
After wiring
Fall work complete. The plan is to allow the first two left branches to extend significantly, and hope the top survives.

Fast-forward to mid-April, 2022 and the tree is growing. Not assured success just yet, but not a failure yet either. I decided to not repot and add stress. Next year, I can repot into the correct planting position.

Recently, Jeffrey Robson contacted me to share the Bonsai Society of Portland was posting a photo gallery of trees from Telperion Farms honoring Chris and Lisa Kirk’s contributions to the bonsai community. A photo of this tree will be included in this virtual show on May 14-15. The link for the show is here:


Fast forward another 5 months, and here is the tree in September 2022. No candle-cutting was done this summer, all wires are still on the tree. Later this fall, I’ll needle-pull to thin it out, remove tight wires and add new where they’re needed.

Summer cleanup of an Itoigawa

I repotted this tree in March, after basically giving it a year off in 2021. It had lost a few branches in the back, I think a very delayed response to leaving wire on too long several years ago. The rest of the tree is healthy, and in time, it will be easy to perform a good “comb over” to fill in the space in the back.

For now, I wanted to clean up the tree to enjoy looking at it again, after all it is one of my favorite trees. Before:

After pruning downward-growing shoots, and trimming the strongest runners.
One lower right side branch was wired back into the profile, otherwise the tree has no other wires at the moment.

And reviewing the photo above, it appeared to want a little scrubbing down, so the trunk was scrubbed with a toothbrush, and a 50% diluted lime sulfur solution was painted onto the deadwood.