Cleaning up a mossy situation 

This YouTube video is the critique Kathy Shaner offered on my Japanese Black Pine.  Interesting pearls of wisdom.

In my defense, I had no intention of showing this tree this year, until about 14 hours before I had to bring it in…and I was out of moss, out of stands, out of time, and out of season to candle-cut…but we needed trees, and our show only had 2 other JBPs.

Excuses aside, I took her advice and spent part of Memorial Day cleaning moss off the trunks of several JBPs.  As she suggested, slowly and meticulously, with tweezers and dental picks, nearly all the moss was removed. 

In case you’re a pot freak, this is a Nakawatari; antique Chinese, from the ShouYouKouSei kiln, probably 130 years old.

By the time this is published, it will be 3 weeks to candle-cutting time!  Remember, find your area’s first frost date, and count back 100 days,  that’s when you candle-cut JBP in the summer.





And after:

This is a fat ‘Arakawa’, same drill:

And a corkbark cultivar, ‘Taihei’:

This one had gotten really out of control, with this “Irish moss” that is aggressive and has a big root system.  For this tree, it’s best to scrape off the top 3/4″ of soil to get the moss roots out, and replace the soil with fresh.  This is called Soji, and helps not only with removing moss, but also when the soil becomes difficult for water to drain through.

Pretty soon, this Taihei will be worked and wired…gently.  Here is a shot from 2011, and one 6 years later.  Slow going:

The bark is developing, but the tree hasn’t advanced much.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  And happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!


Japanese Black Pine PW

I nickname a few trees after the pros who have worked on them.  I have a Ben Oki azalea, and a Peter Warren Black Pine.  This is how it looked a year after I bought it from Brussel’s in 2010.

And during the initial styling; where my daughter was a lovely and able assistant:

Taming a big bushy black pine is more than should be tackled in a single workshop, so Peter made some decisions on the front, moved some primary branches, and we made a plan for the future.  

Little did we know he would have an opportunity to return in 6 months and revisit the tree, which now looked like this:

And we advanced the design a bit to this:

Skip forward 5 years to fall 2016, and I’ve continually pushed growth back toward the trunk, and replaced big branches with finer ones.  I’ve had several failed graft attempts, and finally settled on just building a good branch structure to cover the upper trunk section that has no taper and no branches.  Fall 2016:

And in the spring of 2017, thin out the needles, prune branches back to pairs, and wire to fan out the branches into pads:

And repotted to improve the planting angle and depth.

This summer, it will be candle-pruned to get a second flush of smaller needles, and increased density.  Eventually it will be ready for a quality pot and proper placement in said pot.  For now, it’s just time to grow!

JBP, ‘arakawa’ from Telperion Farms

Bought this from Chris Kirk at Telperion Farms in December 2014. They’re great growers out in Oregon. If you don’t see what you’re looking for on their website definitely give them a call or email. They have lots of stock! Here is the tree as received:

I let it grow all year in 2015 without pruning. Just wanted to get to know the tree, walk around it for a while, and determine what side would present the best front. So here it is in March, 2016:




Trees grown for bonsai have good bases, movement, taper, considered trunk sections, branches at the outsides of curves, and several options for a front.

See all the small shoots popping at the big branches? Those will be used to make the final branches over the next few years. Smaller branches offer flexibility, ramification close to the trunk, add a refined feeling, and thin branches make the trunk seem fatter.

It was finally time to reduce the tree to primary branches, spread them out, and balance the strength. I haven’t repotted it, so the tree should be plenty vigorous, and respond well to this pruning.





The remaining branches were spread out and lowered, in preparation for a great growing season.
Two good options for front:



Mid-April, and it’s budding strongly; you can get away with drastic work when you let the tree get strong, and work in the correct season:


Mid-June and it’s starting to take shape a little bit…

Late-June, before candle-cutting:

And in late-September. In the winter, it can be wired again, and thinned out.