Fall cleanup on a corkbark Black Pine

This Kyokko Yatsabusa has been in my garden for 10 years now. It came from Don Blackmond, via Dave DeWire in WA. Dave propagates corkbark JBP, among other trees. Here is a shot from 2008, still at Don’s in MI:

I’m almost positive this is the back now. Fast forward 10 years, and I’m trying to get it ready to show at some point. It was wired carefully last fall, repotted this spring into a larger pot, a Gyouzan, and allowed to grow freely all year. In late summer and early fall, old needles start to brown, and is time to remove them. They can be a bit persistent, and along with the fragile nature of the branches, it’s best to hold the branch in one hand and tug the brown needles out one pair at a time. Otherwise you can end up with an entire branch in hand…detatched from tree.

Old dead needles removed with tweezers:

Then the downward-facing needles were removed. For this, I use my fingers. I’ll hold the branch in my left hand from below, and pull the downward-hanging needles with my right. Still taking them out one at a time, because if I try to get 2, often a full tiny shoot will come loose. This is a lot tidier so far:

When I get to this point, I’ll often take a photo and look at the overall canopy for profile, dense or sparse spots, and other traits that stand out. Cameras can be harsh judges, and if the tree looks good in a photo, it probably looks good in life.

Here, some areas I’ll work with over the next few days include:

Reducing the apex height just a bit by thinning out the needles. Doing the same with the first right branch, and maybe creating a little space between it and the branch above. Finally, the base has been showing the fact it’s a graft a bit more over the years, as the corky bark flakes off, betraying the standard-bark understock. Fortunately, I saved some of this bark to reattach later. What, you don’t have baggies of this laying around too? I actually moved and still managed to keep track of this tree’s baggie o bark.

Carefully placing the bark, then mossing around it may help with the appearance of reverse taper. Cheating? Nah…it’s all about the illusion anyway, right?

So, here is the final result, short of mossing up the soil.

I think the real star of the show is this little Erodium in a special pot:

In two weeks, we’re going to talk a lot about pots…

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Candle-Cutting time 2018

It takes about 100 days for the second flush of JBP growth to finish and harden off. That needs to happen before the first frost, so find your first frost date, and count back 100 days. That is when you should decandle black pines.

First up, this Arakawa cultivar from Telperion Farms. This one looks goofy because I’m letting the first right branch run wild for a few years in hopes of getting a back-bud closer to the trunk.

Done. See that “Irish moss” in the photo above? That stuff has to go. It is invasive, has a big root system, and prevents the soil from drying out. Interestingly, it starts out as very pretty deep green velvety moss. But don’t let it fool you!

Next up is this JBP, originally styled by Peter Warren in 2011. It’s coming along nicely. I like the trunk movement at this planting angle, and the branch structure is starting to mature a bit.

Going…

Going…

Gone…

Moss removed here too, and a little light pruning to reduce clusters of shoots down to a pair of shoots.

I don’t stop feeding pines after candle cutting, so these will continue the regimen of Pant Tone cakes and regular doses of fish emulsion.

Good growing!