A little late is better than never. Ideally, needle pulling is a late fall to winter activity. On JBP that grow slower (corkers), or are weak (recently repotted, underpotted, constantly candle-cut for ramification and small needles), it is ok to wait longer to pull needles.
The reason why is that green needles contribute to photosynthesis and therefore, the longer they remain on the tree, the stronger that tree can get.
So here are a few examples of early May needle-pulling.
First up is this corkbark JBP, ‘Taihei’, which is a slow-growing tree that I do not decandle. I repotted it last year, and wired it, so I waited until now to pull needles. I will prune, wire and pull more needles this fall.
Next is also a corkbark JBP, ‘Hachi Gen’ on its own roots. It is under potted, and needed to be repotted last year, but i didn’t get to it until this year. I also don’t decandle this one,
After. Much more even, definitely needs to be detail wired in the fall.
Finally, this JBP has been kept in “show-shape” for four years now, and finally was shown in the USNBE last fall. I repotted it this spring, and just pulled a few old needles to tidy up the undersides of the pads. Our annual Alabama Bonsai Society show resumes next weekend and I thought the tree still looked good enough to show.
Since we negotiated terms, this pine has grown better. I don’t decandle it in the summer, I don’t wire every branch, and I don’t repot it often. For it, the tree stays healthy and looks generally decent.
However, I do trim strong shoots, remove dead needles, and pull downward-hanging needles in the fall. Here are a few shots of the minimal work done, per our terms and conditions.
And after the grueling 30 minutes of work:
In the spring, I may do a little more wiring in the upper right side of the tree…and I may not.
This tree originally came from Dave DeWire, out in the Seattle area. Dave was a collector of corkbark JBP cultivars and freely shared his knowledge with me when I was obsessed with the different cultivars. Dave died in March 2021, and will be missed in the corkbark JBP corner of the bonsai world. RIP.
This year, the Taihei was left to grow unchecked until mid-September. Here is the starting point, and in fact, the first photo I took of the tree this year…remember the plan of neglect? Here is the neglected specimen after removing the dead needles.
After the dead needles were removed, I began pulling some of the new needles to balance out the tree.
Since I don’t summer candle-cut this tree, balance comes in the fall through needle pulling and pruning of the strong branches back to smaller buds so that most of the tips have similar numbers of needles and similar-sized buds for next spring. Below is a shot of the first left branch. I continued this throughout the tree, wiring a bit as necessary, but trying to not wire every branch.
Lower portion complete, compared to the apex which hasn’t been worked yet:
Pruning, thinning, and wiring complete, and now ready for finishing adjustments:
And a night shot after finishing touches…ready for another year of neglect.