Fall work on an ‘Arakawa’ Japanese Black Pine

In March of this year, I repotted this pine, and had to get rather aggressive to address some rotting roots under the trunk. Here is the post which shows the tree, bare-rooted, and reduced to nearly a cutting. I was confident the tree had enough roots to live, and the timing was perfect. I was also confident that the tree would die if I allowed top he rotting to continue, and was losing surface roots.


I decided to not candle-cut the tree in the summer, knowing that would set back branch ramification for a year, and result in longer needles…but that was a short-term sacrifice for a longer gain.

By late spring, it was clear the tree was recovering and healthy.

Note the strong candle on the grafted shoot on the first right branch.

I let the tree grow for the rest of the summer, and in mid-September, it looked like this:

The angle of the grafted branch is bothersome, but it was the second attempt and the only place I could get good contact. With a little luck, wire, and some carving, I should be able to hide it over time.

I removed old needles and pruned whorls back to pairs:

And added a little wire to the new shoots to fan out the branches. Here is the result for now:

Over the next few years, I’ll let the branches extend and begin to build pads of ramification. By next fall, I hope to have a profile similar to this photoshop virt:

By the way, this tree was grown by Chris and Lisa Kirk of Telperion Farms. They lost everything in the Oregon wildfires, and have a GoFundMe page set here:


Styling a Corkbark Black Pine, ‘Taihei’ part 3

The previous installment is here: https://nebaribonsai.wordpress.com/2019/08/24/styling-a-corkbark-black-pine-taihei-part-2/

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.

Dense first branch

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.

Changing Clothes, RMJ to Itoigawa 2020 update part 2

Last week, we looked at separating the Itoigawa roots from the graft, which forced the foliage to survive from the RMJ roots. It has been 6 months since separation and repotting, and the tree is doing ok. I have reduced the RMJ foliage on the right side, not touched the Itoigawa foliage, and have noticed a few problems.

The right Itoigawa graft is mostly healthy, except the apex, which began dying back:

And a couple long, stronger branches began to pale and weaken too:

What could be wrong? The tree is otherwise healthy, and as I thought about it, it occurred to me that the RMJ roots were unable to support the growth of the quantity of Itoigawa foliage. Maybe this is because of a natural slower pace of growth in RMJ roots, or the recent repotting diminished their capacity.

So, after cleaning up the dead portion, I started to thin out the Itoigawa foliage.



A close up, showing how to prune runners and growth from the crotches of branches, and to leave alternating secondary branches with relatively balanced tufts of foliage:

Next up, the remaining RMJ foliage. Removing this should also reduce the demand on the roots. This is all that remains of the original foliage:


The left graft isn’t looking stellar, but so far it is still alive.

The original RMJ past the graft has died, and the Itoigawa foliage is pale, so it is possible I’ll lose the graft too. I can still work with the right side only, but I did want to leave options to use the left trunk in the design if I needed it. We’ll see how this plays out. For now, the graft appears to have callused well, but I am waiting until spring to separate it.

And now, the “changing of clothes” is complete.