Bonsai tree: Refining cork bark black pine – decandling

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bonsai tree: Refining cork bark black pine – decandling

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Refining cork bark black pine – decandling

Decandling my cork bark black pine was a straightforward process this year. I removed the spring growth and thinned unnecessary needles. I did not decandle weak shoots or shoots that grew in areas I’m trying to develop – mostly the lower branches on the right side. Here is the tree before decandling.

Cork bark black pine

Cork bark Japanese black pine – June 2011

Most branches produce a single new shoot – strong areas produce two or more new shoots.

Spring shoots

Two new shoots – this branch is strong

Large shoot removed

Main shoot removed – one shoot remains

When two or more shoots appear on a single branch, I remove all new shoots to prevent the branch from becoming even stronger. These branches usually have a main shoot that grows upward and one or more side shoots that grow at angles. I cut all shoots perpendicular to the direction in which they grow. Cutting two or more shoots at the same time produces uneven cuts that can lead to uneven growth.

Smaller shoot growing at an angle

The weaker shoot grows at an angle

Smaller shoot removed

Both shoots removed – both cuts square

As I worked, I found a needle that was green toward the base and brown toward the tip. I likely broke it when I wired the tree in April. My goal is to break as few needles as possible when I work on pines. Lots of broken needles is a common sign of careless work.

Broken needle

Oh my, a broken needle!

After removing the new shoots, I thinned unnecessary needles. This allows more light to reach the lower branches and helps balance vigor. I leave more needles on weak branches and fewer needles on stronger branches.

Before removing needles

Shoot after decandling – plenty of needles

After removing extra needles

Branch thinned to five pairs of needles

When I’d finished this work, I noticed that the tree looked different than it did last year – a good sign. If all goes well, I’ll have the silhouette I’m trying to develop in a few more years.

After decandling and removing extra needles

Decandling and needle thinning complete

Part of the improvement is due to improved branch structure. You can get an idea of what the branches look like below.

Branch structure

First branch on the left

Each large branch is comprised of a number of smaller branches. The subtle differences between these branches provides depth and interest.

Branch structure

One of the branches that comprises the large first branch

For comparison’s sake, see the tree when last decandled one year ago: “Decandling cork bark Japanese black pine


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