Bonsai tree: When not to work on a white pine

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bonsai tree: When not to work on a white pine

Source: Bonsai Tonight
When not to work on a white pine

I brought the white pine below to an Akio Kondo workshop this past August. The tree looked much like it does now but the old needles had yet to turn brown. New growth had appeared much like it had the year before, and I had prepared to spend an afternoon wiring the tree. Kondo took one look and said nope, the tree’s too weak. He suggested I water the tree lightly, every other day at most, and wait until the following year to cut or wire the tree. Kondo wanted to see vigorous new shoots before stressing the tree with cutback and wiring, and the new growth wasn’t exactly vigorous.

What to do? Not much. Now that some of the old needles have turned brown, I removed them by running my fingers through the foliage and put the tree back on the bench until next year.

White pine with old needles

White pine – October 2011

Branch with old needles

Shoot with old needles

Old needles removed

Old needles gently removed

I took care not to remove all of the old needles, just the ones that fell away as I combed the foliage with my fingers. Typically fall is a good time to remove last year’s needles on strong white pines, but it’s best to leave weak trees alone until they get stronger. The photo below shows both first and second year needles, separated by a small gap along the branch.

Recent and second year needles

Same shoot from below – first and second year needles remain

Old needles removed

Loose needles removed

I expect that more second year needles will turn brown and fall away as the weather cools, and I’ll likely remove these around the end of the year.


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