Updated: Jan 7
Japanese Black Pine is one the most popular species in the art on Bonsai and i s al so one of the most rewarding when the techniques are performed correctly with strategic timing. The following techniques assume you have developed your pine to the point of refinement
This is the first year your Black Pine finds it self in a Bonsai Container. This means you have transferred it from the Growing Container and Growing Medium into a shallow Bonsai Pot and a proper Bonsai Medium. This first year our concentration will be focused on gaining strength back in the root system because we know that the strength of pines is in the roots. Through out the first year in the Bonsai Container we want to feed the tree heavily all season which includes winter. If your tree doesn't have inner buds building this strength in the root system will be critical. The more we let the tree run and grow the stronger it will be and the more likely we are to get new buds closer to the trunk where we need them. In the first year we wont be worrying about aesthetic design, We need to build strength before beauty. We can begin Needle plucking the tree back to the weakest significant branch to get an even distribution of energy, usually 10 - 12 pairs of needles on each branch tip
In the second year we should now have a strong tree with a nice root system, We can now give our tree a structural styling meaning we can start placing our primary branches with some wire to set the basic structure. After we style the tree we still want to let it keep growing. We need to let our new buds on the inner section of the branch grow stronger and mature, if we cut our branches back to our back buds now the new buds wont have enough strength to allow the branch to survive. Make sure that you continue to feed the tree and keep up with your needle plucking taking the tree back to the weakest significant branch allowing an even distribution of energy , if this work is not performed the top of the tree will grow far too strong and your bottom branches and buds will suffer.
In year 3 we can begin the aesthetic refinement of the tree. To achieve this we will begin to de-candle the tree in summer. It is important to remember that we need to stop feeding the tree 1 month before summer begins to allow all the nitrogen to make its way out of the system, if we still feed the tree nitrogen through summer it will defeat the purpose of de-candling as we will end up with long internodes and long needles. Now that we have stopped feeding 1 month before summer we can cut our candles leaving around 5mm at the base of the candle, by doing this you will gain new shoots from the cut site which we can shoot select in autumn after the needles have hardened off. For larger trees we want to begin de-candling in the first month of summer starting at the weaker section then leaving 10 days between the medium strength and stronger sections. For medium size tree we can de-candle mid summer doing the whole tree at once and for Shohin we de-candle end of summer. Once the new needles have hardened off in autumn we can shoot select back to 2 shoots on each branch, In the apex cut out the strongest shoots leaving 2 smaller shoots and in the lower sections of the tree leave the 2 strongest shoots. remember to try pick 2 shoots that have a nice acute angle from each other and if possible choose the 2 most lateral shoots.
Now that we are in our refinement cycle we basically repeat year 3. Stop feeding 1 month before summer, in summer we de-candle and needle pluck, once the new needles have hardened off in Autumn we shoot select and if need be needle pluck again to keep energy distribution even. last year we took our branches from 1 - 2 branches, this year we should have gone from 2 - 4 branches, and in year 5 we will go from 4 - 8 branches.
This is the year! If you have followed proper technique and applied the techniques with the correct timing then you should have a nice ramified pine with short internodes and small needles. You can also make adjustments to your design after Year 3 using wire if need be, Winter is one of the best times to wire as you will have less chance of wire bite that you may get through the growing season if you accidentally leave the wire on too long. Once your tree is in this stage it is now just a matter of keeping up with the routine and keeping the tree happy and healthy.