Scots Pine Needle Reduction & Others

I was asked to write a very small article about watering and feeding Pine trees. It was for an internet Facebook Group. I thought it might come in handy here too. Not for the intermediate or experienced; it is aimed at beginners to help them understand a little about watering Pines and feeding them.

Pines. Watering & Feeding For Health & Needle Reduction.

I’ve always enjoyed the pleasure from Pines. Ever since I started my Bonsai journey thirty five years ago, I found I was always drawn to Pines. There are many myths surrounding Pines, I cannot possibly go into them all here now, but wanted for the benefit of those new to Bonsai to mention two succinct areas I see enthusiasts get wrong time after time. So as a seasoned pro I would suggest there is probably nothing here for you.

The first is watering. I’ve seen so many dead Pines over the years; people would say they were told to keep them dry. In the growing seasons a Pine will need watering every day, and in many instances more than once a day. In the hot weather it is not unusual for me to water Pines in free draining soil three times a day. The temperature that can be read on the inside of a pot is huge. Those roots need cooling; they do not have the benefit of protection from rocks general stone and the soil. Keep it watered. BUT; out of the growing season they do not like sitting in water. Scots will stand a lot more water abuse that Black Pines or White grown on BP stock. This is why having a free draining soil is so important. Repotting takes care of that issue. Having so said in the Western World I personally think we repot far to frequently. Pines I will repot when I really have to. Clearly frequency is not one cap fits all. Elms will fill a pot in a year and Maples won’t be far behind. Pines however are fickle about repotting. I will cover detailed repotting of Pines at a later date. Brown needles all over the tree in the growing season means just one thing.

The other area to take note of on this occasion is the ‘dreaded’ needle reduction. You have nothing to fear. It is not hard. Correct candle pruning and pinching is a good start. (Loads of internet info on that area). Plenty of sunlight, yep full sun, get that Pine in the sun, with no shade. You may need to water more frequently in very hot Summers. Consider an automated drip feed if you work for a living. So here goes the next big mistake many make. Not feeding that Pine!! If you want a healthy Pine with short healthy needles feed it. I use Rape cakes and or Bio gold, liquid fish emulsion and liquid seaweed with minerals. What frequency then to get those nice tidy needles? Every week, sometimes twice or three times weekly. Shock horror I hear you mumble. Think about it for a moment. You will pop chicken waste pellets, Bio gold, or Rape cakes and or Naruko in the soil surface and you water. What do you think is happening when you water? Yep, feed is released through every single watering! So frankly those that use this method of feeding and say they only feed once a month is absolute twaddle. With permanent organic feed on the soil surface I supplement with FE or SW a couple of times minimum a week. JUST BE MINDFUL though when using seaweed, it can darken the needles if you over do it. Ease back on dilution.

I have created this very short notation to help those just starting off, and in particular if you happen to like Pines. Like a backside of course, everyone has one, just like an opinion; I’m saying this is what worked for me and many others that I helped over a three and a half decade period of time. As always, if you want to ask a question just fire away. You will see I have included a Scots Pine that I worked for many years. I have included two images. One prior to needle reduction techniques and the second some three years later.

Scotty prior to reduction

Scotty after reduction

A Tree Versus a ‘Bonsai?

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.     

Martin Luther King

 

Over the years those that know me will no doubt agree I have generally; (not always) gone for a look that could be considered a fully grown tree in miniature. Indeed, I have for as long as I can remember, favoured the miniature world. I built up a miniature model-railway, miniature long-haired Dachshunds, and so on. When I first started out with Bonsai, I was of a mind that one should strive for the wonderful images as seen in many of the early books. After a time I realised that actually I preferred the look that was a full sized tree in miniature without the perfectly manicured pads and shapes. It might have been because I never had the time to spend hour after hour with wire. Highly likely, as there were other pursuits I enjoyed which all took up time.

One little Maple that I once owned, was for me a perfect example. everyone kept telling me I should shape it rather than have it as was. I suppose in the end it looked fine either way? I still like that natural look though.

Getting the Tree You Think!

‘A blind person who sees is better than a seeing person who is blind. ‘     
I’d been looking around still for a Crab Apple, and was quite impressed with the selection at Peter Chan’s. The individual images with prices seemed medium to high, but I suppose being Surrey that would be about right. I had selected two and could not make up my mind. One at £400 the other £300; nothing fancy, just something to work with. Then to my horror I saw under each tree ‘The picture is for guidance only. It is not generally possible to send the tree in the picture. We may need to send you one that’s similar in terms of size, shape, pot and age. ‘
Not knocking Peter here, but I was a bit taken back. In all my years at looking and buying trees it has always been ‘this will be the tree you get.’

Hinoki Cypress

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

Richard Branson

 

One of the nicest species I’ve ever worked with is the Hinoki Cypress. I purchased one about fifteen or so years ago and it was virtually identical to the first image below. Clearly it was in a pot and was secured as a bargain basement purchase from a Bonsai nursery. It had come out of its pot and when I bought the thing the root ball was a dry as a chip. This is NOT what you want to find with this species. They will NOT thank you for having dry feet.

Indeed make sure you check they are evenly moist throughout the year. Dry and you’ll get huge amounts of die-back. Anyway, I digress; this image is very similar.

Hinoki Compacta (Green)
Hinoki

You can do so much with the cypress, as the foliage is already halfway there in terms of fanning. one quick tip, DON’T use scissors to cut unless you remove from source then by all means use scissors. For keeping foliage tidy and how you might like to see it use your fingers. Hold the cloud in-between finger and thumb and just gently pinch with fingers of the other hand. Not using your nails.

Moving on to 2014 I thought long and hard if I should lop the top off and think about a completely different style. As it happens I decided against a ‘chop-job’ and just spent some time seeing if I could get a tree that looked like a real tall grand tree in the wild. I’m initially pleased and the following image as is. i’ve done more, but I need to take another image. still struggling with the Canon 6D but that is another story.

Hinoki 2014 March

Procumbens All Change

If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.

        Leo Tolstoy

Not been around in a while as health issues and moving home (we hope) have taken priority. I have however had a good week or two and thought I would spend a bit of time on all my trees.

I only have eight trees now so really I can now actually enjoy spending time working with them rather than thinking of it as a chore. When I first started on the road to Bonsai and over subsequent years I became what I can only imagine as addicted to having more and more trees.

sure I had nothing like the amount as many do and have done over time mostly because pretty much all my trees were large ones. Some so heavy it took two to move them. Thirty-one years later and I’ve gone much much smaller. Sure not Shohin sized but all manageable by one person and don’t need the wheelbarrow to move them.

I’ll upload a few others, but for now my old cascading Procumbens had gone a bit bushy again so figured I sit and think about a future for it. I repotted three years ago after obtaining a rather nice pot whilst up at the Swindon Winter image Show.

Here it can be seen as a Yeti like Cascade.

Procumbens November 2011

The pot above was a very heavy one from Peter Chan. The great problem with the Procumbens Juniper is the foliage gets pretty heavy and creating a cascade became difficult for me, as I found the weight of the branch required permanent wiring to keep any kind of shape.

Here it can be seen after a fall in high winds with some branches broken. I threw it in this pot which I quickly purchased from the local Garden Centre. To give an idea of size the slab that the pot is sat on is 40cm in diameter.

Juniper March 2010

Again I figured I would leave it and see what happens. It recovered well and I cleaned it out to see once more if a possible cascade without permanent wire was possible. See the first image. Also this one. Cleaned out and removed from pot to go into the PC grey one.

RP2

The root-ball was indeed looking well recovered and so into the PC pot it went. Over time I just didn’t or could not get my head round the tree. I wondered if actually creating something with this one was out of my own skill-set? I’m not to proud to admit at times I’ve wondered if I was capable, and fumbled at times. Oh I thought I’d include the absolute original image of the tree. This was prior to falling and prior to a much needed trim.

DSC00063

Moving on and as I started off saying eventually I had had enough of constant wiring and thus decided enough was enough and into a much smaller more manageable pot. This was the one I spoke about earlier the one I got from Swindon.

Procumbens 2011

And yet I still wasn’t happy! Yes it looked to me a heck of a lot better but balance wise it wasn’t right and I still wondered if it had too many branches. Moving bang up to date from 2011 when I popped it into the pot above, I purchased another pot whilst in Swindon this year at the winter Image Show, and paid the mighty sum of £22.50 for it. Brand new, Chinese, perfect condition and deep enough to get a bit more root growing and also to see how it looks in a more rectangular pot. Incidentally I should say I like the following image very much and it will be my intention to get another rectangular pot but not so deep.

Taken a couple of days ago March 2014 in the new pot. Tree needs an overall tweak bend over to the left by a few mm which i’ll do with the foliage when recovered from the repot.

Thank you if you are still with me and reading; I hope you enjoyed it?

Procumbens 200314

A Funny Wee White Pine.

All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.

Baltasar Gracian

When my substantial Japanese White Pine and I parted company and it went to a new custodian I stipulated that the deal should also include a small White Pine. Well small it was and it sat for weeks and weeks wondering what on earth I could possibly do with it!

Well Saturday was a great health day and with sunshine the order of the day I felt it was now or never. Many branches had been pruned very badly over time with quite a few growing back on themselves. I truly didn’t think it had anything going for it.

The tree as it was in its raw state. Excuse the photography; I’ve sold my old 500D DSLR and await my new camera.

Before 2Before 4Before 5

After a while I started to make some progress. I’ve now removed about 70-80% of the existing foliage and branch network. More to do but here it is as is today.

JWP1JWP4JWP3JWP 2

Now I just need to get a suitable pot. Fancy a round one at 20-22cm in diameter.

Some New Accents.

A firm tree does not fear the storm.      

Dayak

I was fortunate enough to make the Bristol Bonsai Show at the weekend of the 18th. What a fantastic show with absolute applause from me with respect to the organisation, QUALITY of trees and supporting / companion accents, trade stands .. well, the ‘whole nine yards.’ Superb and thank you all. Sadly I had the compact with me and luddite me managed to have it set on 300k per image and not 3 meg 😦

It really was impossible to single any out but spookily I managed a larger image of a stunning Elm owned by Mark and Ritta Cooper. I’m delighted to show it here on my blog. Pot is a ‘Dansai’ and stunning too.

BR17

I managed to purchase a couple of new pots from Dan Barton who had quite a remarkable choice to select from. Gwen pipped me on that gorgeous ‘curly-pot’ almost something H.R. Giger about it. Thankfully ‘Dansai’ is going to make me another but smaller. The pot is below.

BR1

My own purchases have been potted up and I include them below. The Blue pot is a Delosperma ‘graf reinet’ and was a gift from my good friend Paul B. Thank you Paul. Along with the White flowering variety Paul also gave me another colour and this one happened to be in a tiny pot Paul had made himself. It was a larger plant but I cut a length off to pot up.

Dan B Blue pot

Paul B pot n plant

This Red pot, also a ‘Dansai’ is now looking after an Echeveria that I rescued. Pot and plant go well together. This pot is a high glaze somewhat different to what I would normally have, hence the appeal.

Red pot planted

Finally I had seen Paul with a rather nice Japanese Rose, which he got from Ritta Cooper. Without a moments hesitation I just knew I too would not be content without one. Potted on into a spare pot so now I will see how it does. Leaves are really tiny.

Japanese Rose

I was very pleased to receive a gift from Dansai which is a Hosta Blue Mouse Ears. It is exceedingly healthy and I will split it next year. Rather like the Dansai pot too. I’ve not done well with miniature Hosta of late and this specimen will be pampered. Thank you again Dan.

Dan Hosta for MJJ

Looking forward to Bristol 2014!

Mountain Maple After Leaf Removal.

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that two of my Maples had the most awful leaf burn this year. After much thought and input too from others I have settled on a combination of three areas. I mention this as someone might find it useful if they are either considering leaf pruning or outright removal for a myriad of reasons.

This is the first year I have had each and every single leaf display mild singing to out and out burnt shrivelled leaves. I’ll not include images of the leaves as they are HERE on the earlier post I mentioned above. A detailed explanation of possible causation is to be found in this previous blog entry. HERE.

I know much is bantered around about what an amazing technique it is to grow a second set of leaves, or even a third on a very healthy tree, but truly folks it is little more than what nature could do all on its own. So, without any further babble I include a before image of the small Maple, and one taken yesterday after the new set of leaves turned it into a bush like plant; clearly I attacked it with a pair of scissors though. It will do for now; further trimming will be required over the next few weeks. The first image is after initial leaf hardening but at the burn stage. Eventually it looked awful. In this image I had already taken away 30-40% of the leaves as they had turned completely brown.

TR3

Then after leaf removal, with some branch pruning too. SEAL cuts to avoid bleed this time of year and minimise this type of branch pruning.

Mountain Maple strip

In this image it is three weeks after the original removal of leaves. You actually have a job looking at the tree to see any branches at all. This one I have taken looking down at the crown.

New leaves

After a couple of hours of detailed tidying the tree is now without any browning whatsoever. Seen here in a Tony Remington pot. Thanks for looking in.

A quick snap half way through. A typically I forgot to take a front on image.

Prior to tidy

Maple on FB reduced size

Siberian Elm Leaf Size.

Although this Siberian Elm is a tree that looks better in a winter image, it is still never-the-less a deciduous tree, that for seven to eight months of the year is in full leaf. I always felt it a shame to just let it grow and wait until winter. Sure late Autumn the leaves turn yellow and if we are lucky with winds, it looks nice at this time, as many fall leaving a ‘skeleton’ like look.

The single biggest flush is as the new leaves settle in early Spring; toward mid to late Spring it starts to look untidy. This year I knew that I wanted to reduce the tree down, or reduce the size of the canopy width primarily whilst balancing up the rest of the tree at the same time. Here it can be seen at mid to late Spring.

Before S:elm

The sheep of course don’t do a good enough job! The next image is off the tree with size to the canopy reduced but not finished. Far better to wait a while as once it comes off, you can’t very well stick it back on. For that you need to wait a year or two.

After S:elm

 

The Hawk-eyes among you will have seen that I missed the middle of the pot in 2012 during its repot. One of those things, it happens, and I hadn’t noticed until a good pal pointed it out to me. Then again I am due new specs again. I mention this as the canopy looks like it hangs off the right more than it should.

So after many hours of trimming and selective pruning I wanted to let the tree have a couple of weeks to settle; this then for now was as far as I went. Over the next week or so there were plenty of browned leaves to remove. Very difficult on a full foliage to not snip where you should not. I’m limited on time due to my arthritis, suffice it to say it took me a full day, plus I had some help too.

The next few images concern leaf size. That is leaf size on the hardened ones and the plethora of new that would be spring out. During the following images I hope you can see where reasonably hard pruning has induced a wealth of back buds. Some will stay other will go.

Light is all important to species that have such a thick canopy; when they are dense hardly any light makes it in and the best I used to get when I knew no better was a few that would turn yellow within the tree and eventually drop. I did actually think some twenty five years ago that eventually it would became such a huge tree, I would have to plant it in the garden. I could not get my hear around this pruning malarkey, no matter how many books I read. I thought back then a good prune meant taking off twenty or so leaves!

In the following two images you can clearly see the extent of new growth that is springing up well back along the branchlets and within what was the darker areas.

Back budding 1 Back budding 2 Back budding 4

Since the first 2013 hardish prune I have continued to water daily with some overhead showers but waited a short while until much of the new has hardened before resuming feeding. I’m using seaweed as a tonic and for good leaf colour, ‘The ONE’ in powder form so I can mix it myself, and Levingtons Tomato feed.

You can see in this next image how daylight can be seen quite clearly through the foliage canopy.

Back budding 3

Towards the end I will include one from the outside in as a close up. The following images are of leaf size current and new. Obviously the lighter colour ones are the newly emerging, and quite quickly they will blend in as darker leaves when hardened. I’ve included the largest leaf size on the tree as well as the new ones.

Scale size 1 Scale size 2 Scale size 3 Scale size 4 Scale size 5 Scale size 6

Actually leaf size stays quite small throughout the year, also a fairly even size right across the tree.

I have spent a good few hours further pruning, and for now it will stay as can be see in the next two images. I keep removing those wee brown leaves and for now I believe I have just about the lot. In total I have taken the canopy diameter in by 1.5-2.5cm on each left and right side. The front down by approx 2cm and the back has been left as it is fine. The leaves will not grow any bigger once hardened, hence why the species makes such a credible tree as a ‘Bonsai.’ Yes this one would stand some more thinning but for now I shall leave it. It very often becomes a case of pruning ongoing until winter.

Here I have taken a picture close up to show the airy side of the tree. The one immediately below that is as right now.

Sibe close up post trim

Siberian end article

For Photography purposes I have use a Canon 500D with an L series 24-105mm lens with f stop settings selected by me with the camera deciding on shutter speed. ISO 100 mostly, custom white balance, cropped where required in PSE. Thank you for looking.