December is summer at Shibui Bonsai and summer means working on pines.

I treat pines differently depending on what stage they are up to. Pines in ‘DEVELOPMENT’ are allowed to grow for a full season and sometimes 2 so the trunks thicken then they get cut back hard to get new shoots along the trunk and branches. Most of you will be aware that pines are reluctant to bud from bare wood so it is important NOT to let them get to the stage of having bare branches. You can cut branches back to anywhere there are needles but if you cut below the lowest needles, leaving bare wood it is likely that branch will die back.

Today I pruned a Japanese Red pine that is in the final stages of ‘DEVELOPMENT’.

Before pruning













First step is to cut back any long shoots that will not be useful in the final design. Remember to leave some needles on any branches you want to use.

Cut back the longest shoots













The lowest branch is too low to be useful so it was removed. Rather than cut it right off I have jinned it but the jin might be completely removed later if it does not suit the ultimate design.

possible front 1


This front has  nice trunk movement but there is  a shortage of branches on the left side.


possible front 2






There is a slight reverse taper in the trunk just near the top of the rock when viewed from front 2.



The shoots are still too long to be useful. I need to shorten them as much as possible at this stage to get more shoots as close as possible to the base of branches so all remaining shoots are cut back to leave just a few pairs of needles on each. New shoots should develop from the base of the remaining needles.

Front 1 after pruning


Finally, wire the remaining branches to make best use of any shoots and sub branching that are already present.


Front 2 after pruning






Now it is up to the tree to produce new buds and continue to grow. Next year it should be time to move to ‘MAINTENANCE’ pruning to fill out the branches with foliage pads.




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