Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => Evergreen Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: skokiebob on April 05, 2012, 12:45 PM

Title: trim length of needles?
Post by: skokiebob on April 05, 2012, 12:45 PM
Total Newb here, loving my new hobby so far. Should I trim the length of a pines needles? I will try and post a pic.
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: nathanbs on April 05, 2012, 01:44 PM
its very simple, no :) more complicated however is learning how to manage the trees energy to ultimately grow shorter needles. There are many threads around here regarding these techniques on various different pines. Please for the sake of the tree dont implement any technique without full confidence that it applies to your species of tree and your climate
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: skokiebob on April 05, 2012, 02:44 PM
Thanks nathanbs. I'll troll around for info on channeling the tree's energy ;D
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 05, 2012, 03:00 PM
Welcome aboard. Where are you from?  (update you're profile ;) )

What can you tell us about your tree?  What are you hoping to accomplish by trimming the needles?
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: yamins on April 05, 2012, 08:54 PM

That tree looks like some kind of white pine (I've seen a dwarf p. strobus that looked very similar -- apologies if wrong).  If so, you should probably not cut the needles.   That can work with JBP, for instance, but I've seen it be quite destructive on white pines.   Without being an expert, it seem to me that you could do several different things with that tree right now, including 1) pruning some unnecessary branches, 2) setting up some initial structure with wiring, and 3) reducing the number of buds at the tips of each branch to 2, and 4) thinning the foliage a bit so that light gets to the inner parts of the branches to encourage backbudding.  Also you probably eventually will want to repot into something more appropriate to bonsai culture, and easier to manage watering for, but that can probably wait.   (How long have you had the tree?)
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: skokiebob on April 06, 2012, 10:00 PM
Thanks for all the input. Seems I've found a very friendly helpful, non-judgmental group. Hooray! It is indeed an Eastern White Pine. Dwarf Nana I believe. I wasn't so much looking to accomplish anything by trimming needles, just looking to balance the tree size with its newly trimmed roots. But from yamin's comments it sounds as though some pruning would be the path to accomplish that. What's wrong with my pot? I thought it was appropriate. Is it too large?
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: nathanbs on April 06, 2012, 11:31 PM
it is very uncommon to put conifers into a glazed pot, more traditionally an unglazed one. Your tree being a softer more feminine tree it would be one preferably with softer lines. However in your trees current state it doesnt look bad in that pot. Do what makes you happy. As far as balancing the roots with the top. it shouldnt be much of an issue unless you took off tons of roots. Just work on maintaining the trees health and working towards a more interesting overall design. Unless you are already there than just focus on the trees health.
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: yamins on April 07, 2012, 08:51 PM
OK -- So given that it IS dwarf P. strobus (actually, I've found it to be a quite useable plant when you can find it, which is not THAT often) .... it might be quite destructive to trim the needles.   This may generally be true for WPs of various kinds, but I've seen two p. strobus "nana" just go poof after needle trimming.  (one that belonged to me and one to someone else equally ignorant at the time).  After trimming, the needles looked ok for a few days, then the plant turns gray/brown and gives up.   Trimming can work FINE with JBP, but I think it's just a generally no-no for WPs, esp. P. strobus.

Instead, you can DEFINITELY reduce needle size in other ways (one of the nice things about P. strobus dwarf is that it seems to bud back with small, delicate buds really well if you pluck needles and get light on the inside of the tree, unlike regular P. Strobus).   It also seems to be pretty vigorous, e.g. it's not as completely finicky as some other dwarf cultivars (e.g. P. mugo "mops").    I certainly think you can do a few basic steps along the lines I suggested previously.   

Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: yamins on April 07, 2012, 09:02 PM
I should add that by "something more appropriate to bonsai culture" I wasn't referring to the pot -- I was referring to the soil.  Though it is definitely true that glazed pots are less common for pines, I don't mind your pot choice at all, quite the contrary.  (By "repot" I actually assumed you'd probably pot it back into the same pot but change the soil -- when bonsai people talk about repotting, they're more often than not just referring to soil change and root pruning   Just changing the pot without changing the soil or pruning the roots is called "slip potting" and I get the sense often isn't even thought of as "real repotting".) 

The soil however looks a little heavy and organic -- did you get the plant at a bonsai place or at a regular garden center and then pot it up yourself without changing the soil much?  I've usually seen p. strobus dwarf  at regular garden centers or mallsai places as opposed to quality dedicated bonsai nurseries, and they come in the usual garden center cruddy soil.    How long have you had the tree?  Given your lack of experience, I think you probably don't want to repot (e.g. change the soil) just yet -- maybe wait a year and do other work on it and make sure it stays healthy.

Anyhow, these dwarf p. strobus are always (in my experience) grafts like I think yours is, but the graft unions seem comparatively unobjectionable, though the bark is usually a bit smooth and juvenile looking, and probably will be for a long time. I think the bonsai community might be able to do cool things with this cultivar if they were more familiar with it.
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: skokiebob on April 08, 2012, 10:37 AM
Thanks so much guys. I did some suggested pruning and worked some conifer mix into the pot. I used this pot because it is large and would allow for some growth, while still more attractive than a nursery pot. I've read that pond baskets and mesh sided wooden boxes are also effective training pots. As you guys mentioned, my number one concern is the health of the tree. Do I leave him outside in a Chicago winter? I also just picked up a Acer Palmatum " Gwen's Rose Delight" I am concerned about looking out my window next winter at my babies :-(
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: yamins on April 08, 2012, 12:07 PM
Your pot is fine.   Dont worry about pond baskets &c for this tree.  Those are for putting on girth on deciduous trees like maples.  I would not try to optimize for trunk growth on this tree anyway; it will fatten a bit over the years but it is a dwarf white pine, and trunk girth in the next decade is just not something to have your heart set on.   WPs get trunk girth slowly to begin with, and dwarves even more so.   For this tree, I think you should instead focus on branch refinement and foliage density, making a small refined tree like a previous responder suggested.    (So you should work on implementing "energy channeling" techniques like previously suggested; the four things I listed a while back are exactly that.  Remove unnecessary branches, wire for shape, reduce the number of terminal buds to 2 at each tip, and needle plucking to let more light in and encourage backbudding) 

This container is perfectly fine; the soil composition matters more.    You sound like you did just the right thing with the soil for a pine  -- replace a bit at once, not too much shock for the tree.   It still looks a bit heavy, so each time you repot, go for a bit more replacement until the soil is 100% conifer mix.   

It can probably be wintered outside.  WPs are very very hardy to low temperatures, most people certainly winter them outside in NY and Massachusetts, but Chicago is pretty severe (and windy, which is worse).   You should ask bonsai people in your region what they do with their white pines. 

It's a totally different story for the maple, you'll need some winter protection for it.  It might also benefit from a grow box like you suggested -- post a picture?   
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: skokiebob on April 10, 2012, 08:48 AM
Yamin's, when you speak of terminal buds, are those the buds at the tips that look like mini green pine cones? So a finger pinch would be the appropriate method of removal? Thanks so much. I've also been reading diatomaceous earth is a good alternative soil. Any experience or thoughts?
Title: Re: trim length of needles?
Post by: yamins on April 10, 2012, 01:31 PM
Exactly, finger pinch is fine at this stage.   Reduce to 2 (or even 1, maybe, if they're really vigorous and works with your design idea).