Species Specific > Ponderosa Pine Bonsai Discussion

Valid option or dangerous whim?

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I got this tree in Andy Smith’s 2010 “Burlap Bonanza” last year. It had been collected in March 2010; I received it in mid-April, and potted it within two days in this growing box. The mix is 50% lava, 30% bark, and 20% Turface, all sifted to remove fines. Very little of the native soil was removed, and I did very little root pruning; not much more than cleaning up the stubs of some broken roots. The nebari was never exposed, which figures in my question.

After about six weeks in shade I moved the tree to our deck, which is the sunniest spot I can offer it. Thruout the summer I fertilized it along with everything else, using both fert cakes (from North Star Bonsai) and supplemental liquid fertilizers. I had read that fertilizing in the first part of the year results in lo-o-ong needles, but I didn’t mind that right now: more important was to make sure the tree was able to re-establish itself well. Sure enough, the needles produced in the latter part of the year were twice as long as the needles with which it came!

In early-to-mid fall, I removed the terminal buds on several branches; the tree replaced them by winter. It has spent the winter in our sheltered side yard, with plenty of snow and cold but very little wind.

The first picture shows the tree as received from Andy, the second just after potting-up. The third pic is from last September. The fourth was taken after the one genuine blizzard (all 10-12 hours of it) that we got this winter.


As the pictures show, it’s doing very well, I think. And that led me to a thought: I had meant to leave it alone, except for fertilizer, for one more year. But now I’m wondering if it would be safe to repot again this spring. The reason for doing so would be to remove a little more of the native soil, enough to see the nebari. Until I see the nebari, I’m not ready to make a final decision on planting angle. (A personal preference: I like a reasonably level nebari, because it usually looks more stable to me.)

This is only my second ponderosa, and I killed my first thru ignorance. I don’t want to kill this one, especially since it, like my first, is a Valentine-birthday-anniversary present from my lovely wife!

So I’m looking for comments, advice, feedback, especially from experienced ponderosa growers. Would it be OK to repot again this spring? Or should I slap my hands, give myself 50 lashes with  wet spaghetti for even thinking of such a thing, and leave it strictly alone until 2012?

These three pictures were all taken earlier today. The first: the tree as it is right now. Second: blue line shows the length of the needles with which it came, yellow arrow shows needles that grew in the second half of 2010. Third: the three new buds that were set after I removed the terminal bud from the highest branch last fall.

John Kirby:
Wait a year. then clean off 1/2, dont wash just clean with tweezers/chopstick. I would omit the bark, but you know that. You have to get the roots out of the muck, but redoing it this year could be real trouble.

Thanks, John. I appreciate your feedback, and certainly respect your experience with ponderosas.

Waiting is what I was/am inclined to do, my default option if you will. I just wanted to be sure that I wasn't missing an opportunity to go ahead a little faster with this tree.

I'm going to try to give it a little more phosphorus this year, if I can find a high-P fertilizer. Maybe I'll just use a little extra bonemeal.

John Kirby:
Why you want it to bloom?


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