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Cork Bark and Koto-Buki JPBs

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Good Morning All,

I have two Shohin that I will start to style in 2010. One is a Pinus thunbergii, var corticosa or Japanese Cork Bark Black Pine and the other is a Pinus thunbergii 'Koto-Buki' a very small needled Japanese Black Pine. Both are 5.5" tall. I will post pics latter today so you can see them. I have had them for a year and I been studying their structures and sketching possible design choices.

If you have worked on trees of these varieties and have pics I would love to see them and hear about you experiences with them.

Thanks & Regards,


Don Blackmond:
kotobuki are great trees to work on.  they easily maintain very short needles and back bud very well when cut back.  profuse budding may be for a combination of reasons including the very short needles which allow for air and light on the interior.  that said, they bud well even in congested areas. 

the only negative, imo, is trunk building/taper.  since they are all grafts or cuttings, they typically lack trunk girth and good taper.  growing them out helps but is not an easy fix since they grow so slowly.  when they do grow strongly they tend to grow long and thin, so adding girth is still challenging.  using a sacrificial branch is a typical method of accelerating trunk size.  this works but kotobuki tend to swell a bit more than is typical at branch/trunk union.  this swelling is compounded if more than one branch meets the trunk in the general area (even more common in shohin).  most kotobuki you see, even the best ones, will show areas of inverse taper and long, gradual trunk taper.  this is normal.  whether these characteristics are defects is subject to debate.

if I could own only 1 variety of jbp, it would be kotobuki  -- hands down, no contest, not even close.

John Kirby:
It is good that there are people like you and Harry to provide homes for these unwanted orphans  ;). In the past I would have agreed with you, however with contemporary black pine needle and candle management practices it makes the Kotobuki a nice oddity. I think some of the yatsubusas you see around are interesting, but again not sure I would go out of my way to deal with them.


Don Blackmond:

--- Quote from: John Kirby on October 16, 2009, 09:11 AM ---with contemporary black pine needle and candle management practices it makes the Kotobuki a nice oddity.

--- End quote ---

with kotobuki you can have short needles without any needle and candle management practices, which makes them exceptionally nice when growing out and developing the tree since you can see the scale of the tree and don't have mid-size or longer needles in the way.  also, even with needle and candle practices you will never have typical black pine needles as short as those on a kotobuki that has been worked.  I can get my needles down to 3/8"-1/2" long if I try, and 1"-1.5" if I don't try, and maintain them that way with little or no effort.  The very short needle length makes for great low effort shohin and chuhin trees.  its just an added bonus.  i'm not saying a kotobuki is better than your typical thunbergii in all aspects, just in needle length.

your jbp probably have needles 1"-1.5" in length based on your efforts.  and they look great, at least the ones I have seen. 

some people cannot or will not put in the effort to maintain that needle length.  for example: Several years ago I sold a really nice pig typical thunbergii with short needles and inch plus long.  I got it back about 2 seasons later and the needles were three times that length because it had not been maintained correctly.  It has taken 2 seasons to get the needles back close to the same length.  after Fall needle work it will have needles close to the same length as when I sold it originally.  my point is, for a typical thunbergii the needle length requires some effort or the tree can go to hell on you.  you don't have that same issue with a kotobuki.  that's all.

Don & Jeff,

I appreciate the comments. Here are some pics of the Kotobuki.



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