Five Needle Pines

A few weeks ago I was given a group of Five Needle Pines to work on. In this post I will discuss some maintenance work and styling of a group. They are all very nice trees and are owned by one of Mr Suzuki’s best customers. Before coming to Daijuen I didn’t have a lot of experience with Five Needle Pines. I have grown quite fond of them since having the opportunity to work with them this year. I really like the foliage, and variations in color from tree to tree.You can see the needles on the tree on the right have a nice blue color too them. The ones on the left are a bit more green. They also have nice exfoliating bark and like other pines are quite limber. They can be styled in just about any style except broom style.


This time of the year I have been removing last years growth, doing some light pruning and styling some of the five needle pines.

The first order of business is removing last years growth. On these trees I have been cutting the old needles off in stead of pulling them by hand, or with with tweezers. All are acceptable methods if done properly. Techniques may vary from species to species. Here at Daijuen we almost exclusively pull Black Pine needles with tweezers. On the other hand we cut the majority of the white pine needles because they tend to pull the bark off more easily. In this instance the needles were tough and the bark was tender so cutting them decreases the chance for tearing the bark off the branch.


When pulling needles either by hand or with tweezers it is important to always pull the needles in the direction in which they are growing. It is also important not to pull too many needles at once.


Pulling the needles against the direction they are growing in, or pulling them out in clusters will greatly increase your chances of tearing the bark. These tears will prevent back budding in that area, weaken the branch and if enough of them happen can impact the health of the entire tree. If the tear goes around the entire branch then of course that individual branch will die as well. Every time you cause undue stress and damage to your tree it can have an impact on the over all health, and it’s development. As in some many aspects of bonsai (and life) take your time, do it right and you will always see better results.

As the needles are being removed, pruning is taking place at the same time. Removing dominant buds and cutting back clusters of buds helps to distribute the energy of the tree more evenly. An even distribution of energy will result in better overall health of the tree as well as giving it a more pleasing appearance. Pruning and removal of the old needles also lets more light get to the inner branches of the tree. This will encourage more back budding, enabling you to create a more compact tree.


As a general rule if you have three buds coming out at the same junction you will remove the center bud, which breaks the straight line giving you movement in the branch. In this instance the center bud also happens to be the dominant bud, so there is no doubt it must go. I like to leave a little nub when I cut these buds off, especially if the sap is still flowing. Doing this will allow the nub to dry out and die back without damaging the junction left behind. If you cut flush with the adjoining branch you may get die back into  branch you wish to keep. Next year all the dried up nubs can be removed safely.


Before                                                                            After


Before                                                                            After

That was as far as the work on these two trees would go at this time. However the third tree would also be getting styled. It was a very interesting tree and lucky for me was in need of some additional attention.


I really like these exposed root style trees and this one had a lot of character. It also had some issues to be dealt with.


When evaluating at tree before working on it I always try and start by finding the good qualities in the tree. Recognizing and accentuating the best qualities in a tree is important when styling. Sometimes that is hard because the bad qualities often stand out more and are easier to see. My mind starts to wonder how am I going to change or hide those bad qualities. However this tree had very cool exposed roots with nice old bark on them. It also had some very cool old natural dead wood.



Along with the good qualities this tree presented a number of challenges. There were two areas of major die off on the tree that had been previously wired. The branching was also  leggy and sparse in some areas. The areas where the branches had died back left large gaps with little branching to compensate at this time. The objective of this tree would be to set the remaining branches into place knowing in time further refinement will need to be done. I started by removing the left over wire and did what you do with dead branches, turn them into jin :). I then wired and placed the branches.



 I never saw this tree prior to the die off and unchecked branch growth. However this is the first step in returning back to it’s former shape. A number of the existing branches and buds will be cut away in favor of inner growth as it happens. The entire foliage mass could have been and should have been made tighter. However I left it “loose” on purpose to encourage more light to hit the branches, which will encourage back budding. I tried to bring some of the foliage back towards the pot providing a little more balance to the tree. There was really not much to work with in the back after all the dead wood was address. I utilized the remaining branches but in time that area will fill in a bit better as more back budding happens. It was a nice group of trees to work on, each one in different stages of their development. As always it was a pleasure to do what I love, in such an amazing place. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.

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