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Bonsai Progression - Developing Japanese Black Pine Using a Sacrifice Branch

Happy Thursday to all the PLB readers! I hope you're having a great week. It's time for another bonsai update. Be sure to check out all my previous progressions here.


This week, a Japanese black pine (one of the first I owned) grown using a sacrifice branch. I hope this progression will help you visualize how to grow JBP from seed or seedling material.


2016


Here's a photo of when I first received this tree. I wired and put some movement in the trunk. I'm actually impressed with myself, considering how little I knew at the time about wiring or bonsai in general.


2017


Ok, not much going on here other than good growth. Lots of shoots and extending candles. Early on, developing JBP is mostly water and fertilizer. You can do some shoot selection, but if you don't know which one's to select, that's OK. Letting the tree grow and gather strength will not move the tree backwards.


2018


This is the first time I made shoot selections for this tree. The tree made a "Y" formation. I decided the final design would only incorporate one side of the "Y". I chose the side with more movement for the final design and made the other side my sacrifice branch. You can see I've stripped the sacrifice branch of most of its candles, needles and side branches, leaving only the top untouched. This allows the sacrifice branch to grow straight up, and help thicken the trunk.



2019 - Spring


I decided to repot in the spring of 2019. I used a colander to help create a robust root system. I also decided to tilt the tree into a semi-cascade direction. In retrospect, I could have kept the tree as an informal upright, but that's part of the learning process. Better to do, than not.



2019 - Summer


As you can see in the photo below, the candles are growing strong. I decided to candle cut. I would normally not cut candles the same year as a repot, but this is young material and it was growing strong. The rules of developing JBP are just guidelines, always refer back to the health of the tree when deciding whether to do work or not.


2019 - Winter


The photo below is after pulling old needles and wiring. The tree responded well to all the work in 2019. You can also see how the sacrifice branch was not touched. The sacrifice continues to grow strong, helping to thicken the trunk, while the future tree is developing small internodes and ramification.


2021 - Summer


No work was done to this tree in 2020, which is probably good. It had a year to recover and gather strength. In this stage, I don't think it's necessary to candle cut every year. It's still young material and both the health of the tree is important, but so is the direction of the design. Giving the tree a year to breath allows it to gain vigor and lets me ponder its future.


In the Summer of this year, I decided to candle cut again. This was done in late June.


Before

After

2021 - Fall

I've outlined my JBP schedule in a previous post, check that out if you have questions about my process. The photo below shows the tree ready for the pulling of old needles and wire/style. The second picture really shows how large the sacrifice branch has been allowed to grow.


2021 - Final

The tree has been wired and the old needles removed. It's now ready to grow into the next year. The progress has been great, but it's not quite there, at least for me. I plan on cutting the sacrifice branch this winter. It's become so large it tips the tree over in the wind. I'll take another look at this one in the spring. I may identify a new sacrifice branch, or I may repot into a proper pot and be content with the size of the trunk. This one requires further reflection.


Progression 2016-2021



I hope this progression has given you some understanding of the development of black pine from the seedling stage to the refinement stage. If you require more information, I always recommend Jonas Duprich's excellent library of JBP content.


So, what do you think? Do you like the final design or should I continue to fatten up the trunk with another sacrifice branch? Be sure to leave your comments below and subscribe to the site for all my future bonsai updates. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!

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