Sunday, 22 September 2013


This image is quite boring. Nice bokeh on the background maybe. Boring to someone who does not grow pines. But to me this is very interesting at the end of a growing season - I see this change in needle length - also the 1 year old needles are being dropped already. There is also a nice big bud formed for next years growth.

As you can see the old growth is very leggy. Very long thin twigs with small needles at the ends. This is a tree that is really struggling to keep going. Some people like this in a bonsai - the wizened old tree clinging to life - I don't.

Here is one of the growth tips. My Scots pines usually hold their old needles a bit longer than this - but this new tree seems to have decided that all the old ones were rubbish and that the new ones were much more effective. Also important is that there are multiple buds at the junction where this years growth began. In the past the area where the old needles have dropped has been especially good for developing new buds.

There are new buds forming a long way back on these skinny twigs - some even further back than in this image. I estimate some to be on areas which haven't had needles for at least 5 years now. I hope to be able to cut back to these next year sometime. The timing of the cut back is critical with pines - or you can get stuck in an 18 month wait for buds - there is only 1 time of the year that you can cut Scots pine and get good buds in that year - around the time I pinch candles I do any heavier cutting.

I have been paying attention to the feeding and soil care. This year I have tried a new product on the pines - the usual Canna products - but I am using the organic range now. I have also been using the biobizz fishmix to give the pine soil microbes an extra hit - instead of the fish emulsion - as it is easier for me to get. I have also used some Cannazym this year which does help the soil structure - I noticed a difference in drainage on this pine quite quickly - allowing me to deliver nutrients to the roots more effectively.

This was the starting point for the new pine I bought in May this year. So far all I did was remove the dead twigs and get it comfortable and well fed. Almost every needle in this picture is gone and replaced with new needles that are 3 times the length - it is completely different already.

I would also love to get it out of the mud its living in - so I will get a new pot and plenty of soil for February if I feel its ready for the big transition. Past experience tells me that if I do it in February and keep lots of roots that it will barely notice the re-potting. I have seen a local wholesale dealer with the right training pot - so how do I get someone in retail to sell me one? Something to keep me busy over the next few weeks.

Here it is at the end of year 1 from the same angle. If I had bought it a month earlier there would have been twice as much foliage - another lesson learnt - the growing season starts in the beginning of April. Still - it has had a good summer with plenty of food and nutrition so I am hoping that it has enough energy in reserve to do a complete bare root and transplant over the winter.

Can you grow bonsai without being a good gardener ? Boring perhaps - but I believe that the horticulture is vital to successful bonsai.

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