The subject of today’s post, as the title implies, is a pine. A Ponderosa pine to be specific, collected by Randy Knight in July of 2012. It was sitting with some other trees of similar size, destined to be ‘yard trees’, or  in Japanese, niwaki (pronounced ne-walk-ee, this according to Mike Hagedorn and Ryan Bell, who weighed in with the correct spelling–thanks Ryan!) in Randy’s growing field. The price was very reasonable and I took it home with every intention of planting it in the yard. I brought it home with the batch of other trees from Randy that were the recent subjects of my blog and I kept looking at the tree wondering what it might look like if styled. It was over five feet in height and most of the tree was better than three feet off the ground. But there was one branch not too far off the ground that looked like it might help make an interesting tree if I brought it down and gave it some movement. It would mean most of the tree would have to go…but what I was eliminating were a lot straight branches with tufts of needles at the end. So, I decided to go ahead with it since I was pretty revved up from styling the Rocky Mountain juniper and the spruce previously.

What follows is a photo of the first stage of the styling before any branches were removed:

pondy

Apologies for not taking an un-worked ‘before’ photo, just imagine that branch over on the right up at the same angle as the other branches toward the top. It’s 1 1/2″ in diameter as it emerges from the trunk and required some four gauge annealed copper wire (that’s approx. 1/4″ in diameter) to bring it into position with the help of a guy wire that’s attached to the dead branch low down on the trunk. Another shot closer in:

big pondy

This was the way I left it after the first session of work and was still contemplating about whether to chop the top off now or wait until spring, when the tree started to wake up. The advantage to leaving the top would  be that if the lower branch died from the bending–and it did crack in several places–I would still have the rest of the tree to work with…then it really would have to be a yard tree. I figured, no guts, no glory, right? So I did the deed and removed the top half of the tree:

big pondy

I also went ahead and wired what was left and set the branches and thought, “better let her rest now”. I like to look at my work from all angles and one side revealed something that had to be addressed at some point…let’s look:

big pondy

This is the view from the left side, or the tree’s right. You can see the big branch that makes up most of the tree is sticking out quite a ways toward the viewer or the ‘front’ of the tree. I wanted to see it closer in toward the trunk to make the tree become a more compact image. Let’s look at the opposite side now:

big pondy

The problem is more apparent from this angle. So, I was looking at the tree and thinking, I’ve cranked it pretty hard, I better let it rest…and the other voice, fix it! You know you want to 😉 I have learned a little something from my teachers through the years and it is that you can sometimes bend branches over a period of days until you get them into the position desired. It’s all up to the tree and seeing what’s going on in the areas most stressed by the process and then pushing it just a little bit more…or not. We also sometimes learn the hard way by breaking branches and I have to say I’ve broken my share!

One thing Ponderosas have going for them is their incredible toughness once established and their flexibility; with that in mind, I went ahead and brought the branch in carefully with no visible problems. Some cracking is always inevitable but in this case there was no splitting. And even if there was, if you have a size-able strip of cambium intact and the wire is supporting it, it’s possible to cover the injury with cut paste and place the tree in an un-heated greenhouse and it should pull through. But in this case, I see no need to worry. Here’s what I came up with for now:

big pondy

And a little closer:

big pondy

O.K. now I WILL let it rest 😉 Some dimensions for now: trunk is 5 1/2″ in diameter at soil level; tree is 29″ tall. I’m looking forward getting this one into a pot and showing you the result!

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