November has arrived and we are in ‘drizzle mode’ here in the Pacific Northwest. No complaints yet, as I rather like not having to water on days like this–and it’s downright cozy to park myself inside with a hot cup of coffee and write about  my  trees 😉 I promised updates on this pine, so today’s post will be about that. You can search for the original post about this tree if you are not already familiar with its story. I want to show a picture of it in its raw state, however:

cork bark pine

This photo was taken March, 2013 after I had the tree in my yard for a year, not knowing what to do with it since the previous owners had tried and failed to successfully layer off the graft (the unsightly reverse taper towards the base of the  trunk, which is plain old black pine root stock) Next photo is what I did to correct the problem:

cork bark pine

The tree recovered quickly from the change and grew very well over the summer. The top had never been trained because all prior efforts focused on layering the tree. I thought it looked healthy enough to de-candle it this year, so I called Scott Elser to see what he thought about that, as he was one of its previous owners and quite knowledgeable about the subject (his Japanese Black Pine took the prize for best conifer and best Japanese display in Rochester last year) He heartily agreed and helped me with de-candling the tree around mid-June, which was a little later than ideal for most black pines in our area, but cork bark black pine is a bit of a different animal altogether. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of the tree just after de-candling, just imagine the above photo without most of the long, extension growth at the tips of the branches even longer. I do have a photo taken in September showing the result of de-candling for the first time:

de-candled cork bark


The technique worked like a charm and a cluster of new, smaller candles emerged at the site of every larger spring candle that was removed…and they were all removed. It didn’t hurt to fertilize the tree in August when it was obvious the new candles were growing well. I knew I couldn’t just leave it this way, so I gave Scott another call (he’s been a good sport, so far 😉 ‘Come on over’, was his reply, so I did and managed to get a before fall work photo:

fall work

Scott, holding the back drop; and the before photo:

before fall work

Compare this photo to the one from September above and it’s apparent how effective fall fertilizing can be! I don’t profess to be an expert on black pine bonsai and I assumed we were going to select two shoots per branch tip and pluck off all the old needles…almost right, except we only plucked the downward pointing older needles and left the rest on each branch. Scott has been studying with Ryan Neil (a link to his website, Bonsai Mirai, is in my blog roll) who says the old needles teach the young ones what to do. I like that! The next photo was taken just a couple of days ago as I didn’t finish the work on the tree while at Scott’s garden. It sat unfinished for over a week while I made the trip up to Seattle. I got around to getting it to a point I was able to live with and here’s the result for now:

fall work finished for now

We wound up removing a few branches not critical to the design and wired everything that was left. It looks a little spare if you compare it to last spring, but this tree has taken a big step in its journey to becoming a bonsai… nine months from raw, untrained stock to where we are now. I will place it on the ground in a spot protected from wind for the winter months, keeping an eye on it from time to time. I always like to leave you with a little eye candy for dessert…how about this?

Chris's dwarf/Viola odorata


A dwarf ginkgo, ‘Chris’s Dwarf’, from Anne Spencer with a little violet, Viola odorata, for accent. I suppose I should have placed the ginkgo on a stand for this shot but I was responding to the yellow/violet complimentary color combination…hope you’ve enjoyed it!