Now that it’s September, we are starting to work on the Five Needle Pines. For the last week I’ve been working on a lot of Trident Maples and Mr. Tanaka threw this one in the middle of it. I was glad to work on it because I was starting to see Trident Maple leaves when I closed my eyes. I was even starting to dream about them…. well no, not really. Got you! Anyways, I will write a future post about those Tridents in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that one. In this post, I will give some general information about Five Needle Pines and show some before and afters of my work and Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments.
Here at Aichien we start working on Five Needles Pines at the end of August through the Fall. Things that we can do now are cutting the old needles, cutting branches and wiring the tree. Here are some pictures to show what the old and the new needles look like.
This branch was cut from another Five Needle Pine. I wanted to give an exaggerated example. You can see the two new growth tips. It looks like in the Spring, the center strong candle was removed. This was probably done to either weaken the branch or develop the two remaining branches to achieve more structure.
Here’s the same branch with the old needles cut off. The reason why we cut the old needles is because sometimes when you pull them off, they take some of the skin of the branch with it. These tiny little injuries can compound into a dead branch.
Here’s a branch that I took off the tree I’m working on. Can you tell where the old and the new needles end and begin? If you look closely there are a couple of clues. Between the new and old needles, there is a small gap. This little gap will tell you where the old ends and the new begins. This pictures doesn’t show the color too well but the old needles will usually be more yellowish and dull then the new needles.
Fertilizing and watering
In the middle of August we started to lightly fertilize the Five Needle Pines here. On refined trees, this will be the first time the tree gets food this year. If we feed Five Needle Pines in the Spring, the needles and candle growth will become too long. Since we do not de-candle Five Needle Pines like Black Pines, we have to control the feeding to keep the needles short. If you’re developing a Five Needle Pine and want the tree to thicken or grow vigorously for main branch development, feeding should start in the Spring. Mr. Tanaka told me, “On Black Pines, the bark is the most important thing, on Five Needle pines, the needle length is the most important thing.”
How much water we give a Five Needle Pine is one of the most important points to understand to develop them correctly. Five Needle Pines do not like a lot of water (very clean water). They prefer to be on the dry side. How dry do you ask? One day I was walking the yard and inspecting the trees. I see one Five Needle Pine that has some weeds growing out of the soil and they were wilted. That’s how dry the roots need to be. When we do water the trees, we water mainly the top soil only. The water will slowly work it’s way down into the soil in time. It’s not a good idea to completely water the roots unless the tree has just been repotted. If the trees gets overwatered, they will start loosing branches, the new growth will be slow and the foliage will start turning yellow.
Here is what I came up with
Before I started the tree, Mr. Tanaka says he plans on selling this tree soon, so don’t spend too much time on it. Work quickly and make the tree look nice. I spent about 9 hours on this tree. I think that was quick…?
Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments and what I learned
1. If you look at my picture, there was a branch in the back left that is now gone. I originally wanted to cut it off but Mr. Tanaka said, let just use it and see what it looks like. I did that in my picture and when Mr. Tanaka adjusted the tree he cut it off! The lesson there is that nothing is for sure and things will always change as the tree takes shape.
2. What disappointed me was that the branches on the left lower side of the tree was somewhat set like Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments when I was working on it. In the last minute I changed it and moved them more to the right. That area was the first part that Mr. Tanaka adjusted. All I could do was shake my head at my mistake. Instead of asking Mr. Tanaka why he believe the change on the lower left branches are better, I decided to look at the tree and tried to figure out myself. After some contemplating, I found that the reason why Mr. Tanaka adjusted the foliage to the left was to balance it with the right side. Note how after Mr. Tanaka adjusted the tree, the canopy and lower branches have a more triangular shape, whereas before in my picture, the triangle wasn’t quite complete. It’s either that, or he was using the foliage to cover some of the empty space on lower trunk. What do you think?
3. Some of my fan shaped pads were too broad and Mr. Tanaka tightened them by making them more rounder. Here is an analogy. My fan shaped pads looked like a fan that was half open. Mr. Tanaka made them look like the fan was open all the way. Did that makes sense? After Mr. Tanaka made the pad changes, the tree looked more softer and cloud like. A good example of that is in the lower left pad.
Here’s a tip!
Did you notice how the bottom of the pads are very clean? How do you suppose I did that? I didn’t just pull off all the needles that were pointed down. Here is what I did and something you, the reader can try on your pines. It is an easy technique that will greatly improve how your pines will look after styling.
Here is the same branch after I wired it. At the end of the wire I made a little hook that cradled the bottom and pushes the needles that were pointing downwards, up. Now the bottom is nice and clean.
Here’s a picture of the bottom and a better view of the hook. It takes some practice to get the hook at just the right place. If the hook is too short, it will not cradle the downward needles. If the hook is too far out, it will compress the needles together and the puffy feeling of the foliage will be lost.
I hope you all got some good information from this post. I’ll be working on more Five Needle Pines in the future and I’ll be sure to share them with you. If you have any particular questions about Five Needle Pines that I did not cover, feel free to ask a question in the comment area. I would be more then happy to answer any questions you may have. Thanks for visiting and as always…
Thanks for reading.