Remember me?

Many have asked me what ever happened to that Black Pine that we pulled all the needles off.  Well, in this quick post, I’m going post some pictures of the tree now and talk about how it’s grown.


In case you didn’t see the original post, here is a recap to get you up to speed on what happend to this tree.  The Black Pine pictured above had all of it’s needles pulled in April of this year.  We heard about this technique and thought we’d try it out on this tree.  The basic technique is this, pull all the needles off in the Spring causing the tree to weaken to the point where the new candles will grow short with short needles.  The picture above showed the tree with a few needles left.  After I took the picture, all of the left over needles were pulled off.

Here is a closer view of the the branches without needles.  All we did was use our fingers to pull the needles off.  We left all the buds alone.

Here is the tree today at the end of October.

Here’s a close up of one of the new candle and needles.


Well, the first thing we noticed is that the tree didn’t die. Cool!  For the most part, the needles are about 2 1/2 inch (6.3 cm) long. The photo above shows that the neck of the candle is about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) long.  Over all, the needle length and neck lengths were fairly consistent from top to bottom (Very interesting…).  I also noticed that the new candle buds were all strong (can see in picture above). During the year, we didn’t start feeding this tree till about May and the feeding was moderate organic fertilizer in the range of 5-5-5.  Overall, the tree seems to be very healthy and we didn’t loose a single branch.

The future

I believe that since this is the first year we did this technique, a lot of the previous year energy played a part in the long needle length and neck.  Next Spring, I’m going to pull the needles again and see what results that will bring.  Hopefully, the next time we pull the needles off completely, we can get the tree to slow down some more and get some shorter needles and necks.  If the tree continues to grow long needles, I may play with the soil and make it less porous so that the tree will grow even slower.

I guess you’re going to have to stick with me for another year to see further results.  ;o)

If you have any specific question about this tree, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below and I’d be more then happy to supply more specific answers.

Thanks for reading and waiting

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13 thoughts on “Remember me?

  1. Kristian White says:

    Hi, I LOVE your blog and was very happy to find it. I have a Pinus thunbergii ‘Hayabusa’ A dwarf cork barked cultivar (Nishiki Kuromatsu) with very dense foliage. I was wondering if there is any special information for care and styling cork barked black pines? Thank you, Kristian

  2. Andres says:

    Really interesting Peter, I was thinking that instead making the soil less porous, you can delay repoting one or two years and apply this technique i found that to make a big difference as you may already know.

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Andres,

      Great suggestion Andres! The reason why I wanted to repot the tree is because the tree is in almost 100 percent river sand right now and it looks like it’s always going to be free draining. Once I repot though with more akadama (70 percent), I will have the same problem for a couple of years but once the soil hardens up, the tree should start to slow down. Looks like this is going to be a long term experiment for me. LOL My predictions is that the tree will still grow strong next year and start to slow down the following years.

      From what I have learned now in Japan, I plan on doing much less repotting on my more refined trees to slow them down and develop more older looking branches.

      Thanks again for the comment Andres and take care!

  3. xwires says:

    I wonder if removing all of the needles later in the season could further reduce vigor and needle length – more variables!

  4. Frank Serraiocco says:

    Yup, what you said is what I have experienced. I never really take off more needles than necessary just to be careful, but I have noticed that if they have a strong bud on the branch, even with few needles the branch will survive. I’ve never really wanted to try to take off all of the needles on that branch though lol.

  5. Frank Serraiocco says:

    I saw that some of you were concerned that pulling the needles off would kill the tree. Although, from my experience, as long as you don’t pull off ALL the needles and as long as there are good buds, the tree will live. From what I have heard actually, some have said that as long as there is a bud on the branch it will still live even without needles, but I am not sure about that. Peter please correct me if I am mistaken.

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Frank,

      Usually on conifers, they need green on the branch to keep the branch from dying back. Pines seem to counter that, probably because the bud at the end is still in tack. I do believe that if you pull off all the needles on a very weak area where the bud is very small, the branch may die off. When I read the article on this technique, the guy was doing this to fully refined trees that were big and great. I’m basically doing it on this tree to see what are the real results of this technique and if I should use it instead of de-candling in the Summer.

      It’s good to always try new techniques and explore the possibilities.

      Thanks for reading and the comment Frank. Take care

  6. Benny says:

    Wow Peter. You have new things to show every time. This is absolutely not a technique for the faint-hearted and the non-pros. Leaving a pine without any needles is like giving it a death sentence. I guess that is not true anymore.

    A common thought is to keep the trees in its healthiest form at all time. Here, you are trying to make it weaker and weaker in order to get shorter needles and internodes. You mentioned that you would try it again next year. At what stage do you consider it too weak to be worked on and let it rest? Not that I’ll try it (too scare), but just curious. I hope after a couple of seasons of experimenting with this new technique, you would provide the pros and cons between this and the decandling method.

    As always, your posts are very informative. Thanks

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Benny,

      Thanks for the comment and questions. When I say weaken, doesn’t mean I’m trying to get the tree unhealthy. I commonly use that word in reference to how much energy is in the tree or area of the tree. Many time though, people will say the tree is weak when it’s unhealthy too. I really should find a different word to use. LOL Anyways, when I say weak, it just means less energy but the constant is that the tree should always be healthy. Trees only really grow at full speed when they’re young. Once they get older, they always slow down in how much they grow, but the tree itself is still healthy.

      So for this tree, I believe that the needles are long after the procedure because of energy left over from the previous year. I’m hoping to remove that factor this year and see what the results are for next year. Sometimes when a procedure like this is done for the first time, the tree can react in an unpredictable way so the results can not always be guaranteed. Once this technique has been done many times then we can see how the tree will truly react to it.

      I hope this helps and answers your questions Benny. Take care

  7. I think you said this technique was best for an established bonsai, not a tree in the beginning stages of training. Why?

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Sandy,
      I know you know the answer already. Think about what we’re trying to achieve with this technique. Shorter internodes and shorter needles.

      Got the answer? If not, here’s the answer ;o)

      Getting shorter internodes and shorter needles are only important when you’re refining the tree. If you’re developing the branches, you don’t need to worry about internodes or needle length too much because you’re just focusing on creating more branches. De-candling the tree to promote branch division and cutting the tree back will create the branch structure first. Once the structure is good, then we can focus on needle length and how fast the tree grows, hence this technique we’re trying out.

      Thanks for the question Sandy because I forgot to mention that this should only be done on refined trees. The answer will probably help others with the same questions. Take care

  8. tim says:

    Do you think that might work on a Nishiki grafted corkbark (grafted on Black Pine). Mine has pretty long needles

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Tim,

      I’m sure that it will work on Nishiki too but I’ve yet to try it. They are just as strong as regular black pines. Sandy made a good point that I forgot to mention. This technique is only used on trees that have lots of branches and are in refinement mode. The standard technique is to de-candle the tree in the Summer. This for sure will reduce the needle length. This is all an experiment at the moment. Thanks for the question Tim.

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